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Last Updated on January 26, 2021

30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

The greatest books are defined as classics for a reason. Written by the greatest literary minds of their time, they have universal themes, characters, experiences, emotions and perspectives that are still relevant today. Some of them are the very inspiration from which entire modern genres of literary fiction have sprung up from.

If you love reading, here’s a perfect reading list for you. Even if you aren’t so much into reading, here’re 10 reasons to love reading.

Everyone should read at least once for these 30 books — some are well known classics, others are modern giants.  All are well worth reading at least once in your life!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

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    Published in 1960, this timeless classic explores human behaviour and the collective conscience of The Deep South in the early 20th century. Humour entwines the delicate strands of prejudice, hatred, hypocrisy, love and innocence to create one of the best novels ever written.

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    2. 1984, by George Orwell

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      Although 1984 has passed us by, George Orwell’s dystopian, totalitarian world of control, fear and lies has never been more relevant. Delve into the life of Winston Smith as he struggles with his developing human nature in a world where individuality, freewill and love are forbidden.

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      3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

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        I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of Harry Potter, but have you read the books? Join Harry Potter as he begins his journey into the world of magic, where he is the celebrated Boy Who Lived. Visit Hogwarts, meet your favourite characters and watch Harry grow into the one of the most famous literary characters in the world.

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        4. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

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          Middle Earth is a wonderful, expansive fantasy world filled with turmoil, heroes, evil and innocence. Although our protagonist Frodo Baggins’ quest seems impossible to complete, this trilogy is a tale of triumph in the most impossible circumstances.

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          5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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            Published in 1925, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby explores the decadence of the Jazz Age, and one man’s introduction into a world where even those with the most indulgent lives cannot earn love.

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            6. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

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              One of the most famous novels of all time, Pride And Prejudice details the courtship of two opposed characters in a world where manners and courtesy are of the utmost importance.

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              7. The Diary Of A Young Girl, by Anne Frank

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                Unforgettable and deeply influential, Anne Frank’s diary is a raw account of a young girl’s life as she hides from the Nazis. Despite her circumstances, Anne believes that people are still good at heart and that the world is full of beauty: she will change your life.

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                8. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

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                  Set in Germany during 1939, The Book Thief follows Liesel as she rescues books from the tyranny of Nazi rule. Meanwhile, her family has hidden a Jewish fighter in their basement and death looks down on the family, narrating our tale. Experience bravery that is rarely found in the world, and friendship that is formed in the most unlikely of situations.

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                  9. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

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                    Although the movies are inexplicably long, The Hobbit was originally written as a short children’s book. Meet your favourite characters for the first time as the unforgettable Bilbo Baggins traverses the harsh landscapes of Middle Earth to challenge a dragon.

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                    10. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

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                      Join four sisters, each with their own prominent personality, as they come of age in charming 19th Century New England. Experience their struggles and revel in their flaws, as these girls become strong women.

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                      11. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

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                        Books are forbidden, and it is our main character Guy Montag’s job to burn any books he comes across. Often compared to George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian world is an unsettling commentary on Western societies’ addiction and dependence on the media and conformity.

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                        12. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

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                          Arguably one of the most influential fictional heroines of all time, Jane Eyre is a strong, unbroken women despite her troubled childhood and repressed Victorian society.
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                          13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

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                            This famous 1945 satire, examines the realistic risks of revolution and the dynamics animals will inevitably give in to.

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                            14. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

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                              Set in The South during The Civil War, chances are if you love the movie you’ll love the book. Although the main character and the world she lives in is loathsome, readers’ opinions are twisted as this novel dishes out a fated justice when both Scarlett and The South lose their wars.

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                              15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

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                                Starring the original cynical adolescent, The Catcher In The Rye explores the challenges and isolation of adolescence. Decipher your own message as you follow sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield, in this novel that has split audiences for decades.

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                                16. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

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                                  Team up with Charlotte, a loving and generous spider, and Fern, a farmers daughter as they try to save Wilbur the piglet from becoming breakfast. Charlotte’s Web is a compelling reminder to bask in the simplistic wonders of everyday life, and to be kind to all living creatures.

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                                  17. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

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                                    Another renowned fantasy world, Narnia is the home of hundreds of magnificent creatures each with their own origins, morals and ideals. Let you imagination run wild as you enter the wardrobe and meet some of the most famous literary characters in history.

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                                    18. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

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                                      Published in 1939, this novel set during The Great Depression follows one Oklahoma family as they are forced to travel to California. Experience America in a tale where it’s people are divided into the haves and have-nots, the powerful and the powerless.

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                                      19. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

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                                        This classic novel follows the lives of boys marooned on an island as they regress into savages; and their beautiful, enjoyable island existence collapses into a primitive and cruel nightmare.

