The Most Powerful Self-Help Books Ever

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Matt Coates
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Highlights: When it comes to our personal development, we could all use a little bit of outside help. For that, here is a list of the best self-help books ever.

When you go on a personal journey, you can use all the help that you can get.

Just because it is personal, it doesn’t mean you have to face the world alone. While the entire internet is at your feet, it can definitely be difficult to maneuver through it’s cornucopia of information. A great idea is to go back to the basics and check out some of the best self-help books out there — this article is here to help you do just that.

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.

— Dr. Seuss

This is a quote we should all live by.

Reading is therapeutic: the act in itself will restore life to your spirit, nourish your brain, and train you in a skill that is vital in the fast-moving, convenient world that we live in now.

Books are brain food, and the content of these selected titles will feed your soul, too. Whether you are looking for research on the key to happiness, secrets to success, or how to overcome difficulties that you might be facing, guaranteed there is a book that will help you. All of these self-help books will greatly aid in your personal development journey.

books for healing

The Best Book for Healing

You Can Heal Your Life,  Louisa L. Hay

Louisa L. Hay’s new-thought book tells a message about illness and the power of the mind. The premise is that, because our minds and bodies are linked, physical illnesses have spiritual and/or psychological root causes that can be cured by changing our thought trends and beliefs.

She states that while modern medicine aims to cure the symptoms of whatever plagues us, illnesses take form because of underlying emotional problems, such as stress, trauma, or unhealthy thoughts. The way to heal, then, is to alter our mind-sets to ones that are more positive and conducive to happiness, health, and self improvement.

Although this book was published in 1984, it is still a praised staple in the world of self-help books. This is the second book by Hay, who first published another self-help book titled, Heal Your Body, which she wrote at age 60.

You Can Heal Your Life landed Hay on the Oprah Winfrey Show just before she made the New York Times Bestseller list. Today, You Can Heal Your Life has sold more than 40 million copies.

The Best Books For Success

The Best Books for Success

The Success Principles, Jack Canfield

You might recognize this author’s name from his previous beloved work Chicken Soup for the Soul, a collection of short motivational stories for a wide array of readers.

In The Success Principles, however, Jack Canfield doesn’t just stop at retelling inspiring true stories; he goes the extra mile by giving you effective advice on how to be more successful. The book contains 65 tips, tricks, and methods for personal development and how to attain abundance and success. This book is perfect for anyone who wants a bucket-load of great ideas all in one place.

Although this title faced a bit of criticism for proposing nothing new in its ideas, fans agree that this book takes the approach of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and serves as a reminder that these techniques really do work.

Jack Canfield works as a teacher, mentor, and motivational speaker — he knows what he is talking about.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen

If you are struggling with your workload, personal projects, or even hobbies, there is a great chance that procrastination is the reason why you have fallen behind or into a slump. Or, perhaps your problem is that you are disorganized and now your project is starting to look like a mountain of work. Maybe your problem isn’t even with work, maybe you just don’t have the time to do the things you would very much like to do.

David Allen somehow found a solution to all of the above. In his book, which has been labeled as “life-changing” by many readers of self-help books, he offers advice on how to organize your life and tackle your to-do list in a way that is simple to both understand and incorporate into your schedule.

Most importantly, his method will promote productivity, making success so much more within reach. It might interest you to know that Allen works as a productivity consultant — when he is not writing books, or public speaking, of course!

How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Although this book was first published in 1937, it was so effective that to this very day it is a praised bestseller. It is regarded as the all-time best self-help book out there.

What Carnegie does in this book is study historical figures to provide both entertaining and educational anecdotes that have, naturally, stood the test of time. The methods he presents and the advice that he offers transcend business and can add value to personal relationships, as well. These methods are easy to follow and put in place, and are truly effective.

Most motivational and self-help books are based off of this one. It is the blueprint for everything that came after. It is often listed as a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to co-operate with those around them.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey

This book is another oldie-but-goodie.

What makes this personal development book one of the best books of its kind, and still relevant more than a decade after its publication, is that Covey does not simplify success or offer quick and easy fixes to our problems. It is an in-depth study of human dynamics and a guideline to change your life — a guide to thought trends and behavior that will require some patience, sweat, and blood. However, once the callouses form, these habits will stick and you will have life-changing power.

