My Best 14 Non-Fiction Books
Change has to start with you. If you want to make any long term change, add a habit into your life, or become a more organized person, all these things have to start with a little spark inside of you. I’ve shared with you tips and ideas and tricks, but what I haven’t shared is how I got started – and that was with reading.
I’ve always been a big reader and it’s actually through books that I’ve found motivation to keep going, inspiration to change, and even encouragement to keep me focused. I’ve collected a list of 14 of the best non fiction books that I’ve read (and, let me tell you, it was HARD to narrow it down to 14!). These books sparked so much change in me that I had to share them with all of you!
Feel free to read my book list below or listen to me talk about what makes each one of these books special in my latest video.
Before we get started with that list, some of you may be thinking, “Who has the time to read?!” And, friend, I get that! I’d love to be able to read more, but who wouldn’t? There are only so many hours in the day and, let’s be honest, usually the first thing cut from the schedule is the thing you do for yourself. Even if we want to read more, sometimes just wanting something isn’t enough to magically provide more room in the schedule. (Though it sure would be nice if it worked that way!)
But, that’s not the end of the story! So I wanted to start off by giving you a few practical tips on how I fit reading into my crazy, hectic, amazing life!
First, audiobooks have transformed the way I read. I still get the information I need and I can listen to books while I check some items off my “to-do” list. I listen to audiobooks while I fold the laundry, do the dishes, or even exercise. I don’t listen to books while doing something that requires my full attention, like working or balancing the checkbook, but that little extra bit of entertainment during those tasks where I can just go on auto-pilot are so good for me. It even makes the time pass quicker! I’ve found myself wishing there was more laundry to fold so I could keep on reading, if you can believe it
I use both Audible and Scribd to listen to audiobooks. There are tons of other resources out there, such as Libby or Hoopla that are free if your local public library has an account with them. Check out the website of your public library, as one of these or another similar resources may be included with your library card!
Maybe audiobooks aren’t your thing. And I get it! Nothing really beats the feel of a book in your hands. I can squeeze audiobooks in as I go about my day, but what about carving out scheduled time to read? If that feels next to impossible, here are a couple tips.
Read in small doses: You may not feel like you have a lot of time to read, and if you have a hectic, crazy schedule, I totally understand! Reading can feel like a luxury you simply can’t afford. However, most of us can find a little time every day or once a week to read. Start with small increments of time. Maybe you read for 10 minutes right before bed on Tuesdays. Or Maybe you wake up 20 minutes earlier every weekday to get some reading in. Consider your other built in breaks during the day (perhaps a lunch break at work) and try using a portion of that time to read a couple pages.
Take a Book with You: If you were anything like me in high school, I always had an extra book in my backpack to read. Why not do that now? Stick a book in your purse or download an ebook to take with you on the go. Instead of using any free minute during the day to scroll on your phone, take out a book instead. Maybe that’s waiting for your food at a restaurant or when you’re waiting on a coworker to arrive to a meeting. Those small moments during the day can really add up!
My last bit of advice when making time to read is that this habit should be one that adds value to your life. When I was in middle school and high school, I would fill my days reading fiction books. Over time, I realized that reading fiction wasn’t exactly my healthiest habit. While reading is a good practice, I was staying up too late finishing books and ignoring other responsibilities in order to keep reading – not a great addition. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with fiction, it’s just not what I spend most of my time reading. Before taking on these tips, make sure reading is something that is going to enhance your life – no need rearranging a schedule for something that isn’t going to work for you.
Now, all you need is a book! The books on my 14 best non fiction books list may not be the best ever to exist, but they are books that were extremely helpful or impactful in my own life. It’s also a list full of non-fiction books. Not that I have anything against fiction, it’s just not what I tend to read these days.
Another thing to note about this list is that I love data. Facts and research and graphs – all of that good data puts me in my happy place! A fun fact you may not know about me is that I used to be an electrical engineer! You’ll definitely see this passion reflected in my reading habits. The more information I can get on a topic, the better!
My Top 14 Favorite Books
#1: 10,000 Hours by Phyllis Lane
This book changed the way I achieve my goals. The Idea behind it is that no one is born with a professional amount of talent, you have to put in the time (10,000 hours) to be proficient in something.
Honestly, there are a lot of gifts I don’t believe I have, but I can put in the work and hustle just as hard as anyone else to make anything happen. It’s also a good reminder that we can’t get anywhere on talent alone, we have to cultivate our gifts and really build into our talents and interests in order to truly succeed.
If you want to know a little secret, this book is so important to me because it’s what gave me that final little nudge that I needed to start I Heart Planners. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t sure if I could do it and that there were so many other people further ahead and I almost talked myself out of it. But after I read this book, I knew I could put in the time and achieve whatever I set out to do!
Deep Work is a read that really taught me the value of uninterrupted time. There is so much to be said for really focusing in on a task and not letting yourself cave into distraction. It kind of goes against the grain of our modern workplaces and technology where we are expected to answer any call or question at a moment’s notice. He dives into how that deep, intentional focus enhances our overall work life and productivity.
Cal Newport has a second book called Digital Minimalism that many people like more, but Deep Work is the one that really helped me in my own work life.
