By Sam Allen

Sometimes simply surviving in this world is hard. Not to mention draining. Burnout, which so many of us experience at some point in our lives, could be more profound than you think. 

Lack of connection and meaning or deep thinking might trigger thoughts about quitting or escaping. While a full-blown Netflix binge might seem comforting to you, let me offer an alternative: read a book that accompanies you to the depths of your soul.

Although books in the self-help genre get a bad name, some of them can be incredibly rewarding reads. The ones here are less like manuals and more like invitations to examine your life and the way that you’re living it. Keep reading for four great books in the category formerly known as “self-help.”  

12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos By Jordan B. Peterson 

Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson reveres the old philosophers. And he’s a nerd. Like, talking about lobster neuroscience kind of nerd.  

In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Peterson regales us with lobster-knowledge and other fun facts that, surprisingly, relate to how we live our own lives. A little wordy at times and prone to interesting tangents, Peterson takes us on expansive journeys not only to the realm of his fascinating mind but to the greater meaning of life itself (hint: its Order). His book is just enough of a pick-me-up if you’re missing those life-affirming talks with your eccentric uncle—everybody has one—during the holidays. Get to it, stick to it, and remember to stand up straight! Just like lobsters do? My, how we’re alike!

Note To Self By Connor Franta

Internet sensation and Youtuber Connor Franta takes an introspective look at himself in Note to Self. Having told his story in his memoir A Work in Progress, here, Franta opens up about depression and self-acceptance in a world defined by others’ “likes” of his content.  

Incisive and tender, Franta’s book unfolds as a journal addressed to himself. It’s a compilation of mixed-media, including photography, poetry, and the letters he has written to himself at various stages of his life. Note to Self is an incredible act of vulnerability, which shows that everyone has a private side, and encourages you with the wisdom that there’s no one way to be—or create—anything.

Start Where You Are: A Journal To Self-Exploration By Meera Lee Patel

The year 2020 seems to have been a heydey for form-bending books. Meera Lee Patel’s Start Where You Are: A Journal to Self-Exploration uses the best of this trend in open form as a journal that you complete! It encompasses hand-lettered quotes, pretty pictures, and blank spaces that empower you to explore your thoughts, intentions, and dreams.

Patel, among other things, has an Etsy shop, and that fact seems to be emblematic of her books.They are handcrafted, thoughtful, and always pushing you towards positive—and achievable—growth. Start Where You Are is so personal and poignant that you half-expect a handwritten thank you note from her with each copy!  

The Book Of Awakening: Having The Life You Want By Being Present To The Life You Have By Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo is a poet and storyteller, who draws from the deep wisdom of cultures from around the world, and gently pushes his readers to go deeper themselves. 

The Book of Awakening: Having The Life You Want by Being Present To The Life You Have is now in its 20th-anniversary edition, and for good reason. Organised along the span of a year, each entry is devoted to a single day and a single theme. You traverse commitment, forgiveness, and renewal as you absorb wisdom passages and some of Nepo’s thoughts on life. Read it as a calendar to mark your days not just with outer achievements, but also with inner meaning.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Knowledge, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants By Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a plant ecologist and a purveyor of wisdom in a connected world. In Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Knowledge, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, she invites us to learn from often-overlooked teachers who share lessons in cooperation and community.

It is just a gorgeous book. Kimmerer’s writing style is beautifully intimate, and in recounting stories of the natural world and indigenous wisdom, she pushes us both into ourselves and gently out into a world where we all belong.

Although burnout can be soothed by finding meaning in your life, depression is its cousin. If you are having thoughts of seriously harming yourself or someone else, please know that you are not alone. Please reach out to one of these country-specific hotlines if life seems too much right now.

Hopefully, you’ll give these books a chance to boost your optimism and help you find joy and fulfilment in life, even during the random days of ennui.