If your to-read list is a mile long and you wish you could download all that juicy personal development info straight into your brain…you’ve come to the right place!
It’s well-known in my circles that I’m an “all things personal development junkie” and one of the questions I get asked by readers the most is what my top book recs are. Last year I read 120+ books and, you guessed it, personal development books made up a huge chunk. What can I say…I need my fix! I might even love it more than coffee..GASP!
While I can’t do the reading for you, let me use my love of the written word and BA in psychology (gotta use it for something right?) and help you figure out what books to read asap and which ones can stay lookin’ purty displayed on your bookshelf.
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Before I jump into my top 85 best personal development books of all time let’s do a quick Q&A sesh!
Why Should You Read Personal Development Books?
Personal development books can help you look at yourself objectively, identify areas you want to expand, and give you the tools to do it.
There are so many different types of personal development books that with some trial and error you can find the porridge that’s just right for you.
The best part is they allow you to learn and evaluate yourself on your time.
If I Read Personal Development Books Does That Mean I’m Not Good Enough or There’s Something Wrong With Me?
No way! Think of personal development books as a way to expand all the ah-mazing stuff that’s already inside of you!
Personal development books are meant to help you learn more about yourself and who you are deep down inside before the world told you who you had to be.
You are not here to be average and if you’ve stumbled upon my little virtual personal development slice of paradise you’re exactly where you belong.
Are Personal Development Books the Same as Self-help?
Not in my book! Pun fully intended.
Personal development books cover a lot more territory while self-help is specifically about helping you understand aspects about yourself and how to handle issues you’re having. Self-help books fall under the category of personal development.
A personal development book is anything that challenges you to grow and expand. It can be an inspirational memoir or a book on how to handle your anxiety. I’ve included books on racism, mindset, spirituality, and much more because all of them will expose you to ideas and concepts that will help you grow.
The Best Books on Mindset
Mindset by Carol Dweck
All the other books are in no particular order, but there’s a reason Mindset is at the top of my list.
If you only read one personal development book have it be this.
The author, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. has done a lifetime of work on the power of mindset and this book is the culmination of all of those discoveries.
For years I put labels on myself like “stupid”, “untalented”, “unintelligent”. I could never figure out how I could go from being in the Talented and Gifted program in elementary school to someone who couldn’t figure out math problems everyone else was sailing through or why I loved french so much but couldn’t seem to understand how to conjugate the damn verbs.
Mindset addresses some of the issues my generation has had after receiving all those participation trophies and accolades like “you’re so smart”.
Up until 5th grade I had always done amazingly well in school. I was told all the time how smart and talented I was. Then after missing a month of school due to some health issues I returned to school and started having a really hard time catching up on what I’d missed in my math class. Nothing was clicking.
My identity was all tied up in being “the smart girl” and now I couldn’t even solve a stupid math problem. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t that girl anymore.
For years after that I struggled with learning. One seemingly small hiccup derailed my entire mindset around learning.
It wasn’t until I read this book that the answers I had searched for came together and I’m happy to say that I have chucked my self-defeating attitude around learning for good.
You create your world with your mindset and you have more power over your mindset than you know.
You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
Thank you other Jen. I AM badass!
Seriously though, Jen is so damn uplifting that she’s on this list twice and it’s not just because I’m a sucker for a good underdog story. Although, she’s got a good one!
She uses personal anecdotes and fun exercises to help you start adjusting your relationships with money, relationships, your career…your whole damn life.
If you’re looking to own your shit and change what isn’t serving you this is a must read. Whenever I feel lost I come back to it time and time again for a refresher course.
Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown
Basically you can’t go wrong with anything by Brene’. She is a thought leader that is helping to change the world.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown
EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!
This book will take what you think you know about how to learn and blow it up.
I read this book right before I started studying for my Project Management Certification and it couldn’t have been more timely. I listened to the books research-based methods and only read through the textbook once, tested myself before and after sections, and spent most of my time on practice exams.
The secret this book cracks wide open is that what really cements understanding of material is answering questions and researching the answers when you get them wrong. It helps your brain make connections that set your brain up for better understanding and learning.
