25 Best Books to Read for Self-Improvement
Looking for the best books to read for self-improvement? Learn all about how to boost your well-being with some of the best books for self-improvement.
Have you decided to completely transform your life mentally, spiritually, and physically? Thankfully, you’re not alone.
In the age of normalized mental health days and encouraged self-care routines, many people are looking for ways of improving their daily lives. However, self-improvement on an emotional level is a practice that comes from prolonged inner work, and this can seem daunting to individuals who aren’t sure where to begin.
According to various self-help authors, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take the time to sit and evaluate your current beliefs and goals. Consider if you are on the right track toward your vision of fulfillment. Is there anything in your life that needs changing? If so, what can you do to understand yourself better and enhance your way of being?
Whether you’re looking to undergo a complete self-transformation or simply would like to adopt a more positive mindset, self-help books can provide you with the right tools and strategies to create a more rewarding lifestyle. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best books for self-improvement that can help kickstart your goals.
Taking the time to understand yourself and let go of negative habits can go a long way in your personal development journey. Reading books designed to help guide you in your trek to self-fulfillment will offer you expert insights into improving your mental health and overall wellness.
People who would like to follow a healthier lifestyle can use self-help books to learn valuable strategies for leading a mentally-sound life. A few of the best non-fiction books for self-improvement available include The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and How to Stop Worrying and Stop Living by Dale Carnegie.
Many people need help finding the time to engage in self-care and personal development practices and read self-improvement books. In this case, the Headway app is a useful resource for busy individuals who want to get the main idea from popular self-improvement books and undergo positive self-transformation without spending a ton of time.
Top 25 Books to Inspire Personal Growth
Taking the path toward self-improvement marks the beginning of a long and winding journey, but it can be done with the right resources at hand. To guide you on your personal development voyage, here are some of the best books to read for self-improvement.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
You may be familiar with Marie Kondo from her acclaimed Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” which features her business of visiting people’s homes to teach them the Japanese art of intentional organization. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, however, Kondo takes her readers through a deeper delineation of the KonMari method, which consists of moving around your home to keep things that spark joy and discarding the items that do not. For those looking to improve their mental clarity through an aesthetically pleasing environment, this book will surely do the trick.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Using valuable advice from ancient philosophies, The Four Agreements will break down old rules and attitudes you developed in childhood and replace them with guiding foundations built by the Toltecs. The wisdom Ruiz shares in this book is centered around the following four principles:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
In all, Ruiz encourages readers to free themselves by reflecting on how we have been influenced to become who we are today and then forming our own set of agreements to fall away from negative habits.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
In a world where socialites and well-endowed speakers dominate, it can be difficult for introverts to find a place for themselves. In Quiet, Susan Cain aims to debunk the myth that success comes only to extroverts and socially-adept people by sharing her insights into the underappreciated power of introverts. Rather than feeding into the idea that being extroverted is better, Cain acknowledges the strength within the quiet nature of introverts and encourages them to see the value in themselves as an important part of society.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the root of all behavior is determined between two systems in your mind — the conscious and the automatic. In an effort to promote mindfulness and careful decision-making, Thinking, Fast and Slow attempts to look at how these systems impact our daily thoughts and actions by conflicting with one another. Providing expert advice, Kahneman boasts the belief that understanding the way our brain works can prevent us from making poor decisions with money, relationships, and life in general.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
We live in a time where the digital world often overpowers real life, and it’s easy to become mindlessly invested in what’s on our smartphone screen. In Newport’s eyes, “People don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead because billions of dollars have been invested to make this outcome inevitable.” As such, Digital Minimalism tackles this issue head-on by enforcing a philosophy in which you carefully select and monitor what you do with your technologies. By decluttering their devices of useless apps and services and keeping only what matters, digital minimalists can find value in their intentional screen time.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Perfection is idolized in Western society in many ways — the perfect body, the perfect face, and even the perfect personality. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown takes this false narrative and turns it into a stunning testament that imperfections can make us unique and courageous. With ten masterful guidelines to follow, readers can embark on a journey of learning to trust their gut and view their imperfect image as a gift. Likely one of the best self-improvement books for young adults out there, this is a must-read for people of all ages, from adolescence and beyond.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Published in 2012, Daring Greatly empowers readers to take on a new approach to vulnerability and eliminate the need to appear strong at all times. In fact, this book teaches readers to become comfortable with being vulnerable and understand where their shame comes from. By the end, readers will walk away with valuable knowledge on how to embrace their shortcomings and find strength and courage in their sensitivity.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
A renowned classic in the self-help section, Eckhart Tolle details his journey from a constant worrier and overthinker to a mentally-sound individual. In his book, Tolle stresses the idea that the most important time is the present, and living in the past or future is a pointless endeavor. Using The Power of Now, readers can find peace by observing their minds without immediately judging or interacting with their thoughts.
