Through the years, in the midst of some very real personal struggles, I have personally been kept going by reading books. Not everyone has the same experience, but I have found that reading the right book in a moment of difficulty can be really helpful.
Here are eight books that I recommend strongly. I have identified the difficulty addressed by seven of the books, and then included an eighth “bonus” recommendation.
I have read all of these books fully and carefully. I have also presented synopses of five from the list:
Man’s Search for Meaning
Designing Your Life
Getting Things Done
Atomic Habits .
(The other three from this list, I have read carefully, but not presented; thus, I do not have a handout to offer. Those three are: How to Survive the Loss of a Love; The Noonday Demon; and The Road Less Traveled).
And, I have put my synopsis handouts for the five books that I have presented from this brief list into a Box folder. I invite you to download the handouts for yourself, and read them. (There is no charge to you. No, I will not even ask you for your e-mail address. I am genuinely trying to just be helpful).
My handouts are NOT substitutes for reading the books. But you might find that they provide enough information from the book to get you thinking; in other words, you might find some help from my synopsis handout before you decide to read the full book.
If you were to compile your own list, it likely would differ from mine. But, these are books that have been helpful to me, and I highly recommend them.
Here are the seven books I recommend, with my eighth suggestion…just because. Click on the book titles to go the Amazon page for the book.
Difficulty #1 – I have suffered a loss (such as: a death of a loved one; a divorce; among other losses)…
The book I recommend is How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield, Melba Colgrove. This book was first published in 1979, and it is a book that speaks to your emotions in the midst of loss. Literally, you can open it to any page and find something to read that is useful.
Difficulty #2 – I am in the midst of a transition; and feel adrift.
The book I recommend is Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges, Susan Bridges.
This book is not about how to find your next opportunity. It is about dealing with the emotions of transition. It is a modern business-book classic.
The book I recommend is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. (Harold S. Kushner, Foreword).
This is, simply, the most important book that I have ever read. Viktor Frankl survived the death camps, and shared his insights and reflections. This book is a masterpiece in raising questions of personal meaning. Please read this book.
The book I recommend is Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett, Dave Evans.
This book is based on the very, very popular class the two authors teach at Stanford. It teaches an approach to planning one’s life with design principles. Really popular; and useful.
Difficulty #5 – I feel overwhelmed with all I need to get done.
The book I recommend is Getting Things Done by David Allen.
This book is the “bible” of time management, and it deserves its reputation. If you read this, and actually follow what it says, your life will likely become more productive, and manageable. It has spawned an entire industry of “GTD” apps and plans.
The book I recommend is Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
This book is the biggest best-seller in business books since the pandemic started. It is something of a personal habits tutorial, and survival guide.
I do not want to take the role of a therapist; I am not one. But, I do know something of this struggle personally. And the book that best explained things to me was The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon.
This book is written by a superior writer. Consider this: In 2019, the memoir was ranked 23rd on The Guardian‘s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.
As I was thinking about compiling this list, I decided it was a good time to re-recommend a book that I read at a key moment in my life. I go back to its teachings often in my own thinking. For a time, it was the best-selling nonfiction book in America. The book is The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck.
That’s my list.
You might note that only two of the books are relatively new: Designing Your Life and Atomic Habits. The others have been around a while!
And, you might add your own choices, or take some of these away.
But, finding a good book – the right book – to get you through life difficulties and work difficulties is a wonderful find.
I hope you find this list helpful and useful.