So stop the painful rereading of chapters and hop on the practice exam bus. You will love it. I promise!
Hello Fears by Michelle Poler
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Limitless by Jim Kwik
Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
The Best Time Management Books
The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less by Tonya Dalton
Tonya brings together different time management methodologies to create one big, fabulous process of how to have more time in your day AND get more done. And no, there’s no time travel involved!
This book is quite similar to Essentialism, which I mention below, but her unique take on and her personal writing style set it apart.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This book changed my life. It helped me build better habits with ease using human psychology. Now only will you learn why you’ve had such a hard time implementing better habits and quitting bad ones, but you’ll learn how to start making ’em stick!
With help from this book (and my bf getting on my case every time my fingers went to my mouth) I quit my nail and cuticle biting habit for good, spent more evenings creating, ate healthier, and implemented a night routine of journaling and meditation that I’ve been doing for over 2 years now!
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
This could easily go under career as well, but I’m going with the time management category because when I think of Tim Ferris I think about life hacks and productivity.
This is THE book that made me finally start thinking differently about my career. I realized I didn’t have to work a corporate job and there are dozens of other avenues to take that would better align with my soul. Years ago, I realized HS just wasn’t for me and it wasn’t the place I was going to thrive in. I got my GED and started community college that year. I made my own damn path and it was the right one.
Somewhere along the line I forgot that I could do that so I settled for working corporate jobs that left me anxious and unfulfilled. After reading The 4-Hour Work Week I woke up!
If you’re looking to get off the treadmill of corporate life and start living by your own moral compass this book will help provide you with the tools to do it.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life by Robin Sharma
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown
High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Mel just tells it like it is and that really works for me.
I’m one of those perfectionists who used to get nothing done because they know they can’t do it perfectly so why bother trying!? It’s the ultimate cop out.
Over time, I’ve learned to train my brain to “just do it” and the momentum of getting started has helped me get numerous projects off the ground. The 5-second rule is just as simple! If you can do something in 5-seconds that you’ve been putting off then just do it now.
Getting into the habit of action vs thinking is something almost everyone can benefit from.
The Best Books on Spirituality
The Untethered Soul: The Journey to Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
Super Attractor: Methods for Manifesting a Life Beyond Your Wildest Dreams by Gabrielle Bernstein
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Spirit Hacking by Shaman Durek
Waking Up by Sam Harris
The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai
The Best Career Books
Dare to Lead by Brene’ Brown
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Erik Barker
Never Split the Difference by Christopher Voss
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
How Woman Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
Linchpin by Seth Godin
The Best Books for Mental Health
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris
This was another life-changer for me!
Russ Harris helps take you through why positive thinking might not be working for you and how to change your mindset so it can.
Positive psychology rarely addresses the fact that you can’t get rid of negative thoughts and Russ is shining the light on this oversight. This book is for you if you struggle with practicing mantras or affirmations because your inner critic is always saying “that’s not true” and arguing back with you.
This book inspired my post Why Trying to Think Positive is Bullshit. Check it out and if you like it I highly recommend the book!
Fear is My Homeboy by Judi Holler
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen
For the longest time, my relationship with food was akin to the bad boy cliche…I knew the relationship we had wasn’t good but damn did it feel good in the moment!
Since 3rd grade, I’ve struggled with binge eating and the purging came on in later junior high. I’ve been through therapy on-and-off throughout my life and while it helped me with a lot of things my eating disorder wasn’t one of them. I thought I was stuck with my ED being the clingy bestie I never wanted, but when I came across Kathryn’s book I thought “what’s the harm in trying one more book”?
I’m so glad I did because this is the book that changed it all for me.
Kathryn isn’t a doctor or a dietician. She’s simply another person who’s been through what many people with eating disorders have been through and she’s sharing what worked for her.
She changed her mindset around food and started to drop the mic on old beliefs that therapy had put in her head. She stopped thinking of her eating disorder as something caused by a mental health issue or psychological trauma and took her power back.
