Back in November, I was talking to a guy in his twenties whom I had given a copy of my book 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know and I was pleased to find out that he had gotten a big promotion. I asked him if reading my book had anything to do with it. He said, "yes." Then, I asked if there was anything else I could do to help him out and he said, "Tell me where I can get more books like that one!"
That, I can do because I have consumed an awful lot of books in my life. All told, it's over 1500 or so and an awful lot of them are classics in the field of self-help/psychology. I haven't read every self-help book that has been heavily hyped up in the last decade or two, but I have read most of them.
It's worth noting that the quality level of many of these books is a little uneven. Some people just have great information but aren't fantastic at presenting it. Others go off on weird tangents. Many of them also cover the same ground. That's not always a bad thing because sometimes you don't fully integrate an idea into how you live until you've come across it multiple times, but I don’t see a need to recommend books covering the same concepts over and over again.
All that being said, if I were just giving you a list of "good" self-help books, there would easily be 50+ books on this list. However, I want to give you the most bang for your buck. So, what follows are my 10 favorite self-help books of all-time. If even those aren't enough for you, then never fear, I have also included some honorable mentions as well. Enjoy!
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading by John Maxwell
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover
Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss
10) Be Your Future Self Now by Benjamin Hardy: This is the newest book on the list and it definitely made an impact on my thinking. This is a well-written book edited to achieve maximum impact and spends a great deal of time exploring the concept of what your life would be like if you focused on being yourself, not just for the you in the mirror, but for the you that’s going to be here in ten years.
9) Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins: “Inspirational” doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to describing this book. Former Navy SEAL and ultramarathoner David Goggins will literally expand your belief about what it’s possible for a human being to accomplish. You will read this book and realize, “If he could do what he did, I could be so much more than what I am.”
8) No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover: On the one hand, this book clearly and undeniably treats men as its target audience and without question, guys will get more out of it. So, if I were doing a “top 10 self-help books for women,” this book wouldn’t be on it. That being said, the thought processes Glover deals with in the book apply to both sexes. There are an awful lot of women who make the same mistakes as the men he’s addressing in the book. Speaking of men that make those mistakes, I was one of them. Granted, I had started fixing them by the time I read Glover’s book, but this spoke to me because when I was just getting out of high school, I was EXACTLY the sort of guy Glover was trying to help in the book.
7) Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer: Despite the title, this IS NOT a book about how to intimidate people. It’s actually about all the different ways society, businesses and people intimidate YOU. Ringer teaches you these lessons via wild stories from his real estate career that will give you a better understanding of people as a whole. This book is like getting a special pair of glasses that help you see through a lot of the BS in life.
6) The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy: Like #10 on our list, this is a book that takes a relatively simple concept, goes into great depth on it, and gives you a framework that can change your life for the better. Practice what this book preaches and your life will change.
5) Looking out for #1 by Robert Ringer: It’s funny that Robert Ringer doesn’t get a lot of play in the self-help world these days, but he’s one of the OGs of the field as evidenced by the fact that only he and Tony Robbins managed to put two books on this list. In this book, Ringer, who is a hyper-rationalist, gives you a number of critical insights into how the world really works.
4) Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins: This book suffers in comparison to Awaken the Giant Within, which is in my opinion, the best self-help book ever written. It’s one of those situations where you really don’t give Scottie Pippen the credit he deserves because he’s on the same team as Michael Jordan. This is absolutely a wonderful book that adds some depth to the concepts in Robbins’ masterpiece that we’ll be getting to shortly.
3) How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: It’s hard to believe that a book written in 1936 is still the best book ever written about how to get along with other people, but it is. I read this book for the first of several times in high school and it changed my life. If you want to make more friends and be better at getting along with people (and who doesn’t), you should read this book.
2) The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss: Even though I never actually got down to a 4-hour work week (although I could have if I had chosen to do so), this book had an enormous impact on how I managed my time, how I ran my corporation back in the day and how I viewed life.
1) Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins: I’ve been a fan of Tony Robbins for my entire adult life and I have given this book to at least a half dozen people over the years. Other than the Bible and arguably, Atlas Shrugged, there is no other book that has the potential to change your life like this one. Over the years, Tony Robbins’ philosophy has changed just a bit, but I just went to a $500+ per head event he put on and 95% of it lines up perfectly with this book. Why not check this book out? What have you got to lose?
So, you really believe self-help books are good resources for improving all if not most major areas in one's life? Maybe, but I regard them the same way I do vitamins and supplements: either you use them and genuinely believe they work, or you've tried them and seen very little concrete results. I fall into the latter category, darn it! Probably just me. I'm a little of a skeptic and some what of a misanthrope, neither of which lead me to have the best mindset for taking advantage of either vitamins or self-help books. Atlas Shrugged really did give me a sound basis for managing my work and personal life, but I will concede I probably should read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", because I'm too irascible to do either one very well. However, I'm not sure I care enough at this point in my life even if at the end of it no one wants to give the eulogy at my funeral. Ha ha, but no worries. My will strictly forbids a formal funeral, mostly to save my son the embarrassment that no one is there except him. Actually, he's a little like me, so he'd probably be glad if that happened.
I’m surprised you didn’t mention “Three Magic Words” by Uel S Anderson. A book of metaphysics but probably the greatest self help book ever written. Also, honorable mention from me: “You can You Will” by Joel Osteen motivated me out of depression and into a new career that is still going 17 years later.