Top 10 Best Books to Find Your Purpose: Discover Your Calling

Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD
7 Min Read

Searching for your true purpose and meaning in life is one of the most important journeys you can take. While this search is highly personal, it helps to learn from others who have also wrestled with existential questions and uncovered their life’s purpose. Certain books can provide wisdom, inspiration, and practical guidance to help you discover and live out your unique calling. Here are 10 of the best books to read when seeking your purpose:

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

This profoundly insightful book originated from Viktor Frankl’s harrowing experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Despite enduring immense suffering, he found meaning and purpose by dedicating himself to helping others. Frankl’s message that we always have freedom to find purpose, even in the most tragic circumstances, inspires readers to persevere in their search for meaning. His memorable ideas on discovering purpose through work, love, and suffering provide a thoughtful framework.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This allegorical novel tells the story of Santiago, a young shepherd on a quest for buried treasure. His fantastical journey parallels the universal human search for fulfillment. The inspiring themes of following your heart’s dreams, recognizing omens from the universe, and fulfilling your “Personal Legend” encourage you to pursue your own life calling. Coelho masterfully shows that while the path may be difficult, if you stay focused on your quest for purpose, the universe will conspire to help you.

3. Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

This charming novel weaves together the intertwined stories of a dissatisfied housewife and 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi. As their tales explore themes of transcending societal conventions, choosing compassion over judgment, and opening one’s heart, readers connect more deeply with their own inner spirit. Shafak suggests that when you live by truth and love, you can find divine purpose in your mundane daily life. Her 40 rules provide wisdom for interfacing with a sometimes cruel world while retaining your ideals.

4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Sinek argues that outstanding, inspiring leaders and organizations start by defining their core purpose or “why”. This compelling “why” explains the urgent reason that their efforts exist and motivates others to participate. By finding your own authentic “why” or life purpose, you can gain the clarity and commitment needed to thrive. Sinek provides guidance on how to craft an inspiring purpose statement and align your actions accordingly.

5. Living Forward, Looking Backward by Jennie Allen

For those seeking purpose from a Christian perspective, Allen’s memoir provides spiritual insights. By “living forward” into a praying life and close relationship with God, she found her calling. Allen suggests first looking inward to identify your deepest gladness and burdens. She then shares how “looking backward” at pivotal life events provided clarity on her purposes to empower women, champion the vulnerable, and build community.

6. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This motivating book pushes back against today’s emphasis on busywork and constant productivity. McKeown argues that we should identify our vital goals and true purpose, then strategically eliminate obstacles and distractions. By discerning your fundamental reason for existing and protecting your energy, you gain the focus needed to align your life with your essential intentions.

7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert rejects the notion that creative living and purpose are reserved for artistic geniuses. She believes we all have a bit of genius within and tells uplifting stories of ordinary people leading extraordinary, purposeful lives. Her advice to follow curiosity, face fears of criticism, and view creativity itself as a guiding force will liberate you to live fully. Gilbert’s words inspire the courage to express your essence through your unique life path.

8. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

This research-based book reveals how developing a positive mindset empowers you to identify your strengths and purpose. When you consciously train your brain to focus on rewarding aspects of life, you can see new possibilities and pivot toward more meaningful work. Achor’s insights and practical strategies teach you to reframe your outlook in order to recognize your higher calling.

9. Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

NPR host Tippett shares wisdom gained from in-depth interviews with inspiring spiritual leaders, novelists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. By spotlighting diverse role models who discerned their purpose through varied life journeys, she invites you to analyze your own path to find your special contribution. Tippett’s thoughtful reflections reveal how bringing your whole self to interactions and work catalyzes a purposeful life.

10. Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

This small but powerful book emphasizes inner reflection over external performance to align your life’s work with your unique identity. Palmer eloquently writes on how vocational purpose emerges from understanding one’s self, passions, and principles. Rather than chasing other’s expectations, he advocates self-care, embracing vulnerability, and listening to your inner voice to find your authentic place in the world.

The search for purpose is complex, but immensely rewarding. While the right book provides encouragement, ultimately you must look inward. Reflect on your talents, interests, values, and experiences. Be open to life’s signs guiding you toward your calling. Define your essential intentions and eliminate distractions. With focus and faith, you can discover your purpose.

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Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD is a medical doctor by profession, an author, a financial literacy and digital assets enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a growing philanthropist.
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