15 Life-Changing Books, According to Real Simple Editors

I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
Photo: amazon.com

A great read can be transformative—and may even change the way you think about your life. These books, chosen by RS staffers, are so powerful, you'll want to read them again—and share them with your friends.

01 of 15

Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche

Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche
amazon.com

Yes, this is a love story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the tale of two teenagers in Nigeria who are forced to leave their small towns—to very different results. Ifemelu lands in America, where the cultural divide is stark. Obinze travels to London, where he is forced to live a (sometimes frightening) undocumented life. Both stories demonstrate the complexities of growing up, race, assimilation, and a side of both Africa and America that will surprise many readers.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

02 of 15

Quiet, by Susan Cain

Quiet, by Susan Cain
amazon.com

An in-depth look at the power of introverts, Quiet shows that people who like to listen rather than speak—or prefer to work alone—can shine just as brightly as their extroverted counterparts. The book serves as an important reminder that even those who fly under the radar have a lot to offer—and can be extremely successful.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

03 of 15

Dietland, by Sarai Walker

Dietland, by Sarai Walker
amazon.com

This funny, painful coming-of-age story follows Plum Kettle, a woman set on changing her appearance and releasing the "thin" woman that lives inside of her. Through Plum, Walker takes down the diet industry, writes honestly about gender equality, explores society’s obsession with thinness, and stresses the importance of surrounding yourself with a supportive and smart network of women.

To buy: $13, amazon.com.

04 of 15

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron‬‬‬‬

I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
amazon.com

Ephron's sharply witty collection focuses on the ways American women struggle with notions of beauty and getting older. While essays about purses, salads, and bathing suits might sound frivolous, they're not. Rather, they offer moments of comic relief and invitations to reflect that might even make you a bit more comfortable with the inevitability of aging.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

05 of 15

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
amazon.com

This memoir opens up a raw conversation about how to face death and disease head-on when you’re young, in love, and have a new baby. After an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis, Kalanithi, a neurologist, must confront sickness and the end of life from a new perspective. He uses his last 22 months to write about his powerful transformation from doctor to patient.

To buy: $16, amazon.com.

06 of 15

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
amazon.com

Can a comedian give serious advice? Surprisingly, yes. Fey’s memoir opens a hilarious window into her childhood and ascent to fame, while simultaneously offering grounded, practical advice for adults stumbling to find success. Her best essay: 'Prayer for My Daughter,' which opens with, "First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches." Need we say more?

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

07 of 15

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
amazon.com

Any young woman struggling with a quarter-life crisis will exhale with relief while reading Strayed's wise writing. These essays are collected from her once-anonymous advice column, Dear Sugar, but Strayed is no Dear Abby—she's Dear Abby's fearless, honest, and more experienced distant cousin. Strayed responds with brutal honestly to her letter writers—and offers stories from her own life as both examples and cautionary tales.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

08 of 15

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
amazon.com

The bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love offers readers a look inside her creative process—and coaches them on how to pursue their own artistic dreams. This is also a book about how staying open-minded ultimately results in a happier life. Gilbert’s passionate and thought-provoking discussion of curiosity and inspiration will motivate you to revisit that long-forgotten project and finally see it through.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

09 of 15

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
amazon.com

The popular blogger turned bestselling author makes a tough topic—her lifelong battle with depression and anxiety—completely relatable with her masterful and hilarious storytelling skills. With grit and determination, Lawson shows that life’s too precious to let anything, even mental illness, hold you back.

To buy: $14, amazon.com.

10 of 15

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
amazon.com

Told over 24 years and from two perspectives, this expansive novel follows a dysfunctional marriage as it evolves from love-drunk newlyweds to disillusioned spouses. It's proof that you can't truly know what your partner is thinking until you get inside his or her head—and, once you're there, you might be disturbed by what you find.

To buy: $9, amazon.com.

11 of 15

Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

Rising Strong, by Brené Brown
amazon.com

Everyone has heard that "it's okay to fail." But what Brown, a social scientist, focuses on is the rebound from those "facedown" moments. To get back on your feet, you have to understand the consequences, choices, and emotions that relate to any type of setback—both big and small. Brown's research and personal experiences provide a roadmap that will help readers rise above life’s inevitable obstacles.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

12 of 15

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
amazon.com

For one year, Shonda Rhimes decided to embark on a major challenge: She would say "yes" to absolutely everything. Through this exercise, Rhimes, the creator of television hits such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal,learned the power of that simple three letter word—and how it could transform her attitude and reenergize her career. Her honest, funny, and vulnerable writing will inspire any reader who has ever been stock in a fog of negativity.

To buy: $5, amazon.com.

13 of 15

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson
amazon.com

In an age where every aspect of our lives is posted, “liked,” and filtered, Ronson's book will make you think twice about ever sharing anything online again. The book explores several infamous cases of social media posts gone horribly wrong, and shows how Internet trolls can ruin a reputation forever.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

14 of 15

Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, by Kate Bolick

Spinster, by Kate Bolick
amazon.com

Bolick, a journalist, uses smart-yet-single women from history to explore where the shame surrounding “spinsterhood” originated. She contrasts the experiences of Edith Wharton, Maeve Brennan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Neith Boyce, and weaves in her own stories about living an independent life as a modern single woman.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

15 of 15

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, by Elle Luna

The Crossroads of Should and Must, by Elle Luna
amazon.com

In 2013, artist Elle Luna published an essay called “The Crossroads of Should and Must” on Medium, and it immediately went viral—garnering millions of views in a week. A year later, she expanded that essay into this illustrated book, a guide for anyone feeling lost or creatively stunted in their current profession. Her book invites readers to look at the "shoulds" in their life, and give way, instead, to their true passions and callings—their "musts." Not sure what your "must" is quite yet? Her inspiring words are coupled with colorful drawings and a few exercises anyone can do to begin weaving a new path.

To buy: $12, amazon.com.

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