7 Summer Reads to Inspire You

Love, lead, question, and create.

If you’re looking for inspiration to try something new, grow and challenge yourself this summer, consider taking these books along on your journey.


1. The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World, by Jamil Zaki

In 2006, Barack Obama said that the United States is suffering from an “empathy deficit.” There’s a good deal of evidence that since then, things have only gotten worse. In this groundbreaking new book, Jamil Zaki shares cutting-edge research, including experiments from his own lab, showing that empathy is not a fixed trait, but a skill that can be cultivated and strengthened through effort and practice. He tells the stories of people who embody this new perspective, fighting for kindness in the most difficult of circumstances. This book is a powerful reminder that kindness is not a weakness but a source of great strength, and it offers an inspiring call to action. Fight for kindness: Our future depends on it!


2. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, by Brené Brown

How do we dare to lead in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty? New York Times Bestselling author, Brené Brown believes it requires empathy, connection, and courage. In her latest book to accompany her wildly popular Netflix special, Brown uses research, stories, and examples to answer this question in her highly relatable style that millions of readers have come to love. Brown has spent the past two decades studying the emotions and experiences that give meaning to our lives, and the past seven years working with transformative leaders and teams spanning the globe. Brown reminds us that when we dare to lead, we don’t have to pretend to have the all the answers. Instead, we can stay curious and learn to ask the right questions. We don’t have to avoid difficult conversations and situations; we can lean into our vulnerability and need for connection. By sharing that power, we grow stronger and braver to meet challenges together.


3. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer

A visionary book filled with wonderful, inspiring stories on how asking for what you need builds relationships and communities. As a musician, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker, Amanda Palmer has become an expert on the art of asking. Beginning her career as a mime, she dressed as a living statue in a wedding dress. The 8-foot bride wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a songwriter and musician, Amanda asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter campaign. In this groundbreaking book, she explores barriers to asking in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers why so many people are afraid to ask for help, and how we can overcome our fears of asking for what we truly need. I recently saw Amanda Palmer’s live tour, “There Will Be No Intermission,” on love, loss, and radical compassion, and was blown away by her generosity. Apparently, the practice of asking also strengthens our capacity to give freely and connect deeply with others.


4. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

A revolutionary 12-week program for artistic renewal from the world’s foremost authority on the creative process, The Artist’s Way is a life-changing book—and a classic that many creative people (including Elizabeth Gilbert) swear by. The 25th-anniversary edition includes a new introduction from the author, as well as Cameron’s most vital tools for creative recovery—The Morning Pages and The Artist Date—along with hundreds of other highly effective exercises and activities. I love to re-read this book and always find new treasures—and fond memories of the “creative clusters” formed in Julia’s in-person workshops, where I’ve gained flashes of insight into my creative work and made lifelong friends.


5. Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, by Sharon Salzberg

In this book, Sharon Salzberg, a leading expert in Lovingkindness meditation, encourages us to release layers of negative habits and obstacles that block us from experiencing authentic love. She explains how to dispel cultural and emotional habits, and direct our care and attention to rediscover the essence of what it is to love and be loved. As a creative tool kit of mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques, this book can help you to truly engage with present moment experience and create deeper love relationships with yourself, your partner, friends and family, and with life itself. Love is more than simply romance or passion, but the daily give and take that creates and maintains our deepest connections with life.


6. What If There’s Nothing Wrong with You? by Susan Henkels

As a psychotherapist for more than 45 years, Susan Henkels has heard it all. In a TED interview, Henkels recounted the moment that inspired the book: As she was listening to a patient take her through “the whole list of what was wrong with her, I thought in the middle of this litany, ‘What? There’s actually nothing wrong with her.’” How often do we define ourselves based on what we think is wrong with us or what we’re currently “working on” about ourselves? This is a practical guide for dismantling your belief that something is wrong with you and replacing that belief with the radical acceptance of what is…exactly that, nothing more, nothing less. This book will show you how to redefine your personal path with a new interpretation of right and wrong and how to best use it every day for a more productive and fulfilling life. Why not let yourself feel the relief of knowing that there’s really nothing wrong with you after all?


7. Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader, by Marc Lesser.

As the former head cook of the world-renowned Zen center and co-founder of Search Inside Yourself, the mindfulness leadership program at Google, Lesser offers a recipe for authentic conscious leadership. The seven mindful practices can be applied to the world of business and practical affairs and everyday life. In the seven chapters with intriguing titles like, “Don’t Be an Expert” and “Keep Making It Simpler,” Lesser explains the practice of mindfulness covering skills to cultivate compassion and empathy, clarity and self-awareness, and a deeper connection to others. While the book is written mainly for executive leaders, anyone who seeks to lead and motivate people from a place of mindful compassion and self-awareness will find inspiration from this practical guide.


Originally published at Psychology Today