The 9 Best Books for Summer Self-Improvement: A Reading List

Take advantage of all those daylight hours and become a happier, healthier, more successful (and suntanned) self.

Summer — time for catchy pop jams, days on the beach, and thick triangles of watermelon dripping onto the grass. It’s ripe for vacations, for rest and for relaxation. It’s also the perfect time to get away from work and do a quick check-in with yourself. Are you happy? Are you as productive as you could be? Are you fulfilling your potential?

If you’d like to improve any of these areas, why not take advantage of the longer, lazier days of summer and get started? Crack one of these 9 books from the Blinkist library that’ll do good for your body and mind. When vacation’s over and it’s time to get back to work, you’ll be ready to bring your A game.


1. Read this to be more content and joyful: A Guide to the Good Life — William B. Irvine

For the Stoics, the prescription for peace of mind and freedom from pain was straightforward: live a life of moderation and self-control and you’re good to go.

If you’re not an ancient Greek philosopher, however, this is no easy task, so A Guide to the Good Life shows you how to harness the mindset to deal with the things we can control and reckon calmly with the things we can’t.

You’ll learn about why being stuck in traffic actually isn’t so bad, what cold showers have to do with full lives, and, next time you lose a tennis match, how to do it gracefully.

2. Read this to master your habits: Better than Before — Gretchen Rubin

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

If that’s not reason enough to better your habits, then nothing is.

NYT bestseller Gretchen Rubin starts with helping you understand what kind of person you are, and then suggests specific, simple strategies that you can use right here, right now to nix your bad patterns and stick with the good ones.

3. Read this to eat healthier: In Defense of Food — Michael Pollan

Much of today’s dietary advice is based on little more than hypotheses. Hypotheses that, unfortunately, are swaddled in thick layers of pseudoscience.

In Defense of Food is a close examination of the rise of nutritionism and a historical account of the industrialization of food.

An expert in food ecology, Michael Pollan limns the ways in which the food industry shifted modern man’s dietary focus from “food” to “nutrients,” and thus narrowed the objective of eating to one of maintaining physical health — an objective it completely fails to fulfill.

Here, you’ll learn that it’s possible to escape the dominant dietary approach that nutritionism has become and develop a healthier, more traditional way of eating that even great-grandma would love.

4. Read this to be happier: The Happiness Advantage — Shawn Achor

We’re taught to believe that if we perform well professionally, we’ll eventually arrive at a point at which our accomplishments and wealth make us feel happy. Bad news: this isn’t at all how it works. In fact, happiness — far from being the result of all your hard work — is actually one of the tools you can use to increase your performance and your quality of life.

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor looks into the origins of happiness and the positive effects that happiness has on productivity. Based on 12 years’ research in positive psychology, the book offers concrete tips on how to increase your own happiness and your chances for success.

5. Read this to be more mindful: The Untethered Soul — Michael A. Singer

Your mind is amazing, but it can also be a big, negative pain in the neck. The human consciousness is potent and often, it’s all that stands between you and the positive energy you need to meet all of your goals.

The Untethered Soul explores how you can overcome the thoughts and emotions that are holding you back. Michael A. Singer draws on different spiritual practices to explain how you can navigate your own mind, get in touch with yourself and become master of your own mind.

6. Read this to declutter your life: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up — Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up isn’t just a guide to decluttering, it’s a best seller that’s changed lives in Japan, Europe and the United States. The Wall Street Journal even called Marie Kondo’s Shinto-inspired “KoMari” technique “the cult of tidying up.”

Kondo explains in detail the many ways in which your living space affects all aspects of your life, and how you can ensure that each item in it has powerful personal significance. By following this simple yet resonant advice, you can move closer to achieving your dreams (and cleaning out your closet).

7. Read this to be more productive: 59 Seconds — Richard Wiseman

Jerry’s boiler is broken and he spends weeks trying to fix it. When he finally calls an engineer, the pro walks in, taps it on the side and boom! it’s fixed. Upon receiving the bill, Jerry grouses that he shouldn’t have to pay for a fix that took the engineer a few seconds. “Well,” says the engineer, “you’re not paying for the fix, but for the years of training it took to know exactly where to tap.”

What does this prove? That you don’t have to spend tens of years or thousands of dollars to fix most problems. Thanks to huge advances in psychological research and technology, we’re now able to “fix our boilers” in exceedingly simple ways. In fact, Wiseman’s book shows that we can often change things for the advantageous in less than a minute. These are the top psychological tricks to improve yourself in all sorts of ways, from being more creative to spotting a liar.

8. Read this to learn to ask for backup: The Art of Asking — Amanda Palmer

Once you’ve heard of controversy queen Amanda Palmer, you always want to know what she’s up to. Her tweets, shows and interactions have reached millions of people — and most of them are now fans and supporters.

In her book, she explains how building a successful career as an artist and performer has just as much to do with knowing how to ask for things, network, and treat people right as it does with talent and tweets. Palmer’s journey from street performer to world-renowned artist teach how you too can achieve what you desire.

9. Read this to improve your memory: Moonwalking with Einstein — Joshua Foer

What does it take to become a USA Memory Champion? Follow Joshua Foer’s footsteps and you’ll find out.

In Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer explains how memory works, why we’re worse at remembering than our ancestors, and why an extraordinary memory isn’t just available to a select few people but to all of us.

The best part: he walks you through specific techniques for improving your own memory — including how to squirrel away recollections in your childhood home.

Dive deeper into a refreshing pool of self-betterment over at Blinkist. All the books you see here are available as 10-minute summaries more powerful than Uncle John’s jet ski. And, hey! You can read them for free, too!


Written by Caitlin Schiller with contribution from Laura Erler. This piece was originally published on Blinkist. For more content like this, visit Blinkist Magazine.

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