If you continue the belief that your ED is coming from some sort of broken place that can only be repaired through therapy then you are giving away your power. By looking at your ED as a coping mechanism or bad habit like anything else you take back your power. Now you can do something about it!
Until I read this book and started researching, I had no clue that therapy had such low success rates in helping those with eating disorders. I think part of it’s because you have to eat and you can’t just ghost it like you would that bad boy you finally decided to stop dating. You gotta eat to live! But there’s more going on.
I figured it was worth a try and gave her program a whirl. I’m excited and proud to say that I’ve been binge and purge free for the last 7 months! I’ve had good streaks before but this is already triple my longest.
She has a podcast that you can try out before buying the book if you want a little taste before committing and a workbook you can purchase if you prefer that over a book (I have both!).
The Best Books to Learn About Racism
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J DiAngelo
I am currently reading this and have been talking with a ton of people about it. I posted it on my IG stories when I started it and was super excited when I heard back from so many people saying they were reading it too!
After George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis my eyes were opened to how much racism is still very much an everyday occurrence that I had been blind to and how systemic racism actually works. I was uneducated on the topic and promised I would do better and now I’m doing the work.
This book blows the door wide open on the stereotype of racist people and makes you take a deep, long look in the mirror. It will help you learn to drop your defenses and understand how some of your seemingly not racist behaviors are actually fueling the fire.
White people frequently don’t talk about racism because it’s uncomfortable. That’s not an excuse. Be uncomfortable.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
The Best Inspirational Books
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
This book is so damn inspiring. I’ve never read anything by Glennon Doyle before, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t sucked in by that gorgeous cover and Glennon’s reading of the first chapter on Marie Forleo’s podcast.
The book is just like the title and Glennon…it does its own thing. Right from the very beginning, I was encouraged to start figuring out where I’ve been chasing fucking dirty, pink bunnies and start owning my inner cheetah.
There’s a reason this book is so acclaimed. It just speaks to your soul and tells you to wake the hell up.
Her section on racism is also incredibly enlightening.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Educated by Tara Westover
I read this book for my book club and would never have picked it up otherwise. It’s just not something that sparked my eye, but I’m so glad it was on the list.
I’m a white, suburban girl and, while I did theatre for years, there’s just some things I was pretty sheltered on. I never really understood how I took my education for granted until this book.
Tara shares her account of her childhood growing up in a Mormon family. She was homeschooled, her family shunned western medicine, and subjected to violence and misogyny. Her ability to self-teach and her grit got her to college where she was exposed to a whole new world.
Through her eyes, you get to see what our world might look like to someone who has been sheltered from it most of their lives. I’ve never been more grateful for my education than after reading this book.
Tara is also an inspiration to everyone out there who’s facing challenges in their lives. This is a real story of someone digging deep, doing the work, and paving a path for herself.
Namaslay by Candace Moore
This book is what made me feel less alone while I was healing from Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and chronic pain issues. I had a hard time finding anyone close to my age who went through similar issues and had a story that was actually uplifting. At the time I was in the midst of a huge depressive episode and this book was a lifeline to me.
Candace shares her deepest fears while she was going through her battle with Lyme disease and how everything she’s learned through yoga and her own perseverance got her through.
Notorious RBG by Iron Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
The Upside of Being Down: How Mental Health Struggles Led to My Greatest Successes in Work and Life by Jen Gotch
I want to get serious for a moment, k? Grab a knee.
I’m torn on this one. I wasn’t sure I wanted to include this book on my list given the racist culture of Jen Gotch’s company that just came to light and that she very much encouraged. I loathe advertising anyone’s platform who is responsible for that kind of culture. However, this book also meant a lot to me because you don’t get to see a lot of successful people being open about their experiences with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.
She did wonders for the mental health community by releasing this book, but she has hurt more people than we will ever know by her racism. For now, I’ll include it because I think this book is important for mental health sufferers to see that they don’t need to define themselves by their mental health diagnosis and it in no way limits them.
If you find a book that can do the same in place of this one please let me know so I can check it out and, hopefully, replace this one on here.
