“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”– Henry David Thoreau (tweet this)
Reading books can have some pretty awesome effects. Besides making us a whole lot smarter research has shown that it can also improve memory, slow down the progress of Alzheimers and Dementia, reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen analytical thinking skills, improve focus and concentration, increase empathy and ease depression.
Simply put, if you’re not reading books on a regular basis now is the time to start!
How do you make sure you’re reading the best books? You simply keep on reading to find out! 🙂
I reached out to 23 personal development experts and asked them “If you were to recommend a life changing book to someone (aside from your own work), what would be your number one pick?”
23 Books That Will Change Your Life
[Note: If you want to read more books, make sure to read all the way to the end and grab The Habit Reading Checklist.]
“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is a book that I wish people could read and absorb. It caused a big paradigm shift for me by making me understand the importance of now and realize how much energy I was expending on the past and future! But I almost never recommend it because it’s a really heavy read – lots of complex, abstract concepts and esoteric jargon.
I think I’d be more likely to recommend “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert for a lot of people, which also had a big impact on me. I read that book at a time when I really needed to hear that my own happiness was a good enough motivation for making big decisions. I think a lot of people can relate to that and need permission to choose themselves.
– Britt Reints, In Pursuit of Happiness
“Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” by Stephen LaBerge. The book teaches people to become consciously aware while inside their dreams. I’m a big believer in positive thinking. I don’t think the universe gives you what you wish for, but I do think you’re more likely to get something if you believe strongly enough about it. Lucid dreaming is a powerful tool because you can live out your dreams in real time instead of just thinking about them.
I remember dreaming of becoming successful enough online so I could live abroad. I used to visit tropical beaches and mystical cities inside my lucid dreams. Within 6 months I jumped on a plane and I’ve never looked back since. You can obviously use your lucid dreams to have fun, but it’s a very strong tool to build up your motivation and confidence so you can achieve anything.
– Jamie Alexander, Lucid Ability
The most life-changing book I’ve read is “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Getting Things Done is about organizing your entire life into a system you can trust. It’s brilliantly designed to account for all of your life inputs, but it does take some time and effort to manage the system and keep up with it.
To sum it up, before that book, I was a messy, disorganized person, and after, I was a clean, organized person. Even though I don’t follow the GTD system now (too complex), the principles and concepts in the book alone are worth it. It might change the way you think about how you organize your life and goals.
– Stephen Guise, Deep Existance
“Infinite Self: 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power” by Stuart Wilde. Stuart’s book shows you how to consolidate your inherent power and transcend all limitations by releasing yourself from the constraints of the ego. Yet, this book is so much more than that! It truly is a powerhouse of fun training that you can take aboard in your own life, and at your own pace, when you have had quite enough of “getting in your own way”.
Admittedly, I know and have read, many books related to personal development and self improvement. Yet, this book remains top of the list as my all time favorite. Infinite Self supports us in expanding our personal power, confidence, focus and liberates us from “emotional disquiet”. It is handy, useful, practical, very easy to digest in segments and super fun too. I also appreciate that this book is a great entry point for anybody who is new to the self-growth genre, yet it presents a myriad of advanced ideas to hold the attention of experts and masters.
– Thea Westra, Forward Steps
A life changing book for me was definitely “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins. There’s a ton of different information spanning a variety of topics, but my favorite elements was the parts that revealed why we do what we do. Once you understand things like your emotional state, evaluations, and belief life becomes a whole lot easier to design so that you are always operating within a peak state. This is definitely why I’d recommend it to anyone!
– Scott Britton, Lifelong Learner
Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice For Difficult Times” is SO helpful. While some spiritual and personal development teaching has an edge of “don’t worry be happy” Pema encourages us to go deep into the tough times, hard emotions, painful memories and look carefully at your reaction to difficult people, because they are ALL teachers. As she says, “nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Going into pain, rather than avoiding it, is freedom and this is the path to peace.
– Ian Lawton, Soul Seeds
“Stranger In A Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein was the book that rocked my world. It’s a science fiction about a human raised on Mars…by Martians. It forces you to examine your unconscious beliefs about pretty much everything. And it challenges you to live a life of adventure, fun and love.
– Larry Hochman, No More Holding Back
“If I’m being honest, I don’t feel like I’ve ever read a book that changed my life. Plenty that have helped me think a little differently, but books don’t change your life—you do. Read lots of books—it’s good for you—but don’t ever think that reading something will amount to doing anything. If you want to change your life, the motivation will have to come from within.”
– Tyler Tervooren, Riskology
My number one pick is “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch. It is actually a series of 3 books. Walsch wrote the series at a particularly low point in his life. He had written an angry letter to God asking why his life was not working. To his astonishment, God answered. The series is reported in an easy-to-understand dialogue format.
This series was particularly life-changing for me. In the book series, Walsch had asked many common questions that a lot of us grabble with. In fact, I felt as if I was the one asking some of these questions. Walsch did an excellent job in articulating some of my deepest concerns.