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                                        20. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

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                                          A story of true friendship, The Kite Runner follows Amir as he tries to find the only true friend he’s ever had – despite abandoning him due to ethnic and religious differences that were prominent in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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                                          21. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

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                                            Of Mice And Men is a complex story of a friendship between two migrant workers: George Milton and Lennie Small, in California. Watch their friendship develop as the pair work towards their modest dreams of owning their own land and pets.

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                                            22. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

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                                              Following eighteen years as a political prisoner, Dr Manette is released and returns to England with his daughter Lucie. There, two very different men fall in love with Lucie and become entwined in a tale of love and sacrifice.

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                                              23. Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

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                                                Perhaps the most famous love story ever written, Romeo and Juliet is an epic tragedy that explores the euphoria of desire and the tragedy of revenge.

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                                                24. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

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                                                  Grab a towel and accompany human Arthur Dent on a fantastic adventure across the galaxy. Learn not to take the universe so seriously and forget any meaning you’ve applied to anything in your life, because we all know the real meaning of life is 42.

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                                                  25. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

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                                                    Published in 1847, this passionate and harrowing story of love, rivalry and revenge follows Catherine Earnshaw and her father’s adopted foundling Heathcliff as they grow into very different adults.

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                                                    26. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

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                                                      Winner of multiple awards, The Color Purple is a devastating tale that tackles the lives of colored women in 1930s USA. Censored and challenged, the harsh reality displayed in The Color Purple will leave you shaken.

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                                                      27. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

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                                                        Bizarre and curious, Alice In Wonderland explores the potential of imagination and the reality of fiction. If you’re a fan of escaping the real world, this is definitely the book for you.

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                                                        28. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

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                                                          A combination of gothic thriller, cautionary tale and romance novel, Frankenstein is a story like no other. Written by Mary Shelley when she was just eighteen, Frankenstein prompts readers to ask themselves some truly shattering questions: what makes us human? What do we owe to one another as living creatures? How far can science push the boundaries of nature?

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                                                          29. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

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                                                            Often titled The Great American Novel, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn is a deep and complex tale of friendship, adolescence and shifting societal norms.

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                                                            30. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

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                                                              Although Vonnegut himself admits there are few characters or confrontations in this book, the impact of his novel is undeniable.

                                                              We travel through life with our protagonist Billy Pilgrim as he experiences World War II from a rather unique perspective – that is, he’s been abducted from his home planet of Tralfamadore. Rich and deeply funny, this tale aims to discourage us from war and murder that the authorities force the public into.

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                                                              Featured photo credit: Prasanna Kumar via unsplash.com

                                                              More by this author

                                                              Anna Chui

                                                              Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

                                                              The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) How to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

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                                                              Published on May 11, 2021

                                                              20 Best Books on Personal Development

                                                              20 Best Books on Personal Development

                                                              Let’s face it—transformation isn’t always easy. Getting from where you are to where you want to be in life requires a lot of personal growth and development. It can require everything from letting go of old beliefs to speaking up for yourself and setting boundaries to even recognizing your own unmet needs. These aren’t exactly skills we’re taught in school, so it can be incredibly overwhelming to even know where to start.

                                                              A few decades ago, most personal development information was locked behind thousand-dollar seminars and coaching programs. Fortunately, the industry has absolutely exploded in the last decade, and a large part of that is driven by books. For under $15 or with a library card, we now have access to priceless wisdom from some of the most brilliant minds and best books on personal development.

                                                              By reading the words of experts in the field, we literally can think their thoughts and benefit from decades of experience to improve our own lives. So, how do you get started?

                                                              Here are the 20 best books on personal development that can completely transform your life.

                                                              (Links are listed for accessibility, but remember to check your local library to see if these books are available for free. And don’t forget to support your local bookstore, if possible.)

                                                              1. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

                                                                Celebrated by everyone from Martin Scorsese to Elizabeth Gilbert, The Artist’s Way has been one of the most important books for artists and non-artists alike for decades. It guides you through a 12-week process of morning journaling and self-dates to unlock all of your blocks to creativity and intuition and live a life that feels like you.

                                                                Whether you are an artist or not, this is an insightful book that will bring so much clarity to what you really want out of life and why you’ve been holding yourself back.

                                                                Get the book here!

                                                                2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

                                                                  Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown has been a leader in studying vulnerability. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she shares research and encouragement that helps you release the definition of who you think you’re supposed to be to become who you actually already are.

                                                                  Brené encourages you to let go of shame, open up to vulnerability, and live a more authentic life. This is an inspiring and important book for anyone struggling with the shame of being radically yourself.

                                                                  Get the book here!

                                                                  3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

                                                                    In Start with Why, author and TED speaker Simon Sinek shares the secret that united Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers—they all started with “why.” They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the “why” behind it.

