Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of self-development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.
– Jim Rohn
Whether you’re listening to an audible book or have a chance to sit down and read the occasional book, consuming personal development books is one of the best ways to shift your mindset and grow.
Personal Development Books
In this post, I put together a list of the top 11 best personal development books I think everyone should read to improve their lives (plus some bonus books if you make it through the entire list)!
1. Breath By James Nestor
This New York Times bestseller was also named a Best Book Of 2020 by NPR.
What I loved about this book is that it opened my eyes to the lost art of breathing that westerners really don’t pay attention to, even though it’s the only thing that you have with you from birth until death.
James Nestor travels to ancient burial sites to figure out where we as humans have gone wrong and how to fix it.
After reading this book, I ended up taking a local breathing class in Chicago that I fell in love with.
So if you’re looking for ways to enhance your wellbeing, this is a must-read.
2. Year Of Yes By Shonda Rhimes
In this book, Shonda Rhimes (author of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and more), discusses how saying “yes” for an entire year changed her life.
What started as a challenge from her sister, to say yes to the unexpected, ended up transforming Rhimes’ life.
After reading this book, you’ll want to get outside your comfort zone, say yes to the unexpected, and then face your fears.
This is a motivational book that’s engaging, easy to read, and will have you turning every page not wanting to put the book down until it’s done.
3. Untamed By Glennon Doyle
Glennon Doyle wrote a brilliant book called Untamed, that landed on the #1 New York Times bestseller list.
Instead of trying to meet other people’s expectations, Doyle teaches you to how to listen to your own inner voice.
This book is great for current, new, or expecting moms in that it teaches you how to fulfill yourself while teaching your children how to live in fulfillment.
By setting boundaries, through this book you also learn how to trust yourself and the decisions you make.
I fell in love with Glennon and her relentless vulnerability in this book, and I’ll be a forever fan because of it!
4. The Power Of Bad By John Tierney
In The Power Of Bad, John Tierney discusses how our brains are naturally programmed to focus on the bad and negative things in life.
This was useful for evolutionary purposes, but it’s not so useful today in our suburban homes.
One of the most fascinating facts I took away from this book is that your brain needs four positives to counter just one equal-weighted negative. So that means for every one negative thing you hear, you’ll need four positives to get back to neutral.
While this facet of our brains is well intended, it’s not needed as much in our day to day lives, so Tierney finds a way to solve this through awareness and reprogramming your thoughts.
As someone who loves studying the brain, I think this book is an absolute must read for anyone with a brain!
5. Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is a brilliant book about exploring your own creativity.
In addition, you’ll learn new and different ideas about being creative and exactly how to integrate that into your life without pressure, force, or living in fear.
Whether you think you’re creative or not, this book will take you deeper into your own exploration of what it means to be creative, and I’d be hardpressed to find anyone who, after reading it, doesn’t have a more creative spark and deeper understanding of how creativity leads to the most fulfilling life.
6. The Upside Of Stress By Kelly McGonigal
Dr. Kelly McGonigal author of The Upside Of Stress writes about how stress isn’t always bad—far from it.
In fact, McGonigal explains how stress can make us stronger, smarter, and happier (but it needs to be the good kind of stress!).
This book finds the correlation between resilience, growth, and mindset and how stress can actually be a good thing.
After reading this book, I did a post The Hidden Benefits Of Stress you can check out to see more on what I learned about how stress can be beneficial.
7. Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself By Dr. Joe Dispenza
Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself is the best book I’ve ever read. It changed my life, and in fact, I continue to listen to it over and over. That’s how good it is.
The book shows you how to create a new future from your future, instead of repeating more of the past (which is what we do naturally, as human beings).
If there’s something you want in the future that you don’t have right now, read this book. This is the best book for it. Highly recommend it.
8. Alter Ego by Todd Herman
Alter Ego is remarkably similar to Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself, yet it’s from a completely different angle, making it very unique. I wrote about it and also created a podcast about it here and here. Again, the concept is to use visualization as the future person you want to be like to create the results in your life. The spin in this book is from the vantage point of athletes. I think this book is an amazing mindset book for people who don’t really like mindset concepts (example: I have a guy friend who hates mindset but loves this book). So I highly recommend this one, as it was a game changer for me.
9. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
In The War of Art, Pressfield talks about how to turn the resistance we experience from just about anything (a new job, starting a diet, writing a book, etc.) into an opportunity to “turn pro” (i.e.: accept the challenge and implement habits that will help us be the best).
This book is motivational and also has practical tips throughout; however, it’s not exactly the deepest book I’ve ever read. That said, I loved it because it reinforced ideas about habits, discipline, and being successful that I already believed. It’s very encouraging.
10. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Essentialism will teach you how to make choices and prioritize your life so that you are living exactly how you want to live. You can transform your life and this book can help you do this.
