From the concept of the American Dream featured in self-development classics such as Think & Grow Rich and The Power of Positive Thinking to the New Age thinking and positive psychology in books such as The Power of Now and Daring Greatly, self-help literature has always reflected societal trends.
reading-self-help-books. Taking that all into consideration, what are the best self-development books of all time? Which books rise above the cultures and time periods they came from to represent the best of the best in terms of evergreen life lessons and timeless wisdom?
”Any book is a self-help guide if you can take something from it.” – Kevin Smith
Here are the best ones that I recommend to read no matter how old you are:
Best Self Development Books
Insight by Tasha Eurich
We’ve talked in the past about the importance of self-awareness when it comes to personal and career success. If you didn’t take our word for it, this book might be what finally convinces you to look inward.
Within its pages, Tasha Eurich goes over hundreds of studies to break down how to approach introspection the right way. Don’t be scared off by the word ‘studies’ either, since Eurich also includes plenty of real-life personal stories to anchor the science and make it more approachable. Where to buy it: Prices range from $10.98 (used paperback) to $13.20–16.49 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
The Four by Scott Galloway
The title of this book refers to the ‘big four’ players in the tech world – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Within its pages, the book breaks down how these companies influence our lives, how they thrive, and why they’re almost impossible to take down.
On top of being an interesting read if you’re tech-minded like us, The Four can teach you a lot about what it takes to run a successful startup. After all, even the big four were little Davids before they turned into Goliaths. Where to buy it: You can find this book starting at $11.95 (used paperback), or get it at $10.21–15.82 for the Kindle/hardcover versions on Amazon.
Unshakeable by Tony Robbins
For this book, Tony Robbins interviewed fifty of the most successful economists and investors in the world. The result is about 257 pages that are full of financial wisdom on how to build and protect your assets.
Arguably, this book deals more with gaining financial stability than it does with career advancement. However, we’d contend that if you want to become truly successful at your job, you’ll need to master the fundamentals of financial management, whatever your field might be. Where to buy it: Prices start at $7.48 (used hardcover) and go up to $8.86–11.60 for the Kindle/hardcover versions on Amazon.
Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
You may already know Tim Ferriss from some of his previous books, such as The 4-Hour Workweek. For this new book, Ferriss researched habits and collected advice from over 100 of the world’s top performers. This includes everyone from athletes to entrepreneurs and billionaires.
If you’re looking for a single book that will give you plenty of bang for your buck when it comes to career development, this 600+ page behemoth is the way to go. Where to buy it: Prices range from $10.42 (used) to $14.99–16.77 for the Kindle/hardcover versions on Amazon.
The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Effective leadership involves knowing when to lead and when to follow. That’s the question at the heart of this book, and it’s something you’ll need to understand if you want to rise through the ranks in your career.
There are a lot of qualities that make for great leaders, and they nearly all require deliberate cultivation. Within this book, you’ll find advice on how to delegate work, lead your team, and even remain humble through it all. Where to buy it: Prices start at $7.99 (used paperback) and go up to $12.33–12.99 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
Powerful by Patty McCord – Development Books
Patty McCord used to be the person in charge of hiring at Netflix. Considering the company’s meteoric rise, it’s worth listening to her advice on how to recruit and motivate the right people.
If you intend to become a leader in your field, you’ll need to learn how to build strong teams. That means hiring smart, managing expectations, reviewing performances, knowing how to let people go, and much more. Where to buy it: Prices start at $11.60 (used hardcover) and go up to $13.66–16.82 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
One of the worst aspects of the modern workplace is that it tends to push people towards working themselves to the bone. That means putting in long hours, taking on too many projects, not giving yourself time off, and more.
However, we would argue that working ‘smarter’ is better than the constant hustle, and authors Fried and Hansson agree with us. Within this book, they outline how companies should operate to create a culture that nurtures employees instead of grinding them down. Whether you’re in charge of a team or part of one, this book is definitely worth your time. Where to buy it: Prices start at $12.80 (used paperback) and go up to $14.99–17.58 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
The New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew
If you work in anything that’s even closely related to tech, then you know that the days where you stuck with one company for your entire career are over. Nowadays, the paths our careers take aren’t as linear, and it’s not out of the ordinary to find yourself re-tooling your skillset often.
The New Rules of Work delves into how modern companies approach hiring, and how applicants look for jobs. Its goal is to help you navigate the modern workplace, and advance through the ranks by playing your cards right. Where to buy it: Prices start at $11.48 (used paperback) and go up to $12.99–17 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
Principles by Ray Dalio – Development Books
Ray Dalio has an impressive background as a successful investor and entrepreneur. This means that when he wants to give you advice about how to succeed in your personal life and in business, you’d better sit down and listen (or read).
The title of this book refers to the set of principles Dalio adopted throughout his career. He credits these principles or rules with his success, and in this book, he lays out all of them in a practical manner. The result is a book about professional development that anyone can benefit from, particularly those in positions of leadership.
Where to buy it: The cheapest place to buy this one is on Amazon, where you can find the Kindle/hardcover versions for $14.99–18.
Leaders by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone
Gen. McChrystal was a soldier for decades, and as he rose through the ranks, he often asked himself what made for a good leader. With this book, he tries to answer that question by creating profiles for thirteen leading figures in history, ranging from Walt Disney to Robespierre and Martin Luther King.
That might seem like an odd group of characters to profile together. However, this book argues that leaders can come from very different backgrounds, and don’t have to share the same style. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a figure within that resembles the leadership style you want to develop and gain relevant insight from their own journey.
Where to buy it: Prices start at $13.36 (used hardcover) and go up to $15.99–19.49 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker
If you haven’t read Barking Up the Wrong Tree yet, we’d suggest stopping what you’re doing and checking it out. This book collects the work of Eric Baker, who takes a look at what science has to tell us about how to become more successful people and better leaders.
Within its pages, you’ll find succinct articles that sum up studies and break them down into actionable advice. This book is essentially a more well-rounded version of some of the best content from the author’s blog. It contains tips on how to deal with stress, increase your confidence, work better in a team, and more.
Out of all the books in this list, Barking Up the Wrong Tree is perhaps the most eclectic. However, it packs in so much useful advice. We can safely recommend it to anyone trying to advance in the workplace. As a result, improve themselves in a more general sense. Where to buy it: The cheapest place to buy this one is on Amazon. Find the Kindle/hardcover versions for $8.44–14.57.
Great at Work by Morten Hansen – Development Books
Being ‘great’ at work can mean a lot of things. It may be you’re the person who works the longest hours in the office. The one who brings in the best results. For many, being great at work is all about maximizing your performance. So you can get excellent results without burning out.
For this book, Hansen collected the stories of several successful individuals. Who learned how to work smart and maximize their efficiency. Thanks to the way the book is structured. It can help you discover what your individual work style is. and how you can make the most of it. Where to buy it: You can find it for $3.83 (used), and prices go up to $12.34–14.35 for the Kindle/hardcover versions.
Self Development Books Conclusion
Now that you’ve got a list of the most inspirational books to improve your life, what should you do next? Read them all? It’s, of course, best to read them all, but we only have so much brain energy to take all this knowledge. What if I tell you there’s a way to boost your brainpower?