20 Best Inspirational Books for Women

By on December 6, 2014

I grew up loving books like Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground. Unfortunately, Dostoevsky does not create positive, inspirational stories. After each reading, I would leave saddened and unhappy. Over recent years, I have changed how I approach the books that I read. Instead of looking for dramatic, tragic tales, I have tried to focus on a more positive perspective. The following 20 books on this list were chosen because they offer a happier perspective on list. These 20 best inspirational books for women can be read in any order. If you have a favorite that I forgot to include, please include it as a comment at the bottom.


The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

This book reminds me a great deal of Paulo Coelho’s the Alchemist. It is basically an adult-version of a child’s fairytale. In the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, we read a story of an attorney who begins a journey toward self discovery. Written like a fable, this interesting tale covers an odyssey through life lessons and a journey that is both enlightening and engaging. If you wanted to find a profound story that actually brightens your day, Robin Sharma’s the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is sure to please.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

I originally heard about this author through his Ted talk. If you do not have the time or money to read the entire book, watching his Ted talk is actually a great alternative. Basically, Christopher McDougall went and studied the Tarahumara culture. Located in Mexico, this indigenous culture still remains the same way it was hundreds and thousands of years ago. The Tarahumara people are known for engaging in long-distance running. Their focus on running led Christopher McDougall to create the theory that we were all once long-distance runners. Humanity has changed since the caveman days, but McDougall believes that we were once a more nomadic group of runners. He marshals an impressive array of evidence, interesting characters and first-person narratives to justify his viewpoint. Besides illuminating a theory about the past, this book is a great way to become inspired to run.


Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Beautifully written, this nonfiction story focuses on the tale told by a dying man. It is relayed in the novel as the dying man told it to an old student of his. Within this memoir, you will find an extremely touching look at Morrie’s thoughts and how he viewed life. By the end of the book, you will have questions about what is important in your life. After reading this, I had a new perspective on day-to-day problems and my personal goals. Really, when it is time to die, many of the things that I currently care about will no longer seem important. This book was an excellent reminder of focusing on the things that are the most important in life instead of side problems.


Living History by Hilary Rodham Clinton

Whether you vote Republican, Democrat or something in between, you can learn something from this book. Hilary Rodham Clinton’s memoir was first published in 2004. It closely looks at her early interest in politics and impressive record in law school. Besides having a touching insight into her relationship with Bill Clinton, it includes her life as the First Lady and her influence on the campaign trail. It offers an interesting take on her life, her beliefs and how she got to her current position.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Whenever I have a bad day, I pull a book—any book—by Paulo Coelho off of my book shelf. Seriously. His books are some of the most inspiring and heartwarming tales that I have ever read. The Alchemist was intended to be sold together with the Pilgrimage. While the Pilgrimage showed his real life experience along the Road to Santiago, the Alchemist was a fairytale-like pilgrimage of self-discovery for a fictional character. Both books are worth the read and will leave you feeling inspired. If you have already read the Alchemist, I strongly encourage you to read Coelho’s the Witch of Portbello. Out of all his books, the Witch of Portbello is my favorite.


Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Although it is a non-fiction book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway still manages to be exceptionally inspiring. As a bestseller, it has reached the eyes and ears of millions of people around the world. Basically, it offers help in overcoming your fear of failure or fear of success. If you have been trying to accomplish a goal, this is the book that you should read to become more motivated.


The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success capitalizes on the recent tendency for success-oriented self-help books to use spiritual techniques. Although this trend is quickly becoming tiresome, Deepak Chopra’s book manages to add something useful to the din. In this book, readers will find a life-altering view on achieving success. It uses ancient Vedic wisdom to help you reach a path of happiness that has worked for thousands of years. Overall, this book is exceptionally interesting to read and offers something for every stage of life.


The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn

If you want things to change in your life, you must start with yourself. This sentence is the key to every idea and technique offered in the Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn. Basically, he advocates an approach where ordinary people try to do originally things as well as they possibly can. Every person does not have the ability to become the next president, Picasso or Michael Phelps. We do have the ability to do everything in our own lives to perfection. By doing ordinary things exceptionally well, we can actually live out exceptional lives—without doing anything exceptional.


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Written by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning is a great book for anyone who struggles with finding meaning in their own lives. This non-fiction book really helps you put things into perspective. During the Second World War, Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in the famed Auschwitz concentration camp. While there, he experienced depths of suffering and horror that few people have experienced during a lifetime. Despite these hardships, he came out of his experience with lessons on spiritual survival and finding meaning in existence. Beyond being a remarkable story, his book offers inspiration that each of us can use in our daily lives.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

One of the greatest poets and writers in the United States is the talented Maya Angelou. Within her seminal work, she follows her growth from childhood to adulthood. This autobiography reveals the dark thoughts that lurk in everyone’s mind, but still manages to leave a positive perspective within the mind of the reader. There are few writers before or since her death that have managed to capture such a realistic, yet otherwordly view of life. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a must-read for any African-American, any woman and any person in general.


The Magician’s Way by William Whitecloud

If you want to take a break from non-fiction works, the Magician’s Way is an excellent story. Like the Alchemist, it utilizes a fairy tale-like approach to telling a story. This makes it an extremely easy and fast read that can be understood by just about anyone. The tale follows the story of Mark Vale. Like many people, he is having difficulties in his marriage and with his finances. As the book unfolds, Mark Vale is introduced to a group of modern alchemists. They guide him through a quest for golden opportunities. During this tale, readers encounter an interesting range of locations, characters and stories that ultimately influence how they perceive the events that occur in their own lives.


