Our goals may take the form of “lose weight”, “get more exercise” or “spend more time with friends” — but if we’re honest, our real aim is to live happier, more fulfilling lives. However, meeting those goals can be a battle — or an adventure, depending on whom you ask.

Need a little inspiration and some practical advice? We’ve got some new reads and past favourites to get you started.

Books to inspire you in 2011

Changing My Mind by Margaret Trudeau

This Canadian icon has lived through a roller coaster of ups and downs… and most of it in the public eye. Now she gives readers a look into the events that shaped her turbulent life, including the loss of her son and struggle to overcome mental illness. It’s more than just a good read for the curious — her story of recovery and her passion to help others might just change the way Canada views her.

Passionate Longevity: the 10 secrets to growing younger by Elaine Dembe

If you’ve ever heard her speak, “passionate” is an accurate description of author and chiropractor Elaine Dembe. Not only is she a powerful motivator, she’s an expert on stress resiliency and longevity. Here she shares the ten principles that lead to a life that’s longer, healthier and more active. Each section zeroes in on a principle — such as sociability, creativity and vitality — and offers stories, practical tips and ideas on how to achieve each one.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by John Izzo

What if you could talk to more than two hundred people who have lived happy lives and asked them what their secrets are? That’s exactly what John Izzo did for a Biography Channel series. Izzo interviewed 230 people aged 60 – 106 to find out what it really takes to live well. The book captures what Izzo learned through his research about how to live a successful and happy life. (For a sneak-peak at the secrets, check out our Q&A with Izzo in How to live a happy life.)

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Newly out in paperback, this book serves as a guide for people who wanted to undertake their own plan to change their lives. Rubin’s story covers her goals, challenges and lessons learned while undertaking a “happiness project” to discover the things that made her happy — and to change the things that didn’t. Each chapter covers a month where Rubin tackled a specific goal, like “boost energy” or “be serious about play”. If your goals involve living well, this book provides a good framework for getting started and making them stick.

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The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

This follow-up to The Art of Happiness seeks to answer one seemingly simple, yet complex question: How can we find happiness and meaning in our lives when the modern world seems such an unhappy place? With a blend of common sense and psychiatry, meditations and conversations, the authors explore how to triumph in trying circumstances by applying Buddhist tradition to the challenges of modern life. Find out how cultural influences and ways of thinking can lead to unhappiness — and how to overcome them. Many of the concepts — like shifting from “me to we” thinking — strike a note with readers, and leave a lasting impression.

Shut Up and Live! by Marion P. Downs

How does this 93 year old Senior Olympics champion deal with the ailments of old age? “Forget about them, and get a life!” she says in her introduction — a life that includes “good sex, lots of exercise, close friends, capable doctors, intelligent eating, and a touch of the extreme.” Designed with the older reader in mind, her practical advice and personal anecdotes cover a wide range of topics from “taking care of the ol’ bod’” to writing a living will. However, what you’ll really take from the book is her sense of humour and adventurous approach to life.

The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister

At age 70 Chittister still considers herself “too young” to write this book in which she explores the many facets of aging — like wisdom, accomplishment, forgiveness and relationships — and the fresh perspective we continually gain through experience. Her frank and philosophical approach also considers the challenges and surprises that life throws at us, like ageism and loneliness. Don’t expect to absorb this one in a single sitting: it invites multiple re-readings and reflection.

Going Gray by Anne Kreamer

Her story starts with a serious case of denial, complete with overly-dyed hair and a strict regime of Botox. When she realizes she isn’t fooling anyone, she resolves to let her natural beauty shine through — silver tresses and all. However, this book is about more than hair: it’s a journey that explores aging, appearances and how we see ourselves. It’s not just about her either — Kreamer complements her experiences with interviews and surveys from men and women (including models, stylists and actors) to find out why we’re so eager to hide our age.

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Never too late by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Retirement planning is a top concern for baby boomers — especially with all the doom and gloom in the economy — and may seem like an impossible task. You might be surprised by Vaz-Oxlade’s positive approach to understanding and achieving your goals, minus the confusing formulas and scare tactics. If you’ve ever seen her TV shows, you’re already familiar with her you-can-do-it attitude — and while the advice can be adapted to your situation, you know you’ll have to work for what you want.

Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time to get your hands on a copy. The premise: a group of widows meet to celebrate Valentine’s Day — and to find some hope for the future. Each woman creates a list of things they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet had the chance. The story follows the heroine, Anne Marie Roche, and one unexpected relationship that changes her life — and proves that life has a funny way of surprising us.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

Sometimes you can’t beat a good book at sisterhood. Often likened to Steel Magnolias, this story and its sequels follow the lives of a group of women who gather every week to craft and chat — namely the lead character, Georgia Walker. The group includes women of a variety of ages and backgrounds as they deal with life’s challenges, from divorce to caregiving to finding love at any age.

If you’re a reader who hates to part with characters you know and love, you’ll be relieved to hear this best-seller has become a trio with Knit Two and Knit the Season already out in paperback and e-book form.

Know of a good book you’d like to add to this list? Share with us in the comments!

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Lobke Peers

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by:
Elizabeth Rogers