Advice Books To Read (That Aren’t Cheesy!)

If you’re someone like me who likes to learn from reading, advice books for a variety of topics are ideal. And in these times when everything is confusing and up in the air, advice books can be exactly what you need right now. I’m framing these as “advice” books and not self-help because some don’t necessarily fall into the self-help category; these are books about creativity, career from a female lens, religion, and more. I have read most of these books, although there are a couple that I haven’t read but that I want to read.

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Looking to improve yourself? In this post, I'm sharing a bunch of advice books to read that - most importantly - aren't cheesy.

Advice Books To Read That Aren’t Cheesy

Big Magic – “Readers and listeners of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy” (x).

I love this book so much that I have a paperback copy and an audiobook copy. I noted quotes I loved when I first listened to the audiobook, and I highlighted and annotated the paperback. So, yeah, it’s incredible. I absolutely adore it. It is aimed at creatives in general – not just writers. This book changed my view on writing and on my creative life. Most importantly, it changed my view on my relationship with writing. (And it should go without saying that these changes are all positive.) If you are a creative person, buy it.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – “Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg’s provocative, inspiring book about women and power – grew out of an electrifying TED talk Sandberg gave in 2010, in which she expressed her concern that progress for women in achieving major leadership positions had stalled. The talk became a phenomenon and has since been viewed nearly 2,000,000 times. In Lean In, she fuses humorous personal anecdotes, singular lessons on confidence and leadership, and practical advice for women based on research, data, her own experiences, and the experiences of other women of all ages. Sandberg has an uncanny gift for cutting through layers of ambiguity that surround working women, and in Lean In she grapples, piercingly, with the great questions of modern life. Her message to women is overwhelmingly positive. She is a trailblazing model for the ideas she so passionately espouses, and she’s on the pulse of a topic that has never been more relevant” (x).

I know that I was behind the times, but I didn’t read Lean In until early 2019. When I was in high school and college, I never expected to work an office job – I thought I would be a teacher, but that dream was squashed after just 1 year of teaching due to my annoying immune system – and I felt a little off-kilter in terms of a future of working in an office. This means that I turned to books to help me adjust! Most of my friends who work in an office started doing so years before I did, so I didn’t find their general advice all that helpful (sorry, guys!). Reading career books was a bit easier on my learning style.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – “In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively” (x).

I read this book through my work, as I work for a company that is aiming to be anti-racist. I say “aiming” because we’re trying to make it happen, but it’s an ongoing process. I’m so glad that we read this, as I don’t know that I would have picked it out myself, but I think that this book should be required reading for all white people. Even if you don’t think that you’re racist, if you’re a white person in America, we benefit from a racist society. No white person is free of racism, no matter what we think. The first step for changing that is acknowledging it and the next is learning the things that we might not know we’re doing. Reading a book is a great way to do that without depending on people of color to teach us. (It shouldn’t have to be their job!)

Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur – “Girl Code is a roadmap for female entrepreneurs, professional women, “side hustlers” (those with a day job who are building a business on the side), and anyone in between who wants to become a better woman. This book will not teach you how to build a multimillion dollar business. It won’t teach you about systems or operational processes. But it will teach you how to build confidence in yourself, reconnect with your “why”, eradicate jealousy, and ultimately learn the power of connection. Because at the end of the day, that’s what life and business is all about” (x).

This is a wonderful book for any woman who wants to kick butt in the workforce and run a business, whether it be a blog or a shop or something else all together. If you are a blogger or run an online business like an Etsy shop, this is a great book. I read this in 2017, when I was finishing my MA degree and trying to also keep this blog running. It was so helpful! I strongly suggest you check it out, especially if you like books like Girlboss.

Mere Christianity – “In the classic Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, the most important writer of the 20th century, explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand together. Bringing together Lewis’ legendary broadcast talks during World War Two from his three previous books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality, Mere Christianity provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith” (x).

I loooooove Mere Christianity! I’ve read it multiple times. As you can tell from the title and the synopsis, is about the key elements of Christianity. There are some things that I’m not a fan of – it was written in the 40s and has some language that is not acceptable today, as well as Lewis’ view on anyone who isn’t straight – but as a whole, it’s a great read. If you’re considering Christianity, want to have some key questions answered, or something else entirely, I suggest you read it.

