28 Best Self-Help Books Of All Times
M0st people read self-help books for pleasure, relaxation, or for a boost of inspiration. I do it as part of my work (not that I am complaining about it). I am always on the look out for a new great self-help book, interesting psychological discovery or an uplifting video that I can later share with you. My book shelves are stuffed with motivational literature. My iPad and laptop is filled with audio books, podcasts and videos that I need or would like to watch some day.
No wonder I have learned to consume and process large quantities of information quickly and efficiently! Yet sometimes I feel the need to stop and give myself time to savor a great book: to come back to important chapters and re-read them two of three times, to write down quotes that I loved, to reflect on how it applies to my own life.
Today I would like to share some of my favorite books with you. Each and every one of these self-help books has had a great impact of my core beliefs, work priorities, habits and my relationships with other people.
My advice to you is to pick one of the books from the list that resonates with you the most and read it slowly, enjoying every single chapter.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is considered one of the first self-help books. It was published in 1936 and has since sold over 15 million copies.
I am sure you have heard of it, but if you still have not read it I suggest that you do. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is by far the best and one of the most effective books that talks about the fine art of getting along with people, resolving conflicts effectively, and frankly expressing your thoughts and feelings without ever offending those around you.
It does not matter if you would like to improve your business communication, widen your social cycle or create an atmosphere of peace and understanding at home, this book can teach you how to do it.
2. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
This best-seller book is another timeless classic that talks about 7 qualities we must develop in order to reach our full potential. If you are new to self-help, I suggest you start with this book, because it covers such major topics as; success, goal-setting, time management, personal relationships, and productivity.
Actually, I recently went to a yoga seminar dedicated to “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that talked about the spiritual dimension of this book and its similarity to Ancient Vedic knowledge.
I am not sure that Stephen Covey meant for it to become the “spiritual guide” for success, but one thing is clear – “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is filled with self-discoveries, “Aha!” moments as well as practical goal setting and productivity advice.
3. The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris
Do you know that ‘lack of time’ is one of the biggest obstacles for most people to achieve their goals? It seems that even though most of us work really hard there are still a bunch of tasks that keep getting postponed or are left unfinished.
Tim Ferris in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week” suggests an outside-the box approach to time management and prioritizing. One of the concepts that made a lot of sense to me was the idea of “selective ignorance” to give us more time to focus on things that matter the most. In our age of information overload this might be the only way to save our sanity, stay on top of things and free up a lot of time for the things we actually love doing.
I would suggest this book to anyone, but it is a life saver for all self-employed people, who manage their own work schedule.
4. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
If the title of the book is not convincing enough for you to read it, let me tell you that “Think and Grow Rich” lies at the base of “The Secret” movie and the whole Law of Attraction Concept.
The idea behind this book is simple, yet extremely powerful. It states that our reality is a direct reflection of our thoughts. It means that if we want to improve our financial situation the first step we should take is not applying for a loan or looking for another job, but changing the way we think about money and creating an abundance mindset.
You can read Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and grow Rich” for free here.
5. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse wrote one of his most famous novels – Siddhartha after returning from a trip to India in the 1910’s. Although, the book was written more than 100 years ago it has not lost its actuality. It talks about a spiritual journey of the son of Brahmin called Siddhartha, who leaves his home in search of enlightenment. Like many of us, Siddhartha is set to find a answers to the timeless questions “What is my life purpose?”, “Why am I here?”, “Where can I find true happiness?”. His spiritual journey is not just a captivating story that makes great reading during your leisure time. It is a source of many life lessons and discoveries.
I believe that “Siddhartha” is a great book to own, re-read several times and give to your friends as a gift.
Here is the link to read the book online for free and check it out for yourself.
6. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck
The first line of the book immediately grabs your attention. It simply states “Life is difficult” and I bet everyone can relate to this to some extent. But guess what? This is good news. Because our problems are the best motivators of our mental and spiritual growth.
In his book Dr. Peck does not tell us how to lead a problem free life or avoid getting hurt in relationships, but he gives us some valuable lessons on how to learn to delay gratification, accept complete responsibility for our decisions and what to do to make our personal relationships work. If you are going through a difficult time in your life, “Road Less Traveled” is the book you want to get. After all there is a reason, why it has spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into 23 languages and has sold more than 10 million copies.
7. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Grey
If you sometimes wonder what is going on in the head of the opposite sex and why things that seem so obvious to you are so hard for your partner to grasp, this book contains the answers to your questions. When reading “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” you will find yourself laughing and nodding your head more than onone single occasion. And if you take the advice to heart, it will noticeably improve your communication with the opposite sex. Less conflicts and less stress guaranteed!
8. Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino
Each one of Og Mandino’s 19 books is a masterpiece, but the book I want to tell you about is called “Greatest Salesman in the World”.
Do not be fooled by the title of this book, as it is not a manual on how to sell things (although, it may be very helpful for people who are working in the marketing and sales area). “Greatest Salesman in the World” is an inspiring novel about a man named Hafid who wanted to become the greatest salesman in the world.
Og Mandino believes that every single person is a salesman and our first task is to sell ourselves … no, not to other people, but to ourselves.
Reading this book might not make you the richest person in the world, but if you follow the advice given in this book, it will profoundly transform your character, boost your self-confidence and open up career and business opportunities that you otherwise would have ignored.
9. Taking Flight, by Anthony de Mello
Is a collection of short spiritual stories and anecdotes that; teach you valuable life lessons without preaching, talk about spirituality without forcing religious dogmas and allow you to make a few self-discoveries without pointing out your shortcomings.
I have always believed that it does not take much to overcomplicate such topics as spirituality and self-development. It is much harder to talk and explain spiritual concepts in a way that is easy to understand and fun to read. Anthony de Mello in his book “Taking Flight” has managed to do just that.
10. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale
His first book -“The Power of Positive Thinking” with simple anecdotes on how to overcome adversity through strong faith, was rejected by more than 30 publishers before it became one of the most successful non-fiction books of all time.
11. Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
Distinguished psychologists Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves have redefined with their book the way people think about intelligence. The authors believe that our ability to perceive, control and evaluate our emotions is just as important as our IQ or critical thinking skills. In most cases the main reason why we react without thinking, fail to motivate ourselves or fail to get along with people lies in our inability to deal with our emotions effectively and to use them to our advantage. This great book contains proven strategies that help us to do just this.
Should I also mention that “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” has also received positive feedback from the Dalai Lama and Stephen Covey?
12. Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins
There is no need to explain who Anthony Robbins is. You have probably heard about him and his motivational talks and workshops. But if you still have not read “Awaken the Giant Within”, you might want to give it a try.
The main idea of the book is that we already have everything we need to improve our life and achieve our goals. The problem is that we do not have a clear idea about what we want and which goals to pursue first. If this rings true “Awaken the Giant Within” should be on your Amazon’s wish list.
13. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra
Many people are convinced that success is attained through hard work, powerful ambition and continuous execution of well-developed plans. Deepak Chopra offers a completely different perspective on attaining success and leading a happy life. For him “Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals. Success is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease.”
If just like me, you have always believed that material wealth is just a small part of our success potential, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” may help you understand yourself better, revise your goals and actions, and uncover the spiritual side of true success and happiness.
14. Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
This book tells a captivating story about Dan Millman’s university days, when he dreamed of becoming a world-champion gymnast and hoped to find his path in life.
Dan’s life changes when at an all-night gas station he meets his 96-year-old mentor Socrates, who shows him a side of existence few people have ever seen. It is easy to recognize yourself in Dan’s thinking and his beliefs, but as he questions and transforms his beliefs, so do the readers.
“Way of the Peaceful Warrior” shows you a way of becoming a “warrior” yourself, and learning to value consciousness over intelligence, strength in spirit, over strength in body, continuous learning over knowledge.
15. The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz
Michelangelo believed that aiming too low in life is much worse than aiming high and missing your mark. Think about it – how often do we prefer to play it safe, to be the last one to voice our wishes, to accept obediently what comes our way rather than trying to change what we do not like about our current situation?
“The Magic of Thinking Big”, written Dr. Schwartz and rooted in psychology and his personal experience helps to identify which thought patterns are trapping us in a smaller existence and how to overcome them. After all, it is only when we see things for what they could be, rather than for what they are that we start setting goals that stretch our abilities, rather than ‘atrophy’ them.
16. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
“The Alchemist” is one of those books that you read in one sitting, but continue to think about for days. It talks about the importance of trusting your heart, paying attention to seemingly inconspicuous signs the Universe sends us and of not being afraid to leave everything behind and setting off on a long journey if it will help you grow both mentally and spiritually.
I will leave you to discover the plot and the ending of the story by yourself, as I do not want to ruin it for you. I will however, tell you that after “The Alchemist” was published in 1988 it has sold over 11 million of copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
In addition to “The Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho has written luminous novels about the different streams of our lives, including “The Pilgrimage”, “By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept”, “The Valkyries”, “The Fifth Mountain”, and “Veronika Decides to Die”.
17. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is considered a classic for anyone, who is looking to improve their financial situation and re-evaluate their relationship with money. I believe that this book is also a must read for anyone, who is interested in self-improvement and spiritual growth. Kyosaki’s approach towards money and wealth is enlightening. He believes that wealth is not about status or power. It is simply a tool to personal freedom and an asset that makes it easier to help other people improve their life.
18. The Secret, by Rhona Byrne
If you have seen the movie “Secret” which talks about the Law of Attraction, you will also like Rhona Byrne’s book. And while I do not completely agree that the Law of Attraction is the panacea for all our problems, I am a strong believer that the first step to changing our reality starts with changing our thoughts.
19. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle
“The Power of Now” was a best-seller from the start, but when Oprah Winfrey said that it is one of her favorite books, people rushed out to buy it.
This book talks about the only moment that shapes our future and is within our control – which is now. This concept might not be new to you, but it is always great to be reminded about the importance of living in the moment.
20. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
An intriguing book from the Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow” suggests that one of the highest states humans can attain is that of “flow”. This mental state of complete effortless concentration and enjoyment of an activity. If you ever were involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and that you lost track of time, you know what being in a flow feels like.
In his book Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive, creative and effortless state can be achieved and controlled.
21. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
In this wonderful book Don Miguel Ruiz shares the wisdom that he received from his ancestors – the Toltecs. He believes that in order for us to be happy we need to make 4 agreements with ourselves: be honest with our word; do not make assumptions; always strive to do our best and, my favorite, do not take anything personally.
Now, reading this book might not change your life overnight, but it could be the first step towards not judging yourself and others.
22. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, by Martin Seligman
Even if you consider yourself to be an optimism, you can still benefit from reading “Learned Optimism” as it offers some very powerful and practical techniques that will help you to stay positive in most life situations.
23. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” has been one of my favorite books since I was 14. In general, I would say that it is an all-time classic for those, who have just embarked on the journey of self-improvement and spiritual discovery.
It is also a perfect book to take on a trip with you as you can finish it in just a few hours.
24. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch
Not long after Randy Pausch, computer science professor, learned that he had pancreatic cancer, he gave one of his most motivating speeches to his Students at Carnegie Mellon. Pausch named his lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” where he shared his personal story of overcoming obstacles to achieve his dreams. His book “The Last Lecture” was published shortly before his death and it is dedicated to the more personal lessons that he learned in life. When you read “Time is all you have… and you may find one day that you have less than you think” it really shifts your perception of how you want to spend the day.
Watch the video Randy Pausch’s inspiring “Last Lecture” here.
25. The Aladdin Factor, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Based on the parable of Aladdin, “The Aladdin Factor” teaches one valuable and often overlooked skill –the ability to ask for what we want. It is mind-blowing how many opportunities we let pass by, simply because we do not speak up. We wait for months before finally talking to our boss about a possible raise, we feel embarrassed to ask for bargains on the products that we like, and we are usually too proud or too stubborn to ask for help when we need it.
I know that for a long time this was a big problem for me. If you too feel that an act of giving comes much easier to you than an act of asking for help and receiving it, “The Aladdin Factor” has been written for you!
26. Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, by Spencer Johnson
- Ignoring it and waiting for the problem to go away
- Anticipating it and stepping out of your comfort zone
“Who moved my Cheese?” is a must-read for anyone who is in need of a little push in the right direction.
27. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by Dalai Lama
It is important to learn from people, who practice what they preach. And who, if not the Dalai Lama, is more entitled to talk about such topics as happiness, compassion, true love and forgiveness? I personally use this book as an anti-stress medicine. Whenever I feel nervous, stressed out or frustrated, I take “The Art of Happiness” off the shelf, open it at a random page and start reading. In about 5 minutes all of my negative emotions disappear, allowing me to regain my peace of mind. It makes me wonder if Dalai Lama's tranquility and optimism are contagious?
28. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
This is a newer self-help book, written by Leo Babauta – the creator and the owner of #1 blog ZenHabits.net.
Leo’s simple message of identifying the essential and eliminating the unnecessary in order to achieve goals of real value resonates with many people. Tired of being constantly busy and stressed out, of not having time for anything, and having to shovel down our lunch in a hurry, we urge for simplicity, tranquility and peace of mind.
“The Power of Less” helps to regain our balance and get rid of things, seemingly urgent tasks, and multiple distractions that steal our focus and clutter our life.
To get to know Leo Babauta and his life philosophy check out his free ebook “Thriving on Less: Simplifying in a Tough Economy“.
What is your favorite self-help book?
I am sure there are quite a few great books that I did not mention or have not read yet.
Please share them in the comment section below.