Roadblocks and difficult moments are part of life.
In the long run, those challenges can make you stronger and teach you valuable lessons. But they also cause pain and stress when you’re in the thick of them.
When your career or personal life isn’t going the way you planned, it’s normal to feel low or anxious about what’s to come. Daily commitments like work and social events might push you to put on a good face, but doing so is easier said than done. Even if life goes on, the struggle might continue, and it’s healthy to address your emotions and work through them instead of pretending everything’s okay.
One of the most critical tools for life’s trying seasons is resilience. Resilience, or inner strength, helps you manage your emotions and foster a positive mental attitude. But it’s not necessarily a natural trait. You build resilience over time, gaining the self-knowledge and coping mechanisms you need to approach problems with courage and perseverance.
Whether you want to hone your skills before a setback strikes or figure out how to navigate a career change, reading resilience books can help. Expert-backed advice and words of encouragement might be just what you need to fortify your emotional toolkit and keep on smiling.
The 15 best resilience books to read
Libraries, local stores, and ebook distributors are full of good books for mental health. These growth-oriented texts supplement your learning and allow you to explore a range of viewpoints at your own pace.
Keep in mind that if you’re really struggling, you should speak to a mental health professional. A personal growth book can’t replace a therapist, and sometimes you need more support than what you can accomplish on your own. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help.
If all you need is some literary encouragement, the following 15 self-help books on resilience are all great choices. They’ll accompany you on your journey to managing anxiety, leaning into your strengths, and understanding that adversity is an inevitable part of life — and, sometimes, an opportunity for growth.
1. Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Option B, a New York Times-bestselling book from former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and psychologist Adam Grant, takes a personal and technical approach to rethinking adversity. The text explores Sandberg’s difficult time after the death of her husband and how she learned to strengthen her “resilience muscles” to find fulfillment after tragedy.
Leaning on Grant’s insights from the mental health field, the author duo unpacks the human capacity for survival and joy, demonstrating how to take a B-route when the best-laid option-A plans don’t pan out. It’s also an effective handbook for those coping with grief after the loss of a loved one.
2. Rising Strong, by Brené Brown
Researcher and professor Brené Brown’s Rising Strong acknowledges the anxiety of addressing pain. It’s scary to face what hurts you — no matter how deep or shallow the wound — and Brown gives readers a practical guide for finding strength in any situation.
Brown will walk you through reckoning with your emotions and accepting their truth, becoming more resilient with every challenge. The book also comes with a companion reading guide to fill out like a journal and help you discover more about yourself.
3. The Power of Meaning, by Emily Esfahani Smith
Author, speaker, and journalist Emily Esfahani Smith shows readers how to create a meaningful life without giving up on the one they already have. In The Power of Meaning, Esfahani Smith shatters the misconception that you can only find true purpose by stepping out of your situation and going on a spiritual journey.
Instead, the author shows how fostering relationships and finding a sense of direction are the roots of a fulfilling life. She also reminds you of the importance of telling your story and remaining curious, bolstering those suggestions with real-life anecdotes of her time doing the same.
4. The Art of Resilience, by Ross Edgley
Adventurer, sports enthusiast, and best-selling author Ross Edgley grounds his lessons in the human body in The Art of Resilience. Edgley has swum around Great Britain, pulled a car while running a marathon, and scaled a Mount Everest-sized rope. His secret to overcoming life’s hurdles? Mental strength.
In one of the best books about mental resilience, Edgley shares his insights from overcoming pain and achieving seemingly impossible goals, positing that a “mind over matter” worldview really does work. It’ll prove that you can do whatever you set your mind to, whether that’s getting a promotion or reaching a fitness goal.
5. Room, by Emma Donoghue
Sometimes, fiction delivers the most poignant life lessons. Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel Room is as much a book on mental strength as the non-fiction guides on the topic. The text explores a mother’s resilience as she protects her young son from the terrors of the outside world by creating a healthy, happy universe for him within the confines of a room. The son experiences a rich childhood without knowing that he and his mother are captives.
Room demonstrates mental toughness in the mother’s overriding desire to protect and seek a better future — and her son’s ability to believe in the good in the world. The New York Times says that this novel “presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live.”
6. Resilient, by Dr. Rick Hanson with Forrest Hanson
Adversity may root itself in challenging events you can’t control, and sometimes, a negative mindset makes those experiences worse. In Resilient, psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson demonstrate how to cultivate gratitude and enjoy the fruits of a calmer, happier life.
This book about resilience is a must-read if you wish to move beyond mental strength anecdotes and add tangible tools to your belt. Dr. Hanson will show you how to tap into the emotional intelligence and soft skills you already have so you’re well-prepared the next time adversity strikes.
7. Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings, by Scott Symington
It’s normal to feel anxious in a stressful moment. This is your body’s way of reminding you that you’re sensing a threat. But you can learn to control anxiety with the help of a mental health professional and books on overcoming adversity like this one.
In Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings, psychologist Scott Symington shares his breakthrough method for controlling panic. His proprietary approach, the “two-screen method,” demonstrates how to redirect thoughts in acute moments of crisis. This is another excellent read for anyone seeking actionable techniques for mindfulness and emotional management.