The Best Books on Health and Fitness
Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life by David Perlmutter MD and Kristin Loberg
I’m a huge microbiome nerd, but David breaks all the science down in a way that most people can understand.
Autoimmune diseases are rampant through our society more than ever before because of the Standard American Diet. We eat meats full of antibiotics and don’t get the veggies we need to keep our microbiome full and luscious with all the little healthy bacterias it needs to help us operate at our best.
The author explains why we’re facing a steep rise in autoimmune and gut issues and tells you what you can do to help yourself!
As someone who had Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (a nasty digestive issue), despite the fact that I ate pretty well, I can promise you that you want to read this book for your health.
The Microbiome Diet by Raphael Kellman
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza
When I had to stop running after my first hip surgery in 2011 I needed another form of exercise to take its place. Weightlifting gives me a completely different type of endorphin rush, but amazing in its own right. Plus, it lets me eat more while being able to work out less and this girl likes her gluten-free pizza with spinach.
Stretching is important when you’re a runner, but I found it to be way more important for weight lifting. When you’ve 240lbs on your back for a squat there’s not a whole lot of room for error and you want to make sure your body is running optimally.
I was foam rolling my little heart out and making sure to stretch, but I just felt this tightness in my shoulders and neck I couldn’t shake. I was doing CrossFit at the time and this book was highly recommended by the coaches. One day later Amazon Prime delivered the goods.
If you aren’t familiar with fitness and scientific body terms you may want to keep google handy, but this book is a must for keeping your body limber and operating at its best.
Who wouldn’t want to be a supple leopard!?
The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler MS. and Cassandra Forsythe
The Whole 30 by Melissa Hartwig Urban and Dallas Hartwig
Tone It Up by Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn
Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis
Thinner Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews
The Best Books on Creativity
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Ok, firstly, I’m a sucker for a great book cover and this one delivers! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but a pretty one definitely helps!
Elizabeth’s take on creativity is more spiritual. Which I for one was here for. Most artists and creators make wonderful art because our feelings are right underneath the surface. We feel things so strongly, but that can be a blessing and a curse. While our excitement and passion can feel tangible, so can fear and self-doubt. Those two mean girls can push you right out of your flow zone into some hardcore future tripping.
Elizabeth helps you learn how to face your fears and find your way back to the present moment.
I can’t recommend this book enough!
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
This is a short read with zero fluff. If you need to be inspired in your artistic career or even just in your professional life Steven will convince you on why you need to keep showing up.
Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day
I found this book when I was looking for ways to break down the wall of writer’s block I was facing. You might recognize Felicia’s name since she created and starred on the hilarious web series The Guild. I watched it all in one sitting when I was visiting an ex-boyfriend of mine I got a major ab workout. Felicia is zany and she owns it.
If you’re feeling like your creative well has dried up or your inner critic is harshin’ your vibe the anecdotes and exercises she takes you through will give you the tools to flood that damn well!
The Best Books for Self-Discovery
Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? by Seth Godin
Best Self: Be You, Only Better by Mike Bayer
Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
The logical, science-focused side of my really found this book a lovely change of pace from more intangible self-help type books. The authors use their backgrounds in engineering to help you design your dream life the same way products are created and problems are solved.
This is the book for you if you’re feeling stuck in life or debating a career change but you just can’t figure out where to start or the options are overwhelming you. Burnett and Evans will take you through the process step-by-step and in a way that never seems overly complicated.
What I loved most about this book is the idea that you don’t have to get it all right. Life is about trying things on, seeing how it goes, and tweaking what needs to be fixed. We’re human. This means we’re going to continue evolving and changing. We need processes that can evolve and grow with us too!
If you’re looking to get started on upleveling your life and want to start reaching the goals that have been on the back burner for far too long check out my post outlining the personal development plan that took me from overwhelmed to overjoyed. I’ve included a bonus workbook to take you through the process!
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
Girl On Fire by Cara Alwill Leyba
I adore Cara and, if you like fiery women, you will too! She knows herself and owns it. Everything about her just screams luxury and glam and I am here for it!
