The best books for making the most meaningful life

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a child I have been obsessed with the questions “how do we each live the best possible life and what does that mean?” I had the good fortune of having a family friend who was a philosophy professor from India. When I was in middle school, he shared books with me from his vast philosophical library which became the springboard for my eventual career as a writer and speaker about philosophy, ethics, spirituality, feminism, and religion. My greatest delight is talking with others who are sincerely trying to point their lives in a noble and sincere direction and are sharing their gifts to elevate the quality of life for all.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Art of Living

What is my book about?

For over 25 years Sharon Lebell’s internationally bestselling book, The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, has inspired philosophy lovers and the modern Stoicism movement. A contemporary interpretation of the ancient sage Epictetus’ teachings, it is a perennial classic that is a cherished spiritual companion and daily guide for readers from every walk of life.

Amidst the noise, distraction, and adversity of life it is all too easy to lose our spiritual foothold. Reading The Art of Living returns us to the thoughts, words, and deeds that bring inner serenity and the most meaningful life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Sharon Lebell Why did I love this book?

Zen came out when I was a teenager, when it took the world by storm. It still holds up as a compelling story of an independent-thinking father and his son taking a cross-country motorcycle trip and as “an inquiry into values,” as Pirsig subtitles the book. This book contains multitudes. It makes you think about the nature of genius and mental illness while making you ask yourself, “what is quality?” and how does our consideration of quality affect the meaning of our personal lives. Reading this book helps us see how much we are shaped by our culture and how important it is for us to articulate our own philosophy of life.

By Robert M. Pirsig,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.


Book cover of This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Sharon Lebell Why did I love this book?

Reading This is Water is a heartbreaking but beautiful experience, because the author, a philosophical and literary giant, took his own life. Wallace gave us so much in his too-short life. And, he had so much more to give. Nevertheless, this tender little book will fill you with compassion for yourself and for humanity in general. It is not a manual for living, but for seeing the world around you more clearly so that you can let more beauty and goodwill into your mind and heart while spreading the same to others. This is a little treasure.

By David Foster Wallace,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Is Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend. Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that…


Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Sharon Lebell Why did I love this book?

I cannot count the number of times I’ve read this book. You will no doubt see it listed as a favorite on many book lists because it is a masterpiece and because it is searingly true. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who spent several years in Nazi prisons only to learn that almost his entire family had been killed. His legacy is not only his personal example of the joyful and useful way he lived his life after liberation, but his conclusion that meaning is more important than anything for living the best possible life. Meaning trumps happiness, comfort, and wealth. This book compellingly shows how we make life meaningful for ourselves and for all whom we love.

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

43 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.


Book cover of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Sharon Lebell Why did I love this book?

I keep this book on my nightstand because it helps me bust through my creative blocks every time. The opposite of depression is expression. It follows that living a meaningful life is predicated on organized and artful expression. But everyone knows that so much gets in the way of that expression. Professionals and amateurs both are afflicted by creative blocks. Pressfield helps us identify the work we feel called to do and shows us how to do an end-run around all the forms that our resistance may take.

By Steven Pressfield,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked The War of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide forsucceeding in any creative sphere, The War ofArt is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?

Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid theroadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dreambusiness venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy thatevery one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer thisinternal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

The War of Art emphasizes the resolve…


Book cover of The Universal Traveler: A Soft-Systems Guide to: Creativity, Problem-Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals

Sharon Lebell Why did I love this book?

I have carried The Universal Traveller with me for decades and it sits next to my desk in my office. Any time I get jammed about next steps to take toward a worthy goal, I dip into this quirky, useful book. The authors look at life and all our efforts to live it with dignity and value through the lens of design and problem solving, by which they mean “making dreams come true.” The most meaningful life is one lived with a stoked imagination and the willingness to try on new ideas and methods. The UT is quaint because it was written before we were all digitally connected, but its wisdom stands the test of time.

By Don Koberg, Jim Bagnall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Universal Traveler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1974: by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall- The design of this book is for it to serve as a general storehouse of information for the traveler through life.


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Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness

By Lisa McCourt,

Book cover of Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness

Lisa McCourt Author Of Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I wasn’t always a joyful person. But today I’m freaking sunshine, and full-out committed to being an effective member of the team that’s elevating the level of love and joy in the world! My positions on that team have included writing dozens of mega-selling books (my own, and as a ghostwriter), founding my online Joy School at LisaMcCourt.com, hosting my Do Joy! podcast, and collaborating on projects with many other popular teachers of consciousness and joyful living. My books have sold over 9 million copies, earned 7 publishing industry awards, and garnered over 9,000 glowing Amazon reviews. Joy is my jam. I know a joyful book when I read one! 

Lisa's book list on igniting joy despite all the crap in your life

What is my book about?

We all want peace. We all want a life of joy and meaning. We want to feel blissfully comfortable in our own skin, moving through the world with grace and ease. But how many of us are actively taking the steps to create such a life? 

In Free Your Joy, millions-selling author and podcaster Lisa McCourt takes readers through the life-altering principles of vibration elevation that she has taught for 20 years through her online Joy School, sharing her unique formula for raising your “joy setpoint” to cultivate authentic, lasting peace and fulfillment in your daily life. Joy is…

Free Your Joy: The Twelve Keys to Sustainable Happiness

By Lisa McCourt,

What is this book about?

Bestselling author and creator of Joy School Lisa McCourt outlines her unique formula for sustainable happiness, offering a year's worth of activities, prompts, and techniques that raise your "joy setpoint" so you can cultivate authentic, lasting peace and fulfillment in your daily life.

Unprecedented global events have left many of us feeling depleted, depressed, isolated, and disconnected from many of the things that made us happy. Lisa McCourt, host of the Do Joy! podcast and founder of Joy School, helps people raise their joy setpoints regardless of what is happening around them.

Learning about joy is one thing, but it's…


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Interested in life satisfaction, the meaning of life, and procrastination?

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