8. Grit, by Angela Duckworth
In Grit, psychologist Angela Duckworth smashes the myth that only talent leads to success. Instead, purpose and hard work are what fuel achievements — and that takes resilience.
Through first-hand anecdotes, historical tales of overcoming adversity, and insights from high-achieving professionals, Duckworth makes the case that you can do anything you put your mind to. Anything but an empty argument, Duckworth backs up her thesis on grit with an explanation of what happens in your head when something defeats you and how to get back up.
9. Emotional Agility, by Susan David
Not everything in life follows a logical course. And psychologist Dr. Susan David understands that. In Emotional Agility, she demonstrates a counterintuitive approach to achieving fulfillment. In her four-step agility method, Dr. David helps you practice acceptance, keep a clear head, and maintain an open mind, inviting you to rethink avoidance when hardship arises.
With this text, you’ll be able to take small steps toward adaptability, an essential skill in fostering a more resilient mind. Even Brené Brown calls it “an incredible book.”
10. The Resilience Factor, by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
Authors Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte team up in The Resilience Factor to deliver an essential life lesson: threats are real, and everyone has to deal with them. A solid choice for readers hoping to sharpen their resilience, this book on mental toughness invites you to get to work.
At the beginning, you’ll complete a questionnaire on your current state of resilience before delving into Reivich and Shatte’s seven “Resilience Factor” strategies. Find out how to improve your self-perception, better your physical health, and take risks for a fuller, more realized life.
11. Micro-Resilience, by Bonnie St. John and Allen Haines
“Resilience” can be an intimidating word. It represents a hard-won quality that people foster through life’s trials. But you don’t have to endure a crisis to build this skill. Everyone earns resilience piece-wise, and you may not even realize you’re doing it.
In Micro-Resilience, motivational speaker and paralympic athlete Bonnie St. John and her filmmaker husband Allen P. Haines propose that resilience is all about the little things. People actually learn more from daily “bruising” than from life’s most significant traumas.
This text is an excellent addition to your reading list if you’re seeking small, short-term coping and recovery skills in addition to advice for weathering major storms. John and Haines will teach you restorative techniques for bouncing back after roadblocks of any size — maintaining a more positive, resilient baseline.
12. Resilience, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy
Have you ever struggled in a challenging situation where someone else thrives? What’s a crushing hardship for one may be an opportunity to rebound for another, and that can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. This is what Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy’s Resilience discusses.
But instead of taking a micro-level approach to the subject and looking at how resilience might affect your life, the authors go macro. They consider this topic in coral reefs and conflict zones and unpack the rebounding tactics built into corporate planning, social innovation, and ecological security. These lessons teach you what resilience looks like across industries and social issues, giving you the opportunity to reflect on the state of the world and what you can apply to your own life.
13. The Yes Brain, by Dr. Dan Siegel
Imagine if you’d received a formal education on resilience when you were young. As an adult, you might be more aware of how setbacks pushed you forward and trials fostered strength. Dr. Dan Siegel’s The Yes Brain is a tool that parents can use to do just that with their children.
This comprehensive guide for parents will teach you how to change your child’s “no brain” to a “yes brain,” helping them shake off avoidance when facing life’s little annoyances. Dr. Siegel poses the idea that children with a “yes brain” are more apt to explore — fostering creativity, empathy, and a penchant for pushing out of their comfort zone.
14. The Dip, by Seth Godin
Triple-best-seller (New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal) The Dip offers a fresh take on the resiliency question. Author Seth Godin says that sometimes, it’s okay to quit. And in some cases, it might even be the best thing to do.
Godin’s thesis is that there are two types of pitfalls: the kind you can get out of and the kind you can’t. Knowing how to recognize the difference between an obstacle and an impasse helps you know when to fire up your resilient afterburners and grit your way through a project or cut your losses.
This text will teach you to identify a surmountable roadblock — what Godin calls a “dip” — and push past it stronger and braver than ever. It’ll also instruct you in the art of letting go and understanding that quitting can free you up to take on a new pursuit.
15. Willpower, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney
Psychologist Roy Baumeister and New York Times science journalist John Tierney team up to explore the virtue of self-control in Willpower. They explore how at times, being resilient means avoiding a tempting offer that’ll set you back, like saying “no” to that vacation when you’re in a tough financial spot.
This book will show you how to harness the resilience you’ve worked hard to earn at times when you want to give up or stray from the course. Goals can sometimes contribute to life’s challenges, but they reap significant rewards. Baumeister and Tierney will teach you to power through the hard times, so you can buy a home, switch careers at 40, or achieve whatever other personal or professional goal you hope.
Resilience doesn’t have to be perfect
Resilience gives you the self-support you need during a tough time, but you may not always be able to draw from it fully. Maybe you’re having trouble keeping a clear head or aren’t sure how to adapt to new situations. Resilience books offer fresh ideas you might never have considered and give you the tools you need to persevere — and books on leadership and career growth can do the same.