Although this is not strictly a business book, because the habits included in it can be applied to almost anything (particularly self-improvement and personal development), it is beloved by entrepreneurs and revered in the world of finance.

spiderman reading a book

The Best Books for Overcoming Difficulties

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie

Another by the great Dale Carnegie, this is a book about personal change that the author claimed he wrote when he “was one of the unhappiest lads in New York.” He then discusses how he made himself sick with anxiety because he was discontented with where he was in life and could not stop worrying about the future. This need to overcome that paralyzing concern is what inspired this book, and is something that we can all relate to.

This bestselling book is a guide on how to go out and live your best life, leaving all your anxieties and depressions behind in the search for true happiness.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle

The book, published in the late 1990s, places emphasis on living in the present, while disregarding both the past and the future, because they cannot be influenced or changed.

Taking lessons from a variety of spiritual paths, the message here is that if we do not make an effort to live in the present, negative emotions will overcome us, such as depression, anxiety, and fear. It also surmises the idea that the past and future are created by our thoughts. Thus, if we envision a future with anxiety and stress, that is how things will play out. Rather, the only moment we should be paying attention to is the now. In relaying this information, Eckhart Tolle also offers meditation methods and advice to anchor the reader to the present moment.

Although the book met some criticism, it has been well received since its publication with many a celebrity face and spiritual leaders alike, making it yet one of the best books on personal development out there.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra

Subtitled as A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams not much more has to be said about this work by the absolute legend that is Deepak Chopra.

In this wonderful, pocket-sized book, Chopra delves into Hinduism, and other spiritual concepts, to promote the idea that success is not something that can be controlled with discipline, planning, luck, business tools, or even money and hard work.

He teaches rather that success is determined by understanding ourselves, and the nature around us. He also says that we can create whatever we want — a reassuring ideal.

books for self-improvement

The Best Books for Self-Improvement

Blink, published in 2005, delves deep into psychology and behavioral sciences to explain a complex idea of our adaptive subconscious, or simply put, our thoughts based on so little information that work so quickly that they become automatic.

It explores how this is both a blessing and a curse. Automatic thoughts can hone our instincts, but they can also make us judgmental, for example. While this isn’t exactly a step-by-step guide to becoming a better person, it is an interesting read that will allow you to see yourself, and think, differently.

Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Steve Scott

Need more be said? It’s all right there in the title. This book (which has become a hit), covers all areas of life and offers advice on how to implement the smallest changes to make the largest differences.

The method here is to group habits (or changes) together and then view them not as individual tasks, but as one whole thing. This makes it easier to commit to those changes, rather than having a to-do list that stretches from your hands to Neptune. By adding this system to your life, you will be less overwhelmed, and therefore less stressed. You will then be able to better manage your time, relationships, business, and health.

Best of all, these tasks take no more than 5 minutes to complete! This will certainly improve your health and quality of life. It is one of the most well-rounded self-help books out there.

The Secret, Rhonda Byrne

Of course, how can we leave out one of the most influential self-help books of all time?

Published in 2006, and basically an instant best-seller (still promoted a decade later), it focuses on the law of attraction, and states that our thoughts — alone — can change the world.

The basis of The Secret, and therefore of your new life, is to ask, believe, and receive. Byrne also places much emphasis on gratitude and kindness, as well as meditation (particularly the power of visualization), and how these can lead to achieving your goals in every aspect of your life. What you call into your life is what you will get. It’s a simple secret, but it’s a highly effective one.

Although The Secret has been repeatedly criticized by those who claim it lacks scientific evidence, it is a beloved book by those who do actually practice its teachings. It is worth a read at least once (if not over and over again) because it is, regardless of your beliefs, a powerful, uplifting, inspiring book that is easy to absorb and enjoy. You will easily see why it is one of the best self-help books in the world.

There is a reason why this book is legendary, but that’s a secret you’ll have to discover for yourself!

books for inspiration

The Best Books for Inspiration

The Life of Pi, Yann Martel

This fiction story is gripping, thrilling, heartbreaking, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

It tells the tale of a young man, torn between religions, who loses his family on a sinking ship and is stranded at sea on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger. This book, be it somewhat far-fetched, is a tale of love, spirituality, pain, growth, and personal development. It will blow your mind with intense thoughts of what reality truly is, and will inspire you to go out and find yourself.