                                                                    While this book is primarily focused on work or business, Start with Why makes a compelling case for the power behind a strong motivation that people can get behind and how it can inspire more innovation and support.

                                                                    Get the book here!

                                                                    4. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

                                                                      For decades, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has famously studied the concept of “flow”—the highly-focused psychological state that Olympic athletes, great artists, and brilliant scientists all find themselves in at moments of groundbreaking success.

                                                                      By breaking down decades of research into bite-sized actions, Flow reveals the process to create this state for yourself and get “in the zone” to achieve your optimal potential.

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                                                                      Get the book here!

                                                                      5. The HeartMath Solution: The Institute of HeartMath’s Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart’s Intelligence by Doc Lew Childre and Howard Martin

                                                                        Touted by Deepak Chopra as the book that “saves you years of therapy,” The HeartMath Solution pulls together decades of Institute of HeartMath research on how to be less stressed and make better decisions, making it one of the best books on personal development.

                                                                        This practical, easy read will change the way you view the relationship between your head and heart. The techniques in the book are incredibly simple and can help you calm down from some of the stressful moments in a matter of seconds to tap back into your best decision-making.

                                                                        Get the book here!

                                                                        6. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

                                                                          If you’re overwhelmed by too many things to do and never seem to accomplish the stuff that really matters to you, then this is an invaluable book. The ONE Thing argues that until your most important task is completed, everything else is a distraction that diffuses your energy and makes you frantic.

                                                                          This book helps you focus on what you really care about and want to accomplish and then, organize your life around accomplishing the “one thing” before moving on to something else. This is one of the best books for personal development, especially for anyone who’s struggling with overwhelm and productivity.

                                                                          Get the book here!

                                                                          7. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

                                                                            Codependent No More has been an international bestseller for more than 30 years, and the reason is that we all struggle with codependency somewhere in our lives.

                                                                            Whether it looks like addiction, people-pleasing, taking care of everyone around you, or just not giving yourself enough self-care, this book unpacks the roots of codependency and helps you break free once-and-for-all.

                                                                            This is an important book for anyone having challenges in friendships or relationships or struggling with people-pleasing or addiction.

                                                                            Get the book here!

                                                                            8. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

                                                                              Presenting ancient Stoic wisdom to a modern audience, The Obstacle Is the Way shows you how to turn your obstacles and challenges into massive opportunities.

                                                                              Ryan Holiday draws from the same ancient philosophy that empowered John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, and Steve Jobs to succeed and breaks down the essential formula for not running away from obstacles but actually running toward them.

                                                                              This is a really empowering book for anyone struggling with obstacles to get what they want.

                                                                              Get the book here!

                                                                              9. Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement by Ayodeji Awosika

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                                                                                Real Help isn’t your usual self-help book. Wildly popular Medium writer Ayodeji Awosika takes a no-BS, tough-love approach to developing mental toughness, finding clarity, and taking action to transform your life.

                                                                                This is a great book if you’ve read dozens of self-help or personal development books but haven’t taken action to change your life. Real Help gets right to the point and gives you actionable steps to start implementing change right away.

                                                                                Get the book here!

                                                                                10. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

                                                                                  Year of Yes is a deeply personal and honest account of how the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal Shonda Rhimes started saying yes to everything that scared her.

                                                                                  This inspiring and raw memoir makes you reflect on what you’ve been avoiding or making excuses for out of fear and what would really happen if you started saying yes to all the stuff that terrifies you. It’s a relatable, casual, easy read, and is great for anyone who needs a little inspiration to start saying yes to life.

                                                                                  Get the book here!

                                                                                  11. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

                                                                                    Psychologist Gay Hendricks unpacks why we all seem to self-sabotage when we’re so close to success and what it will take to leap to a life where you’re in your “Zone of Genius.”

                                                                                    In this highly motivating book on personal development, you’ll walk step by step on how to “go beyond your internal limits, release outdated fears, and learn a whole new set of powerful skills and habits to liberate your authentic greatness.”

                                                                                    Get the book here!

                                                                                    12. Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (5.2.1985) by David R. Hawkins

                                                                                      Hailed by Mother Teresa, Lee Iacocca, and Sam Walton, Power vs. Force combines spirituality and cutting-edge research to help you understand your emotions and level of consciousness.

                                                                                      In this seminal work, David Hawkins explains how to get a yes or no answer to any question you ask and how to understand what you’re feeling and why so that you can begin to change your life and the world around you.

                                                                                      While it’s not exactly a light beach read, this book is really eye-opening for those wanting to explore spirituality as part of their personal development.

                                                                                      Get the book here!

                                                                                      13. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

                                                                                        Personal development as we know it would not be the same without Oprah Winfrey. For 14 years, Oprah shared her greatest wisdom in a monthly column for O, The Oprah Magazine called “What I Know for Sure.” This book collects all of those essays—a lifetime of Oprah’s greatest experiences and lessons—into a comprehensive work.

