Are you trying to improve and need answers? I mean real answers. Sometimes a wiki just won’t do. Here’s a list of the best books to help you out.

These days, most people look to the internet for all things explanatory, interesting, or otherwise worth knowing. If you want to learn something, there’s usually a resource just a click away.

But when you’re looking to improve as a person, oftentimes the answers provided by a Google search can seem too shallow. You need thorough examination, thoughtful analysis, and a guiding hand that doesn’t skimp on words. You need a real, honest-to-goodness book. Remember those?

Unfortunately, wading through the countless self-help books on the market is a lot harder than scrolling through a list of search results. Here are some of the best titles I’ve read, by some of the most respected names in personal improvement.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Rubin’s self-help book is so much more than any click-bait list you could find online. Of course, she includes the basics like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well – but she also offers some unique insights, such as seeking out the hobbies you enjoyed as a child.

In the book, Rubin realizes that she once loved children’s literature and Young Adult novels, but gave them up when she became a professional writer. In going back to what she loved in her youth, she reclaims a piece of her happiness she didn’t know was missing.

Rubin’s tips are less woo and more hard work. Waking up earlier to make her daughters a special Valentine’s Day breakfast is hard, but creating memories and traditions is a big part of her happiness. She gives you the tools to follow your own path to happiness, not anyone else’s.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for the latest productivity hack. In The Power of Habit, I found a book that explains how to form the habits that I want and make them a part of my everyday life.

A New York Times reporter, Duhigg delves into how habits are created and how people can change the most dangerous and stubborn habits. He studies addicts who quit after decades of drinking or doing drugs to find the most effective methods and insights.

Duhigg explains that our entire life is based on habits. A series of habits turn into behavior, which becomes the foundation of our personal and professional relationships. Duhigg breaks down habits into their most basic forms and explains how successful people use habits to increase their efficiency and reach their goals.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I first heard about Glennon Doyle Melton a year ago, and I was intrigued by her brutal honesty. She doesn’t hesitate to write about her struggles with bulimia, alcohol and drugs. Even as a non-addict, I find myself relating to her desire to slip away from the world and everything that’s hurting her.

Love Warrior is the story of Melton’s life, starting with her struggles with bulimia in middle school and ending with the revelation that her husband had been cheating on her consistently throughout their marriage.

In the book, she describes how she learned to speak her truth and resolve her lingering body issues. Though I have nothing in common with the Florida-based mother of three, I find myself relating to her truth and wanting to live a more open life after finishing the book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Liz Gilbert is most famous for Eat, Pray, Love, the 2006 smash hit where she chronicled her divorce and subsequent worldwide soul-searching journey.

But Gilbert’s best work might be her latest – Big Magic, a how-to guide for creative people struggling to fulfill their artistic endeavors. If you’re feeling uncertain about your painting or writing, Gilbert’s book can help you push through your mental blocks.

Some of the book is a little out there, but overall her message is solid. She believes in working on your art as a side project, so you aren’t relying on it for money, and finding what you’re passionate about – not necessarily what you’re good at it.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

I can distinctly remember the first time I read The Total Money Makeover. I was in high school and had already spent years listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, driving in my mom’s car. I was familiar with Dave and his style, but “The Total Money Makeover” changed something deep inside me.

Dave uses real-life examples of struggling families to show how they can get out of debt, save for retirement, and stop worrying about money. His trademarked “Baby Steps” formula lays out easy steps that everyone can take.

There’s no wondering about which debt you should pay off first or if you should save for retirement before your child’s college education. This book is a foolproof system and anyone who follows it is guaranteed financial success.

Are there any books that have greatly influenced your life? We’d love to hear about them over at #Adulting Facebook community!

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If you’re not making any progress on your reading list, read more using the best apps and technology.

Maybe you’ve been following along with our reading series. Maybe you’ve gone through all the benefits of reading and maybe you’ve even signed up for our reading challenge. But maybe you’re struggling to get those books read because you can’t find the time or you can’t get to the library or buying books isn’t in your budget right now. And maybe it’s making you not want to read.

That’s not cool. Not cool at all.

Fortunately for you, there’s a ton of apps that you can add right to your smartphone or tablet that give you access to all the books you can want, making it easier for you to find and take your books with you. Best of all? Most of them are free!

