As far as nonfiction books go, I can’t think of a single one in the last few months that hasn’t helped me build my character in some way. A lot of my reading falls into that big, all-caps category that I call READING WITH INTENTION. I’m a little bit of a searcher, so that means that most of my reading falls into that category. These are books that will help you become a better person, blow your mind, and maybe even change your life. There are a lot of nonfiction books that can help you become a better person. There is no better way to get a new perspective on life than to read someone else’s stories and learn from them. Except, maybe, if you have some hard-won wisdom of your own that you want to share with other people. Even though nonfiction is there for you in a pinch, They have written about how they have grown as a person on paper for all of us lazy people who want to improve ourselves, but who also want to learn from them. Some of my favorite things are below.
The truth of the matter is, sometimes we all just need a little personality tune-up. I know I do. Here are nine nonfiction books that will help you grow as a person, learn more about the world, and become the best you can be.
Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chödrön
Pema Chödrön, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, has written a book called Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better. It’s the latest in a long line of character-building, transformative writing from her. Chadrön thinks about how our lives would be different if we didn’t just accept our flaws as part of life, but thought of them as experiences that made us into our best selves.
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
There were many personal journeys and changes that Dorothy Day went on as the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She was not a stranger to these kinds of things. During the Long Loneliness, Day wrote about her life as a social activist and her spiritual journey of loss and discovery. She also talked about how she wanted to make the world a better, more just place, and how hard she worked to get there.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
In high school, you probably learned about a lot of different things about the history of the United States. A People’s History of the United States is a book written by historian, writer, and social activist Howard Zinn that tells the stories of Native Americans, African Americans, migrant workers, factory workers, those living in poverty, and women. Zinn spent a lot of time looking into untold histories and telling hard truths.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Brené Brown, a social work scholar who is a big fan of being vulnerable, thinks that your areas of weakness could be your greatest strengths if you would just be brave enough to own them. Brown says that the best way to grow, learn, and have hope is to face your flaws head-on with both fear and courage, and then rise strong.
Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
Gregory Boyle started his journey for justice in one of the poorest and largest housing projects in the United States. This was the landscape where the most gangs lived in the country at one time. In addition to setting up a rehabilitative group for gang members, he came up with a way to meet gang members where they were in their own personal journeys and love them even though they had flaws and challenges. As the title says, Tattoos on the Heart will leave a permanent mark on your own heart, just like the name says.
Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman
If you’ve ever had a hard time finding objective news on TV, this book is for you. Manufacturing Consent is a book about media and marketing in the United States. It shows how financially and politically biased our media really is, which makes it even more important now than when it was written. This long series of case studies will make you very aware of what media you watch, how you watch it, and how much your politics are influenced by it. It will also make you think about how much you let the media influence your decisions.
When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
For some major girl power inspiration, check out Gail Collins’s book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. The best-selling author and New York Times columnist talks about how women’s fashion, sex, and family lives have changed over the last 50 years. She also talks about how women’s jobs, income, and spending power have changed. We should know where we came from, ladies.
Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith
You should read Lilian Smith’s Killers of the Dream after you read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. If you haven’t already, you should do that right now. It’s the Citizen of the 1950s. Smith has been credited with, at least in part, inspiring the American Civil Rights Movement. Smith’s investigation of systemic racism and segregation in the U.S. goes far beyond the headlines and news broadcasts of the decade, and into the neighborhoods and homes of the families who have been most affected by racism.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Because Viktor Frankl was a survivor of four concentration camps during the Holocaust, he wrote a memoir called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It will be one of the most important books you read in your life. Frankl thought that even though suffering was a part of life that could not be avoided, fighting it would only make it worse. Instead, he thought that meeting it with hope, purpose, and meaning was the key to being resilient and surviving. That’s what this book will do for you. It will help you get through anything and come out stronger.