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19 inspiring books to start the year off right

I love setting new goals, figuring out what habits I’m going to tweak, and deciding how I want to spend the next 12 months.

And, of course, I love an inspirational book or two to get that motivation going and really start the year off on the right food.

No matter what your goals for the new year are, there’s a book to help you out. These 19 titles cover a wide range of common New Year’s resolutions and topics, everything from improving your relationships to managing your money to becoming more anti-racist.

inspirational books

19 inspirational books to start the year off right

Better than beforeBetter Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
I kind of think I need to read this book about habits every single January. I love how practical it is and especially how she helps you identify what kinds of strategies will work for YOU as you set goals and develop new habits. Plus, I find her writing so delightful and interesting. I love all her books, including The Happiness Project, but this one is definitely my favorite. (Full review here)


The power of funThe Power of Fun by Catherine Price
If you feel like you could use more fun in your life this year (and couldn’t most of us?), this book is for you. The Power of Fun is broken into two parts – the first part is basically a breakdown of what IS fun (hint: it’s not mindlessly scrolling on TikTok or watching Netflix until all hours of the night) and why we’re so bad at having real fun. The second part of the book is called “How to Have Fun” and it’s PACKED with useful ideas for how to actually make true fun a part of your life.  It’s one of those books where I kind of want to force copies on everyone I know – it’s just SO good and so useful and truly the perfect book to make sure your life includes enjoyment, true fun, and connection. (Full review here)

StampedStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This is an excellent remix of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America for younger readers (it’s still not meant for really young kids – I think it’d be way over the heads of most elementary schoolers because it assumes you have a fair amount of background knowledge of US history and politics) and it’s perfect for adults too. Jason Reynolds is a terrific writer and also a top-notch narrator – I highly recommend listening to the audio version!

really good non-fictionDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Okay, I KNOW I need to re-read this book every January. In this age of so much distraction, I love his hands-on ideas for how to really focus and get the things that matter to you done. If you feel pulled in all directions by your phone or social media and like you aren’t able to focus on the projects and work that matters to you (whether that’s a job, writing a novel, your family, or something else entirely), this non-fiction book is so good.


zero waste homeZero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
I’m fairly certain we’re never going to be a family that produces one quart jar of garbage per year like Bea Johnson’s family, but if you’re looking to go more green this year, there aren’t many more inspirational books than this one. Zero Waste Home is packed with 


four thousand weeksFour Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
I started this book recently and I cannot put it down – it’s a totally different look at time management than I’ve EVER read before. If you’re tired of feeling rushed or like life is just a race toward more and more productivity, this book is for you!


just mercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
This book. It’s such important reading and sometimes that means dull as dirt, but this one was also completely gripping. If you want to start the year better understanding the US  justice system and how deeply broken it is right now, how racism plays into so much of American culture, and what kind of changes need to be made (and how you can advocate for them), this book is for you. I truly think this should be required reading for every adult. (Full review here)

Atomic Habits by James ClearAtomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Bart and I both listened to this book when it first came out and couldn’t stop talking about it for months. It can feel so overwhelming and impossible to change your habits, but this really helps you understand how to make it happen and why the littlest habits make the biggest difference. (Full review here)


french kids eat everything 

  (Full review here)

168 Hours 
I’ll probably never stop talking about this book because I love it so much (I’ve read it multiple times). It’s so easy to feel like we’re all so BUSY and that there couldn’t possibly be time to fit in hobbies, rest, or relationships. I love this different look at your schedule and taking real ownership of how you spend your time. If you feel overwhelmed with your routine or like your life is just a hamster wheel of tasks, this book is a must read. Plus, it(Full review here)

We should all be millionairesWe Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power by Rachel Rodgers
You know I can’t resist a money book and this one was so good and quite different than a lot of the money books I’ve read in the past. It got me so fired up! It’s ultra-readable and really inspired me as a business owner. It’s also full of practical tips, not just high level information and I kind of thing every woman should read it.


