I’m an avid reader and I ardently believe that books have the power to change your life. These are the top 10 books that changed my life as a woman.
I’m going to give it to you straight: the most INFLUENTIAL books I’ve ever read. Now, they aren’t all written by women, but they are all powerful reads. In fact, some of them are quite controversial. They’re in all kinds of areas, from spirituality, personal development, romance, to children’s books.
For each book, I’ll give not only a little background on the book and how it changed my life, but how I believe this book has the power to change your life as well.
The Top 10 Books That Changed My Life in Powerful Ways
1. Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
When it comes to life-changing books for women, Women Who Run with the Wolves is top of my list. I first read this book in 2020 after a falling out with my parents. I was struggling with my health and with my self-esteem as well.
But this book took me out of my tiny world and planted me firmly in a world where women’s natural instincts are celebrated rather than squashed, and I was sold. I began to piece my life back together.
Women Who Run with the Wolves is for anyone interested in folklore that exists outside of Christianity and any woman struggling to find her footing to balance her own person power with the crushing self-doubt that has been passed on from generation to generation of women.
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”
2. You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh
I don’t know if I consider myself a Buddhist, but I certainly practice Engaged Buddhism, and it’s all because of Thay. (Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is affectionately called Thay (pronounced “tie”) by his students.)
I read this many years ago. You Are Here is a book about mindfulness and living in the present moment, and I consider this to be his introduction to mindful living. This is the first step I took toward Buddhism!
A little over a year ago, I had the immense pleasure to attend an online Plum Village Retreat, where I got to experience a little bit of a Buddhist lifestyle firsthand, and it was life-changing.
Some of the principles here are things like using your breath for grounding, happiness and compassion, and gratitude. Waking up every day is a gift! If you want to change your life, this one is an easy read that will give you the power and positivity to look at life a little differently.
Power Quote from You Are Here:
“The past no longer exists, and the future is not here yet.” The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment. The present moment is the destination, the point to arrive at. Every time you breathe in and take a step, you arrive: “Breathing in, I arrive. Breathing out, I arrive.”
3. Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power, Kasia Urbaniak
When you’re looking for a life changing book for women that’s going to bowl you over… hold onto your hat! This one will have you second guessing everything you’ve ever learned. This is the ultimate book for undoing your social conditioning as a woman.
Kasia Urbaniak, Co-Founder of The Academy, is a former dominatrix and Daoist nun student who has spent her whole life studying the intersection of power between men and women, social conditioning, and spirituality.
Kasia taught me that things I thought were a part of my personality are actually just traits that I have been trained to embody because of society’s expectations. (Read that sentence again.) Learning this truly releases so much inner tension and stress.
I have bought this book twice for myself (in Kindle and paperback forms) and have also gifted it to almost a dozen other women. That’s how groundbreaking this book is.
Ultimately, this book gives the basics about how women can be powerful and influential. Unbound is only the tip of the iceberg of her teachings, and I highly recommend heading over to her website to see when her next set of classes are going to be. Sometimes she even does free workshops. They’re 100% worth it!
Power Quote from Unbound:
“Because power isn’t a mood, an outfit, a moment, or a pose. It is the ability to access your deepest desires, express them fully, and use them to influence other people and the world at large.”
RELATED: The Best Feminine Power Books
4. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I’m not going to lie: I’m a romantic. I have always been drawn to romance and wanted a mind-blowing partner to spend my life with. (Thankfully, I found him!)
Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the foundation that every romance novel or romcom flick is based upon, and for good reason. There is a breakdown of toxic masculinity and huge personal growth that takes place from both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.
This is why I love this book so much: healthy personal growth and a happily ever after. Plus, a woman who holds power and agency in a patriarchal world and a man who respects that power. (See quote!)
Sure, this book is a little less profound or serious than the other books on my list of 10 books that changed my life, but even a little frivolity, light-hearted humor, and romance can be life-changing as well!
Power Quote from Pride and Prejudice:
“You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.”
5. The Untethered Soul, Michael A Singer
I first read this life-changing book about eight years ago. I had gone through a divorce a year prior and discovered truly how toxic that relationship was. I had symptoms of PTSD and was starting to become enlightened to the inner truths of my life.
The Untethered Soul is a book on spiritual enlightenment, but it’s written in a very down-to-earth style so that even those new to spiritual concepts can understand.