                                                                                        What I Know for Sure is honest, thoughtful, and deeply inspiring. This is a powerful book for devout Oprah Winfrey fans and soon-to-be fans alike.

                                                                                        Get the book here!

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

                                                                                          In this memoir, Navy SEAL David Goggins recounts his own life story from poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse to becoming one of the world’s top endurance athletes and military icon through pure will.

                                                                                          Can’t Hurt Me will inspire you to stretch and persevere to defy even the most improbably odds and realize that when you think you’re completely tapped out, you’ve only tapped into 40% of your capabilities—and there’s still so much more you can do.

                                                                                          It’s an inspiring, tough love book that will motivate you to take action toward your dreams.

                                                                                          Get the book here!

                                                                                          15. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

                                                                                            In The Happiness Project, writer Gretchen Rubin documents her entire year of testing out research, classical philosophy, and common wisdom to find out what makes her truly happy.

                                                                                            This casual and accessibly written book inspires you to design your own happiness project to transform each area of your life as you follow Gretchen’s journey and contemplate research on happiness.

                                                                                            If you’re looking for an inspiring structure to change every aspect of your life, The Happiness Project is an easy read that can inspire you to experiment with what makes you happy.

                                                                                            Get the book here!

                                                                                            16. Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement by Tony Robbins

                                                                                              The name Tony Robbins has been synonymous with personal development. In Unlimited Power, he reveals the exact techniques he has used to help Olympic athletes, movie stars, and heads of state to harness their own untapped power.

                                                                                              This book breaks down complicated neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques into simple visualizations that anyone can learn in literally minutes to start to change the way your mind processes information. If you’re looking to change your thinking or step into more confidence, this is an important book to not overlook.

                                                                                              Get the book here!

                                                                                              17. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

                                                                                                In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor flips conventional wisdom on its head. It’s not that we’ll be happy when we’re successful. It’s that we’ll actually be successful when we’re happy.

                                                                                                Shawn presents research that shows us how to rewire our brains for positivity and optimism to be happier in our lives, our careers, and even our health. He also breaks down actionable strategies to retrain our brains, build a solid support network, and spread positive change to the people around us.

                                                                                                If you’re looking to retrain your brain for happiness and success, this is definitely a worthwhile book to consider.

                                                                                                Get the book here!

                                                                                                18. Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core by Bruce D. Schneider

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                                                                                                  Renowned coach Bruce D. Schneider doesn’t just tell you what energy leadership is—he shows you. In Energy Leadership, Bruce recounts the story of how he helped a client to transform his failing business by systematically changing the energy of the business.

                                                                                                  At each new level, there are specific emotions, actions, and predictable arguments. By the end of the book, you’ll be able to identify exactly which level of energy leadership every relationship, job, and friendship in your life is at and how to begin transforming it for the better.

                                                                                                  It’s an eye-opening look at why we’re stuck where we are and how we can shift ourselves and those around us to get extraordinary results.

                                                                                                  Get the book here!

                                                                                                  19. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

                                                                                                    Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert digs into her own creative process in Big Magic to unpack the mysterious and spiritual nature of inspiration. She discusses the habits needed to cultivate creativity, go after our deepest desires, and confront our fears.

                                                                                                    With a casual, poetic tone and lots of encouragement, Big Magic inspires you to find the magic inside—whether that’s to create art, start a new business, or bring more mindfulness and passion to our everyday lives.

                                                                                                    If you’re looking for more inspiration and creativity, this is an important book to reignite that fire within.

                                                                                                    Get the book here!

                                                                                                    20. Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms by Mike Iamele

                                                                                                      I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my own book on this list.

                                                                                                      Enough Already is a battle cry for the success seekers who are fed up trying to achieve someone else’s definition of success. Broken up into 12 steps, the book follows a journey through the 12 aspects of creating success on your own terms with homework and challenges at the end of each chapter to implement the work into your life immediately.

                                                                                                      By the end of the book, you’ll have a completed strategic plan to step up into the world and go after even some of your biggest dreams knowing that you are enough already.

                                                                                                      Get the book here!

                                                                                                      The Bottom Line

                                                                                                      You only need one good idea to change your life, and there’s so much important wisdom and inspiration in the 20 best books on personal development listed above. You don’t have to read all of them. You just have to start.

                                                                                                      Personal development is about taking action to develop yourself personally. So, scan this list, find a book that resonates with you, and then start reading.

                                                                                                      You don’t need to measure the magnitude—just the direction. If you take one tiny step toward the life you want, every day for a year, you’ll be 365 times closer to your dreams a year from today. But you just have to start.

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                                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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