Perhaps like many of you, books have always played a powerful role in my life. Some books comfort, others inspire and others can at times feel like they are speaking directly to me. Great books can sometimes take on the virtual role of mentor, teacher and friend. I’m always so grateful for the gift of authors and the stories, lessons and inspiration they share.
As 2018 draws to a close and we prepare to ring in 2019, I thought I would share 19 books that provide fearless inspiration. These books range from contemporary to others that are timeless, and include some that I highlight in my own upcoming book, Be Fearless, Five Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose. These books tell the stories of those who have faced daunting challenges and overcome them, have done their part in making the world a better place or have figured out how to start right where they are—no matter the circumstances—and commit to a fearless life of purpose. Each could be a great gift for someone who needs a little inspiration this holiday season, or perhaps even you as you welcome a New Year with your own commitment to Be Fearless.
- A History in 50 Objects: Apollo To The Moon, by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony
Filled with detailed photographs and inspiring stories, this book, published by National Geographic, tells the story of people who made a task that seemed impossible (sending a man to the moon), possible. Throughout Apollo to the Moon, the reader delves into the lives of the heroic astronauts and their supporters including President John F. Kennedy, newsman Walter Cronkite, and NASA scientist Margaret Hamilton. These fearless leaders took a giant leap for mankind in the 1960s and can now inspire us to dream big and make big bets in our own lives.
- We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time, by José Andrés
In the midst of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that left hundreds of thousands of Americans without access to electricity, clean water or food, Chef José Andrés and his team of chefs acted with urgency to feed the people of Puerto Rico. Focusing on one meal at a time and eventually serving more than 3 million meals for those affected in Puerto Rico, this book tells the story of how Andrés addressed this humanitarian crisis the only way that he knew how: through food. An extraordinary story of hope and an example of how anyone can use their gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. And even more, the proceeds of the book go to support Andrés’s nonprofit World Central Kitchen so that this important work can continue on the front lines of disasters around the world.
- Confidence Code for Girls, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipmen
Based on science, research and proven methods of behavioral change, this important book speaks to the next generation of girls who are achieving in unprecedented ways, but often lack the confidence to be fearless in all aspects of life. Packed with fun and engaging graphics, quizzes and true stories of girls who’ve found the courage to embrace risk, push past failure and find the confidence to take them forward. A perfect gift for the tween to teen in your life.
- Originals, by Adam Grant
This New York Times #1 Bestseller is timeless, filled with inspirational stories across sectors—from sports to business to politics. Originals is a highly entertaining and engaging book by Adam Grant that draws out stories of fearlessness and extraordinary achievement. Integrating groundbreaking insights and research, these stories speak to nonconformist approaches that embrace risk, overcome failure and ultimately change the world.
- Thirst, by Scott Harrison
In this engaging new book, Scott Harrison tells the story of his journey from nightclub promoter in New York City to founder of a world-changing nonprofit, Charity Water, that brings clean water to villages around the world. Harrison’s highly personal and authentic story of his own life transformation is both poignant and powerful. The valuable lessons in this book not only shine a light on how to successfully build a better business or a better charity, but more importantly, how to use one’s talents and skills to build a fearless life of purpose and true meaning.
- Educated, by Tara Westover
Growing up isolated from mainstream society in a remote Idaho town with parents who mistrusted doctors, schools, the government and outsiders, Tara Westover weaves a fascinating narrative of her early life and the significant challenges she worked to overcome. Lacking formal education throughout her childhood, she fearlessly persevered to build a life of opportunity, eventually earning a PHD from Cambridge University. The highly personal and raw account is a sometimes jolting window into the lives of those in segments of our society that are lesser known or understood, and reminds us of the potential for anyone from anywhere to achieve their dreams.
- The Third Wave, by Steve Case
My husband, Steve Case, knew that the Internet had the power to democratize access to information, ideas and communication, and change the way that we live our daily lives, long before the arrival of laptops, mobile devices and ubiquitous access. In his book, The Third Wave, Steve provides valuable insights for up and coming innovators, business owners and changemakers. Leveraging his four decades worth of experience spanning business, philanthropy, investing and civic leadership, this book is packed with powerful insights relevant for anyone looking to achieve new breakthroughs.
- How We Got To Now, by Steven Johnson
This book traces six innovations through the centuries that have helped to shape our modern world. Filled with stories of accidental creations, risk-taking, as well as failures and successes, this book weaves stories together to highlight both intended and unintended consequences of breakthroughs across time.
- Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, by Mary Oliver
Crafted with beauty and careful attention to the physical world around her, Mary Oliver’s poems are a perfect way to start the day—like a beautiful hike through nature. A true celebration of all living things, from trees to rivers to the animal kingdom, Oliver’s poems remind us of the need to stop and to contemplate the blessings of the natural world, and serve as inspiration to help us protect our planet and its rich natural diversity.
- Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery
In 1955, at the age of 67, Emma Gatewood became the first woman—and only the 7th person in history—to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone—all 2,168 miles—without the benefit of modern gear or technology. “Grandma Gatewood,” as the reporters liked to call her, tells the story of human resilience and determination, and reminds us that at any age or any stage of life, we can take risks, make big bets and find success.
- Back In Action: An American Soldier’s Story Of Courage, Faith And Fortitude, by David Rozelle
Colonel Rozelle was the first U.S. wounded warrior to lose a limb and then go back into battle. Back In Action tells the fearless story of his journey—from telling his pregnant wife that he was going to war, to four years later when a land mine tore off his right foot, to returning back to the battlefield “Fit For Duty” after months of excruciating rehabilitation. This book perfectly exemplifies true courage and what it means to be fearless and overcome extraordinary challenges.
- Daily Guideposts: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional
This spiritual book of daily short stories is a great way to begin the day with a sense of hope and inspiration. Surprisingly honest and often times touching, the stories are a good reminder that no one is perfect and we all struggle to live life with purpose, forgiveness, grace and fearlessness.
- Sheltered by the King, by Marta Gabre-Tsadick
Sheltered by the King is a page-turning account of escape during a harrowing regime change in 1970’s Ethiopia. Marta Gabre-Tsadick was “marked for death” as civil war broke out and Communist forces took over the government. As the first female senator in Ethiopia and a member of Emperor Haile Selassie’s government, Gabre-Tsadick, her husband and their two young children faced imminent threat and had to flee the country she loved. Her faith and her strength shine through each step of their incredible journey. I count this story as a source of great encouragement when I face challenges. Proceeds for the book go to Project Mercy, the organization Gabre-Tsadick founded to continue her work in Africa.
- Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland, by Miriam Horn
True to its title, this book weaves a compelling tale of non-obvious conservationists, including ranchers, fisherman and farmers. Filled with inspiring stories of innovation brought by these environmental heroes across America’s grasslands, wildlife, rivers and oceans, the book beautifully draws out why they do what they do: for their deep love of our nation’s land and the waters that feed it. Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman introduces the reader to those whose daily lives and livelihood rely on the land and rivers, and in the process paints a new picture of the modern conservation movement.
- Whatever You Are, Be a Good One 100: Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered, by Lisa Congdon
This is a fun book that I keep handy to provide “snackable” inspiration. Filled with great images that integrate inspirational quotes of fearlessness, this small but powerful book is perfect for anyone seeking a daily quick dose of encouragement along life’s fearless journey.
- Measure What Matters, by John Doerr
John Doerr, seasoned venture capitalists, reveals how the revolutionary goal-setting system of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) has helped celebrated companies such as Google and Intel reach their organizational goals. Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility and explosive growth that OKRs have spurred at so many great organizations. This book’s message and lessons highlight the benefits of making big bets and setting goals to continue making an impact and shunning the status quo.
- The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
The harrowing tale of an unlikely, fearless hero, Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker, and her family who fearlessly risked their lives to help hundreds of Jews and resistance workers escape from the Nazis in World War II. The Hiding Place is an often overlooked yet compelling tale of the importance of maintaining hope, faith and perseverance in the face of darkness, and provides vivid proof that urgency can help to conquer fear.
- Make Your Bed, by Admiral William R. McRaven
Based on a celebrated commencement address that resulted in millions of YouTube views, this short and straightforward book by former Navy Seal Admiral McRaven, recounts lessons learned through his own training as a Navy Seal. In this book, Admiral McRaven shares tips and practical advice that can help anyone push past challenges and persevere. This book can serve as a valuable Be Fearless handbook for all those seeking to make a difference in their lives and in the world.
- Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Among the most recently published of books on this list, Michelle Obama’s deeply personal and poignant life story—from her young years in a cramped apartment with a loving family on the South Side of Chicago, to the life that took her to Princeton, Harvard, marriage, motherhood and ultimately to the role of First Lady. In the telling of her story, she recounts an early journal entry she wrote as she faced adulthood: “I feel very confused about where I want my life to go. What kind of person do I want to be? How do I want to contribute to the world?” The book provides an authentic and inspiring glimpse into her personal journey to find her own voice, her passions and her own fearless place in this world.
Whether as a gift for those who inspire you, someone who is looking for inspiration or for yourself, I hope that this list of fearless books connects with you and inspires action that makes an impact.