The best books for over-achievers

The Books I Picked & Why

Charming as a Verb

By Ben Philippe

Book cover of Charming as a Verb

Why this book?

I wanted to hate Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe because it was starred in a review comparing our two books. Unfortunately, the book is as charming as its main character, Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger, and I loved it. Halti is a scholarship student at an elite private school in New York. He’s convinced he knows what it takes to be successful, but the pressure to “make it” leads him to make some…questionable decisions. I couldn’t relate to his charm, or the extra pressures of being the child of immigrants, but I recognised a fellow over-thinker in Halti (and I suspect the author as well). Read it to understand the college-bound high schooler in your life (or to feel less alone if you’re that over-achiever yourself.)

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By Tina Fey

Book cover of Bossypants

Why this book?

If you’re an over-achiever, you may have been accused of taking things too seriously. (I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course.) Tina Fey proves that the academic goody-two-shoes can also be the funniest person in the room. This autobiography is written as a series of stories from Fey’s life, as well as short reflections on issues like the objectification of women’s bodies. Reading this book made me feel like I too could be a funny person and that hard work doesn’t make me any less creative. 

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You Should See Me in a Crown

By Leah Johnson

Book cover of You Should See Me in a Crown

Why this book?

You Should See Me in a Crown is a book that showed me how intersectionality impacts everything, even over-achieving. Liz Lightly, a Black lesbian from a poor family, faces more hurdles than my character, Alison, who has grown up in a middle-class neighbourhood. Alison works hard, but she doesn’t have as much on the line as Liz. Still, I think they’d be good friends if they met. The world may not be the meritocracy we want it to be, but when a character works as hard as Liz does, you want them to succeed.

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Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

Book cover of Little Women

Why this book?

When I first met Jo March as a young girl, I was smitten. At the time, I didn’t know I was bisexual. I probably didn’t even know the word bisexual. I knew I wanted to be like her, but I also wanted to be her best friend. Looking back, I obviously had a crush on her. She was ambitious, tough, smart, and adventurous. She gave me permission to dream about being a professional writer myself. At a time when women didn’t have many options to make money, Jo paved her own path. 

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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

Anne Shirley is a kindred spirit. Like the other over-achievers I’ve fallen in love with, Anne has to overcome social biases in order to succeed. She is a girl, a red-head and an orphan, all of which are held against her unfairly. But she doesn’t let the injustices dampen her spirits. This is the book I re-read every summer because it reminds me of home (I’m originally a Maritimer). It also reminds me of childhood and the magic of stories.

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