10 books that changed my life this year

I love a lot of things in life, such as . . .

Big bowls of pasta, op shops, my husband and a comfy pair of pants.

But one of my great loves is books. I love reading books, particularly nonfiction books.

As a kid, I wasn’t much of a bookworm though.

When it came to reading out loud in front of the class, I absolutely hated doing this. My anxiety levels would skyrocket. Reading circles (where you’d pass the book around and take turns reading) felt like a form of torture.

I thought . . .

“I suck at this. This is not fun!”

So for many years, I avoided books like the plague.

But people can change. And thankfully, I changed. And my relationship to books and reading changed, too.

In my first year of university, I discovered the life changing work of Dr Leo Buscaglia. And I was hooked.

My obsession with Dr Buscaglia

Leo was this larger than life university professor who wrote about topics such as love, connection, empathy, change and learning. He came from a migrant Italian family and he loved food, life and learning. He had been labelled a ‘slow learner’ as a child, so I felt like Leo and I had a few things in common.

Leo Buscaglia

I couldn’t get enough of Leo’s ideas and work. I tracked down every resource that was published by Leo, including a set of 8 audio cassette tapes of public talks Leo had delivered (audiobooks and podcasts weren’t a thing back then).

Leo’s books kick-started my reading habit and changed the way I thought about life and learning.

Fast forward to 15 years later . . .

I am book obsessed.

My library card is currently maxed out. I have several books on various topics on the go at any one time.

My goal is to knock off one book a week (although I often don’t achieve this) and integrate at least one new idea/strategy into my life from each book.

As Derek Sivers says:

“Learning without doing is wasted. If I don’t use what I learn, then it was pointless! How horrible to waste those hundreds of hours I spent learning, and not turn it into action. Like throwing good food in the trash: it’s morally wrong.”

So over the past year, I’ve read and mind mapped out a lot of books. Here are 10 books that changed my life and thinking in some way this year . . .

1. How to fail fantastically

How to fail fantastically

Written in a sarcastic, tongue in cheek, punchy tone, ‘How to fail fantastically’ is a refreshing read compared to most books on failure that dish out stock standard advice such as “failure is how we learn and grow”.

There are plenty of great lessons in this book about how to live a successful life (whatever success may look like to you). One idea I took from this book is if you don’t take any action at all towards your goals and dreams, you can bypass failure and head straight to regret. Life is too short for regrets, so read this book!

2. Generation wealth

Generation wealth

We assume that having lots of money, the latest shiny object and the perfect body will make us happy. But research shows this is not the case. The things we think will make us happy often fail to deliver. Intellectually, I understood this (I’d read the research studies). But as someone who grew up in a working class family, I still felt this desire to make money.

It wasn’t until I saw Lauren Greenfield’s book of photos and stories of the super rich that I really got how misguided we are as a society. The pictures clearly show that beyond a certain point, money and stuff doesn’t make you happy. The more you have, the more you want more.

3. The art of frugal hedonism

The art of frugal hedonism

This book is the perfect go-to guide on how to live an inwardly rich and fulfilling life on a budget. Forget eating out at fancy restaurants, buying a luxury car, going shopping, etc. This book is the ultimate reframe on how to be truly rich and happy. It’s about living life fully and making the most of your precious resources (time, energy, money and possessions).

The authors explore topics such as how to discover your ‘sweet spot’ (your enough point), how to reinvent Christmas (vanquishing ‘Christmas consumption mania’), and relishing free and cheap things (e.g. afternoon naps). It’s a fun and easy read. Implementing the simple ideas will make your life richer in so many ways.

4. This one wild and precious life

This one wild and precious life

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world (e.g. the climate crisis, mass species extinction, an epidemic of anxiety and depression). It’s even easier to switch off from these massive issues and distract ourselves with novelty and instant gratification. But in this book Sarah Wilson gives us the pep talk we all need to step up and go out and create a better world for ourselves and future generations.

Essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the state of the world.

5. Time smart

Time smart

We live in a culture that is obsessed with money. We sacrifice our time to make more money, thinking if we have more money we will be happier. However, research shows people who are more time affluent and value time over money tend to be happier.

This book taught me that I need to priorities my time over making money. So what does this look like in practical terms? I have started to say no to taking on too much work. I have also hired a friend’s teenage daughter to help out with household chores, which frees me up to spend time on activities I enjoy (e.g. reading and writing).

6. Tiny habits

Tiny habits

If you want to change your behaviour, you need to start small. Go tiny. Too many of us go too big (too early) and we give up. I’ve read a lot of books on habit formation but in Tiny Habits Professor BJ Fogg offers a new and fresh perspective on how to wire in new behaviours.

Since reading the book, I’ve implemented a range of tiny habits around exercise, healthy eating, positive thinking and mindfulness meditation.

7. The Alzheimer’s solution


This book shows you how to take care of your most precious asset: your brain.

Team Sherzai lay out the evidence that shows Alzheimer’s is predominantly a lifestyle disease that can be prevented through their NEURO plan: Nutrition (plant-based wholefood lifestyle), Exercise, Unwind (stress reduction), Rest (sleep) and Optimise (challenging your brain with complex tasks).

This book is one of the main reasons why I adopted a whole-food plant-based lifestyle and no longer eat processed junk foods.

8. Period Queen

Period Queen

Period preacher Lucy Peach has created the ultimate self-care manual. Peach invites us to think about periods as a female superpower.

She presents four phases females go through (Dream, Do, Give, and Take) and shows what we can do in each phase to harness this superpower. It’s a fun and empowering read, especially for young women.

9. Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now

10 arguments for deleting social media

If you’re feeling increasingly uncomfortable about using social media, this book is one to read.

Author Jaron Lanier refer to social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, as ‘behaviour modification empires’. He lays out how “we’re being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can’t see, for purposes we don’t know”.

After reading this book I hit delete on my Facebook account. This small action is the most effective thing I have done this year to improve my life and happiness.

10. From Chaos to Creativity

From chaos to creativity

Every now and then I feel a need to revamp my systems and the way I work. So in this book, I enjoyed Jessie Kwak sharing how she organises her work, clears her mind, deals with distractions and gets stuff done. This book is packed full of ideas and strategies to help you feel more control of your life and make time for creative projects.

My top three books for 2020

All of the above books are fabulous reads but if I was to choose my top three books, they would be as follows:

Top 3 Books

  • 10 arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now
  • This one wild and precious life: Our path forward in a fractured world
  • Tiny habits: The small changes that change everything
  • To sum up

    So there you have it – 10 books that changed my life and thinking in some way this year. Most of these books I got from my local library, so I think it’s fair to say I engaged in some fairly thrifty personal development this year.

    So why not visit your local library and choose a book that will expand your world?

    It’s up to you what book you choose. You get to choose your own adventure. And trust me, there are plenty of wonderful adventures to be experienced through books.