Health & Wellness

Reading for fun: Five books that influenced my mindset

A few books that may alter your perspective on yourself and the world around you.

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

As we’ve progressed through high school and college, powering through textbooks and required assignments, I’ve heard again and again from friends about their desire to “read more for fun.” I also relate to this desire, but with such limited time as students it can be challenging to find worthwhile books to provide that well-needed break. In the past year, I’ve grown especially fond of books geared toward personal growth. Here I’ve identified five solid reads that influenced my mindset. Hopefully, one will speak to you, too.

1. “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think” by Brianna Wiest

I went into this read skeptically. I’m not one for books that make life-changing promises — and the title seemed to do just that. Despite my hesitancy, and while several parts read like typical self-help advice, I still found meaningful takeaways and unique insights. The essays provide short snippets of positive reminders — just the right amount of material to fit in a few chapters before bed to end the day on a mindful note.

2. “10% Happier” by Dan Harris

I’m sure we’ve all heard meditation championed as a method to transform your life and mindset completely. While this is exciting, it may seem daunting, impossible and unlikely all together unless your full time and energy are spent on the practice. For that reason, I appreciate Harris’ ability to communicate a realistic take on mindfulness, his own proven tactics and their ability to up happiness by “10%.” Harris shares how he addressed his anxious tendencies in a high-pressure journalism career, inspiring me to do the same as an overwhelmed college student.

3. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

While not in the self-help genre, this autobiography provides a beautiful example of a life passionately lived and the reflections that come upon the realization that life is ending too quickly. Neurosurgeon and author Kalanithii splits his writing into two sections — one that details his early life and intense medical pursuits up to age 36 and the second following his diagnosis of stage four lung cancer. Through his narration, he reveals the values and experiences that defined his life, his story emphasizing the importance of genuine purpose-driven pursuits. This book inspired personal reflection on what matters most to me and how to maximize my time to be a positive influence in the world.

4. “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking

I picked this up as a light read inspired to learn more about Danish culture, given my heritage, and took away a message of finding joy in simplicity. Happiness researcher Wiking details how aspects such as togetherness, minimalism, light (especially candles) and food contribute to Denmark’s recognition as the home of some of the world’s happiest people. I put this food focus into good practice by following the book’s recipe for aebleskivers (Danish pancakes), borrowing the special pan for this dessert from my grandma. This provided a happy morning with my family centered around food and a new experience!

5. “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown

I recommend listening to this book on audio, as it is narrated by Brown herself. Brown shares from a background as a researcher on shame, courage, and vulnerability, but her scientific findings support tangible real-life applications. Her narration reads like the advice of a compassionate friend, and her many New York Times bestsellers are next on my reading list.

Keep these books in mind during your next hunt for a good read with an impactful message!