A collection of book covers against a pale pale background, with orange and green shapes
A collection of book covers against a pale pale background, with orange and green shapes

What if you could change your entire life and improve your sense of well-being, just by modifying some small behaviours in your day-to-day routine? This book list, crammed with ideas so useful you’ll be sharing them with family, friends and loved ones, is designed to help you capitalise on the potential you already have. There’s never been a better time to start.

How to Work Without Losing Your Mind by Cate Sevilla

In an age of constant connectedness, work has become ever-present: we’re inundated by email at the office and at home; our phones, always in our purses and pockets, have made us endlessly reachable; and the gig economy has made the job market more precarious than ever before. In her aptly titled How to Work Without Losing Your Mind, author Cate Sevilla draws on her career, as well as interviews with notable women, to help guide readers through the worst of the working world. Whether you’re experiencing a toxic workplace or you’re burning out, Sevilla has been there – and she’s got a few tips to help out.

The Seven Ages of Death by Dr Richard Shepherd

How much can death tell us about how we live? That’s the question at the centre of Dr Richard Shepherd’s The Seven Ages of Death, in which the British author and forensic pathologist reveals, across 24 autopsies, what we can learn about the miracle that is human life. In this fascinating catalogue of his work, Shepherd tells stories spanning from infancy to old age, from scientific marvel to the beauty hidden in banality. 

Hill House Living by Paula Sutton

The secret to a happy life, you may have heard, is in the details – and nobody knows those details better than Paula Sutton, the stylist and blogger behind @hillhousevintage better known as “the queen of cottagecore”. In this warm-hearted book, Sutton – who long ago traded in the hustle and bustle of her city life for the serenity of the countryside – reveals the simple yet stylish tips and tricks that helped her transform her own life and find pleasure in small joys. For anyone feeling worn out by the speed of life, Hill House Living advocates for slowing down and taking a cosy moment, just for the self-care sake of it.

A Walk from the Wild Edge by Jake Tyler

Around the time of his 30th birthday, Jake Tyler realised he needed a change; depressed and terrifyingly close to suicide, he set off on what would become a life-changing journey, donning a backpack and a pair of walking shoes in order to walk the perimeter of the UK mainland. In A Walk From the Wild Side, Jake documents his incredible 3000-mile journey, made possible almost every step of the way by the kindness of strangers, with whom he shares meaningful connections and comes to better understand himself. A Walk From the Wild Side is a balm whether you’re suffering from the blues or simply love an inspiring story.

Read more: After walking 3000 miles, I met a stranger who changed my life

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Did you know: the average human life lasts somewhere around four thousand weeks? Yet, we often end up filling that short, precious time with things that don’t serve us – and then struggle to find time for the things that really matter. In Four Thousand Weeks, author Oliver Burkeman faces that problem of time management head on, calling for a widespread embrace of our mortality, in order to be mindful of life’s limitations and, as a result, liberate ourselves from the daily struggles that threaten to while away our lives. Readers looking to shake up their worldview will find Four Thousand Weeks the perfect place to start.

Read more: You’re never going to finish your to-do list – and that’s fine

Peter 2.0 by Peter Scott-Morgan

Though Peter 2.0 is about a single life, its contents might just change... well, life itself. Diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease – almost always a terminal illness – and fearing he will lose everything, Peter Scott-Morgan makes a decision: using his scientific and technological expertise, he embarks on a project that will combine his body with artificial intelligence and robotics in order to become a cyborg. Both a heart-rending story of survival and an exhilarating sneak peek at the possibilities of humanity’s future, Peter 2.0 will change the way you think about the self, your self, and humanity as a whole.

Read more: ‘I refuse to merely stay alive’: the path to becoming The Human Cyborg

Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn

There is perhaps no single concept or idea more explored in art, literature and life than that of love. Yet for many, it remains a consistently elusive subject – or at least it did for journalist Natasha Lunn who, finding that it always felt just slightly out of reach, turned to a series of experts to ask big questions: “How do we find love? How do we sustain it? And how do we survive when we lose it?” Drawing on insights from Philippa Perry, Dolly Alderton, Roxane Gay, Alain de Botton, Esther Perel and more, Lunn spends Conversations on Love exploring friendship, sex, loss and expectations, among a host of other subjects, to unearth new, fascinating and wise insights that may just help in your own life, too.