Best Self: Be You, Only Better by Mike Bayer
The idea of “being yourself” to achieve inner contentment has been drilled into us since childhood, but what if there was a better way you could reach your fullest potential? Best Self teaches you how to become the best version of yourself by identifying toxic traits and eliminating unbeneficial thought patterns. In this book, you will dig deep into your fears and find out what’s holding you back from achieving radical self-transformation.
Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport
Anxiety is an issue that plagues a high number of the population, but many still aren’t sure how to manage their symptoms of overthinking and worry. Fortunately, this book comes equipped with strategies to overcome mental blockages and help you increase mindfulness and concentration. Declutter Your Mind is filled with effective techniques designed to induce an overall mindset shift by reframing negative thought patterns and reducing stress and mental clutter.
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Noted as one of the best self-improvement books for women, Girl, Wash Your Face is a must-read for girls everywhere. Author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis rose to popularity on her successful blog based on helping women reach their goals in personal, career, and family life. Similarly, her book serves as an innovative tool to inspire women to make their dreams happen by pushing past excuses, recognizing their inner strength, and taking control of their life and happiness.
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor
If happiness was so simple to achieve, why do so many people still struggle with depression, poor mood cycles, and ill self-worth? In his international bestseller, Achor aims to tackle this question by illustrating how our brains have the power to process our world differently. As Achor puts it, “the mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.” The Happiness Advantage, therefore, challenges readers to view happiness as a work ethic rather than a mood — or as something that occurs when you scan the world daily for positive things and strive after your greatest potential.
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins
For readers who would like a more spiritual approach to self-development, Letting Go introduces a method of healing that involves processing emotions to achieve higher states of consciousness. Surrendering to our unpleasant feelings and unhealed wounds, as Hawkins puts it, allows us to transform into a newer and freer Self. Overflowing with spiritual and psychological insight, this book is a blessing to those who have experienced traumatic thoughts and external events.
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel
Everyone has experienced anger in some form or another. Whether you have stormed off, slammed doors, or yelled in bouts of fury, these behaviors are caused by the incapability of processing your own emotions. In Mindsight, readers learn how to reflect on how their bodies and minds are internally woven and use mindfulness techniques to recognize when emotions are becoming overwhelming. Practicing the mindsight skill will leave readers with a powerful lesson on emotional regulation to take with them through the rest of their lives.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
Consumers are often bombarded daily with hundreds of different therapies and prescriptions promising to fix all their life’s problems. However, psychiatrist David Burns claims there’s one mental health therapy that surpasses all others – cognitive therapy. Feeling Good offers unique insights into how the way we think shapes our moods and how we can learn to restructure our thoughts and create positive perceptions that can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
A self-help classic that has stood the test of time, Psycho-Cybernetics has been used to help anyone from the aspiring college student to the multi-millionaire entrepreneur. In his 1960 book, Maltz introduces the theory that viewing the human mind as a machine can improve self-image and increase chances of success. A powerful lesson that self-perception is key, this book should be given to anyone who needs help getting out of a slump or would like to upgrade their mental capacity.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
A memoir based on real-life events from World War II, Man’s Search For Meaning details a harrowing philosophy built by a man’s experiences living in Nazi concentration camps. Frankl’s story serves as a testament to the fact that a man’s destiny is not determined by the circumstances he has dealt with but by the path and attitudes he chooses. Readers can thus gain valuable insight into Frankl’s will to survive and find meaning in his suffering and his psychotherapeutic technique, logotherapy.
Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home & Life by Joshua Becker
Based on a rational approach to minimalism, Simplify aims to educate families and homeowners to find meaning in a clutter-free lifestyle. This book features seven principles designed to inspire you to live with less to experience more joy and gratitude. With over 200,000 copies sold, Becker maintains his stardom by changing the way people look at physical possessions and freeing them from discontentment caused by disorganization.
