A quick search on Amazon.com shows there are over 35,000 self improvement books, and more are being released every day. With this much reading material, it can be difficult to decide which books are worth picking up.
This list contains some of the best self improvement books to help you get started. The spectrum of self-help knowledge out there is pretty broad, so this list covers a few of the bigger topics, namely: building effective habits, managing your time effectively and learning how to create value (for yourself and others).
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Steven Covey's book is one of the best selling self improvement books of all time, and it's easy to see why. Many self-help books are based on quick fixes, but the 7 habits concentrate on building a strong foundation instead.
The different habits are split into three groups:
- Independence - Becoming independent and learning to take initiative (and responsibility) in your own life.
- Interdependence - Learning to work with other people in a way that is beneficial to both parties, rather than only looking out for yourself.
- Self Renewal - Keeping your habits strong by renewing yourself with an effective lifestyle.
Each habit is given a chapter to itself, and new habits build on the previous ones. Even if you don't become a master of all 7 habits, you're bound to find something useful in the book.
The NOW Habit
If you've ever had problems with procrastination, then The NOW Habit is for you. The book addresses the causes of procrastination, and gives a thorough plan for beating it.
One of the most important parts of the system is that it encourages scheduling fun, not just wringing a little more work out of the day. It's a great way to make sure you create a balanced schedule, and ensures you can enjoy your relaxation time.
Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done, or GTD as many of its fans call it, is one of the most popular time management systems available. David Allen covers just about everything you'll need to create an effective system, including:
- How to gather all your "open loops" and create a trusted system for them to live.
- How to build a better "to do" list using next actions.
- How to plan projects effectively.
- How to stop thinking about work all the time.
The best part of the GTD system is how flexible it is, and it's easy to see why so many people use it.
The E-Myth Revisited
Over a million businesses are started in the US each year, with 40% of them failing in the first year and 80% by the fifth. The E-Myth Revisited describes why this happens, and more importantly how to fix it.
Although it's not strictly a self improvement book, there's a host of useful information on how to find fulfilment in work. Even if you have no interest in starting a business, there's some good stuff about how different aspects of your personality affect the decisions you make.
Man's Search for Meaning
Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's powerful recollection of his time in a World War 2 concentration camp. It might sound like a bleak read (and it is in parts) but throughout the book Frankl writes about how the experience changed him and the positive lessons he tried to draw from it.
The Power of Focus
It's common to hear the word "focused" being used when talking about the success of others. Common sense would suggest that focusing on the tasks that bring us closer to our goals is a good idea, but it's sometimes difficult to do in practice.
The Power of Focus gives ten different strategies for developing focus. They can be used to achieve personal, business or financial goals. Topics covered include:
- How to identify bad habits, and replace them with good ones.
- How to create balance in your daily life.
- How to become confident and overcome the fear of rejection.
- How to develop persistence in achieving your goals.
Each chapter also ends with a short set of "action steps" to guide you through the process of building new habits.
The Power of Full Engagement
The Power of Full Engagement takes a different approach to most organization books, in that it suggests managing energy rather than time. A lot of the advice may seem like common sense, but it all works together to create something useful. Recommended if you find yourself low on energy and trudging through work.
Pragmatic Thinking & Learning
Although the book is aimed at computer programmers (hence the subtitle "Refactor Your Wetware"), there's plenty of value in it for everyone else. The chapters are diverse, but are all focused on the theme on building more efficient skills for thinking, learning and doing. Highlights include:
- How to learn things more efficiently
- How to become an expert at your chosen subject
- How to focus and stay sharp
Don't be out off by the programming focus - there are many valuable lessons inside.
As the title implies, 59 Seconds is more about bite-sized information than long chapters. Each article in the book is backed up by plenty of scientific studies, which cover areas from procrastination to goal setting. Some of the answers seem obvious, but others are quite surprising (such as how concentrating on a goal's end result can damage motivation rather than help it).
Despite there being a heavy focus on backing claims up with scientific evidence, it's still easy to pick up and read, and there's enough variety in the topics to make it interesting for everyone.
The 4-Hour Work Week
Plenty of self-help books make lofty promises, and Tim Ferris' "4 Hour Work Week" is definitely one of them. Will you only have to work 4 hours a week after reading it? Probably not. However, there are still some topics that are worth investigating, such as:
- How to be more efficient at your job by eliminating time wasters
- How to automate common tasks in your life to free up time (and generate passive income)
- How to remove yourself from your job
Even if you have no interest in outsourcing your life, you can benefit from a lot of the content in the book.
For more recommended books on self improvement, time management and goal setting, see the list of Personal Development Books.