Readathon Hour 8 Mini-Challenge: Books to Empower


Thank you so much for all your thoughtful and inspiring responses! As expected, my TBR is bursting. Just the way I like it.

The randomly selected winner is Lindsay Sings. Please contact me here or on Twitter @bookishinCT so we can arrange your prize!

Welcome to the Hour 8 Mini-Challenge!

I love a lot of things about Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon.

I love the passion for books and reading. I love the acres of book pile photos. I even love how they make my TBR explode because it means I’m discovering new books. I mean, how can I not love that? Basically, what I’m saying is, I love the goodwill and support of this awe-inspiring community. It’s like…


But I know. We all get tired sometimes. And not just because it’s Hour 8, and that’s, like, a standard work day’s worth of reading. Life can get overwhelming. The world can get overwhelming. We could all use a burst of inspiration and motivation to push through the difficult bits, and I know you’re just the crew to provide it.

For this challenge, I want to hear about the books that inspire and empower you. The books that—when you turn the last page—make you feel recharged. The books that motivate you to jump up and go get it, whatever the referent for “it” is.

As my thanks, I’ll be selecting a winner at random for a $15 Barnes and Noble gift card or book of your choice from Book Depository worth up to $15. To enter, leave a comment with your picks (links to your own blogs welcomed!). Please check back for the winter or leave contact information where I can reach you to coordinate your prize!

104 Replies to “Readathon Hour 8 Mini-Challenge: Books to Empower”

  1. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson- inspired me to talk to others about mental health and work towards breaking the stigma around depression and anxiety, including not feeling alone or ashamed about struggling.

  2. Currently reading The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solitude. It has me inflamed.

  3. I find it “empowering” to read books that restore my equilibrium when I’m having a bad anxiety attack. For me, these are books I really love and that make me both laugh AND cry no matter how many times I read them. The tears I shed when reading these books are cathartic and do even more to restore my equilibrium than the laughter does.

    What are these books? I have five:

    Absolutely, Positively by Jayne Ann Krentz
    A Little Fate (“Winter Rose”) by Nora Roberts
    A Little Magic (“Ever After”) by Nora Roberts
    Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
    Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

    (I’m on Twitter @Jen_fromWA )


    1. Whenever I feel like I need a dose of inspiration, I pick up This is Water by David Foster Wallace. A commencement address he once delivered, it talks about the struggles we go through in our daily adult lives and how we can drastically improve it by changing the way we look a things. It’s short and sweet, never fails to remind me of what’s important, and instantly puts me in a better mood.

  4. I’d say the Stephanie Plum novels, I know not a single book, but they’re all so funny anyone will do.

  5. Mine’s a less traditional book but when I was a kid my grandma got me Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance lyrical book and the accompanying CD. It never fails to make me feel good and it’s become our song so I feel a really strong connection to it.

  6. I really have been loving MG fiction lately, I work at an elementary school and we’ve seen a huge rise in bullying and other issues. I just read Posted by John David Anderson and just fell in love with one of the main characters Rose – who isn’t afraid to be herself and stand up for what is right.

  7. The book that changed my life…Tales of a Female Nomad

    The book I keep re-reading….The Crossroads between Should and Must

  8. One of my fave books when it comes to empowerment is This is About You: Amazing, Weird, Beautiful You by Mary England.

  9. I love this challenge! There are quite a few that do this for me, but one that I read as a child and recently re-read is A Little Princess. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but the overwhelming message of kindness mattering over all, the idea that we choose who we are and how we are going to act in this world feels super important and comforting in the world today. I see this kind of behavior in a lot of people I follow on social media, particularly the women behind the Women’s March, and I am heartened by it.
    Aw, you got me feeling all the feels! I love this readathon! Thanks!

    1. A Little Princess was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I love it still. I hear what you’re saying about it being about choosing who we are and how we act – that’s what made me love it and feel inspired by it, as a kid and when I reread it as an adult.

  10. I think a book that did this for me was If Someone Says You Complete Me, RUN!: Whoopi’s Big Book of Relationships. It was a hoot because I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Whoopi herself. While it did have comedic anecdotes, it mostly talked about loving yourself, being happy as you are and the fact that you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy. It reminded people not to fall into the traps that society sets for people. You don’t have to be married with children by a certain age, you can be in a long term relationship without getting married and have it still be a wonderful and fulfilling relationship. And you don’t have to have kids just because people think you should. Basically it’s all about empowering oneself. Love yourself and be happy with who you are before you even attempt a relationship, and even then don’t do it unless it’s what you really want in life.