Braving the Wilderness – “Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging. Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness” (x).

Brene Brown is incredible and if you’re not reading her works, you’re missing out. This book is not an exception.

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Advice Books To Read That I Haven’t Read Yet (Whoops!)

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life – “We’ve all been there: stuck in a cycle of what-ifs, plagued by indecision, paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong. Nobody wants to live a life of constant overthinking, but it doesn’t feel like something we can choose to stop doing. It feels like something we’re wired to do, something we just can’t escape. But is it? Anne Bogel’s answer is no. Not only can you overcome negative thought patterns that are repetitive, unhealthy, and unhelpful, you can replace them with positive thought patterns that will bring more peace, joy, and love into your life. In Don’t Overthink It, you’ll find actionable strategies that can make an immediate and lasting difference in how you deal with questions both small–Should I buy these flowers?–and large–What am I doing with my life? More than a book about making good decisions, Don’t Overthink It offers you a framework for making choices you’ll be comfortable with, using an appropriate amount of energy, freeing you to focus on all the other stuff that matters in life” (x)

I love Anne and her take on things – you might know her as the blogger behind Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next? podcast, which I was a guest on about a year ago. I haven’t read this book yet, but as a type-A person with an anxiety disorder, overthinking is kinda my thing. Right now, that’s in overdrive. If a book could cure my anxiety disorder, I would already have read it, but in the meantime, this is a book with actionable strategies, so I do want to check it out. Plus, I already know that I love Anne’s writing, so that’s another thing in the “pro” column.

The Artist’s Way – “Asserting that creative expression is the natural direction of life, noted Hollywood screenwriter and director Julia Cameron presents an exciting method for artists to recover their creativity from limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, inattention, fear, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other forces that inhibit the creative process” (x).

As a writer, it might be surprising that I haven’t read The Artist’s Way before. But since it came out in 1992 (when I was one), by the time I became interested in books about writing, there were many. And I’ve read several! I have, however, been considering checking this out, or maybe an updated version of it. Shockingly, 1992 is almost 30 years ago.

Best books on writing

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Dare to Lead – “Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential. When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work. But daring leadership in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty requires skill-building around traits that are deeply and uniquely human. The irony is that we’re choosing not to invest in developing the hearts and minds of leaders at the exact same time as we’re scrambling to figure out what we have to offer that machines and AI can’t do better and faster. What can we do better? Empathy, connection, and courage, to start” (x).

This book is in this section of the list because, while I have read 4ish chapters of it, I haven’t read the full book. But from what I’ve read, it’s incredible, which isn’t too surprising because it’s a Brene Brown book. Here is a quote or two from this book:

“We all need to belong, and we all need love, and neither is possible without vulnerability and integration.”

“Daring leaders fight for the inclusion of all people, opinions, and perspectives because that makes us all better and stronger. That means having the courage to acknowledge our own privilege, and staying open to learning about our viases and blind spots.”

Brene Brown is a great writer, and she knows a lot about people. I strongly advise you check out her writing, books, and/or podcast if you take nothing else away from this blog post.

What great advice books have you read?

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  • Reply Cassie

    I loved Mere Christianity! I want to read more of Lewis’ books! I love how easily he could explain our faith and how applicable his works are even today.

    April 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm
    • Reply Kate

      Exactly! If you haven’t read it already, I highly suggest The Problem of Pain by him. It’s not necessarily about physical pain, but instead the problem of “if God is real and good, how do bad things happen?”. It’s very good!

      April 28, 2020 at 2:07 pm
  • Reply Mika

    Thanks for this list! A lot of these look amazing, but I added “Don’t Overthink It” to my goodreads ‘want to read’ pile- I am most excited to read that right now. 🙂

    April 28, 2020 at 8:28 pm
    • Reply Kate

      Awesome! I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

      May 5, 2020 at 3:56 pm
  • Reply Laurel Musical

    I like how you mentioned a lot of Brene Brown work. I feel like she describes being vulnerable so well.

    May 11, 2020 at 3:46 pm
    • Reply Kate

      Exactly! She’s incredible.

      May 17, 2020 at 9:19 am
  • Reply Nance

    Ohhh I’m definitely going to check out “Braving the Wilderness”. Thanks for the list Kate!

    May 30, 2020 at 10:11 am
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