If there’s any habit I’m glad I developed at a young age, it’s a hunger for reading personal development books. There are a variety of books on personal development that can teach you a lot about the way the world works and how to succeed in life and business.
We all have goals we want to achieve and would love help wherever possible. Reading is an underrated way to learn from people who have already mastered a skill you want to learn. Through reading people’s experiences you can learn about common pitfalls to avoid while getting expert tips on how to find success in a certain area.
It’s all too easy in today’s world to be so focused on our little bubble that we don’t get to learn about the experiences of others. But when you make time for reading, you are essentially able to step into another world (and we’re not just talking about fiction books) and another person’s experience.
Have you ever noticed the difference between people who read a lot and people who don’t? People who read a lot often have a lot of unique insights and stories about topics and cultures that most people might not know about.
Reading enables you to embark on an interesting journey without ever leaving your house. But it goes further than that – if you pick specific books, such as books on personal development – you can learn from the experts and implement useful tips to generate impressive results.
That’s the advantage of reading non-fiction personal development books.
With that in mind, here are some popular books that millions of people have read to improve their productivity, relationships and mindset. Hopefully this list can help you identify books on personal development that will be most relevant to you and your journey.
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To start with, let me share a few of my favourite personal development books.
By the way, if you'd like to read one of the personal development books mentioned below, you can sign up and get a free audiobook here.
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is a game-changing book that I think everyone should read. If you're struggling to find focus on the projects you need to complete, this is a book that can help you to set priorities. We simply cannot reach our goals without having a clear picture of what's important to us. Without this clear picture, we get distracted and there becomes too many things to go after, so we end up getting nothing done.
One thing that I appreciated about this book is that it helps you figure out the most productive way to spend your time, whether you're a business owner, professional, or creative. It gets you asking the right questions so that the steps you need to reach your desired outcome become crystal clear.
I have a confession to make - I felt somewhat humbled after reading this book because it made me reflect on human relationships in a way I'd never done before.
The concepts in How to Win Friends and Influence People aren't complicated or unheard of, but the way the book is written and structured helps you to see why the people skills mentioned within it matter so much.
This book will help you develop valuable people skills that endear you to others and make you well-respected and liked. Through its analysis of human nature, you will learn what behaviours people respond best to and how to use such knowledge to have a greater impact.
This is a great read for anyone looking to experience meaningful growth in life, career, or business. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker is a book that helps you develop intrapersonal intelligence by analyzing yourself to identify your learning style and greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Managing Oneself is quite a short book - you can read it in a day - yet the principles can potentially improve the way you work and communicate for the rest of your life. Once you learn the skills needed to manage yourself, you automatically put yourself in a position where you can better manage others and be well-qualified for leadership roles.
The book reads like a personal mentor giving advice about what works and what doesn't, to help you improve the way you operate your life. I like the fact that Peter Drucker doesn't sugar coat things, he relates sobering facts about the knowledge economy that are relevant to us all.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is a top personal development book and one I highly recommend for those who are trying to create better habits. Charles Duhigg didn't take any shortcuts in creating this well-researched and insightful book. The book is full of fascinating examples and scientific studies that show how our brains are wired and how we can change our lives by changing our habits.
The Power of Habit was a book I couldn't put down, with its gripping narratives that take you from the boardrooms of Procter and Gamble, to the civil rights movement, to the sidelines of the NFL in explaining how human nature works.
This book will teach you the science behind habit creation and reformation and show you how to apply the ideas in your life so you can be more productive, exercise regularly, and achieve any other goal you've been struggling with.
Dealing with change is something we all experience, but we often end up dealing with it from a place of fear and stress. Who Moved My Cheese intelligently uses a tale of two mice and two "little people" to highlight people's typical reactions to change, whether it's in their personal or professional life.
The world is always rapid changing, even before we had the pandemic. Developing a proper attitude towards change is important so that you are able to be resilient and adapt quickly, and so you don't get left behind.
The lessons in this book can help you avoid freaking out whenever someone 'moves your cheese', that is, an unexpected change or obstacle appears and disrupts your life in some way.
For me, this book helped transform my perspective on change so that I now have more of an anticipatory approach. It's also helped me become more aware of the opportunities that often accompany a change in circumstances. It's a relief to look at the future from a place of confidence instead of fear and anxiety.
Crushing It! is a book by Gary Vaynerchuk that teaches you how to create a personal brand and thriving business by utilizing social media. The book contains the experiences of dozens of influencers and entrepreneurs who have made their dreams come true and achieved financial success by creating online communities.
This book is a good read for anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship and building a business as an online expert or influencer. Vaynerchuk speaks on a number of different social media platforms and gives advice on how to stand out and connect with your audience on each one.
I think one of the greatest benefits of reading this book is tapping into Gary's insight into timeless principles that are always relevant, regardless of what online platform is currently in vogue.