  11. I recently finished Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please!” I believe she is one of the funniest, strongest and down-to-earth individuals I have ever listened to (listened to the audiobook – plus, I loved her on SNL & Parks & Rec). Her book had me saying “yes yes yes” and awful lot. I especially enjoyed her rant about cell phones. When the book had ended, I thought to myself that if I could be even a quarter of the person she is, then I have lived a good life. In conclusion, thank you Ms. Poehler for your strength and beauty. You are true inspiration.

  12. You asked what the referent of “it” is. Well right this second I was reading about this: “the mind hardly is anything at all: it is its aboutness.” So this book makes me go for it. It’s called “At the existentialist café” by Sarah Bakewell

  13. Oh, I would recommend my favourite book for this: The princess bride. It may look like an adventure book, but it is full of remarkable quotes that I use myself in my everyday life to get through difficulties.
    For example; I was studying “just enough” for an exam that I later failed, so I steadied myself and remembered how the protagonists were swordfighting with their left hands (because they were very good and thought the other was bad ), and at some point they realized they should turn to their rights hands if they wanted to win.
    So that’s the same for me: I said, well, you thought this was going to be easier and it’s not, so “I’m not left handed”, and I’m going to put everything on it!
    Besides, it has a lot of humor and it always cheers me up, and that’s also important to go through a difficult day!
    Thanks for the challenge.
    In Twitter I’m @IsiOrejas

    1. I loved The Princess Bride. I read it for the first time in the last few years because it’s a dear friend’s favorite book, and I was so happy I finally discovered it!

  14. The books that inspire me… those will always be the same. Juliet Marillier, Anne Rice, Anne Bishop, Oscar Wilde – everything they write is magic and I always feel that spark when I read one of their books.

  15. Any book about Blechley Park or any other women dominated intelligence gathering group during WWII. An example is The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There. Amazing how many great things people have done, that we don’t hear about.

  16. A book that inspired me to write more and to write diversely is Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe and now fast forward, I’m currently in the process of writing my first novel and not quitting.

  17. I’ve been trying to think about what books I have read lately that really made me think or want to do something. The only one I really can think of is a book I read to my students called “Meiko and the Fifth Treasure”. Meiko is a young girl who loves calligraphy but injures her painting hand. It made me want to pick up a paintbrush and try the word pictures. Together my class tried the word friendship but I have not tried to actually paint it yet.

  18. Most recently, it’s been “Yes Please!” by Amy Poehler (because she is such a bad ass and is uber inspiring) and “Perfect Little World” by Kevin Wilson (because it reminded me how much I love my research field).

  19. One of the books that always empower me are the danish book “Skammerens Datter”/”The Shamer’s Daughter” by Lene Kaaberbøl. I can never stop rereading it.
    Instagram: @jennifervenia

  20. I’m going to be really cliche here. The Lord of the Rings has always been a great trilogy for me to revisit.

  21. Of course, the Bible is my number one book for inspiration. It always makes me want to do better – be better.

    2nd choice would be the Mitford series by Jan Karon. No matter how many times I reread, I am comforted, enthused and entertained by the way the characters handle the day to day stuff we all deal with – but so much more grace than I.

  22. Anything written by Lodro Rinzler does it for me. He’s incredible and so soothing, like a nice cozy blanket and a cup of tea for my heart. I just finished his book, Love Hurts, because I had to put my cat down last night and I was in need of some serious healing words.

  23. I’ve read and reread BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah, which was my favorite book of 2016. It’s inspiring, motivating, and makes me look at my life in a different light.

    I’m on Twitter! @Mars_acearo

  24. I recently read The 10-Day Smoothie Cleanse by JJ Smith and actually tried the cleanse as well. I guess it was recommended to me at just the right time, because despite my trepidation, I completed the ten days successfully. As a result, I felt really inspired to make a concerted effort to improve my eating habits. It’s a one-day-at-a-time commitment as far as I’m concerned, but, hey, that’s how life’s served up, right?

  25. The entire Jan Karon Mitford series just gives me hope and encouragement. I don’t reread a lot of books but I do reread those. I have also read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a lot… as a child and again as an adult with my own children and they inspire me a lot.

  26. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and I’ll give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Both of those books are about creating and letting your inspiration loose, and everytime I think about those stories I get motivated to create!