Here are some of my favorites:

Kindle. If you want the benefits of a Kindle without buying one (or if you’re like me, you want one but don’t want another device to keep track of), all you have to do is download the app to your phone or tablet. It’s free and you get most the perks of owning a Kindle (for instance, you can’t access the Kindle lending library or Amazon store directly from the app. At least I can’t. If you know how to do this, please share your tricks.)

Flipster. This is a free library app for magazines. It’s great if you want to read magazines but don’t want to commit to any subscriptions. You can’t get all the magazines but you can get a lot and there’s a ton of variety. All you need is a library card.

Overdrive. Another free library app but this one is for books. You can access your library’s entire eBook catalog (pro tip: sometimes the wait for an eBook, especially a new or popular book, is shorter) and not only that, you can add books from places like Project Gutenberg (more about that in a minute) and you can read books directly on the app. Again, all you need is a library card. P.S., you can also get audiobooks via Overdrive.

Project Gutenberg. An online database of free eBooks that have expired US copyright protections. That means not only can you read them for free, you can use the material in them as you see fit. A word of caution: double check to make sure the book you’re reading has an expired copyright as there are some with protections.

BookBub. A daily deals site exclusively for eBooks. Books range from obscure to popular, there’s a range of genres, and there are often free books available.

Serial Reader. Not to be confused with the incredible podcast, Serial Reader is an app that helps you read classics in 20 minutes a day. It’s perfect for people who want to dive into classic literature but don’t have a ton of time each day.

Litsy. A hybrid of Instagram and Goodreads, and it’s exclusively devoted to bookish things so if you find yourself scrolling through IG just for book pictures or reviews, or for ideas on what books to read, get on Litsy stat.

NetGalley. THE source for ARCs. They’re free, they’re eBooks, and the only thing you need to do is review the book somewhere. You won’t always get all the books you request but you will get most of them. The best part is finding ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of books by popular authors and getting to read them before all your friends.

iBooks. If you have an iPhone, you don’t even need anything else because you have a bookstore and reading app built into your phone! If you use your library app or Overdrive or any of the other ones listed, you can have the book delivered right to your phone in ePub format for easy iPhone reading.

Google Play Books. Similar to iBooks but I’m not sure if it comes as a default on Androids. If not, you can simply download it and access the millions of books in the Google library.

For those who like audiobooks, there’s Audible. However, it’s not included on the list because not only is there a membership fee, you have to pay for the audiobooks. Same for Kindle Unlimited. You pay a monthly fee ($9.99) but unlike Audible, you can download and read all the books you want without an additional cost.

Now that you have your books literally at your fingertips, it’s up to you to carve out the time to use them. My favorite tip? Every time you feel the urge to open Facebook, open your reading app instead. Before you know it, you’ll be through one book and onto the next!

What apps do you use to keep up with your reading? If you use any of the above, which are your favorites?

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Looking for a few good books? We’ll help you find 12! Join the Reading Challenge and read at least one book a month in 2017.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about why it’s important to read, how you can find time to read, and even provided you with a comprehensive (yet not exclusive) list of important and life-changing books to read.

If you can’t tell, I think books are pretty important. So I’m challenging you, in 2017, to up your reading game.

You can do it by setting a goal for the total amount of books you want to read. (If you use Goodreads, it makes it incredibly easy to track.) You can do it by committing to reading one book outside of your preferred genre. You can do it by reading every single day — don’t break the chain.

Or, if you want, you can do it by joining our first ever Reading Challenge 2017!

Disclosure: may be compensated if you take action after visiting certain links in this article. We stand by our editorial integrity and would not be linking to or discussing this topic if we didn’t believe it was in the best interest of you, our audience.

What’s the Reading Challenge?

The Reading Challenge, or ARC2017, is a year-long challenge designed to encourage Adulting readers to read more books.

Rather than give you specific books to read because a) this isn’t school and b) we’re all adults who can make our own choices, we’re giving you a list of topics and suggestions.

Here are the topics.

JANUARY: A book about politics or current events
FEBRUARY: A memoir
MARCH: A finance book
APRIL: A translated book
MAY: A classic book
JUNE: A banned book
JULY: A book written before 1950
AUGUST: A book of short stories or essays
SEPTEMBER: A book about a historical event
OCTOBER: A book over 500 pages
NOVEMBER: A book under 150 pages
DECEMBER: A self-improvement book

You do not have to read the books in the order the topics are listed. The month names are here just to guide you, if you choose. You can start with the one you want to read the most and work your way down. You can start with the one that you’re least looking forward to reading and work your way up. You can start randomly in the middle. Doesn’t matter at all. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. And, you can start any time!