The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

A long time ago, I brought a Chinese edition of the Tao Te Ching to a Taiwanese friend and asked for help reading it. They told me that the language was too difficult and archaic for a native Chinese speaker to read. If it is nearly impossible for an average Chinese speaker to understand the Tao Te Ching, how good could any translation possibly be? With this in mind, I gave up on using the original and searched for an alternative. My quest for an understandable, contemporary Tao Te Ching led me to the Tao of Pooh. If you want to have a modern, understandable take on a Chinese classic, the Tao of Pooh is an excellent way to start. It offers a well-written version of traditional Taoism by utilizing the characters from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. In it, Winnie the Pooh covers the basic principles of Taoism. Although this may sound like a gimmick, the result is an extremely profound, inspiring book.


The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

You may have heard about the Seat of the Soul through Oprah’s Book Club. If you have not heard about this book yet, you should. Basically, this book looks at the life of the average person. It explores how we can each transform our everyday lives into a unique, inspirational experience. We each have a power within us to be exceptional. According to the Seat of the Soul, this exceptional trait can be harnessed and utilized through a different approach. If you wanted a shift in your perspective or general inspiration, Gary Zukav’s book is a fairly good read.


Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Over the last few decades, Paulo Coelho’s the Alchemist and William Whitecloud’s the Magician’s Way have become two popular, fairytale-like novels. Before these two books ever existed, Siddhartha was the original adult fairytale. With beautiful, concise prose, Hermann Hesse illustrates the life of the Buddha (Siddhartha). This inspirational tale follows the journey of Siddhartha through life as he tries to achieve true enlightenment. He follows ascetic monks, lives in palaces and leaves his family in his attempt to discern lives true meaning. Although this involves a trip through suffering and despair, the man who emerges and the path he takes are things that we can all relate to. This is a book that I have read over and over again. I love this book and it never ceases to surprise, inspire and engage me. If you have not read this book yet, make sure to put it on your wish list.


No Ordinary Moments by Dan Millman

Before Dan Millman wrote No Ordinary Moments, he actually become famous for the best seller the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In this new novel, he basically branches out from his original work. He provides insight on how each of us can live the life of a peaceful warrior. In addition to being unusually interesting, this story is exceptionally inspiring.


Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Ranulph Fiennes

Some books have poor titles that do not reflect their storylines. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know is right on point. Ranulph Fiennes sounds like someone who would be exceedingly dangerous to know. This man is presently considered the greatest living explorer in the world. He got his start in the British army where he served in Oman. After this early brush with adventure, he married his wife and decided that trekking across Antarctica sounded like a good idea.

Currently, he remains one of the only two people (the other was his partner in the expedition) who has ever circumnavigated the globe going north to south. He trekked across Antarctica without any support. During his trip, he burning over 8,000 calories a day. Unfortunately, their caravan only had enough food to supply 5,000 calories a day. In recent years, he performed seven marathons on seven continents in seven days—just days after having a heart attack. Through bloodied fingers, peeling lips and gangrene toes, his tale narrates the harrowing and inspiring tale of his adventures. Although I never, ever want to experience the level of hardship that Ranulph Fiennes has lived through, his story remains a source of insight and inspiration for my everyday life. If you are short on funds and cannot afford to buy this book, there are several of his speeches on YouTube that are worth watching.


Still Me by Christopher Reeve

Many people have heard of the story of Christopher Reeve, the man who played Superman. Although we are familiar with the story of his life and tragic fall from his horse, it is entirely different to hear this story in his own words. The experience after he breaks his neck and starts to rebuild his life is a tale that we can all identify with—even if we have not lived through the specifics on our own. This remarkable man has faced challenges beyond what most people ever have to deal with. Despite these difficulties, he still manages to be exceptionally courageous and inspirational.


Gandhi- An Autobiography by Mahatma Gandhi

If you love Gandhi, you will love this book. Instead of the peace-loving activist portrayed in Western media, this book offers a realistic look at the real man behind the hero. One of my favorite parts was where he describes his youthful attempt at trying meat and hiring a hooker (he couldn’t bring himself to follow through and she called him names). After his youthful attempt at rebellion, he received his degree and started practicing law in South Africa. Although we know him mostly for his work in India today, Gandhi was actually a famous attorney in South Africa. This book is extremely thought provoking and a must-read for anyone who wants to utilize non-violent resistance. Gandhi was the inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil disobedience. If you want to meet the inspiration for modern protestors and civil rights activists, then read Gandhi’s book.


The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

If you have read most of the books on this list, than Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet is intended for you. It is impossible to consider a home library complete unless this book is included. Gibran’s book contains a collection of teachings and prose poetry essays that offer a unique take on the human condition. Every time you read the book, it offers a different take on life. The best part about the book is, of course, Kahlil Giban’s unique prose. It is told as a story, but in a poetic prose that is delightful to the eyes and ears.


No Greater Love by Mother Teresa

Born in Europe, taught English in Ireland and known for her work in India, Mother Teresa is the type of person that everyone should inspire to be. She worked tirelessly to help the poor and sick in India. Through her work, she became one of the 20th century’s most recognizable religious figures. Whether you are Christian, Jewish or Atheistic, this book is an extremely engaging read. Mother Teresa uses inspirational teachings that touch the heart of each reader.

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