#3: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
Simplicity Parenting is all about how to simplify our kids’ lives. There is so much information overload and distraction in children’s lives today and the best response to that is to strip a lot of that complication away.
It’s always important to search for credible authors, and a credible author is what you get with Kim John Payne, who is a psychologist with years of experience and data to back up his words. It definitely was an eye-opener and changed the way I parent. There’s no way to express just how freeing it is to realize kids don’t need hundreds of toys and jammed-packed schedules full of constant enriching activity, they just need time to be kids.
#4: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Warning: if you do not like deep, research-based books, this one will not be for you. This book is thick! Full of good, solid research, but very dense.
Thinking Fast and Slow is all about how we reason and think with all the supporting research to go with it. I love reading all those details and digging into how our brains function, but I also realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’d highly recommend this one, even if you think you may not like it. You may be surprised, and learn something about your mind in the process!
This one’s a lighter read as far as business books go. It dives into how to have a positive work energy with the author’s own personal journey weaved into it. I enjoyed how fast this book went – I reached the end before I knew it! And we can all benefit from a more positive outlook in the workplace, am I right?!
#6: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
Talk about an eye-opening experience! I, along with most people, always thought the more choices I had, the better off I’d be. This book challenges that idea and shows that having too many choices can actually do more harm than good. With research to back him up, Schwartz teaches the reader how to eliminate some of those excess choices in our lives in order to make healthier decisions.
If you want a book that will change the way you operate in your day to day choices, this book is a must-read!
#7: Capital Gaines by Chip Gains
This book is not at all what I expected it to be when I picked it up! It gripped me from the start with the heartfelt way the story was told. It was quite the roller coaster of emotion! It was a quick and easy read and I finished the book with a deep understanding of the hard decisions the author had to make. Talk about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes – what an encouraging book!
#8: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
It was hard to just choose one book by Patrick Lencioni. I’ve read every single one of his books and it’s safe to say he is my favorite author. Genuinely, everything he writes is worth picking up.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team gets a special shout out because of how applicable it is. Teamwork really does make the dream work, and I love reading Lencioni’s theories. He tells his books in parable form, so it’s a story that keeps you engaged the entire time. I was honestly sitting on the edge of my seat while I was reading this and I cannot recommend him enough.
#9: The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Kim Huling
It’s a little longer, a little more in depth, and a little technical, but The 4 Disciplines of Execution was still a page turner for me! If that’s not your thing, it may not be the book for you, but the theories in this book all about actually implementing change can be applied on a large scale (like a big organization) or on a personal level so it really is good for any reader.
#10: The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley
This book is a healthy mix of research and story. The author followed American exchange students who went to live in all the countries with the highest test scores for a year to see firsthand how those countries differ from the United States. And, what they find is something I already suspected, but it was even more impactful to read the evidence – they found that what makes a bigger difference than technology is the quality of the teachers. This book made me even more passionate about supporting and helping teachers. (If you’re a teacher reading this, thanks for all you do!)
#11: Good to Great by Jim Collins
Good to Great is a business book that’s all about what takes a business from, as the title suggests, good to great. The author has specific criteria for the businesses included in the book and it was so fascinating to read the things these businesses had in common. Engaging, informative, and eye-opening – this book had it all!
#12: The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax
If you’re looking for a good place to start with a parenting book, this is it! The Collapse of Parenting isn’t very specific, but it’s a great general resource. Sax talks about everything from dinner table routines to screen time limitations. An interesting book all about how to raise kids well in a world full of distraction.
#13: Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth
I know, the topic of infant sleep can get pretty controversial and I’m not here to tell you there’s a right or wrong way you should be putting your kids to bed. Honestly, I don’t have a very strong opinion on all the sleep debate, but this book came to me at a time when I really needed it and gave me the encouragement I needed as a new mama.
I thought that if I did everything right that my child would have a solid sleep schedule (or at least routine). When that didn’t exactly happen, I was definitely starting to feel like a major parent failure. The pediatrician who wrote this book made me see that kids are different and may never get that perfect sleep schedule, no matter how hard I try. It told me I was doing fine, which is exactly what I needed at the time. He does have his own thoughts on what way is best and backs it up with research, but it really is an encouraging read for any of those struggling parents out there. (spoiler alert: you’re doing great!)
#14: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
I did not think I would like this book as much as I did! I didn’t think it would be relatable since I only run occasionally and running is definitely not something I was born to do. But, turns out, I don’t mind reading about it! It follows the Tarahumara tribe and is so motivational and fascinating that it’s stuck with me over the years.
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- The One Thing by Gray Keller
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Whew! That's a lot of reading. If any of these books caught your eye and you'd like to keep track of them, here's a free printable to keep track of the books you want to read!
This list covers many different genres and they may not all be for you, but they are all great reads that have really helped build my life. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise! If you’re going to give one of these a try, let me know in comments! I’d love to know what your thoughts are. Or, if none of these books seem up your alley, tell me about books you’d recommend – I’m always looking for an excuse to build up my bookshelf.
Ann Holmes Says
Thanks for these suggestions! There are several I now want to check out. My personal recommendation to you is Charlie Giley’s “Start Finishing: How To Go From Idea To Done.”