I talk more in-depth about how ah-mazing Cara is in my post on my top 10 fave podcasts for self-development, but long story short she’s a master life coach and my mentor.
If you’re looking for the power to write your own damn permission slip to life check this book out.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
I follow Sarah on insta regularly and every. damn. day. she encourages me to be my authentic self, give less fucks about things that don’t matter and more about what do!
She walks the talk and seeing her live her best life is just as inspiring as her book.
This is for the over-thinkers out there and those who worry too much about what others think. It’s time to start worrying about what YOU think.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay
Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting by Wayne W. Dyer
The Best Books on Relationships and Friendships
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver
Once you have muscles do you stop working out at the gym? No, you keep challenging yourself in new and exciting ways to either maintain that booty or to keep increasing it to even greater bootylicious levels.
The same thing goes for your romantic relationship. Relationships take time, commitment, and growth. You’re two different people and it’s not always easy to keep two different people on the same page.
I believe fully that everyone should go through some form of couple’s therapy if you’re in a committed, long-term relationship or if your heart moves you to! Input from a third person can do wonders for clearing up miscommunications and helping you dialogue on long-standing disagreements. It can teach you how to better tune into your person and be the support they need.
Couple’s therapy is maintenance. It’s not something you should wait to start until your relationship is broken.
After reading this book I knew I had to attend one of Gottman’s workshops. Through research done during longitudinal studies Gottman was able to determine with a 90% accuracy whether or not a couple would divorce based on physiology, interviews, appearances of what he dubbed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, and a few other metrics. This book should really be a prerequisite to marriage.
I had the pleasure of being able to attend one of John Gottman’s two-day workshops and I was thrilled by the helpful tools that I received to help navigate difficult conversations and enlightening info that was shared. I find myself going back to what I learned whenever a misunderstanding pops up in a relationship.
A Tribe Called Bliss by Lori Harder
The Art of Showing Up by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
Communication Miracles for Couples by Jonathan Robinson
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
It Takes One to Tango by Winifred M. Reilly
This book is super empowering because you don’t need to desperately try and get your partner to understand where you’re coming from. It makes you ask yourself what you can do in a situation when your romantic partner isn’t willing or is resistant to the idea of change.
Yes, the only person you can change is yourself, BUT you can impact others through your behavior, and sometimes that’s just the wake-up call they need. Winifred isn’t saying that your partners poor behavior or inability to meet your needs is your fault. She’s just giving you back some of the power.
I’ve used methods from this book in romantic, work, and platonic friendships to great success. It’s honestly one of the books that have influenced my interpersonal skills the most.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Best Books on Money
You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a billion more times…mindset is everything. Jen shows you negative beliefs you might be subscribing too around money and helps you set them free.
What I love most about this book is that the author isn’t just telling you your mindset is wrong and you should think this way instead. She digs deep and explains to you why your mindset isn’t serving you and the ways you might be blocking money in your life. Before reading this book I would have laughed in your face if you told me I was blocking money. I love money, luxury, and all things aesthetically pleasing, but I definitely recognized myself in parts of this book.
I’ve been doing work to remove these money blocks and fake news stories ever since. And while I haven’t made it rain (yet!) I’ve made more money than I ever have before and opened up multiple streams of income by being open to opportunities.
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Dave teaches you how to stop increasing your credit card debt (something I did in my early twenties that I will never go back to again), pay for purchases with money you actually have, and how to pay off your debt.
I read this book in my late twenties and it’s paid dividends throughout my adulthood.
Broke Millenial by Erin Lowry
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Mr. Money Mustache (yes, that’s one of the authors’ names and it makes me giggle each time. I imagine him as the monopoly dude)
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Can’t get enough? Check out these related posts!
- How to Stop Self-doubt Now!
- Why Trying to “Think Positive” is Bullshit
- 10 Budget-friendly Ways to Practice Self-care
These are books that deserve to be read so please share them with your fam, friends, and barista!
I can’t wait to hear what you thought about these books and what you’re currently reading. Let me know below!