7 books I wish I could download into my brain

Do you ever read a book and think, my life would be better if I could memorize every word in this thing? That’s how I felt after reading these titles.

When it comes to these 7 titles, I want every word to sink into my brain and permeate my worldview, because I think my life would be better for it.

7 books I wish I could download into my brain
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

This book was huge in framing my expectations about relationships. Gottman's insights will heighten your self-awareness, and are applicable to other kinds of relationships. Surprising-but-true insights: most marital conflicts aren't solvable. Strong couples are good friends. Happiness is about how we respond to the little things. Successful marriages have a lot in common, and Gottman shows you how to incorporate these things into your own relationship. Investing in your marriage is easier than you might think. I like to revisit this practical, readable handbook every few years to remind me what we're doing right—and what we maybe could be doing better. And it's fascinating and fun to read. More info →
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Parker Palmer writes with warmth and wisdom about his own journey to finding his true vocation: the work he was uniquely made to do. His story is deeply personal, inspiring, and moving. Every page seems to be filled with the kind of insightful and witty comments about what it truly means to live a good life, and how we should all really be approaching our days. These are the kind of reminders that I would love to internalize—to fully incorporate into the way I see the world, because I think my life would be better for it if I could get more of this book into my brain. More info →
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

The Heath brothers are whip-smart and really funny, making Decisive a million times better than your typical "business" book. I use the information I learned from this book—at least, the parts I can remember—nearly every day, and I wish I could download the rest straight into my brain. This story-driven business book teaches you how to make better decisions, drawing on diverse case studies covering all aspects of life, such as how to know it's time to fire an employee or if you should undergo a risky bone marrow transplant. Everyone will find a useful takeaway, even if they don't struggle mightily with decisions like I do! More info →
This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live

The premise of this great research-based and story-driven nonfiction read is that when it comes to loving the place you live, YOU have a lot more power than you probably realize. People who love their communities don't just live in great places, they're also extremely proactive about the ways they engage in their communities—and I wish I could rattle off every single one by memory! Practical, actionable, and bound to make a difference in your everyday life. More info →
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood

Do you ever read a book and think, my life would be better if I could memorize every word in this thing? That's how I felt after reading this. A fellow parent (who works as a psychologist at a local middle school) recommended this to me, saying it was a great roadmap for the tween and teen years. Parts of it were terrifying (because sometimes real life is like that), but I found this smart, helpful, and practical, and have been recommending it nonstop. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code (also on this list!) said: "It’s a map, flashlight, and GPS device for navigating the landscape of adolescent girlhood." More info →
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

When I first brought this book home Will and I fought over who got to read it first! The author is a former hostage negotiator for the FBI. His workplace tales were fascinating, of course: he specialized in negotiating international kidnappings, and those did NOT play out like I expected. But I was also impressed at how he took those principles and applied them to everyday life—like negotiating a salary, or buying a house, or having normal, everyday conversations with your kids. This is one I want to read again, especially for the parenting bits, because I'm certain I didn't absorb everything on my first read. (I happened to read this RIGHT before we put our old house on the market, which was perfect timing!) More info →
The Talent Code

The Talent Code

This book is all about how to get better at getting better—at anything, whether it's sports, music, math, or business. Coyle delves into the science of how the brain acquires skill, then shows dozens of ways top performers are putting those theories into practice every day, and how YOU can do the same. This book has changed how I work, and how I talk to my kids about their work and play, and I wish I knew more of it by heart. More info →

Have you read any terrific books you wish YOU could download into YOUR brain? Tell us what they are and why they’re important in comments!

7 books I wish I could download into my brain


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    • Kathryn says:

      Anne – I looooove your show. This is the first time I’m writing to you. Please, please, PLEEEEEEEEASE do not read “Little Bee”. I wish I could erase it from my mind. It’s not only brutal, it’s over-the-top horrifying. DO NOT READ IT!!

  1. This is so true!
    I have a 4 yr old daughter and a mom friend with older girls recommended Untangled to me. I’m definitely going to read it as my daughter gets a little closer to her teens.
    I just listened to How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids and it was eye-opening. I felt like it was speaking to me and to all the little arguments (mostly over the division of childcare duties) my husband and I have. But, it brought me a different perspective and helped me see the forest for the trees a bit (plus, actionable ways to peacefully handle all this stuff with your husband). A must read for anyone navigating marriage with young children. Can I also download it into my husband’s brain (which would be the only way he’d ever “read” it)?!

  2. Anne McD says:

    It’s rare that I see a booklist where I want to read eery book on it, but I can’t wait to get my hands on each of these titles! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. I definitely wish I could remember everything in Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin so that I would always have great habits and the strategies to keep those great habits. Luckily, Gretchen does have a weekly podcast that she talks a lot about the info in the book. Always a good reminder.

