2015 Book Gift Guide: Personal Development

If you’ve been reading along this year, you know that I blew through an ungodly amount of books. For months there was a new book every Friday as one of my favorite things. I was reading business books, self-help books, fiction books, writing books, you name it, I probably read it.

By far, the genre of book that I read the most of had to do with personal development. I went through a lot in the past year, and where I could have decided to run from the things that made me uncomfortable by diving into fiction books that took me away from what was happening around me, I decided to address the problems head on.

All of these books have helped me in one way or another. Sometimes I immediately resonated with their messages and sometimes the message had a delayed effect. It wouldn’t be until weeks or months later that I would realize something I had read had worked its way into my daily way of life and improved my outlook for the better.

If you or anyone on your holiday list is looking for better understandings and eye-opening perspectives, one (or all) of these books may be for you!

Looking for gifts for the bookworm in your life? Check out this list of personal development books guaranteed to change your perspective and improve your life skills along with a little work!

Disclaimer: There are some affiliate links in this post. If a purchase is made through those links, the cost is the same to you, but I will receive a small commission which gets put back into Erin’s Inside Job so I can continue sharing more wonderful things with you! 

2015 Book Gift Guide: Personal Development

Looking for gifts for the bookworm in your life? Check out this list of personal development books guaranteed to change your perspective and improve your life skills along with a little work!

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – This was the book I finished most recently. Gilbert talks about the power of living a creative life and how important it is for those who possess creativity to embrace it. She recounts a number of personal anecdotes related to inspiration and her own personal creative process. She speaks of inspiration as a separate entity that is always in search of the perfect person through which it can be expressed. Big Magic is a quick read, but one that leaves you feeling inspired and ready to take on the world.

2. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown – There are four different Brene Brown books on here. That’s because she is one of the most amazing authors in this genre. I Thought It Was Just Me tells the story resulting from seven years of social work research into shame and vulnerability and seeks to shatter the masks that we develop as a result of societal influences. Brown argues that it is our vulnerabilities rather than the “it’s ok” personna that we exude that really connects us at our core. According to the synopsis, “they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.”

3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – Brown’s second book, The Gifts of Imperfection, shares her 10 guideposts on the power of what she terms “Wholehearted Living.” She concentrates on learning to let go of those defects that hold us back and how to embrace who we truly are as individuals. It’s a shorter book at 130 pages, but it’s full of so many helpful points.

Looking for gifts for the bookworm in your life? Check out this list of personal development books guaranteed to change your perspective and improve your life skills along with a little work!

4. The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine – This book came at such a perfect time in my life. I had so many ideas for what I wanted to do as a career and I was feeling overwhelmed by them all. It’s as if too many ideas had stalled me to the point of inactivity. According to Lobenstine, a Renaissance Soul refers to a personality type that is unfulfilled in one certain field. People who fit this description may skip from career to career, or may completely change direction after excelling in one area for a period of time. There are so many different things I am interested in and this book made me feel better about being able to choose all of them instead of just one.

5. 10% Happier by Dan Harris – Dan Harris is a reputed television journalist who wrote this book after coming back from a nationally broadcasted panic attack. It was in the fallout of the attack that Harris finally came to understand the power of meditation in calming and quieting the anxiety that plagued him on a regular basis. He wasn’t quick in discovering this simple tool, however, and the book follows him through his own journey of seeking help from a variety of sources before finding what works the best for him. It’s a quick and interesting read full of simple tips that we can all follow in our daily lives to bring about a little more peace and happiness.

6. It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell – I absolutely adore this book. I read it in one day in March of this year. Andie chronicles her childhood and family dynamics that eventually led her to develop a binge-eating disorder. It chronicles her loves, her losses, and her triumph over the disorder, resulting in a 135 lb weight loss. This book prompted me to write the post I Want More For Myself and to really put everything I am into everything I do and love.

Before the book, Andie started her popular blog, Can You Stay For Dinner? and shared her love of cooking as well as her thoughtful and well-written take on life. Just this week, she rebranded her blog to AndieMitchell.com and her new cookbook, Eating in the Middle, will be released in March of 2016.

Looking for gifts for the bookworm in your life? Check out this list of personal development books guaranteed to change your perspective and improve your life skills along with a little work!

