Discovering Your True Self: 16 Memoirs and Nonfiction Books for Personal Growth and Healing
“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors,” wrote Charles Pierre Baudelaire, who was a French poet from the 1800s. To this day, the lines he penned continue to ring true for book lovers of the 21st century.
As humans, the need for growth and self-discovery is a desire deeply embedded in our atoms. We want to understand ourselves better, our place in the world, and what we want to achieve. While there are many ways to go about it, one of our most faithful companions in the journey has been and always will be books.
The ink-stained pages are gifts that keep on giving as they continue to offer insights throughout the years. To accompany you in your journey to healing, self-discovery, and personal growth—here are 16 Memoirs and Nonfiction book recommendations from Bookbie!
My What If Year: A Memoir by Alisha Fernandez Miranda
My What If Year is a hilarious memoir of Alisha Fernandez Miranda, who takes a break from her CEO job to explore the dream jobs of her youth. A year of spirited adventures awaits her, from gofering for Broadway productions to serving rack of lamb in Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. Alisha’s “What If” year shows that failure is a prerequisite for growth, and it’s never too late to say yes to second chances and explore untraveled roads in life.
Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May
Enchantment, by bestselling author Katherine May, offers an invitation to rediscover the feelings of wonder and awe available to all of us. In a world of flux and uncertainty, May encourages readers to explore a different way of relating to the world—one that fosters curiosity, tenderness, and a connection to the natural world. Through stories of her own struggles, May identifies the magic that can be found in the elements of earth, water, fire, and air, inviting readers to find beauty and restoration in the world around them.
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady
In Strong Female Character, Scottish comedian Fern Brady shares her personal journey of growing up undiagnosed with autism and the unique challenges faced by autistic women. With wit and humor, Brady reflects on her futile attempts at employment and increasingly destructive coping mechanisms, highlighting the intersection of womanhood and neurodiversity. This poignant memoir is a tribute to life’s nonlinear journey and the importance of being true to oneself, even when society doesn’t quite understand…yet
What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo
Stephanie Foo seemed to have it all—a great career and a loving partner. But behind closed doors, she struggled with complex PTSD from her parents’ abandonment during her teenage years. In her memoir, What My Bones Know, Foo details her journey of self-healing and exploration of immigrant trauma in her hometown and birthplace. Through scientific research and innovative therapies, she discovers that trauma doesn’t just go away, but it is possible to learn how to live with it.
Finding Me by Viola Davis
We know her as Viola Davis, a gifted actress and producer. But in her memoir, Finding Me, we take a look at the inspiring story of a little girl who stopped running from her past and found her voice in a world that didn’t always see her. From a crumbling apartment in Rhode Island to the stage in New York City, Viola shares her path to finding purpose and self-love. This is a deep reflection and love letter to self, inspiring readers to embrace their true selves and shed facades in a crazy, competitive world.
The Way of a Seabird by Malcolm McCulloch
The Way of a Seabird is an inspiring memoir by Malcolm McCulloch, detailing his courageous journey after leaving a successful career as an airline captain. Through heartfelt and engaging writing, McCulloch shares his philosophy on embracing the unknown and taking risks in pursuit of one’s dreams. This thirty-year journey is filled with anecdotes, challenges, and triumphs, inspiring readers never to lose sight of life’s potential. A perfect read for those seeking motivation and inspiration to pursue their dreams, this book is a testament to the power of courage and determination.
Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sánchez
Author Erika L. Sánchez defies expectations in her award-winning work, having overcome a troubled past as a misfit and self-described pariah growing up in Chicago in the ’90s. In her collection of essays titled Crying in the Bathroom, Sánchez takes readers through her life and reveals an interior world rich with ideas, self-awareness, and perception. With her irrepressible laugh, acerbic wit, and candid voice, Sánchez delivers an unapologetic and brutally honest work that will leave readers feeling like they’ve had a heart-to-heart with their closest friend.
Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice by Judith Lewis Herman
Renowned trauma expert Judith L. Herman presents a powerful manifesto for reimagining justice in her book Truth and Repair. Drawing attention to the fact that the conventional retributive process fails to serve most survivors of sexual violence, she argues for a new vision of justice that prioritizes healing for survivors and their communities. Through recounting survivors’ stories, Herman envisions a new path to justice that is both compassionate and deeply researched. Truth and Repair is a call to action for a better, survivor-centered approach to justice.
The Self-Care Year: Reflect and Recharge with Simple Seasonal Rituals by Alison Davies
The Self-Care Year is a delightful book that explores the beauty and bounty of each season and offers readers tips and rituals for a slower, mindful life. Divided into spring, summer, autumn, and winter, it offers bite-sized self-care practices, mind and body exercises, and simple craft projects to connect with the changing seasons. With seasonal affirmations, better sleep tips, and yoga positions, this book is perfect for anyone seeking to live in tune with nature and find moments of peace and tranquility in their lives.
Twelve Moons: Under a Shared Sky by Caro Giles
Twelve Moons is a captivating memoir by Caro Giles, chronicling her life as a single mother raising her daughters on the edge of the country. The book follows the lunar calendar, with each chapter sharing a month and moon, showing the power that lies in our daily lives. The memoir is set against the backdrop of nature and landscape, highlighting the beauty and power of the world around us. With honesty and vulnerability, Giles shares her story of finding love and a sense of self amid life’s many challenges.
Why Women Grow: Stories of Soil, Sisterhood and Survival by Alice Vincent
Why Women Grow by Alice Vincent is a heartfelt and deeply researched exploration of the connection women find in gardening. Vincent uncovers the often-overlooked stories of women who have found solace, strength, and creativity in gardening, weaving their experiences with her own. From creation and loss to power, protest, and identity, Vincent’s writing is wise, curious, and sensitive. This book is a much-needed celebration of women’s work in the garden and their often-hidden histories.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith
In You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith writes a memoir that explores the breakdown of her marriage and her rediscovery of herself through poetic vignettes. Her introspective and empathetic reflections on family, patriarchy, and traditional gender roles build into a larger story about a mother’s love for her children and a woman’s love for herself. Through the power of her words, Smith shows how loss can lead to the discovery of one’s own strength and beauty.
And Still the Bird Sings: A Memoir of Finding Light After Loss by Linda Broder
And Still the Bird Sings is a moving memoir by Linda Broder about her journey toward healing after the tragic loss of her son. When a bird enters her life, her family sees it as a sign from her son, but Linda is too rational to believe it. Despite this, birds keep appearing in her life, leading her back to her music and a sense of wonder. This book is a powerful reminder of the ways we can connect with lost loved ones and find hope amidst grief.
Without a Plan by Jeremy Delk
Without a Plan is a memoir that follows the life of Jeremy Delk from childhood to the boardroom of his own investment firm. Delk’s brash approach builds trust with guaranteed authenticity as he navigates through the unknown and failures of being human. With each new venture, his choices align with his true self, and his growth becomes a reminder to readers of the importance of finding true happiness.
A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast by Dorthe Nors
A Line in the World is Dorthe Nors’s debut nonfiction book, which depicts her year-long voyage along the North Sea coastline. Nors pens down fourteen extensive essays as she reflects on her childhood, family, ancestors’ ties to the region, and her move from Copenhagen. She highlights the geography, culture, and history of the places she visits, connecting them to her life experiences. Her writing portrays the overpowering nature and its impact on humanity, making the book a deep and personal contemplation of civilization, change, and belonging.
The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw
In The Bookseller at the End of the World, Ruth Shaw shares the poignant, amusing, and heart-rending memoir of running two tiny bookshops in Manapouri, Fiordland. She tells stories of the diverse characters who visit her bookshops, along with musings on her favorite books and bittersweet stories from her rich and varied life. The memoir interweaves Shaw’s many adventures—including sailing through the Pacific and campaigning for environmental causes—with deep losses, pain, and a beautiful love story. This evocative book will inspire you to delve deeper into the world of storytelling.