Deep Work by Cal Newport is another personal development book that truly impacted me (in a way similar to The One Thing). It's rich with practical suggestions that can help you develop intense focus and carve out time for activities that will make a difference in your life.
Just to be clear, this is a book that will make you feel guilty but help you at the same time. Cal Newport boldly points to the shocking reality of how much people have lost the ability to focus in our modern world. He also brings light to the mass distraction and loss of productivity caused by social media.
This book helped me realize how costly it is to be distracted, and how it important it is that we each make a conscious decision to pay attention to our attention span. When you master the principles of Deep Work, you'll find that you are able to attain a level of focus you've probably not experienced in a long time, and you'll be able to produce better results in less time.
This is a book I highly recommend even for productivity experts, let alone the average person. There's a lot to be learned from Cal Newport's narrative on deep work and the rigorous training regimen he prescribes to transform your mind and habits.
Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht is a fantastic book in the career development category. I would say the tone of the book reflects more of a female target audience, but the principles apply to everyone who wants to move up in their career.
Aliza Licht, previous Senior Vice President of Global Communications at DKNY, offers insightful tips on how people can make a great impression especially when starting out in their career. Her book offers personal and professional guidance for handling a range of situations that often come up in the workplace. She gives great advice and her passion for mentoring really shines through the book.
I particularly benefited from Aliza's expert tips on brand building. She's a proven social media superstar and knows a lot about how to cultivate an engaged audience.
Her book contains important insights on how to best navigate the contemporary workplace and make connections, and you'll learn a tip or two on professional etiquette!
This is an incredibly famous book that you've probably heard a lot about, and for good reason. This book is a detailed blueprint for how to escape the 9-5 and become financially independent for life. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is a significant book for personal development because it opens your mind up to career possibilities that they don't teach in schools.
Tim Ferriss explains how he went from working eighty hours per week for $40,000 per year to earning $40,000 per month in just four hours per week, allowing him to travel the world and fulfill his dreams—and how you can, too.
A valuable lesson taught by the 4-Hour Workweek is that you don't have to subscribe to the idea of working hard through the best years of your life only to retire at the end. His book contains case studies of people who have doubled their income, overcome limiting beliefs and are living life on their own schedule.
This is an excellent book on personal development and success that you won't hear about in most places. A relative found this book in a charity shop in the UK and shared it with me, and I'm so glad I was introduced to it. Introducing Psychology of Success: A Practical Guide is a book by Alison and David Price that contains real-life case studies and powerful techniques to help you overcome adversity and stay motivated to achieve your goals.
Alison Price is a business psychologist, inspirational keynote speaker, and international training consultant. David Price is an expert in positive psychology, sports psychology, peak performance coaching and NLP. Together they created this excellent guide to help people understand the process of achieving goals and the mental framework that is needed to find success. I've read this book over and over again and used the exercises inside - it has been instrumental in helping me nurture a constructive and driven mindset.
Read this book: get hard copy on amazon
Below are some other books on personal development. You'll notice some classics and others by authors who are widely recognized in the personal development niche.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a landmark motivational bestseller that discusses the secret behind the most wealthy people who have ever lived. While the title implies that this book deals only with how to achieve monetary wealth, the author explains that the philosophy taught in the book can be used to help individuals do or be almost anything they want in this world.
The books talks about how you can imprint your goals and desires into your subconscious mind. The idea is that the more knowledge you accumulate, the more your subconscious mind will accept it and use it in your favour.
If you've ever been interested in understanding human nature and being able to decode people, then this is the book for you. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People is a book that teaches you how to make better impressions with people by sharing some fascinating insights into human psychology.
The author of the book is Vanessa Edwards, founder of the Science of People (I've also taken her excellent CreativeLive course). In this book, Vanessa takes you by the hand and shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behaviour hacks for having excellent interactions with people you meet every day.
The book is entertaining but also comprehensive and fully based on science in its approach to developing meaningful connections. It demonstrates how you can apply the principles of body language to understand people's needs and predict their emotions. The book also contains exercises that can help you have better quality conversations with people, even strangers that you've just met.
When you understand the laws of human behaviour, you learn how to get along with anyone and your influence, impact, and income ultimately increase. Vanessa's book is definitely worth a read.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants the freedom and independence of being self-employed. Before age 35, Chris Guillebeau completed a tour of basically every country on earth. He's never had a 'real job', because he's learned how to be financially independent. Chris Guillebeau has a special talent for turning ideas into income, and he wrote The $100 Startup to teach others how to do the same.
Chris interviewed 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases $100 or less) and the book focuses on the 50 most intriguing case studies. This book is great because it's specific and shows you what the individuals did in the first weeks and months of their business to generate cash.
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason is a book that contains some very important life lessons that everyone should learn. It's essentially a personal finance book that lays down the fundamentals of money management through simple storytelling - a collection of parables set 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon.
