I read a lot and I accredit my love of reading to helping me achieve many of my goals and succeses in life. Reading helps me maintain focus and motivation to strive for constant self-improvement. It helps me de-stress, stay curious, learn, grow and stay interested in life. I’m a self-development and personal growth book junkie so I’ve put together this list of the best self-development books, or at least the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
Make it a Habit
One of my favourite and most cherished habits is waking up at 4:30 to read and write for an hour over coffee. I know 4:30 am isn’t realistic to most people but could you get up just 30 minutes earlier than you have to? Could you cut your TV in half and replace it with reading time in the evenings? Could you listen to podcasts while you commute? If you think you don’t have time read but would like to read more, I encourage you to take a look at your day. There is always time. Make reading a priority and it’s easy it to fit it in. 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there can really add up.
Tips to Make Reading a Habit
- Commit. Commit to reading 10 or 20 pages a day, split it up if you have to.
- Schedule it. Schedule reading times into your day.
- Be accountable. Join a book club or get a friend to be book partners with.
- Be prepared. Always have a book with you, either on your phone, an audiobook or stash a printed book in your bag.
- Plan ahead. Spend a bit of time research what books you want to read and choose 1-2 for each month. I get a lot of ideas for books from listening to podcasts, reading articles on Medium or browsing Goodreads.
Use OverDrive for Library Books
I use the OverDrive app to take out e-books from the library rather than spending a fortune on them.f a book I want to read isn’t available as an e-book, I’ll place it on hold so I can simply pop into the library and pick it up. Another benefits of using OverDrive is I always have books on my phone so I can take advantage of opportune times to read. Waiting in line, waiting for dinner, we spend a lot of time waiting so why not fill up those minutes with something productive?
Best Self-Development Books
This list includes categories such as self-love, mindfulness, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, biographies, creativity, performance, productivity and habits. I suppose these all fall under the category of self-improvement, so we’ll call this list the best self-development books either way.
If you’re looking for the best books on plant-based nutrition, you can find my recommendations here.
Best Mindfulness, Spirituality and Self-Love Books
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
by John Kabat-Zinn
“In some ways, it’s as if you died and the world continued on. If you did die, all your responsibilities and obligations would immediately evaporate. Their residue would somehow get worked out without you. No one else can take over your unique agenda. It would die or peter out with you just as it has for everyone else who has ever died. So you don’t need to worry about it in any absolute way. If this is true, maybe you don’t need to make one more phone call right now, even if you think you do. Maybe you don’t need to read something just now, or run one more errand. By taking a few moments to “die on purpose” to the rush of time while you are still living, you free yourself to have time for the present. By “dying” now in this way, you actually become more alive now.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
I really enjoyed this book and read it in just a couple days. Kabat-Zinn writes that unless we become mindful we may never be where we actually are or able to touch the fullness of our possibilities. Without mindfulness we are bound to a personal fiction that we already know who we are, where we are and where we are going, basically living in ignorance. To cultivate mindfulness is to wake up from these fantasies and pay attention to the present moment. It is only then we are able to truly live, grow and change.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
by Michael Singer
Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider these aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. The Untethered Soul explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves, and the world around us. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
by Marianne Williamson
Williamson reveals how we each can become a miracle worker by accepting God and by the expression of love in our daily lives. Whether psychic pain is in the area of relationships, career, or health, she shows us how love is a potent force, the key to inner peace, and how by practicing love we can make our own lives more fulfilling while creating a more peaceful and loving world for our children.
by Dan Harris
10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
by Deborah Ford
In this enlightening guide, Debbie Ford explains that the dark side of our personality should not be hidden. By denying our dark side, we reject these aspects of our true natures rather than giving ourselves the freedom to live authentically. Here she shows that it is possible to acknowledge and accept our so-called weaknesses, proving that these qualities may be important, hidden strengths. For example, perhaps some ‘selfishness’ can save us from exhaustion and resentment. Full of illuminating stories and practical exercises, Debbie Ford shows us how to reconcile our darker impulses and find the gifts they offer. Your life will be transformed when you unconceal, own, and embrace your shadow.
Live the Best Story of Your Life
by Bob Litwin
Live the Best Story of Your Life does not shift what we do, it shifts who we are. It will also show you how to get clear on your old stories and learn to leave them in the past, discover the excitement and energy of your new story, access the 33 strategies followed by people who always seem to win at life. I loved this read!
This is one of my favourites. I own a copy and refer back to it often. I might be a little cheesy for some but I love this stuff.
