Us, women over 40 supposedly have it all together. However, it can be a volatile time in many women’s lives, experiencing dramatic changes in their bodies, family, and demands on their time.
Yet it can also be a period of increased confidence while feeling less obliged to people-please. Thus, many women are looking for self-help books to feel heard, seen, and find new directions in this unique stage of life.
Here’s a selection of the best of them. I have gone through – nearly – all of them. Bought the audio book version and really enjoy those moments of inspiration and self-care!
1. Year Of Yes By Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes was busy both professionally and as a mother. Also, as an introvert, saying “No,” felt good. But one Thanksgiving, her sister noted, “You never say yes to anything.” Thus, Shonda Rhimes embarked on a Year Of Yes.
The book is not telling women to people-please, something women over 40 are glad to leave behind. Instead, it urges women to embrace life outside the obligations of work and parenting. Rhimes talks about taking care of the self while reaching into the wider world and celebrating it in all its glory.
2. The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F*ck by Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight’s parody of Marie Kondo’s best seller is about decluttering the mind and mental energy. By the time a woman reaches 40, everyone and everybody is trying to monopolize her skills, emotionally and otherwise, to better their lives, leaving her with little for herself.
Instead, Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F*ck urges women to shed people-pleasing tendencies, not give a flying f*ck what others think, and quit carrying others’ baggage.
The colorful language is plentiful and not everyone’s cup of tea. But Knight doesn’t give a rat’s a**.
3. More Than A Woman By Caitlin Moran
She tackles the exhausting balancing and juggling act of middle-aged women.
She writes, “Quests are embarked on. Transformations happen. But we do not hear of these adventures because we do not tell stories about middle-aged women and their lives. Their triumphs and woes. What we do is either seen as just boring, or else ignored entirely.”
Moran, however, is changing that. She’s telling stories and saying, “I see and hear you.” It’s inspiration, comfort, and cheering squad. But most importantly, it’s a terrific read.
4. Burnout By Emily Nagoski And Amelia Nagoski
Sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski have combined their academic energy to write Burnout, a phenomenon many women experience in their lives. In the book, the Nagoski sisters address why women are burning out and how to unlock the stress cycle.
The fun book validates the stress and gaslighting women go through every day and provides tools to break out of burnout and prevent it from happening again.
5. The Menopause Manifesto By Jennifer Gunter
Fifty percent of the population deals with menopause, yet it is often a taboo subject. Dr. Jennifer Gunter is finished with women entering this phase of their lives unprepared and alone.
Her hilarious and blunt The Menopause Manifesto shatters the silence and addresses:
- Depression and mood changes
- Skin and hair issues
- Outdated therapies
She writes, “Women are gaslit into believing that their bodies – the very thing that allows them to hack the big brain-small pelvis equation – are problematic and that consequently they themselves are problematic. “
Gunter’s book is a guide, arming women with knowledge so they can navigate this new stage without fear and ignorance.
6. Braving The Wilderness By Brené Brown
Brené Brown has been helping women help themselves for years. Crossing over 40 has always been a period where a woman is prone to feel disconnected from all she once knew. But now, in these turbulent times, the world feels increasingly polarized and challenging.
In Braving the Wilderness, Brown tackles how to embrace the true self in a world that encourages women to reach for perfection. She encourages women to shed their people-pleasing tendencies and no longer fear being criticized for living as their authentic selves.
7. Toxic Positivity By Whitney Goodman
Whitney Goodman knows that by 40, women are fed up with being told to smile and suppress their emotions. Her book Toxic Positivity shows the damage caused by the trend advocating people always to be happy.
Goodman’s self-help book is refreshing and freeing, as she encourages women to embrace authentic emotions when faced with:
- Career challenges
Goodman backs up her views and advice with research. Creating space for a range of emotions will help people process their experiences so they can move on to a healthy and productive future.
