The Best Self-Help Books That’ll Inspire Change, Growth, and Transformation

While I’m always looking for the best self-help books to inspire my journey, in certain circles, I’ve found that the genre gets a bad rap. I, for one, have always been a firm believer that when we seek out and surround ourselves with inspiration, it’s that intention itself that can have a transformative effect. Of course, growth also happens when we take in concrete tips that can help us gradually and consistently move in the direction of positive change.

But as we all know, getting started is usually the hardest part. When I’m stuck, deciding to move forward can take all my energy. We worry about doing the wrong thing and obsess over inconsequential details because we’re afraid to just do something.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Image by Michelle Nash

50 Self-Help Books to Change Your Life

So what’s the solution to this super-glued feeling all of us experience in our lives? Well, we have to take action. According to this article, “taking action is proactive. It values forward motion and momentum over wondering and worrying. Taking action puts you firmly in the driver’s seat and helps give you the confidence you need to tackle whatever is holding you back.”

Once we get the ball rolling on a task, the momentum to complete that task comes naturally and pushes us to the finish line. Something that seemed so impossible before is now achievable. Sounds pretty simple when you put it that way.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered a list of our favorite self-help books that’ll inspire you to get your ball rolling toward a more productive future. These motivational self-help books are perfect for reading any time there’s an area of your life where you’re feeling a little stuck.

Image by Michelle Nash

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

I had this book recommended to me no less than 10 times before I finally picked it up. Rick Rubin, the famed record executive and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, compiled all of his most potent creative wisdom into a single (admittedly hefty) book. It reads like poetry, and you’ll be inspired to share snaps of the pages to your Instagram story. Plus, when you’re done, it makes for a stunning coffee table book.

The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

This book dives deep into the psychology behind experiences—why certain moments impact us more than others and how to create these memorable experiences instead of leaving our lives to chance. It’s a fascinating study of free will and autonomy over our lives, putting us in the driver’s seat to make every moment count.

Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson

This has to be the most insightful behavioral science book I’ve read to date. Thomas Erikson presents an insightful study of the communication patterns that divide all humans into four categories: Reds are dominant and commanding, Yellows are social and optimistic, Greens are laid back and friendly, and Blues are analytical and precise. By understanding ourselves—and those we interact with—in this way, we can speak more effectively, persuasively, and compassionately to everyone in our lives.

Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey

It’s a fact that any self-help book with Oprah Winfrey as co-author is an immediate yes. Build the Life You Want is a perfect example of the rule, breaking down the journey of building a happy life into a science. If feeling content and satisfied has always felt like an abstract pursuit, this is the guidebook you need. It’s the perfect read if you’re feeling stuck, as the pages provide you with actionable steps to improve every area of your life—from family to friendship to work and faith.

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

This Is How You Heal details the art of healing. While that process can possibly be ignited by a tragedy or disruption, it’s not a moment in which one becomes all-knowing or aware of their new path. Instead, healing is a journey, one that releases beliefs we may have once held close to start to uncover our best and most authentic selves.

The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

One of the most challenging aspects of interpersonal relationships is accepting when your ideas or beliefs may not be shared by those around you. The Courage to be Disliked encapsulates. It uses nineteenth-century psychology to develop a narrative between a philosopher and a young man who aims to see beyond society’s expectations and define his life’s direction. 

The Power of Fun: How To Feel Alive Again by Catherine Price

Many of us go through life hyper-focused on success and power, so much so that we forget to enjoy the lives we’re given. The Power of Having Fun teaches us to simply have fun, despite the common belief that fun itself may be “indulgent, even immature and selfish.” 

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron

Hypersensitivity is a trait that’s often met with a negative perception. However, The Highly Sensitive Person teaches readers to embrace their sensitivity and work with it to flourish in an overwhelming world.

Quarter-life by Satya Doye Byock

Quarter-life is an excellent reminder that so much in life changes between our twenties and thirties. However, the so-called “mid-life crisis” is inevitable. Staying grounded can keep us stable and successful when everything moves at 100 miles a minute. 

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat In Difficult Times by Katherine May

Wintering recounts a lonely and disheartening period in Katherine May’s life. Containing both lived experiences and references from mythology and ancient literature, May details how accepting your circumstances and finding solace during hard times may be the best way to care for our minds and souls. 

