7 Books That Will Improve Your Life

June 24, 2020 Updated: June 24, 2020

Books are a legacy of the knowledge and wisdom that people have accumulated and compiled over time.

Here are seven nonfiction books that have enhanced my life in the past few years. They have helped my family and me make vast improvements in the areas of health, stress management, interpersonal relationships, career, positive habits, parenting, and marriage. 

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“The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain” by John E. Sarno, M.D. 

John Sarno was a spinal surgeon before he started looking further into the anomalies he was seeing on his patient’s X-rays. According to Sarno, the pain they were describing was completely unrelated anatomically to the pictures in front of him. Further investigation and research led him to the belief that the pain that his patients were describing, as well as several other classes of illness, was actually the result of suppressed rage.

Once Sarno developed protocols for helping people see through the false causes of their pain and release their rage, he found that their pain went away without physical intervention. He documented a 90 percent success rate using his method, far higher and less invasive than the success of his surgical interventions.

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“Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Autism” by Stanley Rosenberg

Stanley Rosenberg offers cutting-edge information about the importance of the autonomic nervous system for physical and mental health. This is the system that regulates your normal, calm state of mind and body, which, under stress, shifts into a fight, flight, or freeze response to protect and save you from harm. 

A person’s nervous system sometimes gets stuck in an overstressed state once the danger has passed, such as after a traumatic experience. This book puts forth a fast, user-friendly test to determine the state of your autonomic nervous system and very simple and easy exercises that anyone can do at home to reset and improve the system’s functioning—thus impacting a wide array of health conditions. It’s obvious when you read this book that Rosenberg is a true healer.

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“Games People Play” by Eric Berne

Eric Berne, the founder of a theory of psychology called transactional analysis, was a keen observer of people. He noticed that in many interactions between people, there is a subconscious, hidden goal in the exchange, that the people interacting don’t usually realize is happening.

Berne called it a game.  

The book is presented in a humorous and down-to-earth style, as Berne describes the games he has observed frequently played between people and reveals their hidden, underlying agendas. Reading the book will unveil the hidden gimmicks in the interpersonal interactions around you, and what people are truly seeking—whether that’s validation, appreciation, forgiveness, or other things—under the guise of interactions as simple as a conversation. 

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“Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Dr. Sue Johnson

Having developed the most successful form of marital therapy, Sue Johnson understands the essence of love and connection. In “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversation for a Lifetime of Love,” Johnson elucidates the emotional bonds that underlie love. She points out that breaks in these bonds are the real reason for marital discord and how to repair the rifts.

She walks couples through a series of conversations to reduce conflicts and create the safety and intimacy needed to develop deep emotional bonds between spouses. 

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“What Color Is Your Parachute?” by Richard N. Bolles

Updated annually, “What Color is Your Parachute?” is the best-selling job-seeking book of all time, but it is not just a book about finding a job. It is about discovering yourself, finding your best traits, exploring what you love and hate about work, and uncovering your true mission in life. Over the years, I have found myself occasionally repeating the exercises in the book to refine and home in on my true purpose as my experiences and circumstances change.

After you complete the exercises in the book, you are guaranteed to know yourself better at a deep level. 

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“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear

James Clear breaks down the science of personal change. He explains why goals often fail while making small consistent shifts in your habits multiply their benefits over time. In this accessible and practical guide to changing your life, you will learn why changing the way you see yourself is the key to developing the life you always wanted. 

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“Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

“Hold On to Your Kids” is not like the other parenting books that focus on strategies and techniques to get your children to toe your line. It breaks down the fundamental shift in the relationship between a parent and child when a child’s peers become more important to a child than their parents—something that is happening at an alarming rate in our society. It talks about how to win your children back in the context of effective parenting, where the bond between a parent and child comes first.

Michael Courter is a therapist and counselor who believes in the power of personal growth, repairing relationships, and following your dreams. He can be reached at mc@CourterCounsel.com.