    • Jennifer says:

      Second this. I don’t often read non-fiction but a friend whose opinion I value recommended it to me and I just finished it. I read a library copy, but feel like I need to buy it so I can take my highlighter to it and refer back to it often.

  4. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who wishes she had books memorized. Mine would be the Bible, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle, and pretty much everything by C.S. Lewis. That list turned out way more spiritual then I expected. Whoops! But those are the authors and works I could quote all day long.

  5. Kelly says:

    This is a GREAT post. And yes, there are so many books I wish I could download straight into my brain forever. The above ones you suggested are great and I’m looking forward to reading them. The Bible would be a great one to download into my brain 🙂 And The Listening Life. I loved that book.

  6. christine says:

    Walden by Thoreau. It changed my life. I absolutely agree about Untangled. I just wish I could get my husband to read it. It helped me with my daughter immensely even though she was only 9.

  7. NCJill says:

    I agree with Bethany Turner above. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin was phenomenal. Thanks for more TBR books, Anne. 🙂

  8. Julia says:

    I don’t read your website every time, because my ‘to be read’ list is massive already and I can’t live long enough to read everything I want to. Thanks for just making my list longer by seven awesome books!!!

  9. Jennifer N. says:

    Daring Greatly is definitely one I wish I could download. Michael Pollan’s books (In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) are also both full of great information that I wish I could re-call at any moment and never can.

  10. Sam says:

    Fair and Tender Ladies!!!! Changes your understanding of Appalachian women, the stereotypes for all women, and what it means to live and live with abandon!

  11. Caitlin says:

    I have two. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. I recently read Happier at Home by Gretchen and it was a great refresher but I need to go back and read the original.

  12. Mikayla says:

    I have probably too many to count but the one I’ve been thinking a lot about the last few months is Most Likely to Succeed by Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. It’s all about how the US education system needs to change in order to prepare children to be 21st century innovators and contributors. I currently work as a preschool teacher in an extremely underprivileged school and I have seen firsthand this year how students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are the ones that suffer most from our broken, outdated model of education. If I could quote off the statistics and pertinent facts from that book any time someone asks me about education (which happens more often than for most people because I am a teacher), maybe I could convince a few more people to read it and get them mulling it over too!

    • Penny says:

      I second Raising Your Spirited Child. It changed my life 17 years ago with my strong willed highly sensitive son. A total game changer. Also, I’m reading Untangled now, and it is spot on!

      • Michelle says:

        I need to read Raising your spirited child (but those kids keep me too busy!) and would add Siblings w/o Rivalry or How to Talk.. on the parenting list.

        On the life list, agree re: Gretchen Rubin and would add Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.

  13. Tania Van Dyk says:

    Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It doesn’t necessarily fit with the type of books mentioned above, but it taught me so much about life, war, policies, growing up, and the world in general. It is heartbreaking and should be read by everyone.

  14. Connie says:

    Ok, I love this blog and read it often but have never commented. And after reading the comments before commenting all I have to say is…..my want to read list just exploded. Thanks for all the great book ideas. I love that I can find fiction and non-fiction book talk on this blog. Also love the podcast. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Pamela says:

    Mine would be The Gifts of Imperfection (ok, everything by Brene Brown) and Codependent No More (this one helped me see what is my responsibility in relationships and what is the other person’s – something I had to work on). Also, the poetry of Rumi and of Mary Oliver.

  16. Linda J says:

    I borrowed The Daily Stoic from the library and was so inspired that I purchased a copy for myself to read and highlight. Perhaps I will become the person I aspire to be.

  17. My daughter attended Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina which is an all women’s college. “Let Your Life Speak” was required summer reading for all incoming freshmen and to this day, that book remains a powerful influence in her life. PS: Salem College was a fantastic school that greatly empowers young women.

  18. Byrd says:

    Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu, which is about working towards an all-in partnership with your spouse to support your career and family life. I listened to it on audio, read by the author which was AMAZING, except I was in the car and wanted to take notes the whole time!! So I have that exact feeling of wishing I could have a direct brain dowload instead.

  19. Shawnna says:

    I just bought Untangled because after reading the copy from the library, I realized that it was going to be required reading every year until my girls are grown. So good. So important. So much to remember!

  20. NCJill says:

    On a parenting note I highly recommend an older book called How to talk so kids will listen and to listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber. For new parents (best to read while pregnant), I highly recommend On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo. But only read if you want your child to sleep through the night! 🙂

  21. Janelle says:

    Oh my gosh Anne, your list is amazing and my tbr list is exploding! I’m over here wishing I could ‘scan’ all of these directly into my brain bc how will I ever have enough time?!? Definitely need to expand my nonfiction library.