The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Most people are unaware of the impact that our thoughts have on our daily lives. In The Power of Positive Thinking, readers are transported into a theory that success lies within your thoughts and attitudes. Peale’s beliefs extend into the idea that draining your mind of negative thoughts and replacing them with ones of a future where you are happy and thriving will allow positive thoughts to sink into your perception. With this book, you can learn how to minimize stress and anxiety by using Peale’s psychological techniques.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
When we’re thinking about the best non-fiction books for self-improvement, this book should be high on the list. A timeless bestseller, The Obstacle is the Way is pretty self-explanatory: rather than viewing obstacles as failures, Holiday invites readers to take wisdom from the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and shift adversity into success. Perception is our highest critic and can often be our downfall; as a reader, therefore, you’ll learn how to turn weakness into your advantage and accept the things you cannot change.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
One of the leading causes of physical illness is stress caused by overthinking and worry. As such, worrying can have a drastic effect on our lives, both physically and mentally, if not managed properly. Originally published in 1948, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living features several scientifically-backed tactics to eliminate worry, which maintain credibility today, such as using a practical three-step approach to deal with unclear circumstances.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal
According to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, the only thing stopping you from achieving your goals and dreams is you. The Willpower Instinct addresses three types of willpower that allegedly have direct consequences on our ability to resist temptation and reach success:
“I won’t” power
“I will” power
“I want” power
In terms of getting what you want and reaping the rewards, this book will teach you how to muster up the courage to undergo uncomfortable circumstances and break away from bad habits like procrastination.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
From the author of Eat, Pray, Love comes a newer and creatively-motivated bestseller, Big Magic. Gilbert’s non-fiction book teaches you how to pursue your creative passions in spite of fears. With lessons on how ideas work and how to keep the creativity flowing, aspiring artists will learn to put their curiosities at the forefront while maintaining a safe foundation to lay on. Fueled by her own creative process and experiences with art and passion, Gilbert gives readers a chance to create beyond their self-doubt.
The Now Habit: A Strategic Program For Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore
The power of getting things done in the present moment is a valuable practice that is explained in depth in The Now Habit. In the belief that procrastination is a learned behavior picked up from childhood, Fiore strives to understand the inner workings behind procrastination to help eliminate it. At the end of it, readers will have shifted their perception of work through the process of unscheduling.
Ego is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent by Ryan Holiday
The 2016 book emphasizes the idea that the root of all our problems stems not from external factors like people and environment, but rather from our own selfishness, entitlement, and greed. Often, our ego can cause us to unconsciously behave as if the world revolves around our wants and needs. Ego is the Enemy, therefore, invites readers to take a step back, think of others, and develop deep qualities such as humility, empathy, and a willingness to learn and grow continuously.
Read More Self-Improvement Books With Headway
While the decision to improve your life is yours to make, the process of self-development doesn’t have to be a journey you go through alone. With the guidance and advice of thousands of acclaimed authors and experts, the right choices will become apparent, and self-growth will come naturally.
Unfortunately, many people are often trapped in endless cycles of work and busy lifestyles where they have little time to engage in self-care practices. In this case, the Headway app can be the perfect resource. You can use this app to listen to short summaries on the best audiobooks for self-improvement and pick up hours’ worth of knowledge in little to no time.
Looking for a way to improve your mental health and well-being? Download the Headway app for unlimited access to 15-minute summaries on the best books for self-improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do books help with personal development?
On its own, a book won’t make your life better, but the knowledge and principles within one can inspire you to take action. As such, books have the power to boost change in many ways, but ultimately, it’s the reader who takes the plunge toward personal development. With the best books for self-improvement at hand, anyone can use books as a tool to build sheer willpower, strength, and healing.
What book is best for reducing procrastination?
Procrastination is something that nearly everyone faces at one point or another, but rather than finding solutions to the problem, it’s usually chalked up to laziness. Luckily, the best self-improvement books for men and women are great resources in combatting procrastination. The Now Habit by Neil Fiore and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal are two excellent examples of books that teach you to apply motivation strategies and offer you a unique perspective on the way you look at the relationship between work and play.
Can self-help books make me a smarter person?
Intellect may come from gaining new knowledge and information, but the type of information you are absorbing matters. Self-help books are designed to train your mind to adopt a positive and beneficial mindset to deal with various life issues. Therefore, reading a self-help book technically won’t make you smarter, but it may help you become a more pleasant person and improve your mental health.