8. Life Reimagined By Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s Life Reimagined is aimed at women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. She writes, “We watch our bodies and our brains slow down as younger bodies and brains zip past us, and we just accept it, not realizing there is a whole world offering to sharpen and improve us. We simply need to look for it.”
Hagerty goes against the grain, arguing that slowing down is not the healthiest choice in our middle-age and later years. Instead, she encourages finding purpose beyond the career, challenging the mind, and enriching your life.
That these will strengthen the body and mind and provide fulfilling years.
9. The Body Is Not An Apology By Sonya Renee Taylor
Sonya Renee Taylor is an advocate for radical self-love. The Body Is Not An Apology calls for people to break out of the chains of shame and make peace with their physical and mental selves. The poet is calling for a revolution of being.
The seed of the book began after Taylor’s friend Natasha shared that her cerebral palsy made it challenging for her to feel sexual and entitled to demand safe sex. Taylor replied that “You do not use [your body] to say ‘sorry for my disability.'”
Women after 40 embody a self going through dramatic physical and mental changes. Yet, in a society that shames women for aging, Taylor’s book pushes back, insisting there is no shame in your physical presence.
10. You Are A Badass By Jen Sincero
Jen Sincero wants women to understand their greatness and power and seize control of their lives. In her hilarious You Are A Badass, she takes readers through 27 short, easy-to-read chapters on:
- Making money
- Learn how to make that money make money
- Quit sabotaging yourself
- Love what can’t be changed
- Kick a**
11. Wintering By Katherine May
Women over 40 crosses an unseen divide where life brings one wave after another of death, illness, and dramatic life challenges. Going through an onslaught of unforeseen circumstances, May resisted the pressure to plow forward and pretend to be happy. Instead, she created space to accept her sadness.
Wintering invites women to step back and allow themselves to feel more. She frames this space as transformative rather than limiting. It will enable growth and preparation before embarking on the next stage.
12. You Are Here By Jenny Lawson
Hilarious and witty Jenny Lawson has long entertained readers through her blog and memoirs. But You Are Here is a humorous workbook of advice, inspiration, and therapy, dubbing it “an owner’s manual for dangerous minds.”
“Listen to the tiny voice inside your head,” Lawson writes. “Unless it’s trying to tell you that you’re worthless. Then [f*ck] that voice. That voice is an [a**hole].”
Her illustrations are born from a copying technique she uses to manage anxiety. They create focus and art therapy for others, allowing readers to play as they process the dark.
13. Yoke By Jessamyn Stanley
Women over 40 are encouraged to cut back on drinking, quit cigarettes, and care for their mental and physical health. Consequently, they’re routinely encouraged to try yoga. But as Jessamyn Stanley knows, the world of yoga can feel like a narrow space where only bodies of a certain type can fit.
In Yoke, Stanley explores various issues, including imposter syndrome, loving yourself, and even cotton vs. polyblends. It’s a feel-good boost to the spirit and embracing the self.
14. What Fresh Hell Is This By Heather Corinna
Sex educator Heather Corinna pulls no punches in her book What Fresh Hell Is This. Corinna doesn’t try to give readers one-size-fits-all advice through the perimenopause and menopause journey. Instead, she’s an empathetic friend to friends as they sweat through the change.
Corinna’s myth-busting book is hilarious and full of self-care advice. The information-packed read is inclusive and accessible. So get ready to laugh while learning more about a natural stage of the human body.
15. Keep Moving By Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith tackles getting through loss in her book Keep Moving. She understands that a person cannot go through these periods without change.
She points out that this is an opportunity for creativity and transformation and that it is okay to feel the full spectrum of feelings during these heavy times.
Smith’s book is unique as it holds the wisdom that sometimes the person we’re mourning is still alive. It’s a phenomenon almost every woman over 40 has experienced.
She writes, “There is no name for what you are when a part of your life and identity dies, but you go on living. There is no name for what you are when you outlive the life you expected to have and find yourself in a kind of afterlife.”
A comforting and fulfilling read.