I get it.
You’re busy. We’re all busy. Even a lifelong bookworm like me - Hi, my name is Jen and I’m addicted to books - struggles to find time to read.
But ever since Mum handed me a well-worn, second-hand copy of “A Woman of Substance” by Barbara Taylor-Bradford in my late teens (which I still pick up and re-read every few years), I’ve always been drawn to, and inspired by, stories about strong women (whether those women are real or not!)
I love stories that inspire me and challenge me. Stories that bust me out of the bubble of everyday life and make me examine and question what is possible in my own life - and for the amazing women I’m lucky enough to work with.
So as we approach Christmas, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourites - from sport, business, adventure and life.
Maybe you’ll come across a book Santa can bring you for Christmas so you can start the New Year feeling inspired, energised and ready to chase your dreams - just like these (strong) women:
Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington
Articulate and highly educated, multiple Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington beautifully brings to life her pre-triathlon adventures around the world, her aid and development work in the United Kingdom and Nepal as well as her career as a triathlete in this book.
Her honesty, especially around her eating disorder, is surprising and refreshing.
She also delves deeply into her training and the important role mindset played in her success. It’s a great read by a woman who has not only changed the landscape of women’s triathlon but continues to fight for equality in sport.
#Girlboss - Sophia Amoruso
At 22, Sophia Amoruso was committing petty theft and was broke when she started selling vintage clothes on eBay before launching her online retailer, Nasty Gal, in 2006.
Just 10 years later, Sophia was named the 2nd youngest woman to make the Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women with an estimated net worth of US$280 million. (I recently had the opportunity to hear Sophia speak and was reminded how important it is to share your stories).
#Girlboss spent 18 weeks on the New York Times best seller’s list and has developed its own cult following (my copy is highlighted and dog-eared). It’s part life story, part business advice; Sophia shares the business, love and life lessons she’s learned (often the hard way) throughout her journey.
An entertaining and insightful read I finished in one sitting on a plane back from the Cook Islands. If you or a girlfriend have a business (or are planning to start one), you’ll enjoy this one!
Surfacing: From the Depths of Self-Doubt to Winning Big & Living Fearlessly by Siri Lindley
It’s no secret I have a girl-crush on Siri (I wrote about what I learnt from Siri here).
I loved her tenacity as an athlete and, as a coach, I really admire the way she works with her clients especially on their mindset and self-belief.
I’ve just finished this book and it’s a beautiful, open, honest and at some stages, very raw account of how she went from a difficult childhood and being a terrible swimmer to becoming ranked #1 in the World and World Champion in her own right (before taking up coaching).
I walked away from this book feeling inspired and as though absolutely anything is possible with the right commitment — and I’m sure you will too.
The Anna Meares Story - The Fighting Spirit of a Champion
While I read a previous edition of the book (the current version has been completely revised and updated), her story is still an incredible one.
The most successful track cyclist of all time (male or female), Anna Meares is the only women in the World to win a World Title in every sprint discipline and the only person (male or female) to medal at the Olympic Games in all four spirit disciplines.
Oh, and did I mention she returned to win Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after breaking her neck in a terrible crash just seven months beforehand?
If you’ve seen the popular video of Anna doing box jumps in training, you’ll know her pure strength and determination — and that theme carries through the whole book and her life.
Fabulous But Broke - Melissa Browne
If you’ve been part of the Sparta Chicks community for any more than 5 minutes, you’ve probably heard me talk (write) about how fears and our perceptions about what we can or can’t, should or shouldn’t do are disguised by and found in the stories we tell ourselves.
These stories affect the decisions we make, the experiences we have and ultimately the path our lives take.
And the stories we tell ourselves about money are no exception.
My friend Mel wrote this (beautiful, full-colour) book which is a collection of financial fairytales which highlight the money “stories” we carry with us and suggest an alternate, and happy, ending. I had a huge ‘aha’ moment after reading this book about the money stories I tell myself.
I already know you’re fabulous 😉 but if you constantly struggle with money or you never quite feel like you’re making progress, this book will help you understand some of the subconscious money stories you’re telling yourself, giving you the power to change not only the stories but the decisions you make.
My Fight, Your Fight - Ronda Rousey
Straight up, I literally started this book this morning. I’m only 32 pages in - so far so good! But this is a book I’ve always wanted to read and a few friends have loved it (I’ll come back update this post with my thoughts once I’ve finished it).
I’m not a fan of mixed martial arts and I don’t follow the sport at all. But I’m a fan of strong, determined and outspoken women - and Ronda Rousey is all those things and more (have you seen her now-famous “do nothing bitch” video)?
An Olympic Bronze medalist in Judo, the former UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion and Hollywood star, this book (according to the blurb on Amazon) traces her journey from the loss of her father at eight years old through to her success in the ring and her fame outside it.
I hope this book will be an insightful and honest account of how she’s overcome the challenges she’s faced - both in and outside the ring.
(Have you read it? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!)
I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education & Was Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai
This book is such a beautiful reminder of the power of a single person to create real change in the world.
The youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala covers her incredible journey and story from her idyllic childhood in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, how life changed for women in Pakistan when the Taliban took over, the day she was shot on her way to school, her recovery and amazing work since then. I didn’t realise, for example, she’s never been home again to her beloved Swat Valley since the fateful morning she left to go the school.
There is also a beautiful documentary called “He Named Me Malala” (if you get a chance to see it, do so). It really brings Malala, her beautiful family (including her hysterical younger brothers), her journey and her work to life.
If you’re into outdoor adventure and hiking or mountaineering, the next two will be harder to find but right up your alley (and if you can’t, let me know - I’ll send you mine!)
Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life - Arlene Blum
Arlene Blum led the 1st all-female team to summit Denali in Alaska as well as Annapurna in Nepal. She was also the 1st American woman to summit Mt Everest.
A true trailblazer and strong women, she was leading treks and climbing peaks in the 1970s and 1980s, long before it was common for women to do so.
It’s been a few years since I read this. While many climbing and adventure books only focus on the summits and achievements, I still remember being struck by her openness and honesty about her whole life, from being raised by a single mum in Chicago (with whom she had a complicated relationship), through to her struggles dealing with chauvinistic colleagues and her work as a distinguished research scientist.
To The Summit: A Women's Journey Into the Mountains to Find Her Soul - Margo Chisholm
A seriously overweight alcoholic with a cocaine habit, Margo Chisholm was over forty when she decided to turn her life around.
A friend had planted in her mind the idea of a trek to the Himalayas. What followed was an incredible story of acceptance and transformation as Margo set herself the goal to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents (a rare feat even today).
If you’ve ever wondered why people go into the mountains to climb, this book explains it better than almost anything I’ve read.
Wait - Stop the press!
I can't believe I forgot to include Wild by Cheryl Strayed on my list!
(Only because I've lent my copy to someone so it's not on my bookshelf at the mo').
You've no doubt heard about it - it's Cheryl's story of abandoning everything and setting out to walk over a thousand miles (that's 1,600km) along the Pacific Crest Trail -- solo, and with absolutely no hiking experience whatsoever.
It's a wonderful, insightful and honest book -- and it reinforced for me the fact that when you let your fear stop you from doing or trying something, you prioritise your fear over your dreams.
What other books would you add to this list?
Leave a comment and let me know so I can add them to my list to give Santa? 🙂