Read more: The 10 love lessons I’ve learned from books

The Practice of Not Thinking by Ryunosuke Koike

For anyone who tends towards the anxious, this book about weaving mindfulness into our everyday lives provides something of a balm. In The Practice of Not Thinking: A Guide to Mindful Living, former monk Ryunosuke Koike demonstrates the subtle differences in thinking that, over time, shift one’s entire perspective: “What if we could learn to look instead of see,” the book suggests, “listen instead of hear, feel instead of touch?” By emphasizing the ways in which it is our own minds that create negative patterns and narratives, Koike shows a practical path forwards, towards calmness and peace.

Re-Educated by Lucy Kellaway

Lucy Kellaway was in her late 50s when she decided that her stable life – her career of 32 years at the Financial Times, her 25-year marriage, and the house she’d lived in for 15 – no longer suited her. So, she did what felt right: she left her husband and house, and traded careers to retrain as a school teacher. In Re-Educated: How I changed my job, my husband & my hair, Kellaway tells the inspiring story of her leap of faith from a life that was no longer fulfilling into a new world of possibilities, with the wit, pathos and storytelling panache of a seasoned professional.

Walk With Me in Sound by Thich Nhat Hanh

Much of this list so far has dealt, in some way or other, with taking a moment’s respite from the treadmill of daily life in order to reconnect with oneself. This audiobook, inspired by the teaching of 94-year-old Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, takes that notion to its most literal extent, offering up an hour-long meditative listening experience designed not to whisk you away but to connect you to the present. Introduced by Marc J. Francis (who co-directed the award-winning documentary Walk With Me, about the master’s life and monastic community) and narrated gently by Benedict Cumberbatch, and comprised of monastic chanting, gentle bells and ambient nature sounds, Walk With Me in Sound is an ecstatically grounding, healing listen.

If You Should Fail by Joe Moran

Somehow, we’ve come to agree as a society that failure is a bad thing – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In his new book, subtitled Why Success Eludes Us and Why It Doesn’t Matter, author Joe Moran explores the ways the world mistakenly frames regular people – and even fourth-placed Olympians – as losers, when in fact our failures are merely stepping stones toward success. Touching on art, history, philosophy and psychology, and with chapters on imposter syndrome and personal success, If You Should Fail could be just the book you need to reframe your self-perception.

Read more: Why you feel like an impostor (and why you shouldn’t)

Working Hard Hardly Working by Grace Beverley

Briefly seen as a fun, mindless alternative to the daily grind, social media is now at the heart of our working lives – just ask anyone who works in marketing, publicity, journalism or literally any public-facing job – and because the internet never takes a break, rarely so some of its career users. Nobody knows this better than entrepreneur and influencer Grace Beverley, whose new book Working Hard Hardly Working unpacks the nature of burnout culture, in which we’ve turned our hobbies into professions and our phones into offices. Here, Beverley offers a refreshing take on how to create a better work-life balance and make time for the offline moments that make for a more fulfilling life.

A World Without Email by Cal Newport

If you’ve picked up on a pattern by now in this book list, it’s partially because work can be both all-encompassing and, of course, multi-faceted. If your particular problem is email, this new guide – subtitled Reimagining Work in the Age of Overload – by bestselling productivity expert Cal Newport, might be just the ticket. Here, Newport argues that despite its centrality to our work, the sheer number of emails we send and receive “are making us unproductive, stressed and costing businesses millions in untapped potential.” This book-length argument advocating for a world without email will change the way you think about your productivity, and your working life as a whole.

Read more: The post-Covid office: expert authors answer our questions

A Book of Secrets: Finding Solace in a Stubborn World by Derren Brown

This book from English illusionist Derren Brown might just contain his best trick yet: teaching readers to find value and beauty from life’s most difficult times. In A Books of Secrets, Brown interweaves anecdotes from his own life’s “moments of anger, frustration, loneliness and loss” with advice in order to illuminate the powerful positive potential in adversity, and how those moments can provide us with some of life’s most precious gifts. If you’ve ever wondered ‘Why me?’, Brown’s poignant new book might be just the answer you’re looking for.

Read more: Derren Brown on the importance of tough times

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Already something of a modern classic, Glennon Doyle’s 2020 memoir and useful guide to Stop Pleasing, Start Living is an urgent treatise on the importance of shining your light and defying the expectations of the world in order to find our own source of joy. By showing readers how to trust your inner voice and stop living to please others, Doyle’s tender, funny and inspirational book flew to the top of bestseller lists around the world and has been hailed by readers and audiobook listeners, including Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and, more recently, Adele.

 

What did you think of this article? Let us know at editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk for a chance to appear in our reader’s letter page.

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

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