Books That Will Change Your Relationships for the Better

These healing reads will guide you on your path to more meaningful connections.

We all want to strengthen our relationships and build healthier bonds — with our loved ones, our communities, even our sense of self. The following relationship books can help you on your journey, whether it’s improving your listening skills and reconnecting with your life partner or truly understanding who you are so you can lead a fuller life. 

By Jessica Dukes
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Love People, Use Things

By Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are better known as The Minimalists. In their newest release, the celebrated authors channel all that they’ve learned to reveal why a life of less leads to more fulfilling relationships. At the core of Love People, Use Things are what Millburn and Nicodemus see as the essential relationships in our lives: to stuff, money, truth, values, creativity, our sense of self, and other people. Simplifying your way of living frees you to revitalize these relationships, reconnect with the world around you, and lead a life of real meaning and purpose. Rich with personal stories from the authors, Love People, Use Things is an essential read that shows us “how to disconnect from our conditioned material state and reconnect to our true essence: love people and use things” (Jay Shetty).

Permission to Feel

By Marc Brackett

Marc Brackett has devoted his life to helping people better understand who they are. As a founding member of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, he helped develop a blueprint for emotional well-being — and it all starts with granting children and adults alike the permission to feel. In this compelling narrative, Brackett teaches us how to recognize and name the emotions that define us. Achieving this allows us to finally take control of our feelings rather than be controlled by them. Ultimately, being sure of who you are on the inside makes it easier to connect with others, which leads to stronger bonds and more fruitful relationships.

You're Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters

By Kate Murphy

These days, feeling disconnected is an all-too-common phenomenon. Are you exhausted from spending so much time online? Does it feel awkward being in face-to-face social settings? Kate Murphy’s proposition is simple: If you’re struggling to make genuine connections with others, try listening to them. As Murphy lays out in this illuminating read, the goal of listening to others is to understand who they are and where they’re coming from. At the same time, it’s important to recognize who really listens to you. As your listening skills improve and your empathy grows, you’ll have more meaningful conversations and feel less alone in this increasingly disconnected world.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

By Adam Grant

We spend a lot of time learning. But have you ever tried to unlearn something? It can be quite difficult, and there’s a long list of reasons why most people don’t even try. As organizational psychologist Adam Grant teaches us in this bestselling work, it’s a skill that matters now more than ever. Instead of remaining in our echo chambers, Grant recommends we spend less time defending our beliefs and more time learning from people who challenge us. He explains that when we’re comfortable appearing “wrong,” we’re capable of building more meaningful connections with others. The author even once convinced a Yankees fan to root for the Red Sox, which might be all the proof one needs that his methods are solid.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

By Priya Parker

Priya Parker, host of the New York Times podcast Together Apart, is an expert who focuses on how we spend time with one another. The Art of Gathering is a fantastic mix of event planning and psychology, showing us how to create get-togethers that make people feel connected and rejuvenated. Whether you’re having a small dinner party, meeting people in the park, hosting a conference, or organizing a summer camp getaway, the secret to success is focusing on the human experience. And this book isn’t just for hosts: Parker also shows us how we, as guests, can turn uninspired gatherings into something meaningful.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

By Jenny Odell

Economies traditionally address the question of scarcity and how to manage tangible commodities. But what happens when there is no scarcity and the commodity is intangible? In the digital world, our attention — the views and clicks and time we spend on a web page — fuels the Attention Economy. Jenny Odell recognizes that our participation in this new economy may seem impossible to escape, but  she knows we can break free, and she has a plan for doing it. In her bestselling debut, Odell reminds us that we can choose how we spend our attention just as we choose how to spend our money. Doing so frees us to reclaim our lives and refocus our attention on the people, relationships, and ideas that matter most.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

By Sue Johnson EdD

In developing her Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, Dr. Sue Johnson discovered seven core conversations that lead to loving, more supportive relationships. Romance, sex, lovers’ spats — these are surface-level elements to a relationship. What Johnson teaches in Hold Me Tight is a way to understand our deeper emotional attachments to our partners and the ways that we can give and receive security, comfort, and even forgiveness. It involves knowing each other’s injuries and grudges, and having the patience and honesty to help heal them. Backed by stories of people she’s assisted along the way, Johnson’s approach is a revelation for couples who yearn to revive their relationship.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

By Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s latest intellectual odyssey gathers case studies from the past and the present to illustrate how rarely we understand one another — and why we keep getting it so wrong. Gladwell argues that the tools we use to make sense of those we don’t know are flawed. This leads to misunderstandings and outright conflicts, whether on a global scale or in our own backyard. Full of insight and little-known anecdotes from history, Gladwell’s latest is illuminating and instructive.

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

By Frances E. Jensen & Amy Ellis Nutt

Teenagers are walking, talking, wonderful mysteries. If you’re lucky enough to have a teenager in your life, you’ll appreciate Dr. Frances E. Jensen’s brilliant exploration of the teenage brain and the science that explains why teenagers behave the way they do. The first surprise: Teen brains have their own unique stage of development, and they are not adult brains. Characteristics of this stage include quick learning but also a susceptibility to addiction and strong reactions to stress. Oh, and if teen girls seem more mature than teen boys, you’re not imagining it — they’re about two years ahead, brain-development wise. Don’t worry, the boys catch up quickly. Packed with tips for helping your teen thrive during the challenging years of adolescence, it’s not a stretch to call this bestselling book “life-changing.”

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