“You are what you think about all day long. You are also what you say to yourself all day long. If you say that you are old and tired, this mantra will be manifested in your external reality. If you say you are weak and lack enthusiasm, this too will be the nature of your world. But if you say that you are healthy, dynamic and fully alive, your life will be transformed. Words have remarkable power.” ― Robin S. Sharma, Daily Inspiration From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
You Can Heal Your Life
by Louise Hay
“Life Is Really Very Simple. What We Give Out, We Get Back. What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by our thoughts and our feelings. The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.”― Lousie Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.” ― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brene Brown
I love this book and I’ve read it a couple of times. I feel like every line I read, I’m like hey that’s me! If you struggle with self-doubt and fear, this book is a game changer. I highly recommend it, in fact I recommend any of Brene Brown’s books, you’ll find them all below!
Braving the Wilderness
by Brene Brown
by Brene Brown
The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith
by Gabby Bernstein
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz
In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
Best Creativity Books
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
This is one of my favourite books. If you struggle with perfectionism and fear of creating and putting yourself out there, it’s a must-read! It’s a good one to keep on your shelf and refer back to often.
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.
The Obstacle is the Way
by Ryan Halliday
Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.
If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
by Josh Waitzkin
The Art of Learning takes readers through Waitzkin’s unique journey to excellence. He explains in clear detail how a well-thought-out, principled approach to learning is what separates success from failure. Waitzkin believes that achievement, even at the championship level, is a function of a lifestyle that fuels a creative, resilient growth process. Rather than focusing on climactic wins, Waitzkin reveals the inner workings of his everyday method, from systematically triggering intuitive breakthroughs, to honing techniques into states of remarkable potency, to mastering the art of performance psychology.
Best Performance, Productivity and Habits Books
by James Clear
The 5 Am Club
by Robin Sharma
A neuroscience-based practice proven to help make it easy to rise while most people are sleeping, giving you precious time for yourself to think, express your creativity and begin the day peacefully instead of being rushed Insider-only tactics to defend your gifts, talents and dreams against digital distraction and trivial diversions so you enjoy fortune, influence and a magnificent impact on the world
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance
“There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.” ― Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success
I heard Hal Elrod on a podcast years ago, right after he’d released this book and he inspired me to start a morning routine that I’ve continued every since and it’s been a life-changer. I’d always been an early riser but now I get up and use my mornings with much more intention and focus.
Ego is the Enemy
This is one of my favourites for calling yourself on your own bullsh*t. I own a copy and refer back to it often. My biggest take away from this book is to just shut up, put your head down and work hard for the right reasons.
The Power of Habit
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Carol Dueck
This books talk about the difference between having a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and how to move from one to the other if you’ve been stuck in a fixed mindset. Excellent read!
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”. ― Carol S. Dweck,
Do Less, Get More: How to Work Smart and Live Life Your Way
by Shaa Wasmund
Do you put yourself under too much pressure to succeed, which only makes it harder to achieve? Are you constantly playing catch-up and struggling to find time for the things, and people, you love? It doesn’t have to be this way. Anything is possible when you stop trying to do everything at the same time.
Often it’s fear that keeps us stuck in our patterns. If we’re super busy then no one can say we’re not working hard. But there’s another way to live a life that’s both more enjoyable and more productive, if only we can break those routines. In Do Less, Get More, entrepreneur and bestselling author Shaa Wasmund reveals that when we embrace a “less is more” attitude, we can appreciate all the good things we already have and find the courage to prune the nonessentials. And then we can find the space in which to pursue exciting new opportunities.
The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life
by Thomas M. Sterner
If you haven’t read this, do it! It’s all about productivity, inspiration and entrepreneurship and I’d have to say, it’s life-changing read. Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.
Be Obsessed or Be Average
by Grant Cardone
If you want real success, you have to know how to harness your obsession to rocket to the top. This book will give you the inspiration and tools to break out of your cocoon of mediocrity and achieve your craziest dreams. Grant will teach you how to set crazy goals and reach them, every single day, how to value money and spend it on the right things so you get more of it and shut down the doubter and use your haters as fuel. It’s a simple choice: be obsessed or be average.
The Productivity Project teaches you how to slow down to work more deliberately, shrink unimportant tasks, how to strive for imperfection, how to use productive procrastination and more. It’s an eye-opening and thoroughly engaging read, Bailey offers a ton of insights and over 25 practices that will help you accomplish more in every facet of life.
High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Became That Way
by Brendan Buchard
We all want to be high performing in every area of our lives. But how? Which habits can help you achieve long-term success and vibrant well-being no matter your age, career, strengths, or personality? To become a high performer, you must seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage. This book is about the art and science of how to practice these proven habits.
