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.

The books I picked & why

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed,

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

Why 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.


Take a Moment

By Nina Kaye,

Book cover of Take a Moment

Why 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.


Two Steps Forward

By Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist,

Book cover of Two Steps Forward

Why 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.


How to Stop Time

By Matt Haig,

Book cover of How to Stop Time

Why 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. 


When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O'Neal,

Book cover of When We Believed in Mermaids

Why 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. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, family secrets, and widows?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, family secrets, and widows.

Romantic Love Explore 417 books about romantic love
Family Secrets Explore 83 books about family secrets
Widows Explore 43 books about widows

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Into the Wild, H Is for Hawk, and On the Road if you like this list.