The best books about personal growth and transformation

Who am I?

Sandy is a writer, traveller, and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover, and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the five-book Holiday Romance series. The series continues in Paris, Sydney, Bali, and Tuscany. Sandy's standalone novel The Christmas Swap celebrates her favourite time of the year, and her rom-com, The Dating Game, is set in the world of Reality TV.

I wrote...

A Sunrise Over Bali

By Sandy Barker,

Book cover of A Sunrise Over Bali

What is my book about?

Jaelee Tan is going on sabbatical. After meeting besties Cat, Lou, and Dani on a whirlwind trip around Europe, Jaelee finds it difficult to settle back into Miami life, especially without her ex, Paco. When she shows up to her best friend’s 40th birthday party and Paco and his new wife are there, she does what any self-respecting woman would do – she runs. All the way to Bali.

Convinced that a two-month sabbatical away from her high-stress Miami life is just the ticket, she settles into UROP, a co-living resort. There she meets an incredible group of people, each with something to teach her about life, including the Hot Scot, Alistair, who may just make her change her mind about man buns–and love.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Why did I love this book?

Not only is this the extraordinary story of Strayed’s solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed’s writing is masterful, and it drew me in from the first page. She writes from the heart and has a turn of phrase that elicits empathy and allowed me to vicariously go on this epic journey with her―both the actual trek and her emotional transformation. The stories from her childhood that are interspersed throughout bring even more emotional heft to this book and allowed me to connect with her as a woman. I was blown away by this book.

By Cheryl Strayed,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the…

Take a Moment

By Nina Kaye,

Book cover of Take a Moment

Why did I love this book?

Kaye’s own diagnosis of a neurological disease sparked the idea for this terrific book―the protagonist, Alex, is diagnosed with MS and transforms her life to avoid being seen as ‘the victim.’ Like the author, Alex displays incredible bravery―she’s terrified of what’s to come but makes active steps in her life to follow her professional and creative dreams, as well as letting someone new into her life. This one tugged at my heartstrings.

By Nina Kaye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Take a Moment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Life is better lived in the moment

Meet Alex. She has a wonderful fiance, a job she thrives in, and a best friend she's known since childhood. Life's not perfect, but it's pretty fantastic. Until a shock diagnosis suddenly throws everything off course.

But Alex has never been one to back down from a fight. Now single and unemployed, she packs up and moves from her Glasgow hometown to vibrant Birmingham for a fresh start. In a new job, in a new city, she's learning all over again what's important in life.

Friendship, fun and even romance lie just around…

Two Steps Forward

By Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist,

Book cover of Two Steps Forward

Why did I love this book?

This is such a fun read―a fictionalised account of the real-life husband and wife’s experience of walking the Camino de Santiago. I love how the two protagonists, who start as strangers, take turns to tell their stories, especially the hilarity in the ‘he said–she said’ of their relationship―they really are opposites but both bring out something remarkable in the other. Romantic in a very real way.

By Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Two Steps Forward as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Charming and absorbing' Daily Mail 'Sleepless in Seattle meets Wild . . . A beautifully crafted tale of love, self-acceptance, and blisters' Sunday Express

A smart, funny novel of second chances and reinvention from the author of The Rosie Result - two misfits walk 2,000 km along the Camino to find themselves and, perhaps, each other.

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past - for Zoe, the death of her…

How to Stop Time

By Matt Haig,

Book cover of How to Stop Time

Why did I love this book?

A lot of people are familiar with Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, but this book is my favourite of his. It’s the story of a man who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes him to age very slowly, meaning everyone he loves eventually dies while he remains almost the same age throughout their relationship. It explores themes of family, loneliness, and depression, and―what resonated with me most―finding inner peace in the beauty that life has to offer. 

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Stop Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library.

"A quirky romcom dusted with philosophical observations....A delightfully witty...poignant novel." -The Washington Post

How many lifetimes does it take to learn how to live?

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past - and stay alive. The only thing he…

Book cover of When We Believed in Mermaids

Why did I love this book?

What begins as a mystery surrounding a missing sister becomes a richly told tale of family, loss, and vulnerability. I loved Kit―she’s a fascinating protagonist―nuanced, multi-faceted, and a mass of contradictions. Seeing her sister, presumed dead, in a news story from across the world ignites a quest to delve into the past to understand the present. It’s an emotional, raw, and cathartic read. 

By Barbara O'Neal,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked When We Believed in Mermaids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller.

From the author of The Art of Inheriting Secrets comes an emotional new tale of two sisters, an ocean of lies, and a search for the truth.

Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news...

Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It's what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit's world. Live coverage of…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, grief, and family secrets?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, grief, and family secrets.

Romantic Love Explore 657 books about romantic love
Grief Explore 66 books about grief
Family Secrets Explore 139 books about family secrets

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Into the Wild, The Glass Castle, and Full Tilt if you like this list.