Best Self-Help Books
This is my recommended reading list of top 10 best self-help books based on what I have read so far.
It’s a perfect reading list if you are short on time but are keen on self development. You can be sure that any recommended book here is life-changing material.
If you have any comment or if you have a book that has changed your life in the self-help genre and it’s not in this reading list please let me know in the comments.
I am really curious to hear your experience and pick further book recommendations.
Great Self-Help Books
Outside of the top 10, but no less good:
The Paradox of Choice holds a special place in my heart among the best self-help books.
It was a mix of new wisdom and a new way of looking at the obvious that improved my life for the better.
The moment I realized that spending hours to pick the “best” 5 Euros draft stopper was not a one off idiocy but a pattern of behavior -yes, that’s how maximizers operate- I took a major step towards a more efficient and happier life.
This book can do the same for you if you’re a maximizer or a perfectionist.
Quote: “your life hurtles away as you compare identical products with different logos”
Have you wondered how to find your passion? That must be one of the most frequently asked questions.
Well, Angela Duckworth has the answer for you. You don’t find your passions: you develop them.
Then stay gritty on them, stick with it over the long term and reap the rewards.
The formula for a happy and successful life, after all, is simple.
Note: I demoted Grit from the top 10 after realizing that the author pretended to discover and measure the trait of “grit”, something that instead had already existed in the psychology literature.
Quote: “Greatness truly is within reach to each one of us who stays committed“
Robert Greene’s manic research, literary genius and deep grasp of human nature and psychology applied to self-development.
A must red, of course.
My favorite takeaways are: 1. learn your dark side and basest drives and channel them for something to positive; 2. judge people by their strength of character first and foremost.
Quote: “The longer you can resist reacting, the more metal space for actual reflection“
Relentless cracks the top 10 self-help books for first opening my eyes on the power of the dark side.
Contrary to most “find happiness” books Grover says you don’t need to eradicate pain. That rage, that sense of of not being enough, those vindictive feelings… You can use them. Tap into your dark side to reach ever higher highs.
Quote: “To get what you really want you must first be who you really are”
9. The Millionaire Fastlane
Two things really got me about this book:
1. The paradox of practice: if authors selling get rich products got rich selling to you, are they credible? Probably not..
2. Slow lane wake up call: employees, duped by the compound interest myth, trade invaluable time today for distant (and uncertain) riches.
And the fastlane.. ? You’ll have to read the book.
Quote: “Dump the damn job. The job sucks”
8. The Happiness Advantage
If you, just like the majority of people, thought that to be happy you needed to achieve a certain goal, this book is for you.
It turns that idea upside down as it shows, with data and convincing arguments, that it doesn’t work that.
One because you will not be happy when you will achieve your goal. And second, because it’s happiness that drives success, not the other way around.
Eye-opening and life-enhancing wisdom.
Quote: “the more you believe in your own ability to success the more likely it is that you will.”
7. Start With WHY
What’s your WHY, the reason why you do what you do and the reason why you wake up in the morning?
Simon Sinek’s best seller is a big hit among marketers and advertisers, but finding your WHY runs much deeper than effective communication. Knowing your WHY will breath renewed vigor and joy in your life.
Quote: “Success comes pursuing WHY we do WHAT we do“
6. Principles: Life and Work
Principles by Ray Dalio is possibly the best book ever on effective company’s (and group) culture.
And it’s also one of the very best self-help books when it comes to mindsets and life philosophy. Above all, I took two principles with me:
1. Radical Open Mindedness, and the courage to stare naked at your reality, even when it’s not pretty.
2. Pain + Reflection = biggest opportunity for progress.
Quote: “Love reality, even when it hurts“
5. The Obstacle is the Way
Ryan Holidays draws on stoicism and Meditation by Marcus Aurelius to deliver a breathtaking treaty on how to approach -and turnaround- life’s obstacles.
It’s an inspiring and mind blowing read that can change your approach to life’s problems. A real gem.
I have yet to read Meditation, but I consider The Obstacle is The Way the ultimate treaty on problem solving.
Quote: “When you’ve truly done it all, relax. The final word is in the lap of the Gods“
4. Deep Work
I particularly loved Deep Work because I realized how full, undivided focus -or lack thereof- is what’s holding me back the most when it comes to productivity.
But what I loved even more was the idea of a life of Deep Work, leading to a Deep Life.
A Deep Life means to be fully focused in what you are doing, whatever it is that you are doing.
Time with the family? You are fully present, listening and sharing.
Out on a date? You are 100% there, connecting and bonding.
Working? You are fully immersed on the task at hand, allowing for no distractions.
Supporting the Deep Life is the fact that: 1. You can afford it since you’re being highly productive in your work; 2. You cannot sustain more than a few hours of deep work per day, and the rest you’re wasting time.
Result? An overall vastly improved life.
Quote: “what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life“
3. Awaken the Giant Within
Could anyone draft a top 10 of the best self-help books and not have Tony Robbins featured in it? My personal favorite from Robbins is an audio product called Personal Power II.
But Awaken the Giant Within is the book overview on most that Robbins preaches. It’s equally inspiring and motivational as it is practical and applicable.
No small feat.
Quote: “People are rewarded in public for what they practice in private“
2. Man’s Search for Meaning
Tears swell into my eyes when I think of Man’s Search for Meaning.
Viktor Frankl went through the dark years of the holocaust, experienced the horrors of concentration camps and lost mother, brother and wife. And he has nothing but wisdom and faith for humanity.
This is a monument to humans’ spirit strength and magnificence. This leaves me little space for the life changing content, but here’s two:
1. Happiness cannot be pursued: it must ensue (same for success)
2. You’re always free to choose your attitude in any circumstance. Nobody can take that away from you.
Quote: “He who has a why can bear almost any how“
1. Mindset: Psychology of Success
Why is Mindset the N.1 of our best self-help books reading list? It’s because a growth mindset underpins success of the highest kind, including wealth, relationships and happiness.
It’s the bedrock of living fully. Putting our egos aside, relishing new experiences, being openly vulnerable.. They are all key consequences of a growth mindset (also read developing a growth mindset).
Mindset opened my eyes not only to key mental roadblocks standing in my way, but also helped me better understand human psychology.
With Mindset, suddenly, human behavior made so much more sense.
Quote: “Talent isn’t passed in the genes; it’s passed in the mindsets”
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Note: quotes are not necessarily taken from the authors but are my way of summing up what the book meant to me.
If you are interested in getting the best insights from hundred of self-help books check the self-help compendium (friendly referred to as The Self-Help Bible):