7. Rising Strong by Brene Brown – This is the most recent publication by Brown and it concentrates on how to own our own personal struggles and stories and how we are to push through when times get tough. It’s easy to talk about overcoming adversity or an issue you have been struggling with, but what do you do when you are in the middle of it? How do you keep walking and own not only the good times, but the bad ones too? There is courage to be found in the struggle and this book hits it right on the head.

8. Scary Close by Donald Miller – It was great for me to read Scary Close because it’s a book about intimacy and communication from a male perspective. At least for me, it’s easier to expect and read books like this from female authors, but I enjoyed reading Miller’s account of his own emotional journey of learning and embracing who he truly is as a person. I was able to resonate with his message since he spoke of desiring fame and acclaim from an early age and thought that the only way people would see him was through continued success. It was refreshing to hear him speak about the importance of throwing away the mask and coming into himself regardless of the fear of rejection. I also finished this one on a plane to the East coast and back, so it’s another quick one.

9. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – Ok, last one by Brene. Her third book, Daring Greatly, was actually the first one I read by her. After I finished this one, I went out and bought her first two immediately. Daring Greatly is a powerful read about vulnerability. Brown states that a person’s willingness to embrace their own vulnerability can transform the way they live, love, parent, and lead. It reaffirmed my decision to live honestly and transparently, even though parts of my past leave me open to criticism and judgement. If we never get vulnerable with others, we will soon lose the ability to connect with them as well. Daring Greatly also helped me at a time when I was struggling with my decision of when to have kids and inspired this post: It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect, one of the top five on this blog.


  • Do you have any recommendations that would go on this list?
  • What’s the last book you read?
  • Do you like books as gifts?


  1. December 1, 2015 / 6:24 am

    I need to get myself more into reading these types of books. I think my problem is that I look at them and go, “eh, I don’t need that!” when really, um, yes, Suz, you do need to and then maybe you’ll get out there and make something of it all!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…My December in Chicago Bucket ListMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:41 pm

      Yeah they were all enlightening in one way or another. I don’t buy the cheesy ones and all these came highly recommended to me before I got them!

  2. December 1, 2015 / 7:03 am

    I’m just about finished Daring Greatly and love it. So much great insight and it’s helped me to understand situations better, and NOT react to them they way I would have before… which is huge for an anxious person! Can’t wait to pick up her other books.
    Bri recently posted…Why you should handwrite (not type) your goals, dreams and aspirationsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:41 pm

      They are all incredible. Let me know how you like them!

  3. December 1, 2015 / 8:45 am

    I love reading, but as a new-ish (can I still call myself a new mom even though I have a 13-month old?) mom (who works FT), I don’t have as much time for it as I used to.
    These are great selections! I haven’t read ANY of them yet (but have heard of a few). Might be “gifting” these to myself 🙂
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…Christmas “Bucket List”My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:42 pm

      You totally should. Maybe you can get audio versions so you can multi task!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:42 pm

      Dooooo it.

  4. Mollie K
    December 1, 2015 / 10:14 am

    I am going to get like all of these! I am so excited to get reading. 🙂 They sound amazing and right up my alley…Tal Ben Shahar is another great one!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:42 pm

      I’ll have to add it to my list! Thanks Mollie!

  5. Deb E
    December 1, 2015 / 11:46 am

    So many good reads here I want to look into. Must pin this to the holidays and remember to gift them too!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:44 pm

      Let me know how you like them if you read any!

  6. December 1, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    Not surprising there are only two books on this list I haven’t read, but they’re both on my “to read” list.
    I loved A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Miller, so I’m excited to read Scary Close.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Seattle Weekend RecapMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:44 pm

      Oh sweet I’ll have to check that one out too!

  7. December 1, 2015 / 5:50 pm

    okay, so saving this! and dying to try 10 % happy! thanks friend

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:44 pm

      Anytime! Let me know how you like it!

  8. lise
    December 1, 2015 / 8:19 pm

    I would highly recommend these books as well (& you know we have very similar tastes in books that make us think, feel challenged, & stretch to grow a little bit more on our paths).

    1) Accidental Saints: Finding God in All of the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber – What if that person you’ve been trying to avoid is your best shot at grace today? And what if that’s the point? Written in a raw & honest way by a foul-mouthed, tattooed, former stand-up comic turned Lutheran pastor, this book contains stories about real people, and the author confesses her own mistakes and shortcomings that helped her to see God more clearly through other people. There’s no formula on how to live a perfect life or list of rules to follow in order to gain sainthood in this book. However, what Bolz-Weber shows the reader, is how to recognize the beauty in other people, even when it take unconventional forms. I heard an interview with the author on NPR, & immediately ordered the book.