  22. Ashley S says:

    I haven’t finished it yet but I’m pretty sure one of my many would be Connie Rossini’s “A Spiritual Growth Plan for your Choleric Child.” Well also “The Temperament God Gave You” by Art and Laraine Bennet. And now that I’m glancing at my bookshelf, “The Way of Trust and Love” by Fr. Jacque Philippe.

  23. Karen says:

    Regarding your email –
    I’m not sure about the movie for Hillbilly Elegy. I appreciated the book and the clearer understanding I have for the area – some of the things I didn’t understand when we lived in Illinois back in the 70’s are a lot clearer now. But it seems a stretch to make it a movie…

  24. Aimee says:

    I love this post, Anne! Thinking about what books I would want to memorize was a great mental exercise for me and reminded me of some good literary friends I need to revisit. So thank you! (My picks would be Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger by Sider, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish, Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott).

  25. Sarah says:

    Yes, Essentialism, changed the course of my life.
    And God’s Astounding Opinion of You (Harris) threw open windows (and doors), of understanding…and turned on all the lights…well, blew the walls out too. Incredible. Seeps into every pore and every relationship and every old negative thought I’m so weary of. Life changer. Recently read it again and made a 16 pg. booklet of cliff notes, kinda with the intention of memorizing it, not gonna happen, but wish

  26. Kristy says:

    Thank you for your Parker recommendation I have downloaded it now to read. “Emotional Agility” by Susan David is a must read for every adult!

  27. Elizabeth Schroer says:

    I always think this when I read Jen Hatmaker’s “7”(I reread it a couple times a year). A great thought provoking book, written in a surprisingly humorous way.

  28. Kristin says:

    I would love to be able to download the Bible into my brain! Otherwise, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, Love Does by Bob Goff, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller…I could go on and on, probably!

  29. The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work is fantastic! My husband and I read it a year or so ago and it was a great resource for us. In fact, it’s one of the marriage books I recommend most frequently on my blog. I am so glad you enjoyed it.

  30. Breanne says:

    I absolutely loved This is Where You Belong and found myself thinking and talking about it for months after. And wishing I had it in my brain so I could quote correctly all her fascinating tidbits.

  31. Because I love Jayber Crow’s theology and Wendell Berry’s gorgeous prose, I’d like to engulf that book in hope that it would somehow inhabit my own writing style and thinking about faith.
    Or . . . the complete works of Eugene Peterson?

  32. I haven’t ever read these books! I’ll need to check them out. I have a few that I wish I could remember for always and forever.

    The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer by Art Berg, Change Anything by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

  33. noga says:

    a book I wanted to download into my head was Loving Was Is, by Byron Katie. It is the guide to “The Work of Byron Katie” her method for putting an end to any suffering that’s a result of stressful thoughts; how to detect those thought and then how to apply her “4 questions and turnarounds” to see whether what you’re thinking is even true. Being a mother of many, I hoped this would be a book that would help me with my struggles as a mother. I wanted to download it into my brain… so I started writing a journal in which I wrote down my thoughts and my answers to the questions. I ended up doing that on a daily basis, for 2 years straight. Eventually it’s become a part of me so much that today facilitating other mothers through The Work. Download complete.:)

  34. Erin says:

    I immediately added Never Split the Difference to my Amazon cart! My husband is a master negotiator, but I HATE any sort of conflict, even when it’s necessary and unavoidable.

    I can’t think of any titles off the top of my head, but every time we go to Europe I wish I knew more about art. It would help me appreciate all those museums and churches so much more if I had a better understanding of art history!

  35. Cori says:

    The Gottman book is one of mine, too. Also, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I keep checking them out of the library every few years…I really should just buy them and perhaps one day I will actually have the contents memorized!

  36. Teresa Starkey says:

    Madeline L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals (A Circle of Quiet; The Summer of the Great-Grandmother; The Irrational Season; A Two-Part Invention – The Story of a Marriage) were assigned during a summer writing course I took over 30 years ago. Even as a young 20-something those stories instantly resonated with me. I still feel their presence. I have reread a few of them, but A Two-Part Invention is a book I’ve given as a gift to many (some as a wedding present and others at the loss of a spouse or partner), as well as a book I’ve read multiple times, when my dad died and when my own husband died 5 years after. I was so surprised to learn of the numerous books L’Engle wrote for adults. It was so easy to be guided not only by her writing style, but by her spirituality.
    Another favorite author is Marianne Williamson, and as others have mentioned, Parker Palmer. As an educator myself, his work has had a significant impact both personally and professionally.

  37. Wendy Scott says:

    My husband just finished the Talent Code and has been talking to everyone he knows about it. He is not a book reader so I was surprised he even started this book but a neighbor recommended it to him. The neighbor and my husband are learning to play guitar together so it really sparked an interest in them.

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