The answers were profound. They shattered long-held illusions, and clarified core spiritual truths on life and death. There were also excellent answers on how to lead a happier life. I have learned to live in greater oneness, after reading the series. I highly recommend the series to anyone seeking to make a powerful change in his or her life.
-Evelyn Lim, Abundance Tapestry
“The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz which is about learning to manage energy, not time. I chose this book because we believe that if we could just get more hours out of the day, we’d get more done. This neglects our internal willpower/energy resources which are fundamentally more limited. Read this book to get more done.
– Scott Young, scotthyoung.com
This is a really tough question! There are so many terrific books that have changed my life in some essential way that it’s hard to choose. I think I will go with a book that is more recent and recommend Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection”.
Brene Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston and her work centers on shame and vulnerability. The Gifts of Imperfection provides ten guideposts for how to live a Wholehearted life by taking us from a place of worrying about, “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” It teaches us that, no matter how afraid and vulnerable we feel, we’re still okay – we’re worthy of love and belonging just as we are. Her Ted Talk on this subject has almost 14 million views and I highly recommend it as well.
So many of us struggle with the thought that we’re not good enough – or that we’re just not enough in general. That thought makes us continue to strive for some kind of illusory perfection. It’s like a hamster on an exercise wheel – we just run and run and run and never get anywhere. Let’s stop, take a deep breath, and take in the truth that we’re okay just as we are.
– Bobbi Emel, Bounce
If I were to recommend a life-changing book to someone, my number one pick would be Bruce Lipton’s book, “The Biology of Belief”. The book shares research that totally changes the way that we look at the role of DNA, and how our body’s cells respond to changes in our environment.
The reason why I would say this book is my number one choice is because, for me, it truly bridges the gap between science and spirituality, and it reveals just how powerful our perceptions can be. Through this book, I’ve learned that we are not victims of our DNA, but rather our DNA will respond to the environment, which is based completely on our perceptions. This entire book was like a huge “Aha” for me, and it’s a fascinating read, no matter how many times I read it, because I learn something new and exciting every time. It’s a must read!
– Victor Schueller, victorschueller.com
“The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. As the title says, the book is about how to live your life with a clear purpose. I believe knowing and living your purpose is essential to live your best life. As Victor Frankl once said: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
This book is the best book I’ve found to help you live a life with a purpose. If you have read it once and didn’t get something, give it another chance and read it one more time. I discovered its beauty only after reading it for the second time.
– Donald Latumahina, Life Optimizer
Reading Florence Scovel Shinn’s classic work, “The Game of Life and How to Play It” will change your life; I know it changed mine. I heard about it when I was a junior in high school. My college-aged cousin said she had read a book about how you could ask the Universe to provide whatever you need in life and it would show up. After reading it miraculous things began appearing in her life.
That’s all I needed to hear to want to read it. It was out of print then but she loaned me her tattered photocopied version. The idea of asking the Universe for what you wanted in life and getting it seemed a magical one. I’d been raised to believe that life happened ‘to you’ but here was this book saying that life happens ‘through you’ and that you have the power to orchestrate what you wish to have happen! Wow!
Of course, Shinn was writing about the Law of Attraction but back then very few people had heard about it. The book came back into print in 1978 and has remained a best-seller since. I highly recommend reading it – your life will never be the same.”
– Angela Artemis, Powered By Intuition
My pick would definitely be “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. This is the story of distinguished psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz and other concentration camps for 3 years during the Second World War.
Surrounded by unimaginable suffering and loss, Frankl began to wonder why some of his fellow prisoners were able not only to survive the horrifying conditions, but to grow in the process. Frankl’s book beautifully illustrates the power of attitude over circumstance. Despite extreme physical and mental hardships, he was able to find meaning in life and turn that belief into purposeful actions that enabled him to survive when so many others did not.
– Marquita Herald, Inspired Gift Giving
The book that comes to mind for me is a book I read a couple of years ago called the “Rhythm of Life” by Matthew Kelly. This book is about connecting with the purpose that we are meant to live life as our best possible selves, and in order to be at our best we need to take care of some fundamental needs.
This includes making time for our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual needs each day, as well as having time for solitude, silence, and stillness. Ultimately if we are willing to nourish these domains of life we can live with greater purpose and passion, and will be a better person all the way around.
This book was pivotal in my understanding of how important small daily actions are to my overall health, happiness, and productivity. It helped me get a more stable rhythm in my life and understand that nourishing myself is these different areas will allow me to approach life from a more whole and powerful state of mind. I am also selecting it because it makes these ideas easily accessible so they can be applied in your life.
– Joe Wilner, Shake Off The Grind
“The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz. The whole idea of changing your attitude to be happy is explained so well with real success stories that truly motivate and inspire. ‘Thinking positively toward oneself’ is the fundamental truth that is presented in such a loving and warm manner in this book, it becomes a part of you.
Another important idea that comes across through this book is – ‘To see what can be, not just what is’. It explains that visualization adds value to everything and thinking big means training oneself to see not just what is, but what can be. This is the ultimate Positive thinking book. It instils hope, clarity and immense belief in your own self. As I read through the stories in this book, I felt like I too could conquer the world. It came to me at the perfect time and was my saviour in so many ways.
