Book Lists

11 Books for a Mid-Year Refocus on Your Goals

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It’s the end of June which means we’re halfway through the year. In Atomic Habits, the author, James Clear, states that he does a mid-year check-in with himself on how he is doing with his goals.

I find that a compelling idea to emulate, because it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of the trajectory of my life when I’m in the middle of the day-to-day. Having regularly-scheduled check-ins with oneself – he suggests quarterly – sounds smart to me.

I decided to pull together a list of books that I have found helpful for me in adjusting my perspective and refocusing on my goals in the hopes that they might help you too.

These are books that have stuck with me for quite some time. I read a lot of books, and when shown a picture of the cover, I can recall a general sense of what the book is about. But the books on this list have woven themselves into the fabric of my being and have influenced – in positive, healthy ways – how I live.

They aren’t all prescriptive or formulaic. Some are simply sharing a mindset shift that can make a great difference.

These books are gems that have been timely reads which have inspired me to live a more balanced, holistic and healthy life – a goal that most people would like to aim for.

I wouldn’t recommend reading them all at once. Rather, choose one or two that align with areas of your life that you’ve noticed need some work and read those.

Links to categories to help you scroll to an applicable goal a little faster:

I hope you find a book or two to inspire you to keep working toward your goals. Happy reading!

Developing Your Profession
(or Hobbies)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott


Not only does this book give sage advice on how to be a writer that is couched in dry humor, but the principles are applicable to just about any long-distance goal in life. This was my first experience reading any of Anne Lamott’s work, but she made me laugh, she encouraged me, and she also kicked my butt into action. I read this about a year ago and because of her advice to write every day, I finished the rough draft of a book manuscript before the school year started – and started this blog. I’d say it’s worth a read if you need a humorous kick in the pants to get started on a big endeavor 🙂

Deep Work by Cal Newport

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Cal Newport is one of those rare citizens of Western civilization who doesn’t – and never has had – any social media accounts. Yet he is well-known in his work field and has made great contributions to literature (like this book) as well. He knows how to get work done and gives some practical examples of how to train your brain to focus deeply on one task, rather than letting yourself get distracted by, say, your smartphone or email.

If one of your goals this year is being more productive, I bet there’s at least one suggestion here (if not 10) that would help you refocus for the second half of this year.

The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer

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I am not exaggerating when I say that this author and this book saved my life in some respects. I listened to the audiobook on a 10-hour car ride in the spring break of my second year of teaching, when I was feeling extremely discouraged and at a complete loss for what to do in my classroom. That year was one of the most emotionally difficult years of my life, and I felt very isolated in my experience. Parker Palmer, through sharing his experience, reached through my isolation and said, “Me too.”

Hearing how he walked through a similar period of darkness and came out on the other side more whole than he began helped shift my mindset and make a decision to find out how I could teach with integrity – meaning, teaching on the outside as the teacher I am on the inside, rather than trying to fit myself into a teaching mold prescribed by those around me.

I’m sharing this book specifically because of how powerful it was for me. But I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a classroom teacher. The good news is, this book isn’t just for that segment of the population. As Palmer points out, there are teachers in basically every field. And if teaching just isn’t what you do, I’d highly recommend his other books Let Your Life Speak or A Hidden Wholeness.

If you’re wanting some encouragement in your pursuit of a career that fits who you are, I recommend his books.

Living a Balanced Life

Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

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Technically Off the Clock could go under the first category, but I placed it here because Ms. Vanderkam’s ideas are more generic and easily applicable to all of life. She talks a lot about how our mindsets can change regarding time and the things we do every day or on special occasions to help us feel “less busy.”

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m on a quest to not be busy. I refuse to wear that as a badge of honor. I want to be known for being not busy – for being available when I’m needed and able to be fully present when I’m with people. So I’ve been getting my hands on these types of books to change my brain toward ideas of to-do lists and being busy. Read more of my thoughts on this book here, and just read the actual book if one of your goals is to be more present and less busy.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero


There is a tendency in our American Christian mindset – and many religions, really – that the more we do the more spiritual we are. This activity often comes at the expense of our emotional health and maturity. Peter Scazzero has learned a lot about that in his life, often through tough experiences, and shares here the principles he has learned about developing a spirituality (read: relationship with God) that encompasses all of his life, including his emotional, mental, and relational health.