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

Another popular book that took the world by storm; Eat, Pray, Love is the true story of the writer’s travels after realizing she was unhappy in her marriage and made the decision to divorce her husband and leave her home behind.

This book (and the famous movie it gave birth to) inspired scores of people (particularly women) to reconsider their lives and pursue the happiness they deserve. It is a lovely story of love, balance, and spiritual health that will motivate you to chase your joy.

Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela

This autobiography of one of the most prolific humans of our time will break your heart as it journeys through the struggles of an individual fighting for freedom in a time when he was considered unworthy of human rights.

We all know the story of Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison before he became South Africa’s first black (and truly democratic) president, but it is not merely a rags to riches story, but rather a story of inspiring self-improvement. Nelson Mandela easily could have allowed his suffering to taint his spirit, setting him on a path of cruelty and vengeance, but instead, he chose forgiveness and patience and came to see the value of all human life.

Lessons like this are rare, and this book is a definite gem. It might be a heavy read, but it will change your spirit for the better.

The Best Books for Laughs

F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way, John C. Parkin

One in a few books that promote the John C. Parkin’s spiritual path, the book might sound like a parody of spiritual wisdom, but it is not. The lessons found in Parkin’s books are significant and easy to follow, all to do with saying “to hell with it” (to put it kindly), and living your best way. Parkin offers advice on how to live without stress, how to live in the moment and to simply not care about the things that don’t matter. While his books are not the first to come to mind when thinking of self-help books, he is an author worth paying attention to if you seek positive, uplifting prompts that will make you laugh as you conquer the world.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, John Callahan

Another autobiography, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot tells us the story of John Callahan’s life as a rebellious, cheeky cartoonist both before and after he survives a car accident that leaves him a quadriplegic. For a story that surrounds a tragic event, this book is wondrously funny and will leave you with tears of laughter. Although it is not a self-help or motivational book, it will teach you to value what you have, to make the most of everything and to overcome adversity by enjoying life — no matter what.

The Best Books for Recreation

Lastly, sometimes we don’t need to read, we need to create.

Wreck This Journal, Keri Smith

As the title implies, the objective of this journal is to destroy it with your marvelous creations. Each page carries an instruction and what you make of it is entirely up to you.

You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy this as the exercises are simple — for example, to shower with the book, design your page numbers or to stick the lint from your pockets on the page.

This is fun, therapeutic, and spiritual, as when you are done you will be able to look back on it and reflect on the parts of your life that are otherwise seen as insignificant.

Q&A a Day: Five Year Journal, Potter Style

If journaling is something you have always wanted to try, but you are at a loss as to where to begin, The Five Year Journal is the solution for you. Every date has a question for you to answer. You repeat this cycle, and the questions, for 5 years.

This is a fantastic tool for reflection, inflection, and self-discovery — and requires the absolute minimum in terms of commitment. It’s a fantastic way to record your personal development and emotional growth.

Adult Coloring Books

Indeed one of the very best self-help books around!

While there is no single author to credit, adult coloring books are numerous and so easy to find. They come in many shapes, sizes, designs, and themes and will allow you to connect with your inner child — a part of you that you might feel has been lost in time. You do not have to be artsy or creative to enjoy this; these books have been proven to relax and lower levels of stress. They are simply fun that everyone can enjoy, and at the end of the day you’ll have something you are proud of.

From monsters to fairies, to mandalas, you can color whatever you please. It’s very recreational, and a nice way to spend time for yourself.

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Matt Coates

Matt Coates

Matt is a copywriter for Mindvalley. As a professional word putterer, he can be found constantly squeezing his creative juices to concoct personal growth narratives to transport people to a place where great potential knows no bounds. He is also on a quest to be seriously funny.
Written by

Matt Coates

Matt is a copywriter for Mindvalley. As a professional word putterer, he can be found constantly squeezing his creative juices to concoct personal growth narratives to transport people to a place where great potential knows no bounds. He is also on a quest to be seriously funny.

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