    2) Choosing Me Before We: Every Woman’s Guide to Life & Love by Christine Arylo – Every woman should read this book. If you follow the questions and answer them truthfully (have pen & paper ready) and thoughtfully, you’ll have a clear understanding of what you actually want from a relationship, and what is driving your motivation behind those wants and desires. This should be easy & obvious, but it is SO far from that! Choosing Me before We looks at nurturing and loving ourselves so that we can be open to a healthy relationship, & is for women in any stage of relationships. So many of us seem to believe a relationship is going to fix us and solve all our problems. We need to remember the irrelevancy of; how much a man does or doesn’t love us, & how well you do at trying harder, loving more, and doling out ultimatums is immaterial. A man doesn’t complete you. Complete yourself and let the man enhance you. The author makes the point that we all need to vow to always be honest with ME, & to never hide from the truth; no matter what.

    3) The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer – It’s touching, raw, messy, vulnerable, & what life is all about. It will make you pause and think and examine your own life, your own messiness and fears and everything human that is in you, & maybe prompt you to take a risk…be vulnerable…and ask people in your life for things you were always afraid to ask for Asking seems like such a simple thing. We do it every day and most of the time, don’t think much about it, until it comes to asking for big things. Anything that involves a serious risk on the other side of the party, or serious trust in ourselves & others. For too many of us, why would someone want to trust a person in this life where we have learned not to trust strangers? Somewhere along the way, we start to feel ashamed of asking. For many, we were told it was wrong & to rely primarily on ourselves. We were supposed to become self-sufficient adults. However, many of us self-sufficient adults later break down, understanding that we can’t possibly survive on our own. We need help, can’t live whole lives without it, but just don’t know how to ask.

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:45 pm

      Man look at you go. I will certainly check these out!!

  9. December 2, 2015 / 1:53 pm

    This is a fantastic round up. I have to admit, I’m terrible at finishing books in the personal development genre. I really want to be better at that. You’ll usually find me with a fiction book in hand. I’m a sucker for a good mystery.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…No Vicks Winter Chest RubMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:46 pm

      I ALWAYS read fiction until recently. I love classic literature. I took a break for other genres this year and they’ve found a place too!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 3:46 pm

      Yeah it’s so good. Let me know if you read any of these other ones!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 10:26 pm

      It’s so good!!

  10. December 2, 2015 / 10:04 pm

    GAH! I don’t want to tell you the last time I read a book – it’s PATHETIC.

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 2, 2015 / 10:26 pm

      Well now you have a whole list to read haha!

  11. December 8, 2015 / 7:43 am

    The last book I read was The Great Gatsby (for the 4th time). It’s one of my favorites. I hardly read non-fiction/personal development, but I’m going to hold onto this list!!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…How to Live in the Present MomentMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 9, 2015 / 3:52 pm

      I didn’t either until this year. Most of my bookshelf has all my favorite classics on it 🙂

  12. Karen C
    January 16, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    I wish I had come across this blog before Christmas! What an awesome list you’ve compiled 🙂 Well, although I won’t be getting these for friends and family I will definitely buy a few for myself! I think they are very applicable to the “new year new me” attitude! The book that I think should be considered a must read for 2016 is “Leading For Results” by leadership development expert and author Joan Bragar (http://bostonleadership.com). I liked it because it has 5 practices that can be used professionally and in your personal life. It’s a book that makes you feel like you’re a part of a workshop or your very own leadership course. At the end of each chapter there are exercises for you to perform and apply to your own leadership scenario. At the end of the book the author tells her own story of how she had to “practice what you preach” and her trials and tribulations after surviving a plane crash, such a huge inspiration. Definitely a book to read if you want to make a difference in your leadership style or need help to overcome a challenge in your own life. I hope you and your readers will check it out

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 17, 2016 / 6:49 pm

      That sounds awesome! I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation Karen!

  13. June 29, 2016 / 1:26 pm

    “The Renaissance Soul” such a great book for self-development. I read this book again and again but trust me, I don’t get contentment from it. It’s really a great book. Others books are also helpful and informative for the department of self-development. But as a consultant, I suggest you all read “The Renaissance Sou”.
    Thank you very much for sharing this book post. 🙂
    Dr. Kate Siner recently posted…5 MYTHS ABOUT LIFE PURPOSE IT’S TIME TO LET GO OFMy Profile

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