Whether you want to get more done, lead others better, develop skill faster, or dramatically increase your sense of joy and confidence, the habits in this book will help you achieve it. Each of the six habits is illustrated by powerful vignettes, cutting-edge science, thought-provoking exercises, and real-world daily practices you can implement right now.
This was one of the first self-improvement books I read and it was the first time I started to grasp the concept that you have to take full responsibility for your life and circumstances. Not only that but with the right habits and attitude, you have the power to create anything you want in life.
“Show me someone who is humble enough to accept and take responsibility for his or her circumstances and courageous enough to take whatever initiative is necessary to creatively work his or her through or around these challenges, and I’ll show you supreme power of choice.” ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
by Mark Manson
Loved this book. It discusses a lot of common personal growth and performance themes but in a new and different tough-love kinda way. It’s a good one to get you fired up!
“My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator. The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.This often means giving up some grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world.” ― Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
In The ONE Thing, you’ll learn to cut through the clutter, achieve better results in less time, build momentum toward your goal, dial down the stress, overcome that overwhelmed feeling, revive your energy, stay on track, master what matters to you The ONE Thing delivers extraordinary results in every area of your life–work, personal, family, and spiritual. WHAT’S YOUR ONE THING?
The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.
The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure
by Grant Cardone
Extreme success is by definition outside the realm of normal action. Instead of behaving like everybody else and settling for average results, take Massive Action with The 10 X Rule, remove luck and chance from your business equation, and lock in massive success.
by Jocko Willink
Best Sports Performance Books
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
by David Goggins
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
by Phil Knight
I read this years ago when I still worked as a full-time graphic designer and although it never applied directly to my work, I still apply many of the ideas from this book.
In Delivering Happiness, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shares the different lessons he has learned in business and life, from starting a worm farm to running a pizza business, through LinkExchange, Zappos, and more. Fast-paced and down-to-earth, Delivering Happiness shows how a very different kind of corporate culture is a powerful model for achieving success-and how by concentrating on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own.
by Sophia Amaruso
I’m not a big fashion person so I learned of Sophia Amaruso after watching GirlBoss on Netflix. After watching it, I picked up her book. I love her attitude and thoughts on being yourself, trusting yourself and going after what you want.
#GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.
Best Health and Wellness Books
Whether you are suffering from irregular periods, fertility issues, depression, or lack of sex drive, Alisa Vitti says that meds and anti-depressants aren’t the only solutions. Groundbreaking and informative, WomanCode educates women about hormone health in a way that’s relevant and easy to understand. And the five-step protocol can markedly improve health and overall quality of life.
Unconventional Medicine: Join the Revolution to Reinvent Healthcare, Reverse Chronic Disease, and Create a Practice You Love
by Chris Kresser
In Unconventional Medicine, Chris Kresser presents a plan to reverse this dangerous trend. He shows how the combination of a genetically aligned diet and lifestyle, functional medicine, and a lean, collaborative practice model can create a system that better serves the needs of both patients and practitioners.
The Mind-Gut Connection
by Emeran Mayer
The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Breakthrough Program to Prevent and Reverse the Symptoms of Cognitive Decline
by Dean Sherzai and Ayesha Sherzai
Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life
by Ben Greenfield
I loved this book. It’s like a bio-hacking cheat sheet. The book is packed with practical tips to maximizing all areas of your health.
Some of my favourite sections were:
- best biohacks for enhancing mental performance and entering the zone
- how to know with laser-like accuracy whether your body has truly recovered
- how to recover quickly from workouts, injuries, and overtraining
- stress-fighting weapons to make your mind-body connection bulletproof
- Proven systems to enhance sleep, eliminate insomnia, and conquer jet lag
- high-calorie, nutrient-dense meals that won’t destroy your metabolism
- ways to fix a broken gut, detox your body, and create a toxin-free life
- how to safeguard your immune system and stomach
- tips for plant-based athletes
- tons of nutrition tips and thoughts on macronutrient balance
Best Philosophy Books
Manual for Living
by Marcus Aurelius
One of the world’s most famous and influential books, Meditations, by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121–180), incorporates the stoic precepts he used to cope with his life as a warrior and administrator of an empire. Ascending to the imperial throne in A.D. 161, Aurelius found his reign beset by natural disasters and war. In the wake of these challenges, he set down a series of private reflections, outlining a philosophy of commitment to virtue above pleasure and tranquility above happiness.
by Hermann Hesse
Letters from a Stoic
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Best Business and Entrepreneurship Books
Zero to One
by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.
Best Personal Finance Books
The Richest Man in Babylon
by George S. Clason