How you pick your books is up to you. There are plenty of lists you can browse, you can crowdsource options, you can tweet me (@saysjana) and I’ll be happy to give you a suggestion or two, or you can ask a librarian. Anything you want. It’s your choice.

If you want to combine a couple of the categories into one book, you can. For instance, you can use Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People for May or July. Or you can use Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for April or October. It’s okay. We’re flexible!

Join the Reading Challenge!

You can absolutely do this challenge on your own without checking in with us. We’re not going to come after you if you don’t. But part of the fun is talking to other participants so if you want to do that, here’s what you do:

First, review the topics and make a list of what you plan to read. Please note that these selections are not set in stone, you can change them any time you want, and, if you find yourself hating your selection, stop reading it! Life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. Then pick something else for that category.

Also, you do not have to buy any books. You can use the library, borrow from a friend, read what’s on your shelf, or any other economical way you can think of to find books.

We picked 12 so you’re only reading one book a month. If you regularly read more than that, add one of these to your rotation. If you’re not a regular reader, this is a good place to start. (In fact, the average person only reads about 10 books a year so this puts you above average.)

Second, share your list! Share it on Instagram or Twitter or whatever social media makes you happy. Make sure to use the #adultingreads hashtag so we can find you.

Third, join the #Adulting Community on Facebook. About once a month, we’ll post a question asking how you guys are progressing through the challenge.

We want to know about the book you’ve read and how you like them. The monthly book discussion is a great way to engage with your fellow readers and maybe get some ideas for future reads. We’ll even have prizes throughout the year within these discussions..

Fourth, read the books!

That’s all there is to it.

Remember, this is a challenge, not a competition. We want you to read harder, smarter, and more often. It doesn’t matter who gets through their list first or if you’re the last one across the finish line. Or even if you don’t complete your list. All that matters is that you’re reading.

P.S. I still haven’t finished my list but when I do, I’ll be sharing it with the #Adulting Community on Facebook so make sure you join us!

Editor’s note: Feel free to share this using the graphic below to spread the word about the Reading Challenge. If you’re a blogger, look for the badge at the top of this article. You are free to use the badge on your own website. Share a post about what you are reading!

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You do have time to read. Make it a priority, if even for a few minutes a day, and you’ll see the benefits.

Remember being assigned reading lists in high school? Assuming you did your homework, that might have been the last time you took the time to read a real book. Or any book. Or anything beyond a social media post.

You’re not alone if that’s true. After all, we’re getting busier and busier with family, work, and other obligations, and reading for fun or pleasure gets pushed farther and farther down the priority list.

But that’s not an excuse to feel better about it. Even if you’re not an avid reader like I am, you should still be reading books (or blog posts or magazines or newspapers or anything, really).


Because what we gain from reading is limitless. Reading gives you some place to go when you’re stuck at home, it helps pass the time in boring situations, it’s a cheap hobby, there’s a book for everyone, and they can change your thinking. That’s just the beginning, too.

Reading reduces stress. If you spend your day working hard, a relaxing book or entertaining graphic novel could be what you need at the end of the day to wind down.

Reading improves vocabulary. A more diverse and nuanced vocabulary makes you a better communicator, and that advantage has a positive effect on all aspects of life as an adult.

Reading increases empathy. Books can expose you to ideas and cultures you may not experience day-to-day. Being able to see life from other perspectives strengthens your emotional intelligence.

Reading expands knowledge. Ideas are best expressed through writing, and even with video and blogs, written words in the form of books continue to be the best way to spread knowledge.

Reading improves writing and comprehension skills. Effective writing is a crucial skill, and you can easily find examples of poor writing. Just look at any meme on Facebook. As your writing skills improve, you’ll stand out more and make better impressions when it’s important to do so.

Reading sharpens your memory. As you read, you’re giving your brain a work-out, the kind of exercise it needs to stay healthy and sharp. Reading is harder work for your mind than just watching a movie, and a lifetime of reading leads to a complex mind with strong comprehension and retention.

Now you’re probably saying, “Jana, you’ve sold me. I really should read more. But it’s just so hard to find time or motivation to read a book — or anything printed with words. How can I do it?” Well, you’re in luck because it’s a lot easier than you think and you definitely have more time to read than you think you do.