the read aloud familyThe Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah MacKenzie
I mean, you already know I love this book (so much so that I picked it for the 2019 Everyday Reading Book Club!). But if you’re looking to make reading with your children a bigger part of your routine this year, there aren’t many more inspirational books than this one. It’s truly a gold mine of ideas. (Full review here)


How to celebrate everythingHow to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between by Jenny Rosenstrach
If you want this year to be more fun and filled with happy family memories, this book is just a must. I lost my copy in our move somehow and I need to replace it ASAP. It’s a fun, delightful read, and packed with ideas from a real family that you’ll want to be adopted by immediately. (She also wrote Dinner: A Love Story which I love too!).


How not to hate your husbandHow Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn
If your relationship needs a little help this year, I love this practical and completely readable book about how to improve so many aspects of your marriage. I ALLLLLMOST picked this one for the January book in the 2019 Everyday Reading Book Club, but swapped it at the last moment, mainly because I worried that some of the language in this book would be a turn off to some readers. Other than that, though, I love this book and think it’s so helpful for basically every relationship, including parents, siblings, bosses, and friends. (Full review here)

The lazy genius wayThe Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi
I read this book as the new year began a few years ago and it was the perfect way to kick off January. It’s a terrific book to read as you think about what you want from the upcoming year and how you can achieve it in the most effortless way. I love her focus on finding what works for YOU, whether it’s the kind of thing that works for anyone else or not, and her kind, gentle-humored style. Whether you’re new to Kendra or are already a fan of her podcast, this book is terrific.

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick
If you’ve moved recently or just feel like you’re not taking advantage of where you live, I love this book that’s jammed with practical suggestions for digging into your community and local culture. I actually chose this one for the 2019 Everyday Reading Book Club and I loved talking about it! (Full Review Here)


Don't overthink itDon’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel
I read this one at the beginning of 2020, just a few weeks before the whole world shut down and it turned out to be very timely. It’s a quick read with lots of applicable ideas – highly recommend!


Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you’re ready to unleash your creativity this year in whatever form that looks like for your life, I love this book (even if it’s a bit mystical for my usual tastes). It seriously is one of the most inspirational books I’ve read in the past five years, and I love her light-hearted approach to creativity. She rejects the idea that creativity has to be dark and painful, instead asserting that creating something should bring you joy, even if it’s hard work, and it definitely shouldn’t destroy your soul or your life or your relationships in the process. And I love her open view of creativity that can mean so many different things to different people. (Full review here)

You're not listening You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
This is the non-fiction title for Grown Up Summer Camp’s book club in 2021 and it was one of my favorite books I read in 2019! It truly is such a great book – I feel like this is one of those books basically everyone should read.



And if you’d like a printable copy of this list of motivational books that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!

Any other inspirational books to kick off 2023? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments!

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  1. Better than Before sounds like an amazing book to read at the start of the year so will definitely have to check that one out! I’m currently listening to Deep Work and I agree it’s a fantastic look at the distractions of the modern world – I’m really enjoying it!

    Great post!

  2. Great list! Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and The Righteous Minds: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion were both really instrumental for me in changing my communication style/openness.

  3. I don’t know how to begin saying …. “YES!!!!!!”
    I LOVE so many of these books! Read Aloud Family is incredible.
    Better than Before is soooooooooo helpful.
    How to Celebrate Everything is so sweet and inspiring.
    Your Not Listening is great
    Can’t wait to read others on your list!

  4. I am listening to We Should All Be Millionaires right now — watch out for some of the language! I’m avoiding listening to it while my kids are close by.

  5. Hi, Janssen. I appreciate your blog.

    These books are not what I expected when your title mentions “inspiring”. Being retired, I’m not really much concerned about productivity or self help nowadays.
    🙂 However, one or two might get on my list.

    Could you look at some books that might be truly inspirational? Also, this might not fly, but generally, I’m always wishing you’d give us men some non-girly stuff. 🙂

    Anyway, I read your blog often, and I DO find some books I’m interested in.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and insights.

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