One of the most profound realizations to come from this book is the concept that when people talk about the “ego” in a spiritual sense, they’re referring to the part of ourselves that doesn’t feel safe and needs to be protected. This urge to protect ourselves is what makes us human, but in order to grow, we need to understand why we don’t feel safe in the first place.
Power Quote from The Untethered Soul:
“True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection.”
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Here’s another powerful book that changed my life. Maya Angelou is a wealth of true power and wisdom, and I wish that everyone would have to read this book in school. It is supremely powerful.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography of Maya’s childhood and adolescence, and it chronicles some truly gut-wrenching things, including her rape (at eight years old). I do not recommend flying through this book. It took me three months to get through because I had to give myself time to process and grieve as I read it.
Like Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye (below), this book offers a blueprint for traversing life’s most heartbreaking moments: learning to move through grief, shame, generational trauma, and abuse.
Power Quote from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
7. When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön
If you’re hoping to change your life by reading a book, Pema Chödrön is a good place to start. The subtitle of this book is “Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun who is known for her books and teachings, similar to Thich Nhat Hanh (above).
Although this book is probably the most self-helpy one on this list, it transcends a lot of the self-help tropes to really offer incredible advice.
I read this book around the same time as Women Who Run with the Wolves (above) during a dark time in my life, and the most striking piece of advice I took from this book is this: sit with your pain. Whatever is causing you grief, discomfort, anger, rage, or sadness, sit with it and get to know it.
We as humans like to believe that our negative emotions are separate from us, but we are all interconnected (another principle of Thich Nhat Hanh’s as well). Your pain is a part of you, so sit in the abyss. Absolutely a life-changing book.
Power Quote from When Things Fall Apart:
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
8. Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Sure, this is a children’s book, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not profound or life-altering. In fact, this book has been banned often since its publication (along with 3 other books on this list: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Bluest Eye, and The Awakening).
The main character, Jesse, is a ten-year-old boy who befriends Leslie, the new girl at school. Together, they go out into the woods and create a magical kingdom they call Terabithia.
This novel celebrates the wonder and joy of childhood magic, and how it clashes terribly with real life. Tragedy strikes, and Jesse has to learn how to grieve the loss of his friend without losing the magic they created together.
I have amazing memories from my childhood and even now, I get to live as a child all over again through my children’s eyes. This magical time in a person’s life should be stretched for as long as possible, and as adults we should always remember to tap into our imagination and childlike wonder for the world around us.
Power Quote from Bridge to Terabithia: (I can’t even read this one without sobbing.)
“Shh,” he said. “Look.”
“Can’t you see’um?” he whispered. “All the Terabithians standing on tiptoe to see you.”
“Shh, yes. There’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”
9. The Awakening, Kate Chopin
The Awakening is the ultimate story of a woman who changed her life. Edna is a woman who followed the path she was meant to take… she got married, had kids, and has a social life in early 20th century New Orleans.
But she longs to be an artist, a painter. She craves it so desperately that her soul aches and the parts of her humdrum, “good girl” existence begin to fall away. It creates chaos with her family, and ultimately, she commits suicide by drowning in the ocean.
Like many of the tales and stories in Women Who Run with the Wolves, this story focuses on a woman’s creativity. Women were meant to create, to birth new ideas and art into the world, but our modern existence is often in direct conflict with that innate drive.
Edna says that although she would die for her children, the only thing she would never sacrifice for them is herself, her values, her truths.
I first read this book in college (on my own, not as part of a class), but now that I’ve become a mother, it holds deeper meaning for me. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is our true selves… not the “mask” we put on for the world.
Power Quote from The Awakening:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
10. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
I would be remiss if I didn’t include Toni Morrison on my list of 10 books that changed my life. I cannot adequately put into words the profundity of Toni Morrison’s story.
Because not only does this story widen my own worldview because of the focus on young Black girls’ shame over not having blue eyes and fair skin, but because Toni shares this story from multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of people who do terrible things to one another.
Aside from offering penetrative and deep advice on the grief and inequity of life, the book widens perspectives of the reader to have compassion for those we initially cast away or treat with disgust.
Power Quote from The Bluest Eye:
“Misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took away all the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet.”
Stories are not just entertainment, they’re how we learn about life and learn about ourselves. Books offer us a new way to see the world and truly change our hearts for the better.
These are unquestionably the 10 books that changed my life as a woman. Hopefully, I’ve given you enough evidence to read some of them for yourself. Perhaps they’ll change your life, too!
Please let me know if you’ve read any of these life-changing books. I’d love to hear from you!
Did you find these books to be life-altering as well?