Books to help you get to know yourself better

If you’re looking for a little insight into why you are the way you are, these books could help. Ali Roff Farrar shares her edit of the best books to help you get to know yourself better. 

We spend every hour of every day with ourselves, so we should know our own minds better than anyone, right? But, with constant digital stimulation, stressful to-do lists and all the other distractions in our modern world, it can often seem as if we aren’t sure what we want, why we make the choices we make, or even who we really are. So, how do we get to know ourselves better? From befriending your subconscious to understanding how your childhood experiences shaped who you are today, these brilliant books might just have the answers you’ve been looking for . . . 

Get to know your brain

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Book cover for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

Want to know who (or what) is really behind your behaviour? Or the understand the relationship between your thoughts and emotions? Ever wondered if your personality was the result of nature, or nurture? Listed in Amazon’s Best Books of 2020, renowned neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain consists of seven essays, each one delivering fast and fascinating lessons on the brain to help you understand yours, and therefore yourself, a little better. It includes a fascinating essay explaining that we are born with our brains ‘under construction’ and remain that way for a pretty long time; ‘They don’t take on their full adult structure and function until they finish their principal wiring, a process that takes about twenty-five years.’

Get to know your subconscious mind

The Cambridge Code

by Emma Loveridge

Book cover for The Cambridge Code

There’s the conscious mind, and then there’s the subconscious mind – the part of our psyche which we don’t have easy access to, yet dictates a lot of who we are and the choices we make in life. These two realms of our psyche have often been likened to an iceberg – the top visible portion being the conscious mind, and the bottom portion hidden from view being our subconscious. But what if we could put on our swimming goggles and take a look at the invisible portion? The Cambridge Code: One Simple Test to Uncover Who You Are by Dr Emma Loveridge and Dr Curly Moloney reaches beyond established psychological measurement and psychotherapy, and provides its readers with a profile of their subconscious, helping us to understand the hidden ‘unconscious’ mind which is responsible for much of how we think, behave and react. 

Get to know who you are in a relationship


by Amir Levine

Book cover for Attached

What kind of relationship personality do you have? In Attached: Are you Anxious, Avoidant or Secure? How the science of adult attachment can help you find – and keep – love, Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel Heller explore how understanding your attachment style could help you understand yourself better within your relationships. According to attachment theory, in relationships we behave in one of three ways: anxious, avoidant, and secure.  Levine and Keller break each attachment style down, and with the use of quizzes and psychological expertise, help you to identify your own and recognise others’, so that you can create happy and balanced relationships. 

Get to know how your childhood influenced who you are now

What Happened to You?

by Oprah Winfrey

Book cover for What Happened to You?

Often, when we ask ‘why am I the way I am?’, we speculate whether the answer is connected to our experiences in childhood. In What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, authors Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, who experienced numerous childhood traumas herself, ask ‘how do our childhoods influence who we are as adults?’. Together, they explore the idea of asking not ‘what’s wrong with you?’, but instead, ‘what happened to you?’, and discuss the impact of what happens to us in childhood (be it good or bad) on both our physical and emotional health.

Get to know where you are, and where you’re going


Book cover for Wayfinding

How does the world around us impact who we are? And not just the events that happen within our external surroundings, but where we find ourselves spatially in our environment and how we travel through it? In Wayfinding, Michael Bond explores our evolutionary relationship with the way in which we move around the places we inhabit, arguing that we are ‘wayfinders’, ‘explorers to the bone’ and that our spatial abilities are ‘fundamental to what makes us human.’ It even covers some fascinating research and reasoning behind how men and women navigate and see the world around them so differently. Wayfinding is for anyone interested in what ‘home’ means and why we are drawn to return to it, how our physical surroundings influence our behaviour and emotions, and how having the skills to travel was integral to our survival. This is a book for explorers and wanderers who search the earth in the hope of finding themselves.

Get to know why you can’t change

Why the F*ck Can’t I Change?

by Dr Gabija Toleikyte

Book cover for Why the F*ck Can’t I Change?

Change is a complex subject – sometimes we want to change, to break bad habits, form new healthy ones, or begin new life stages. And yet other times, change is thrust upon us whether we like it or not. So why do we sometimes find change so difficult? According to neuroscientist and behavioural coach Dr Gabija Toleikyte, ‘Our brains resist sudden change for multiple reasons.’ In her book Why the F*ck Can’t I Change? she takes us to the root cause of why we form certain habits and behaviours, in order to help us understand why we find it difficult to change, and help us to kick bad habits for good.