I found this book in the used book store while I was aimlessly walking to numb my then overwhelming pain. I had just been deeply heartbroken, hurt and literally felt completely lost in life. That’s when this book peeped at me from the pile of used books at a roadside store. I picked it up and have since never looked back. This was nearly 14 years back! If it could help me, it can help anyone! I still carry that copy with me and refer to it time and again. Sometimes I reread it to learn a new lesson, sometimes to just feel motivated. it does the trick everytime 🙂
– Zeenat Merchant Syal, Positive Provocations
Without a doubt, the book that I would recommend is “Replay” by Ken Grimwood, which was written back in 1986. It’s a compelling fiction story about a man named Jeff Winston who suddenly dies at the age of forty-three and wakes up in his 18 year-old body back in college.
Basically, he gets to “replay” his life over for the next twenty-five years. Then this process keeps repeating itself whenever Jeff reaches forty-three of age. During each replay, Jeff makes different decisions about his life. Some are good and some are bad. What’s compelling is that even though he knows the future of the outside world, his individual choices always lead to a uniquely different lifestyle.
I first read this book when I was 12 years old. And I’ve re-read it pretty much every year since then. What keeps pulling back is the idea that we don’t get a chance to replay our lives. There is no reset button with our decisions. The choices we make today will ultimately determine what happens for the rest of our lives. I recommend this book for three reasons: 1. It’s a really good story. 2. It shows how the littlest of choices can determine the outcome of our lives. 3. It will remind you of what’s truly important.
– SJ Scott, Develop Good Habits
My number one pick would be “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie. Loving What Is is about learning how to escape suffering, anxiety sadness and depression in life. All emotions we experience in life begin as thoughts in our mind, though most of the time, the thoughts that trigger our emotions happen so quickly, we’re not even aware we’ve had them.
Katie shows you how to easily tune into these “thoughts” and how to take control of them, and thereby take control of your experience of life, helping you move from pain to paradise, almost effortlessly. I believe that unhappiness and feeling unfulfilled by life are two of the biggest challenges facing our generation today. Loving What Is teaches you how to reverse many of those feelings in such a simple way, it’s almost unbelievable. This book really changed my life and I believe that it can really help a lot of people. It’s just so easy! Everyone needs to read this book.
– David Bederman, Living Aha
When Patrik asked me to reveal the book that had the biggest impact on my life; only one title sprang to mind. You may already be familiar with the movie version (which is awful), but the original “Yes Man” by Danny Wallace is right up there with the most inspirational books I have ever read.
Quite simply, it has everything you need to get up off your ass and start living the life you truly want. It’s the story of how one man (Danny) suddenly decides to eliminate the word ‘no’ from his vocabulary. Everything from friendly invitations, requests for money and extra work from his employer had to be met with a ‘yes’ – no questions asked.
As you can imagine, this led to some crazy situations involving an impromptu trip to an Amsterdam sex club, a meeting with a Nigerian scam artist and a request to visit Barcelona to meet his Spanish equivalent. After reading this book, you cannot fail to be inspired. It’s equal parts inspirational and hilarious. If you don’t finish it within 2 days, there is something wrong with you!
– Jamie Flexman, Psycholocrazy
The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill. The book is about the sixteen fundamental principles of success that Hill found from studying the richest, most productive, and successful men alive at the time and in the past. Men such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and so on.
I chose this book because I think its content is applicable to achieving success in almost any different area of life. The book also provides a very interesting and varied reading experience. Once you have read it you should go back to it every once in a while and find something new in it to apply. It’s a very practical book and It’s highly unlikely that you will get the full benefit from a single read.
– Ludvig Sunström, Start Gaining Momentum
“The Power of Now” – Eckhart Tolle. The book is about calming and quieting your mind so you can bring your Highest and Best self to each moment and live the way you’ve always wanted to live. Because it changed my life in so many positive and amazing ways. It allowed me to see new possibilities and things I wanted for my life. It also allowed me to move through each day with a peace of mind and a sense of fulfillment.
– Sibyl Chavis, The Possibility of Today
The only wise answer is “It depends on the person, and the time in their life.” The book “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie was a life-changer for me, but only because social skills didn’t come naturally to me. For someone who’s naturally social, reading this book would be a waste of their time.
“Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins was a major life-changer for me, but other people I’ve recommended it to said it did nothing for them. Tim Ferriss, who I usually agree with, recommended one book to me that he said totally changed his life, (“Maximum Achievement” by Brian Tracy) – but I found it really obvious and boring.
So instead my best recommendation is to look through someone’s list of recommendations, and see which one seems to be what you need right now at this stage in your life. You can find my top recommendations here – sorted with my most-recommended ones at top. (Though keep scrolling, because the book you need right now may be further down the list.)
– Derek Sivers, Sivers.org
The Next Step
And there you have them! 23 life-changing books from 23 life-changing people.
The only problem now is finding the time to read them all, right?
And that’s why I’ve put together The Reading Habit Checklist.
In this resource, I share the fun and simple system I’ve used to make reading a regular part of my life.
Happy reading! 🙂