Here are some tips.

Read intentionally.

Define your purpose for reading. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What do you want to learn? Are you reading to relax? Once you know why you are reading, you can focus, find the appropriate material that will engage you and keep you interested, and you’ll find yourself wanting to read.

Schedule a reading appointment.

Yes, it’s hard to find time in the day to read. Which is why you need to make the time. What’s the difference between the two? When you say you need to find the time, it’s easy to push it off with other tasks that are more or less important. When you make the time, you schedule it in like you would a conference call or a doctor’s appointment.

One is a choice, the other is set task. Although I’m not a fan of looking at reading as a task or to-do list item, if you’re finding it hard to fit reading into your day, this is a way to do it until it becomes habit. And it doesn’t have to be a long block of time. Fifteen minutes in the morning or before bed is enough to get through one book a month.

Set reading goals.

I don’t mean the arbitrary “I’m going to read 50 books this year” type of goal. Set small, reasonable goals like “I’m going to read 20 pages every day” or “I’m going to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this year” or “I’m going to join my favorite blogger’s book launch team to ensure I read the book before I write about it.” Setting these small goals not only makes you read every day but it keeps with the theme of reading intentionally. And if you’re goal oriented, it’s another incentive to get that book read.

Get a library card.

Books are expensive, even if you’re using daily deal sites, and if you get in the mindset that you can only read if you buy books, then it’s definitely easy to not read. So why not get a library card? It’s free, it’s easy, and interlibrary loans are a gift from the book gods. Even if you live in an area with a poor selection of books or it’s difficult to get to the library, apps like Overdrive make it easy to borrow eBooks. If you don’t have a tablet or Kindle but you have a smartphone, you can download the Overdrive app or the Kindle app onto your phone and use that to read the books as well. And Flipster is a great way to borrow magazines from your library.

Read a variety.

It’s easy to quit on reading if you’re sticking to one topic. You get bored and you just can’t read one more business or self-improvement book. So don’t. Instead of nonfiction, read a fiction book. Sick of historical fiction? Read a young adult book. Liked comic books as a kid? Read a graphic novel.

Reading the same kind of books on repeat is like eating the same breakfast every day for a year. You know you like it, you know it’s simple to plan, but after awhile, you just can’t choke it down anymore so you maybe stop eating it altogether.

Don’t let your reading habit fall into that pattern. It’s supposed to be fun and if it starts to feel like a boring chore, it’s time to change it up.

In the song “Big Casino” by Jimmy Eat World, they sing “There’s lots of smart ideas in books I never read. When the girls come talk to me I wish to hell I had.”

Don’t let that be you. Start with one from this list of influential books.

What are some of your best tips for reading like an adult?

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Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.

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Reading can give you a different perspective or even change your life. These are some adults’ most influential books.

When we think of the things that have influenced us, we think of our parents, clergy, coaches, teachers, and friends. All the usual suspects. We think of people who’ve impacted our lives, our thinking, and our careers, and how they’ve changed us or set us on a particular course.

We think about how they’ve helped us make important, life-changing decisions or encouraged us when we simply couldn’t continue to encourage ourselves. They’ve been there for us when we’ve needed it most.

They’ve been our mentors.

At least that’s how it’s been for me.

Books, as well as people, have profoundly influenced me. There have been books that have come into my life when I needed them most (Start by Jon Acuff and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, for example) or have appeared and proved their worth years later (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is the book that made me want to write) or have simply been there are the right time and place (Late, Late at Night by Rick Springfield. Yes. THAT Rick Springfield). They’ve all served a different purpose and have shaped how and who I am now.

Reflecting on the books, fiction and nonfiction, that have changed me, it made me think that I can’t possibly be the only one who’s been profoundly impacted by books. So I asked some people. And, as it turns out, I’m not alone. Many of my friends and colleagues have been affected by books, too.

Disclosure: may be compensated if you take action after visiting certain links in this article. We stand by our editorial integrity and would not be linking to or discussing this topic if we didn’t believe it was in the best interest of you, our audience.

Here’s what they recommend:

What’s great about this list is that there’s a variety of topics, covering all types of practical skills and lessons. There’s something for everyone!

How about you guys? Have you read any of these?

What are some books that have influenced you?

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.

For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!