One of the biggest and most lasting changes I have made to my life since finishing this book in February is instituting a weekly rest day on Sundays. I don’t get on social media for 24 hours, and I don’t do things on my to-do list for 24 hours (ish. It’s been a little wishy-washy as I’m transitioning from Ecuador to the U.S.). I have tried the practice of the daily office and it was really helpful when I did it. I hope to make it a more lasting habit once I get settled in my next place.

This book would be great for you if you’re noticing a need to reorder some of your priorities and become a healthier human.


The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

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Okay, disclaimer: I haven’t actually read this book. So how does this book fit in this post? Because my parents read this book and taught me the principles in it, so basically my entire financial outlook and practices are based on what Dave Ramsey teaches about budgeting, saving, spending, and giving. Whether or not you have a bias for or against his teaching, I highly recommend giving his suggestions a fair trial. His ideas and teaching changed my parents’ ability to manage money for the better, and therefore mine as well.

If one of your goals for this year is getting your finances in order, or at least on the right track, and you’ve gotten off track, this would be a great book to help you recenter on that goal.

Giving it All Away…And Getting It All Back Again by David Green


This book is not a prescriptive formula for changing your mindset, but it is an excellent book for making a mindset shift. David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby, which now is a very large chain across the U.S. Yet instead of letting the success go to their heads, the Green family has kept the main thing the main thing and their employees are well-paid and well-taken care of, even while the company makes a great profit, year after year. Take that big-companies-who-don’t-take-care-of-your-workers!

I’m not planning on owning a franchise any time soon (or ever?) but Green’s teaching on leaving a legacy and teaching those who come after you about handling wealth wisely and living generously was a breath of fresh air. I hope my mindset is this biblical and generous by the time I’m at retirement age.

Read this if you want some inspiration on how to give freely and without fear and how to leave a healthy legacy.

Poverty, Riches, and Wealth by Kris Vallotton

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This is another non-prescriptive book, but it points out how many of us have a mindset of scarcity instead of abundance. However, the truth is that, for those of us who are Christians, we claim to serve a God who gives abundantly and owns everything on this earth. If that’s the case, and He teaches us to give freely and generously, we shouldn’t be stingy or scared about doing so! That shows a scarcity mindset, when our God is a God of abundance and generosity.

While I didn’t exactly agree with everything Vallotton said here, I’m okay with that. Learning requires considering ideas that seem uncomfortable and foreign – and choosing to adopt and believe those that align with truth.

Read this if you would like to read something that is not “x number of steps to financial freedom” but rather will help you reframe how you view wealth and poverty in the first place. Or read if you would like a different perspective on finances outside of the Dave Ramsey realm 🙂


Fulfilled by Alexandra MacKillop

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I know a lot of people whose goals for each year are related to health, nutrition, losing weight, and exercising. This book is the best one I’ve found on that so far. It just came out a few months ago, and you can hear more about the heart behind it in my author spotlight blog post.

This book has stuck with me since I read it and has been helping me be more aware of how I think about my body and the food I eat. I hadn’t realized, until reading this book, how much the way culture views food and body size had permeated my own mindset.

Read this book if your goal is to be healthier, but you’re tired of being stressed about eating healthily, trying diets that don’t work long-term, or just want a breath of fresh air and a bright light shone on how our culture shapes our thoughts toward food.

Developing Healthy Relationships

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle


Sherry Turkle does an incredibly thorough job at examining how smartphones and other communication technology have actually been changing our ability to have a basic conversation – and how those changes are deeply affecting our relationships with the people we love.

I know many people, myself included, have a love-hate relationships with the devices that are in our lives. If you have the nagging feeling that maybe you’re using your device more than you should, read this.

If you have goals to focus more on the in-person people in your life, or to make more time for your kids, or have more family dinners, this is definitely the book to help give you the data and inspiration to back your efforts.

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist


I have such affection for this book. A friend gave this to me just when I needed it. It is part memoir, part recipe book, part how-to on becoming more hospitable and developing deep relationships by sharing meals with people.

I have long wanted to have a home that is more open to people coming over, but I was raised with having people over = the house needs to look perfect and the food needs to be ready before the first people get here.

Shauna Niequist shares her journey to letting go of the mindset of “entertaining people” being equivalent to “hospitality” and gives great tips on how to gradually do as much as you can handle. It’s kind of like a couch to 5K training plan for people who want to have people over but don’t know where to start.

Read this if you’re ready to start seeing people in-person again and need some warm, comforting, inspirational words and meal ideas to bolster your courage and energy.

What are your goals for this year?

Do you have any books that inspired you to set, or keep working on, those goals that aren’t mentioned here?

Share in the comments below!

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