  27. I find that the books that motivate are those that challenge me to look at the world from a perspective that is completely different from my own. Some of the best from the past year are association of small bombs, Behold the Dreamers, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, March, Underground Railroad, & She’s Not There.
    I’m on Twitter @redjewel_7734

  28. The Secret Loves of Geek Girls by Hope Nicholson ♡
    It’s a short story collection written by various women who love geeky things. It’s perfect to either read in one go, or to go back to whenever I feel bored from another book. Also, there are comics in it.

  29. Pretty much anything by Toni Morrison inspires me. Recently, Homecomingby yaa gyasi also was very inspiring. I am empowered by beautiful stories of survival.
    Twitter: @fallingwings

    1. I did my MA thesis on Toni Morrison. The first book of hers I read was “The Bluest Eye,” and then I had to read everything she wrote. Loved “Homegoing” too – the writing and structure are absolutely brilliant.

  30. I can inspired to work out by Jim Butchers Harry Dresden. I hate working out, but I do it because I know I need to.

  31. Ooh, I love this question! Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock is one for me, I think — it reminds me how important it is to keep writing, and how important it is to keep striving to be a good person. It’s the book that taught me that being a hero means ignoring how silly you feel, which is probably the most important lesson in How to Integrity that I’ve ever gotten.

    I’m on Twitter as @readingtheend

  32. My picks would be the books in the Shopaholics series. I love the friendships and the humor. There is just something about the story that makes me happy.

  33. The most recent book that did this for me was A Gathering of Shadows by V E Schwab. A woman who was born as nothing fought for power, and never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. She wanted to feel alive, so she did it.

  34. A book that empowers me?
    I want to say A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab… In the way I really love how Victoria write her female characters. They’re strong minded and basically deadly. Also the fact my copy has the quote “Lila would get it done” has kept me going through the past year of life and university.

    (Twitter @ACityofBooks)

  35. I think it’s the series I am reading right now, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. It’s such a refreshing series filled with humor and action and interesting tidbits that just get my own imagination to roll around.

  36. Douglas Adams’ The Salmon of Doubt is one that is always good when I need a bit of oomph. I can read the whole collection or just pick out some of my favorite pieces for a quick burst of hilarity and insight. As always: Don’t Panic!

    Twitter: @eekelly24

  37. Nonfiction inspires and empowers me because it brings me the most information. A nonfiction book I see on my shelves that I remember feeling fueled by: Cunt by Inga Muscio.

  38. I think the book I just finished, When The Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore, is going to fit as an answer to this question. One of the characters in it is someone who is transgender. The way his experience is described, with phrases like “his body, refusing to match his life” or “there was distance between his body and what he let everyone believe it was,” are elegant turns of phrase in a lyrical novel, as well as seeming like good ways of explaining the truth of someone who is transgender.
    And it’s just a lovely book in general, so reading it is just an uplifting and good experience.
    I’m @ewillse on Twitter

  39. My absolutely favorite recharger is Paulo Coelhos The Alchemist. It works every single time!

  40. A few of my favorite inspiring books are Fahrenheit 451, The Little Prince, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The first inspires me to never forget the power of reading, the second, the power of friends, and the third, the power of the human spirit. I also just finished At Home in the World and it’s got me all fired up to travel again soon!

  41. The Timekeeper – Mitch Albom really inspired me to try not to keep checking the clock and just live! (or just read!)

    instagram @stephanie.marie314

  42. The Chronicles of Narnia will never fail to empower me! Ever since I first read them as a kid, these books have given me the confidence and will to stand up for what I believe in and to keep moving forward.

    1. I loved these books as a kid and have been wanting to reread the whole series for a while now – thank you for the inspiration!

  43. Thanks for this mini-challenge…I am loving reading other people’s answers! My personal “empowering” reads have been The Hunger Games trilogy (I have never been into the fangirl aspect, but rather the strength of the revolution) and Renee Fleming’s “The Inner Voice (she is a famous opera singer and this is one that I recommend to my voice students and was recommended to me by my past voice professor).

  44. The books that have inspired and empowered me the most so far are the 10 Days series. They are nonfiction kids books about 10 important days in historical figures’ lives. Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. Were the most awesome.

  45. I find non-fiction is often the most empowering, for me. Self-help types books such as The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up really inspire me. As someone hoping to become a published writer, one day, I also Stephen King’s On Writing of incredible inspiration to me.