It will help you understand how to implement habits to be more productive, do less, and enjoy more. The book helps you learn that your everyday decisions are making a huge impact on your life down the road. It’s practical and actionable, but it is also philosophical.
I can’t highly recommend this book enough. It radically changed the way I make decisions and helped me understand and set healthy boundaries without feeling guilty about saying no. Remember, you can always say no, just like your reasoning.
11. As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
As A Man Thinketh is a powerful book and is the OG of personal development (aka the original gangster!). It is one of my favorite personal development books. It really is the foundation for learning that how you think is what determines the results you have in your life.
A widely known and loved quote from this book is:
As you think, so you are.
As you are, so you act.
As you act, so you attract.
This book is a no brainer. I’m a little bit obsessed, as I use all these concepts in my life. 🙂
It’s really hard for me to just make a list of 10ish books!
There are just so many amazing books. If you set a goal of reading one book per month, you will be able to read 12 in one year.
So, I want to include a few bonus reads that I love…
- The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell
- How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
- Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- Loving What Is by Byron Katie
- Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin
- Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza
- Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy
Reading Tips I Recommend
Want to take your reading to the next level?!
I thought you might.
At least that’s how I felt before I took a speed reading class and actually learned how to improve my skill of reading.
I’ve listed my top five reading tips below.
These tips have helped me enjoy reading so much more and get the most use out of what I am reading.
Tip #1: Designate Time To Read
The first tip is to designate time to read every day.
I know this sounds like a lot, but I’m telling you, that’s how you’ll see real change in your life.
And it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. It can be 15-20 minutes even. When you do something every day, it becomes a habit (more on habits here).
I’m a huge fan of gCal (Google Calendar). In fact, I schedule everything in my calendar. Even when I plan to read. It helps hold myself accountable and there is no questioning in my brain if/when I will have time to read. If it is on my calendar, it is as good as done. Don’t let not feeling like it when the time comes stop you from doing it. Plan from your future on your calendar so it’s as good as done.
Tip #2 Take Notes And Make Notes
The second tip is to take notes.
Taking notes means you’re summarizing the most important points of the book.
This is a HUGE help for your memory and comprehension.
And I don’t just want you to take notes—I want you to make notes.
What do you think about what you read?
What are YOUR ideas?
Write down what your brain comes up with. Your brain is so so powerful, and often we’re busy in our own lives without taking the time to ask our brain questions.
If you make a habit of note taking and note making, your reading will definitely improve.
Think about when you were in school. Your teacher likely asked you what your thoughts were about what you just read, how it made you feel, or how you feel connected to what you’re reading. You had a step by step guide on note taking.
As adults, we don’t do this! We need to, though.
My tip to you is to reflect on what you are reading. Ask yourself these questions during or after reading:
- How does this book make you feel?
- Is there action you can be take after what you just read?
- What are your thoughts on what you just read?
- How can you connect to what the author is saying?
- Is further reading or action required?
Anything you can do to increase your comprehension will really help improve your reading and note taking and note making is one such way.
Tip #3 Check Your Posture When You Read
The third tip is to correct your posture when you read.
If you’re like most of us, you’re reading hunched over, with your neck out, looking down.
It’s really hard to comprehend and feel good when you’re reading if you’re sitting like this.
Instead, sit up straight, look forward or up, and hold your head up correctly.
This was a total game changer for me!
Tip #4 Set Reading Goals
The fourth tip is to set reading goals.
This can be extremely powerful.
We are natural consumers of information. We love to learn, take in information, and repeat. And so we live our life consuming information and forget a huge step which is to take action on the information we consume.
My rule is: learn one, implement one. Meaning, whether it is a book or a course, I take or read one, then implement everything in that book or course before moving onto something else. In fact, it has magnified my results and allows me to focus better. I challenge you to take action when reading personal development books.
- Resource: Money Mindset Exercise (free course)
Tip #5 Don’t Beat Yourself Up
The last tip is to not beat yourself up.
You’re not perfect, and you’re also not going to ever be perfect (none of us will and that’s a good thing!)
Life happens. And that’s okay. Do personal experiments to see what works best for you.
If you begin the habit of reading daily and get off track, that’s okay!
Don’t beat yourself up about it.
You can be curious about it. You can lean into it and ask yourself what happened. Acknowledge it, and get back on track.
You can always start right back up again tomorrow.
A Final Note!
This post wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning The Five Minute Journal and the Productivity Planner. These are physical books, but they’re not meant to be read like all the others. They’re meant to be improvement books used to improve your life. Since that’s the point of this post, it felt like I should include them. I use both daily (one for gratitude and daily affirmations and the other for planning and productivity). I haven’t found anything that works better — they were game changers for me.