It's officially summer. You know what that means, right? Warmer weather, invites to barbecues, days at the pool--and, hopefully, the chance to take a well-deserved summer vacation. (Take your vacation days, please! Stop letting them go to waste.)

Vacation is the perfect time to sit back, put your feet up, and unwind with a great book. Just the thought of digging my toes into the sand and getting lost in a story puts my mind at ease.

But it's time for us to redefine the typical "beach read." Sure, romance novels and thrillers are great. But, as it turns out, there are a ton of books you can enjoy under the sun that will also push you to consider some big life questions and contemplate your own success.

Below, I've listed 19 great books that will help you decompress while also igniting the motivation you need to achieve great things during the second half of this year.

Get Inspired

Part memoir, part call to action, Melinda Gates's book shares inspiring stories and lessons she's learned from all of the amazing women she's worked with so we can change the world.

Despite our best efforts and many technological advances, Mark Manson explains, the world is still f*cked. This book is Manson's answer to how we got here and how we can harness hope to tackle the myriad of issues still surfacing.

Sheri Salata was seemingly happy. After 20 years working of for Oprah Winfrey, she could easily say she had the career of her dreams, yet despite her success she found her personal life lacking. Determined to have the life of her dreams, she set out to rediscover herself ... the beautiful and the ugly. 

"I was wrong." "No." "I don't know." These are some of the powerful phrases Kelly Corrigan explores to better understand how we can change ourselves and this world.

Many of us are not strangers to self-destructive behavior. That's where Gary John Bishop comes in. He teaches readers how to finally understand themselves so they can stop creating their own roadblocks. 

Beyoncé was on to something when she created Sasha Fierce. Award-winning performance expert Todd Herman says there's one main factor standing between you and your dreams -- you. And to obtain those dreams and increase your performance, you have to unleash your alter ego.

Improve Your Work Performance

New York Times best-selling author Michael Hyatt shares his secret to increasing productivity. It's not about getting more done, but getting the right things done.  

Eating too much sugar, not working out, procrastinating. In Atomic Habits, James Clear provides readers with super practical tools so they can break bad habits and build new ones that will last. 

The key to great leadership? Self-inquiry. Jerry Colonna explains that to be a great leader and partner in life, you need to unpack all of that emotional baggage.

Physicist and entrepreneur Safi Bahcall discusses the importance of phase transitions in the dynamics of groups performing together. He explains why one day we're working cohesively and the next are at one another's throats. More important, he shares how we can fix this behavior and ultimately thrive.  

Ever heard of your Zone of Genius? If you haven't, then you're missing out on the key habit that will change your work performance and your life. In The Genius Habit, I explain why turning inward is the key to true success.


12. We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter

Inspired by the true story of a Jewish family who were separated at the start of World War II, this novel explores the human spirit and the lengths we'll go to to survive.

If the founders of Fathom can't persuade you to travel with this book, no one can. Filled with tips and recommendations ranging from best meals to unplugging, this book explores why traveling benefits us in the long run.

Jeff Gordinier got more than what he bargained for when he spent four years traveling with René Redzepi, the renowned chef of Noma. This book will hit all of your senses, as well as ignite a conversation around ambition and creativity you didn't know you needed.

15. City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert

Reflecting back on 1940s New York City, a woman named Vivian reveals how one mistake she made changed the course of her life forever.

Engaging Memoirs

This powerful memoir explores issues of trauma, human rights, and the resilience needed to stand up for ourselves when everyone is trying to keep us quiet.

17. Naturally Tan, Tan France

Many people know Tan France as the fashion maven on Netflix's Queer Eye. But few know of his struggles with racism and coming out to his Muslim family at 34 years old. His story is nothing short of inspiring.

Elaine Welteroth gives us the call to action we need to pursue our dreams and never give up even when the odds are stacked against us.

TV host Bill Geist revisits the summers he spent at the Arrowhead Lodge, a place where a summer job sparked the transformation he needed to become the man he is today.