  46. One book I remember having a pretty large impact on me was “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. Though the essays in it cover everything from parenting issues to marriage issues, dealing with grief to dealing with self identify & self esteem, I found a message in every single essay that I could take to heart. I felt a great sense of lightness and a kind of permission to be and do exactly what my heart desired, rather than worrying about what’s “expected” of me. It continues to leave a mark.

  47. Well, the first one would be Harry Potter. I mean just in general, I find that the series inspires and encourages continuously. Then there is Alice in Wonderland. A book full of curiosity and strength. If you’re looking for something in the category of fitness/self empowerment, then Tone It Up: Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous is amazing.

  48. I feel empowered when I read dystopian novels; The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, come immediately to mind. These books shine a light on what could possibly occur and keep me actively interested in international news and politics. They empower me to not become complacent about the world around me.

  49. Maybe The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. It really spoke to me. And while it’s not a book that’s like ‘you can do everything! Go go go!’ it really inspires me and makes me regain the faith in humanity again. I really felt motivated and happier after reading it. It felt as a friend was speaking to me. 🙂

  50. I would have to think back to all the books I’ve read, bu the first one that comes to mind is Jane Austen’s Persuasion because every time I read Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne, my faith in love returns, at least for a short while.

    Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn was an eye-opener.

  51. The Phantom Tollbooth has always been a favorite for me. It reminds me to look at the world from a slightly skewed point of view.

    (Twitter @rob_nunn)

  52. The Prophet by Kahil Gibran empowers me to live life fully and richly. Currently reading A Room of One’s Own. I’m touched not only by the superb writing, but also by the way it is firing me on, and that I am reading the same words that have empowered countless women before me, many of whom then went on to empower even more.

  53. For nonfiction, Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half has the best, most relatable description of depression I’ve ever seen, sandwiched in between pants-wettingly funny anecdotes about her childhood quest to Eat a Whole Cake or being attacked by a bird as an adult.

    For fiction, Tinker by Wen Spencer and God Stalk by PC Hodgell. They both feature female protagonists who are strong AND kind AND very much agents of change in their own lives. I scream about Tinker here: and about God Stalk here:

    (The Tinker link is very spoilery for the first book because I’m selling the series as a whole.)

  54. I find that Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott and the Bag Lady Papers by Alexandra Perry inspire me. Eight Cousins has been one of my favorite books for years; Rose makes me want to be a better person. Even her mistakes never harm others. She is nice to everyone all the time and a genuinely sweet person. The Bag Lady Papers inspire me because the main character never loses hope that things will get better. Eventually things get better for her.

  55. I’ve always been a huge fan of The Secret Garden. Mary’s transformation from “Mistress Mary, quite contrary” to a kind person who really cares about Colin, Dickon, and Martha is inspiring yet feels so believable, and not simply an incongruent plot device. I read it first in elementary school but even years later still enjoy seeing the trio’s friendship develop as they all learn from each other, and even though the book has its sad moments, it is ultimately so encouraging to see how relationships can be mended and good friends and fresh air can help old and young alike grow into better people.

  56. One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read is Elon Musk’s biography: Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance.
    I love reading biographies and this one was incredible. It reminded me of how amazing humans can be and how humanity can achieve things that seem crazy. It really made me feel like it’s possible to do anything at all 😀

  57. The first book would be one I know since my childhood: “Ronja Räubertochter” (Ronja, Robber’s Daughter in English?) by Astrid Lindgren. Ronja is such an adventurous, inspiring character and I always wish to go out in the woods, when thinking of her.
    The other book is one I just stumbled upon three years ago: “Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour” by Morgan Matson. I’m not really the target audience for young adult literature anymore but I just love this book. I’ve read it three times since then and it’s also a book that makes me want to go outside or go on a roadtrip or just explore my city.
    There are a lot more books which inspire me (specially “The Lord of the Rings”) but these two really motivate me to jump up and go get it.

  58. The Shark’s Paintbrush by Jay Harman always really motivates me to go get it – it being knowledge! I learn something new on every page of that book and when I put it down I always want to charge out into the world and learn about everything!

    Instagram @thecolorsofwords

  59. The Diaries of Anais Nin. After experiencing a heartbreaking divorce years ago, she wrote of independent nontraditional lives, helping to put me back on my feminist feet.