The Power of Self-Discipline by Peter Hollins

Do you know the Reels sound explaining that discipline is more powerful than motivation? Yep, I’m fully on board. This book breaks down the science behind that truth and provides you with the practices and habits to keep committing to yourself, day after day. We all know that willpower is a limited resource and one that depletes faster the more we have to exercise it. But The Power of Self-Discipline helps make will-power habitual, helping you say no to what doesn’t align and yes to what really matters.

The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard by Ollivier Pourriol

May I present the idea that perhaps success doesn’t require all the hustle our society says it does? The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard encapsulates this idea by referencing French philosophers who believed that letting go may be the answer to heightened creativity and a more fulfilling life. 

The Self-Care Year by Alison Davies

Nature is a cycle of change and rebirth, and caring for ourselves throughout the seasons calls for different ways to feel our best. This novel does a stellar job of teaching us how to realign ourselves based on the time of year and how to live more presently and connect with ourselves.

The Clarity Cleanse by Habib Sadeghi, DO

Dr. Sadeghi’s Clarity Cleanse is a journey of self-discovery to unlock the unresolved emotional issues hurting your health and success, and how to live with greater self-awareness. An advisor to Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily Blunt, Tim Robbins, Stella McCartney, and others, Dr. Sadeghi shows you how to turn obstacles into healing and energizing opportunities through a liberating 12-step guide to recognizing the emotional issues that hold you back. 

The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age by Gladys McGarey

What does it take to look back on your life without regret? The Well-Lived Life sets you up with transformative secrets to do exactly that—from someone who already has. Written by a centenarian, still-practicing doctor, this book is required reading. You’ll learn to embrace your life fully, move your body with passion, feel grounded in your purpose, learn from all of those around you, and most importantly—love openly and honestly.

The 5 Am Club by Robin Sharma

Romanticizing your morning routine is one of the best ways to up-level your life. The 5AM Club couldn’t do a better job of reiterating the importance of morning rituals. The book tells the fictional story of four characters who use the first hour of their day to get ahead and seek inspiration.

Hunting Discomfort by Sterling Hawkins

As the title suggests, this book encourages us to never shy away from discomfort, but rather to embrace it. Hawkins explores this idea of utilizing discomfort to fuel us on the most direct path to our goals—as successful athletes, entrepreneurs, and company founders do.

Free Time by Jenny Blake

In her book, Jenny essentially redefines what a successful business looks like. She takes a step-by-step approach to transforming your life from one full of work and stress to one enriched by simplicity and joy. As an entrepreneur, Jenny points out that even in the smallest of businesses, you can’t do everything yourself, which is why she discusses the importance of building a small team to help you along the way.

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner

If you were fascinated and enthralled by Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, I can’t recommend this book enough. Therapist and author Catherine Gildiner reflects on her work with five patients—a group she calls the “most heroic and memorable.” Their stories couldn’t be any different, and they cover a large swatch of the innumerable challenges people face throughout their lives. The book touches upon everything from narcissism to abandonment to unpacking the deeply-rooted trauma of childhood experiences.

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

When it came out in 2015, Emily Nagoski’s breakthrough bestseller Come As You Are was a favorite and much-discussed topic among me and my college friends. Nagoski, a sex educator and researcher, channels that same expressive and explosive energy into her latest book, Burnout. Inspired by the recommendation of a friend who was part of my Come As You Are book club, I picked this up four years later. Having just entered the professional world, I was confused, stressed, and overwhelmed navigating this new stage of my life. And while your experience may be different, this book boasts universal takeaways bound to transform anyone’s life.

The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary L. McBride

A Vancouver-based therapist, researcher, speaker, and feminist writer, Hillary McBride is revolutionizing the way we think and speak about body image and empowerment. I first discovered McBride’s work when I read her second book, Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image. Like many women, learning to make peace with my body (a part of myself I’ve been taught to vilify since I was born) has been a journey fraught with complexity. But through McBride’s writing, research, and compassionate approach, I’ve learned to create a healthier relationship with my body, my appearance, and myself.

Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is a poetic force. You’ve likely seen her work take social media by storm over the past several years. Grounded by the unique, but often universal, challenges and traumas countless people face, Kaur’s words are vulnerable, illuminating, and awe-inspiring. With home body now in my collection,I make sure to keep all three of her books within arm’s reach at all times. The lines provide a nearly-tangible comfort and inspire a strong sense of self-acceptance.

Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker

The desire to explore a sober-curious lifestyle has grown significantly over the past few years. As the pandemic made some of us reflect on and reconsider our relationship to alcohol, we’ve become more aware of its ubiquity. In Quit Like a Woman, Whitaker unpacks our world’s obsession with drinking—pointing out its presence at just about every social gathering and function we attend. She shares her own personal journey toward sobriety while tracking the larger ways alcohol companies target women. 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

This book was recommended to me by a close friend, who said that the stories within helped her to heal from heartbreak and face the reality that everything in our future is unknown. In her ad hoc memoir, Cheryl Strayed teaches the lesson that all things in life have immense meaning, and the potential for rescue and growth is within everything that happens.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull, President and Co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Animation, brings you centerstage to the world of creativity in business and provides the tools necessary to help guide you and those around you to reach their full potential. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their company and its employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation.

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabriele Bernstein

New York Times best-selling author, international speaker, and spirit junkie, Gaby Bernstein teaches you how to transform fear into faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in The Universe Has Your Back guides you to release the blocks that are holding you back from what you long for: happiness, security, and clear direction. When the tragedies of the world seem overwhelming, this book will help guide you back to your true inner power.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Julie Smith

This is a short book you can pick up when you have a question and get an answer for what needs to be done. Seize the day? Wait and ponder? Whether it’s your job or a relationship, there are four simple answers to your millions of questions. The Stuck Book is full of easily digestible wisdom.

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

“As you look back over the last ten years, were there times when a different decision would have made your life radically different from today, either for better or for worse?” Tony Robbins, the nation’s leader in the science of peak performance, shows you his most effective strategies and techniques for mastering your emotions, your body, your relationships, your finances, and your life.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s most famous lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

“The decision to pursue what sparks joy extends far beyond its first application in home tidying: it often opens the door for greater self-discovery and fulfillment. After a thorough tidying session, one of Marie’s clients quit her job and started a new business. Another client shared that she felt comfortable inviting friends to her home for the first time. Another client declared she had moved on from a destructive relationship that no longer sparked joy – and that it transformed her entire life.”

Originals by Adam Grant

Originals re-defines what being creative means by using specific examples of how persistence, transparency, critical thinking, and perspective can be brought together to change the world. What you’ll get is a self help book that feels like sitting down with a really smart older friend, who tells you countless stories of how creative people tackled seemingly impossible problems and solved them.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is ridiculously hilarious and takes on a no-nonsense attitude to provide you with direct instructions for how to change your perspective on life to reach your dreams and convince yourself that not only do you deserve it, but you will get it if you try hard enough. Jen takes you on a wild joy ride to your own transformation, helping you create the money, relationships, career, and general all-around awesomeness you so desire.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now has sold over two million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 30 foreign languages. “Much more than simple principles and platitudes, the book takes you on an inspiring spiritual journey to find your true and deepest self. In the first chapter, Tolle introduces you to enlightenment and its natural enemy: the mind. He awakens you to your role as a creator of your pain, and shows you how to have a pain-free life by living fully in the present.”

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Everyone I’ve talked to has either recommended The Body Keeps the Score to me or entered into a (sometimes) hours-long discussion about how truly life-changing this book was. Historically, our culture has had a limited understanding of trauma. Thankfully, the past decade has seen a shift in trauma becoming more widely discussed and less stigmatized. But there’s still so much we have to learn on a personal and community level about how trauma affects us. 

How to Change by Katy Milkman

PSA: Change isn’t inherently a bad thing. Sure, if external influences (family, trends, people on social media) are causing us to change in a way that’s not in alignment with our inner truths, it’s time to pull back and reassess. But when change means you’re working toward something that’s on the path to where you want to find yourself, that’s a healthy sign of growth. How to Change does an effective job of pointing out what’s standing in the way of reaching your goals.

Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer

As someone who experiences occasional anxiety myself, I can say that no other book has influenced the way I look at and understand anxiety quite like this. And while I’d take incremental growth over quick fixes any day, Dr. Brewer maps out the life-changing “hacks” that are not only easy to adopt but possible to sustain.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover

Raise your hand if you could set better boundaries. Historically, our culture has had the idea that setting boundaries are a bad thing. But in reality, learning to communicate your feelings and express your limits with others is an incredibly powerful tool. With friends and family a DM or phone call away and the idea of work-life balance being seemingly impossible to achieve, it’s more important now than ever to be able to say “no” and unapologetically express what you need.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster

I read this book when my confidence was at an all-time low. A friend had just finished it and passed along her copy, sharing how much it had changed her life. While I’m admittedly skeptical about buzzy reads and wellness trends that are supposed to fix all of my problems, this was one of the most transformative books I’ve ever cracked open. Schuster doesn’t mince words. Her tone is brutally honest throughout, but she pairs her direct and honest language with kindness, compassion, and empathy.

8 Rules of Love: How to Find It, Keep It, and Let It Go by Jay Shetty

From the author of Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty’s latest book seeks to make practical sense of love—a concept that for so many of us feels abstract and impossible to understand. He lays out specific and easy-to-apply tips to help you cultivate love and nurture stronger relationships. I love that he also takes the reader through the entire relationship cycle—from the first date to breaking up and starting over. It’s the roadmap you’ve always wanted but didn’t think was possible to put into words. Luckily, Jay Shetty has.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Isn’t it a good sign when the title of a book pulls you in immediately? Time management has always been something I’ve struggled with. I’ve bought all the planners, used all the apps, and blocked all of my social media when I need to focus. But truly, I haven’t found anything more effective than the advice shared in this book.

Your Time to Thrive by Marina Khidekel

In our mile-a-minute world, it can seem like the only way to succeed is by sacrificing our wellbeing for work promotions, praise, and productivity. But to thrive means something completely different. Instead of encouraging you to grind through the unending cycle of stress, Your Time to Thrive draws upon scientific research to help you make lasting, positive changes. The key? It’s all about taking micro steps.

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington points out that, more than that, a chronic lack of sleep negatively impacts everything from our relationships to our emotional wellbeing. Well-researched and truly transformative, this is the wake-up everyone needs to help you fall into restful, restorative sleep.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.” Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. She tells us that Rising Strong is about getting to the heart of the most painful and uncomfortable moments we’ve ever experienced, getting honest about the way in which they’ve made us feel, and being bold enough to hold ourselves accountable to get up and grow from the past as we move into the future.

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

David Goggins’s inspirational story reminds us to never settle into a pattern of unhappiness. It reveals how we can become comfortable with discomfort as fuel in bettering ourselves and achieving our goals. Motivated to become a Navy SEAL, Goggins details his story of living his life depressed and overweight, to becoming one of the world’s most successful marathon runners and triathletes.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Dan Harris’s journey to silence the nagging voice in his head, which was also the root of his untamed anxiety, is one that I feel is highly relatable as a chronic overthinker. Meditation, Harris found, was the answer to rewiring his brain and releasing the feeling of anxiety from his daily life.

Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion by Pema Chodron

I picked up Comfortable with Uncertainty during one of the most significant transitions I have experienced. I’m so grateful that I found this gem amid change, heartbreak, and loss. This book explores Buddhism and its teachings which detail many essential life lessons, including that nothing in life will ever be certain. Coming to terms with that idea through mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness is the key to finding happiness in the unknown. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Your morning rituals and habits may have more impact than you think. James Clear took the world by storm with his book Atomic Habits, which teaches several important lessons, including the effect of “marginal gains” and that whether you win or lose, your goal stays the same, but the ability within yourself to reach that goal you is what you must evaluate.  

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

This book preaches a similar narrative as Atomic Habits but from a highly-disciplined military background. Drawing inspiration from his commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, Admiral William H. McRaven uses the slogan “What starts here changes the world” to share his experience with Naval Seal Training and how it helped him overcome challenges throughout his life.  

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Based upon the traditional practices of the Toltecs, an indigenous tribe of Mexico, The Four Agreements tells us how to break out of the mundane and controlled lives that we have been living to decide for ourselves what is possible and how to live life unattached to the agenda of any other authority. 

What A Time To Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue

What if being alone wasn’t viewed so negatively? What if it was an empowering and enlightening experience? Well, surprise! It can be. “The Sumflower,” will be your guide to understanding just how much you can gain from simply enjoying your own company.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown states, “Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.” This idea helps us reach the point of “less is more” in every area of our life to minimize stress and effort toward many daunting tasks. 

This post was originally published on August 10, 2019, and has since been updated.