• The Publishing Post

Aspirational Avenues: Non-fiction Books to Motivate You

Since many of us are job hunting right now or looking to motivate ourselves for self-improvement over the summer, here’s The Publishing Post’s list of non-fiction books featuring inspiring people and life advice. From notable memoirs to informative books about health, food and fitness, these recommendations will be a great foundation for achieving that next step in life with an upbeat attitude.


Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry 


Grayson Perry – English artist, writer and cross-dressing vase-designer – delivers a wonderful critique of the contemporary art world in Playing to the Gallery. This slim book is the perfect read for an aspiring artist – or aspiring art-lover – successfully decoding the pomp and dense world of contemporary art and its criticism. An established artist himself, he is blasé and crude about what it takes to be ‘successful’ in the art world (he once wrote the name of an art collector on one of his vases, which said collector bought immediately upon viewing it in the Tate). Perry’s book shouts that art is accessible to everyone. If your creative hands have been recently twitching, it will surely satisfy and inspire. 


Educated by Tara Westover


A list of inspirational stories is simply incomplete without Tara Westover’s Educated. This memoir shows an incredible woman’s pursuit of a new life of opportunities, experiences and education away from her upbringing. Westover grew up in a survivalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. Her father had paranoid fears about government interference, so forbade Tara and her six siblings from attending school, having birth certificates and receiving medical help. Westover details her journey as she breaks away from her family to gain an education, right up to receiving a PhD from Cambridge University. This memoir proves that, despite life’s obstacles, you really can do anything that you dream of. Westover acknowledges the challenges and the hurt along the way, but she creates for herself a life of liberation and ambition.  


In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It by Lauren Graham


Gilmore Girls and Parenthood star Lauren Graham is both hilarious and heartfelt in her novella, which is chock-full of life advice aimed at recent graduates. An adaption of a commencement speech she gave in 2017 after being invited back to her high school, In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It is a quick, yet motivational read that encourages people at all stages of life to pursue what makes them truly happy and try not to worry too much along the way. Although this can be difficult advice to follow right now with the unsettling state of the world, readers may find this sort of feel-good inspiration to be a breath of fresh air, especially for those facing uncertainty as a new graduate, job seeker, or aspiring artist.


Deliciously Ella by Ella Mills Woodward


When life seems tricky and you need added motivation, it’s important to remember that there are things you can do to support your well-being. Often, when we seek to make lifestyle changes, it is our food habits that get an overhaul, so it’s no wonder that cookbooks dominate the non-fiction charts (TheBookseller.com). Upon release, Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy, a book not only packed with fantastic vegan recipes, but also inspirational words from Ella herself, rocketed to the top of the charts. Within, Ella outlines her belief that she made “small changes to feel happier … and just more excited about life.” To see how Ella has built her brand from these changes gives the reader a renewed sense of encouragement that their dreams and aspirations can become a reality with a few small changes, too.


This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel


Life is not a straight line; we are always encountering new changes. To overcome these challenges, reading about others’ experiences helps. This Too Shall Pass visits psychotherapist Julia Samuel and her conversations with her patients, exploring how we can learn to adapt during difficult times. Unflinchingly realistic, this book covers everyday people with unforgettable stories. For example, Samuels speaks of a woman who is deciding whether to leave her husband for a younger lover, before soon exploring an anecdote of a young man dealing with the aftermath of coming out. Drawing on social and psychological research, I related to This Too Shall Pass and Julia Samuel’s patients on an intimate level, resonating with the message of understanding ourselves so as to truly heal. I would highly recommend it to anyone in need of inspiration or encountering change in their day-to-day life!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed 


Wild chronicles Cheryl Strayed’s epic hike along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the Western United States. She sets out on this adventure at a point in her life when she feels she has lost herself. Interspersing memories with her account of the trail, you get a sense that every step is providing Strayed with a release from something that has been weighing her down. This is not to say that you must hike the PCT in order to discover who you are (although you may want to after reading this). Strayed shows that even in your lowest moments, even when you think it is impossible to find your way back to who you are, there is hope. You just have to keep walking.