The book is considered a personal finance classic, and something that makes it special is the fact that it is based on timeless principles. The Richest Man in Babylon gave me a fresh perspective on earning, saving and investing money. Some highlights including principles on living within your means, the "Seven Cures" on how to generate money and wealth, and the "Five Laws of Gold" on how to protect and invest wealth.
This book is beautifully written and was a refreshing read. It is alive with many fascinating stories that teach valuable lessons on cultivating good money habits. You don't need to understand financial jargon to benefit from this book - I'd even recommend it as a gift to teens.
Tools of Titans is another book by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. The book showcases the the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers.
Ferriss had interviewed over 200 world-class performers for his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, from huge celebrities and athletes to legendary Special Operations Commanders and black-market chemists. He decided to package tips, insights, and life lessons from past and new guests into his book, to show people how to transform their own lives.
This book is an useful book for personal development because it focuses on actionable details that you can actually implement. It covers areas such as: What do these people do in the first 60 minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they most gifted to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?
When I read Tools of Titans I found certain interviews so useful that I went on to also read books that the guests had mentioned or written themselves.
Read this book: get hard copy on amazon
Awaken the Giant Within is a book by bestselling author and motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. The book is a step-by-step program where Robbins shares his most effective strategies and techniques for mastering your emotions, your body, your relationships, your finances and your life.
Many people find that they are not fulfilled because they are not setting and achieving long-term goals. This book asks you to redefine yourself, your big why, and your identity. It also encourages readers to realize their flaws and take action and responsibility for their self-improvement. Robbins explains that when we are willing to take the plunge and go big in making life changes, our returns will match our effort.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is considered the #1 personal finance book of all time and has been translated into dozens of languages and sold around the world. The book is Robert Kiyosaki's story of growing up with two dads - his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad - and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing.
The principles in this book can transform the way a person thinks about money by understanding the differences between assets and liabilities. Kiyosaki emphasizes how important it is that people educate themselves financially and learn to have money work for them, rather than just following the crowd and conventional wisdom in working for money.
I think this is an important personal development book that everyone should read as a basis for improving their financial education. The principles in this book are very valuable, but sadly not taught in schools.
The book addresses questions such as: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike?
Start with Why shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same why - and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common but they all started with WHY, the vital element that gets people interested and inspired.
This is a powerful book for entrepreneurs, aspiring leaders and those who seek to create a community of like-minded individuals.
The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco is a book that provides the framework and mindset for finding opportunities that can provide sustainable wealth.
DeMarco challenges conventional wisdom and how society encourages people to spend their whole lives working only to push off enjoying the fruits of their labour at retirement - when they're old and frail.
He describes three different paths that people take:
The book is designed to change your perception on wealth and money and show you how you can get much more out of life than most people do.
Read this book: get hard copy on amazon
How can you multiply your success and achieve phenomenal results over time? By using a clever technique called compounding.
The Compound Effect is a book by Darren Hardy that outlines how you can reap huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions. It's the #1 strategy you can use to achieve any goal and triumph over any competitor even if they're smarter, more talented or more experienced.
This strategy is what very successful people use to accelerate their progress, and it's something you can use too. I highly recommend reading this book, I've seen the power of compounding and again in my life, and I think it's something that people often underestimate.
Here is the list of the top 20 books for personal development I mentioned above (the order is just for the sake of numbering):
6) Crushing It!
7) Deep Work
13) The $100 Startup
15) Tools of Titans
18) Start with Why
Having this list of personal development books is great, but this in itself won’t benefit you unless you do two things:
1) Select the books that apply to you and start reading them
2) Apply what you learn
There’s a lot you can learn from the books above, but in order to benefit from them you have to set aside time in your schedule to read. Of course, like the majority of people, you’re likely a busy person. Yet, reading is an important part of life that shouldn’t be neglected.
If you make time to read and apply the lessons in these books, you’ll notice significant positive changes in your life. Check out my post on Why I Find Time to Read Even When I’m Really Busy for more on this.
You should also read with the active goal of applying what you read. You don’t have to be in a rush, it’s not a competition. Just make sure to be present in the pages of your chosen book. Make notes, draw diagrams if you need, save quotes that resonate with you. Have discussions about what you read.
One way to get a tremendous amount of value out of personal development books is to keep a journal where you write down each book and one or two takeaways that you will starting implementing today. Remember, reading books is a shortcut to mastering a topic you’re interested in. If you listen and look closely enough you’ll find that the answers are all there, and yours for the taking.
On that note, I think there’s a very important book for personal development that often escapes these lists, and it’s the bible. It’s actually the world’s most popular book and the basis for successful principles in all the other personal development books. Most people won’t highlight it or reference its surpassing value, but I believe we should always give credit where it’s due.
Hopefully this post has helped you identify some books that you’ll like to start reading. I recommend signing up for a free audiobook of your choice here so you can get one of these books right away.
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