  60. Reading the mortal instrument series strangely empowers me . I like to refer to it as my Harry Potter because it’s what got me into reading. Whenever I read not only do I reflect on how much I’ve changed since then, seeing how the book influenced me and shaped me to who I am now but the story itself also is exciting. It is the first story I read where the main character was fearless and brave (like I said I didn’t really ever pick up a book before tmi) and that empowered. Made me feel invincible.

  61. I have read only a couple that have empowered me: Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley and Augusten Butrough’s This is How. And I even read How to Be a Badass…nope.

  62. The book I’ve just finished Not If I see you first has made me think with all this girl has gone through She still manages to do things people wouldn’t expect of her. I also agree with somebody above with Amy and Roger, as someone that’s been suffering with agoraphobia for a number of years it makes regret putting off all the travel I wanted to do and to plan places I want to see when I get better.

  63. Books that energize me? For me is not any one book but books with strong main characters that start off troubled or hurt and break free of those chains and finally have an aha moment. They get life and what it’s about. a lot of realistic fiction with all the feels. books like Gem and Dixie or The Impossible Knife of Memory

  64. I just finished reading Dear Ijeawele, a book by the author of We Should All Be Feminists, which is really a letter to a friend who asked her how to raise a feminist daughter. It was so motivating and thought-provoking and made me want to have a daughter so I can put some of these things into practice!

  65. Books about people who just go out in the world and do whatever they really want to do and experience lots of fun and new and exciting things. About going out of your comfort zone/little bubble that you call home and just being ALIVE.
    Going to mention The Raven Rings series by Siri Pettersen as one of these.

  66. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf inspires me to be a scientist, an explorer, and a well-rounded intellectual.

  67. I have 3 books that make me change things.
    Why the Caged Bird Sings
    And Resilient Investor
    All three of these make me want to change things. There are many others but these are the ones that impact me the most

  68. I have to pick Green Angel by Alice Hoffman. Yes, it’s a book about tragedy and struggling to survive, but there’s something inspirational to me about finding yourself after such devastation. I recommend it!

  69. Wow, what an awesome challenge – and an awesome post (as usual), Sally! It’s so cool to read the comments, as well; definitely a lot of books I’m adding to my TBR list. And I’m thrilled that the most inspiring book to me, ever, “A Little Princess”, was mentioned. For me, that book can cheer me up, but it’s also sort of like my own guide to life – sort of my own bible, I guess.

    Other than that one, I also love reading about the Bohemian life in Paris from the late 19th century, to before World War II. Something about how unapologetically eccentric so many of these people were, whether they found commercial or popular success or not, always makes me feel stronger and braver about some of my own choices – and sometimes even pushed to be a little more daring creatively or even in details like how I dress. And even the idea that these people actually existed, makes me feel like there’s hope, like anything can happen. My favorite of these books are probably “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller; “Bohemian Paris” by Dan Franck, and “Kiki’s Paris” by Billy Kluver and Julie Martin.

    And there are also books that make me feel better through pure laughter and being able to relate to their protagonists/authors, in a way. Of these, my favorite is “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. I figure, if a hilarious, incredibly gifted wordsmith like Sedaris also has trouble wtih genders in French, I’m not in such bad company.

  70. Oh – and also “Toddlers are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault” by Bunmi Laditan. Not that my son is always an a-hole, but I mean, he’s a toddler, so there are going to be difficult moments. Knowing that what I’m experiencing is completely normal (or, at least, that many other parents experience the same thing), is incredibly reassuring, as is being able to laugh about it.

    A quotation from the book is taped to our fridge: “A toddler is a cross between a sociopath, a rabid animal, a cocker spaniel, a demon, and an angel.”

    1. Oh my gosh, it’s so hilarious that you have that quote on your fridge – I love it! You know how I feel about “A Little Princess”! 🙂

  71. Anne Of Green Gables – her attitude is really inspiring to find the magic in the small things. Anne Frank did that well in her diary too. I like C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction religious writings and his fiction Chronicles of Narnia for peace and inspiration as well.

    Still Me by Christopher Reeve was an inspiring book of strength and how wonderful life is too.

    1. I reread Anne of Green Gables recently and loved it just as much as I did when I read it as an adult. I love how you put this: “her attitude is really inspiring to find the magic in small things.” It’s so true!

  72. I felt this way after finishing Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis. She is so inspiring and so full of wisdom, I keep going back to her work as I’m reminded of it on a regular basis.
    Thanks so much for hosting, now I’m going to read everyone else’s comments for what I’m sure will be some TBR adds!

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