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11 nonfiction books to help you start over in life

When the life I’d come to know came crumbling down at my feet last year, there were (many) days when the thought of getting out of bed made me weep with weariness. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically, I was spent. Reading, for any reason, was often the furthest thing from my mind. I was in survival mode, and any energy had went directly to my three children. However, that season gradually passed, and I realized I had to forge something new. When I found myself ready to reconnect with the familiar weight of a book in my hands, I felt a pull toward reality rather than my usual frothy fiction. Having just dealt with deceit and betrayal in their most shameful forms, my wounded spirit could accept nothing less than truth.

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I wanted to create this list because I know I’m not the only one who has come to the end of herself and wondered if she could keep going, if it was even worth it to put one foot in front of the other. If you’re there in the depths, may I just encourage you for a moment? It may not look that way now, but there will come a morning when you feel a little better, a little more ready to get up and depart from the old way of doing things. When I reached that point, the books below were there to empower, reassure and enlighten. As I continue to rebuild and reshape my life, books serve as the foundation for an unfamiliar but exciting creation. I hope they do the same for you, whenever you’re ready.

1. Daring Greatly

by Brené Brown

Image: Amazon

Brown has written and spoken extensively on the subject of vulnerability, and Daring Greatly does not disappoint. Without sugarcoating or pandering, she graciously honors the experience of facing the difficulties of life, while attempting to summon the will to keep fighting. As someone who values the relational aspects of friendship, I especially appreciated her emphasis on sharing the ups and downs of our journey with “people who have earned the right to hear them.” Vulnerability isn’t a personal failing; rather, it is truth, courage and growth in action.

2. The Enneagram Made Easy

by Elizabeth Wagele and Renee Baron

Image: Amazon

One of the most positive aspects of overcoming a traumatic event is gaining new knowledge about yourself. Suddenly, all the little hidden and unexplored parts begin to move to the surface. For example, after years of swearing I was an extrovert, I read The Enneagram Made Easy and discovered I am indeed an introvert (“INFP,” to be exact). With this newfound information, I have been able to accurately gauge and explain my emotions — and ask for what I need.

3. In Sheep’s Clothing

by George Simon Jr., Ph.D.

Image: Amazon

If you’ve dealt — or are currently dealing — with a toxic person, you need this book! In Sheep’s Clothing highlights and explains the signs of disturbed behavior while offering efficient methods to protect oneself from future assaults. My husband and I have used many of the strategies mentioned to deal with abusive family members and have had great results. I highly recommend it for those recovering from any sort of abusive relationship

4. Write It Down, Make It Happen

by Henriette Anne Klauser

Image: Amazon

Starting fresh is the perfect time to dig around your psyche and reexamine those seemingly far-fetched daydreams you’ve held so close to your heart. Write It Down encourages you to not only investigate but commit them to pen and paper and bring them to fruition. Inspired by this book, I made a list of aspirations, and a little over three years later, many of them have been realized. I think it’s time to look ahead and write down some new goals.

5. Failing Forward

by John C. Maxwell

Image: Amazon

Every failure carries with it invaluable lessons ready to be used for future triumphs. I always recommend Failing Forward because it assures the reader failure is not only OK but a sure sign of being on the path to success! What could be more encouraging than that?

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6. The 4-Hour Workweek

by Timothy Ferriss

Image: Amazon

I was very skeptical of The 4-Hour Workweek, but it has transformed the way I think about time, assess risk and consider the future. The basic premise of the book is finding ways to live fully today rather than relegating enjoyment to “someday” or “retirement.” I’ve included it because Ferriss does an amazing job of breaking a bold concept down into practical, doable steps. This is a book that will have a permanent place on my shelf.

7. Picture Your Prosperity

by Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng

Image: Amazon

Money — just the word can cause anxiety in many of us, which is precisely why Picture Your Prosperity is on this list. I picked up this book on a whim but was blown away by the clarity and value of its content. It has been integral to my ability to connect daily spending with the bigger picture of what I ultimately want my money to do, for myself and for others.

8. The Mind Connection

by Joyce Meyer

Image: Amazon

Thoughts can betray us at any time, and this is especially true during moments of distress, like facing the daunting task of picking up the pieces of our lives after a tragedy. The Mind Connection illustrates the importance of changing the thought process from shame and guilt to positivity and power through faith. (If you’d like similar read without the heavy Christian influence, I’d recommend The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.)

9. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

by Paul Arden

Image: Amazon

Don’t be fooled by the petite size of this book — it packs a wallop! Despite this book coming from a marketing perspective, I found most of it applicable to various aspects of my life as a wife, mom and blogger. The overall theme is cultivating a combination of tenacity and ambition, of always striving to be better than you were yesterday, even if you make mistakes. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from the book is, “The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.”

10. The Whole30

by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

Image: Amazon

Having struggled with dubious eating patterns for most of my adult life, I needed to find a way to develop a healthy relationship with food. Diving into The Whole30 began as a hopeful experiment but has transformed me from the inside out. I have finally found a way to eat that focuses on health rather than deprivation or gluttony. If you’d like to know more, you can watch my results video and/or read this “Why Whole30?” post.

11. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better

by Pema Chödrön

Image: Amazon

I have a soft spot for people who share their losses as well as their wins because it makes my own quest seem a lot less intimidating. It is in this vein that I recommend Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better, in which Chödrön bravely and candidly shows us how her darkest moments served as catalysts for her most powerful victories.

This quote, in particular, resonated with me: “It’s in that space — when we aren’t masking ourselves or trying to make circumstances go away — that our own best qualities begin to shine.”

Have you read any books that have helped you gain much needed perspective during a challenging season? If so, please share in the comments section below! I know I’m not the only avid reader who enjoys adding more books to her list.

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Dara Shultz is a blogger at, where she frequently writes about overcoming failure, her love for hiking around beautiful Colorado and traveling with her family. She also vlogs at the LMS YouTube channel. When she’s not typing furiously on a computer or yammering in front of a camcorder, she’s probably catching up on the latest via Twitter, daydreaming of her next epic adventure on Pinterest or sharing pictures of her food (and kids) on Instagram. She’s lukewarm on the subject of Facebook, but she checks in regularly.

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