20 Unconventional & Inspirational Reads for the New Year

Looking for positive inspiration or guidance as you head into 2018?

Go to the Library!

Our collection of books and other materials offer a wide range of perspectives, religious principles, and spiritual support for whatever interests you.

We’ve created a book list with 20 unconventional and inspirational reads that we hope spark new ideas and deepen your understanding of yourself and the world around you. These titles push past popular books you might be familiar with like the Chicken Soup for the Soul series or Mitch Albom’s beautiful memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, but they are nonetheless still wonderful, engaging, and sometimes a bit funny.

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Greg Boyle


A Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries traces his experiences of working with gangs in Los Angeles for three decades, sharing what his efforts have taught him about faith, compassion, and the enduring power of radical kinship.
The Dharma of “The Princess Bride”: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of our Time can Teach Us About Buddhism and Relationships by Ethan Nichtern


The Princess Bride has been a cult classic since its debut in 1987. Buddhist teacher Nichtern loves it as an example of the dharma of relationships. He examines the film from three perspectives: friendship, romance, and family. Examples from the author’s personal life add warmth to this study of relationships and Buddhist philosophy.
A Dog’s Gift: The Inspirational Story of Veterans and Children Healed by Man’s Best Friend by Bob Drury The owner of a service dog organization, paws4people, describes the amazing healing powers that canines can have on suffering humans, including disabled children and wounded war veterans, and discusses the history of the long-standing bond between humans and dogs.
Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life by Harold S. Kushner


The congregational rabbi and best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People distills nine essential lessons on living a good life that draws on personal experiences to offer counsel on such topics as belief, conscience, and mercy.


Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier by Florence Williams An investigation into the restorative benefits of nature draws on cutting-edge research and the author’s explorations with international nature therapy programs to examine the relationship between nature and human cognition, mood, and creativity.
Bored & Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi The host of WNYC’s “Note to Self” explains the connection between boredom and being unplugged from the constant presence of social networks, drawing on interviews with scientists, famous artists and everyday thinkers to explain how the idle mind can ignite original, highly creative thinking.
Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy Tired of worrying about her developmentally delayed son struggling in a fast-paced, competitive school, a woman uproots her city-dwelling, American yuppie family and moves to New Zealand to become an artisanal farmer, despite having no experience working the land.
The Penguin Lessons: What I Learned from a Remarkable Bird by Tom Michell A unique and moving real-life story of the extraordinary bond between a young teacher and a penguin, this book will delight readers who loved Marley & Me, Dewey the Library Cat, The Good Good Pig, and any book by Jon Katz.


Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow


In this powerful book designed specifically for young Christians, Tim Tebow provides an intimate look into how he’s been able to face professional triumphs and defeats and still emerge with his faith and identity intact.
Way Under the Way: The Place of True Meeting by Mark Nepo

(eBook only)

A three-volume collection of poetry: The first book, Suite for the Living, explores “the thousand ways to enter the great opening that follows heartache and loss.” Book two, Inhabiting Wonder, describes “how kindness, truth, and softness help us to enter time and inhabit wonder.” Book three, The Way Under the Way, explores “that place of true meeting that is always near.”
Happiness in this Life: A Passionate Meditation on Earthly Existence by Pope Francis


A collection of homilies, speeches, and messages shares Pope Francis’ wisdom on the spiritual undertaking of finding happiness in everyday life, counseling members of the faith and non-believers on subjects ranging from women’s rights and the role of sports in communities to discrimination and the positive potential of flawed families.
The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth Fred Rogers visited so quietly with the children of America that nobody dreamed he was a Presbyterian minister. Using puppets instead of a pulpit, this icon of children’s television shared with his audience the basic principles of Christianity– forgiveness, kindness, compassion, respect– and made those values real for America’s youngsters.


An Appeal to the World: The Way to Peace in a Time of Division by Dalai Lama XIV


The Dalai Lama “outlines both the inward and outward paths to peace, addressing a wide range of contemporary topics–from war, climate change, and materialism to meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.”
The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey The book features selections from the most meaningful conversations between Oprah and some of today’s most-admired thought-leaders including Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Shonda Rhimes, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Marianne Williamson and Wayne Dyer.
Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks by Gavin Aung Than Zen Pencils takes inspirational and famous quotes and adapts them into cartoon stories. From icons like Einstein, Gandhi, and Twain to modern-day philosophers, comedians and writers–their words are turned into heartwarming stories.
I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart The award-winning actor and comedian presents an inspirational memoir on the importance of believing in oneself, sharing stories about the addiction and abuse that marked his childhood and how his unique way of looking at the world enabled his survival and successful career.


Big Lebowski and Philosophy: Keeping Your Mind Limber with Abiding Wisdom edited by Peter S. Fosl Is the Dude a bowling-loving stoner or a philosophical genius living the good life? Naturally, it’s the latter. Enlisting the help of great thinkers like Plato and Nietzsche, this book explores the movie’s hidden philosophical layers, cultural reflection, and political commentary.
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking (pronounced hoo-ga) A guide to the Danish philosophy of well-being shares advice and ideas for taking healthy breaks, living in the moment, creating positive atmospheres, building relationships, and finding the richness of life in everyday small comforts.
The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World by Good Buffalo Eagle (eAudiobook) This poetic and evocative audiobook, drawing on the personal experiences of Good Buffalo Eagle, presents the meditations of an ancient Anasazi tribesman who rejects his family and community and walks off into the desert. During his journey, he discovers the seven paths of the Anasazi way, each path teaching a lesson symbolized by an element of the natural world: light, wind, water, stone, plants, animals, and finally the unity of all beings with the Creator, the path of We.
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. We should begin, she suggests, by “facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves.” It’s up to each of us to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other.

These are just a handful of the many books available to inspire and motivate you in 2018. If you’re looking for a particular topic, philosophy, or religious text, be sure to talk with a librarian who can recommend other great options.

Have a great 2018!