Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau, $16).

This book is a call to individual and collective courage. Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, writes, "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice." His work changed me.

Why Won't You Apologize? by Harriet Lerner (Touchstone, $16).

Lerner's books have shaped my life and my career. I thought I was good at apologizing and making amends, but this book challenged me in an unexpected and profound way. Imagine a world where we move away from blame and defensiveness and toward real accountability. This is the road map.

The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu (HarperOne, $16).

Of all of the topics I've studied over the past two decades, forgiveness has been the most complex and difficult. Here, Bishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter take us on a journey that has the potential to change lives and the broader culture.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (Random House, $28).

I opened this book seeking answers about the relationships between creativity, vulnerability, and courage. I didn't expect it to profoundly change the way I work. This is one of the most important leadership books of our time.

Teaching to Transgress by Bell Hooks (Routledge, $37).

This book sat next to my bed the entire first year I taught at the University of Houston. Hooks' idea of "education as the practice of freedom" shaped who I am today. Whenever difficult conversations about race, class, or gender begin to surface, I remember what she taught me: If your students are comfortable, you're not doing your job.

The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg (HarperOne, $16).

I jokingly call myself a "Borg-again Christian." Born into the Episcopalian church and raised Catholic, I bolted from organized religion when it got too hard to find God — when politics and certainty replaced mystery and faith. Years later, this book brought me back. It's a beautiful reminder of what's possible when the church commits itself to love and justice above all.

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, recently followed up her books on shame and vulnerability with Braving the Wilderness, a new best-seller about courage.