Personal development and self help books review.
If it’s on a list of recommended reading, the review is probably here.
Last updated: 8/20/22. This post is regularly being updated as I review more books! So check back for new content often.
I read a book that changed my life. Literally. You can read the review here: “The ONE Thing.”
And it started me a kick. I’ve been reviewing all the personal development and self help books I can find. Well, those that are recommended by people I trust and look good.
Instead of YOU having to try them all, I’ve done the work for you. Below- sorted by order of recommendation- are all the books you need to start changing your life.
One quick note. As with everything in life, just reading the book doesn’t help. Great advice unapplied is useless.
Table of contents
- Definitely Recommended
- Recommended (Secondary)
- For Specific Situations
- Do You Have a Book to Recommend?
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These are the books that you should read NOW. Drop what you’re doing. Invest the money. Or run to the library. These are books that have the potential to dramatically change your life.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is the best book on personal development I’ve ever read. Yes, ever.
It was probably so powerful because it resonated with experiences I’ve had in my life, particularly the information about keystone habits. (See my post “How Keystone Habits Can Transform Your Life” to find out which 8 habits can literally change your life.)
This book is loaded with research, information, and examples about habits. And the appendix is packed with information on how to practically apply it to your life. If you only read one book this year, this is the book you should read.
If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs—and becomes automatic—it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing, as James wrote, that bears “us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
‘Going small’ is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing
It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
By applying the one thing, you can completely change your life. In fact, I now have my ONE thing each week highlighted on the very top of my weekly planner.
If you don’t read a single other book in this post, read this one!
The bulk of his advice can be summed up with this: “Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action…It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
But what really makes this book great is that he tells us exactly how to develop those good habits and how to break those bad ones. He has tons of great ideas, such as habit stacking, structuring our lives to support our habits, not skipping twice, and more. I’ve incorporated many of them in my life- especially in the area of exercise- and my life has improved.
The one that I found most important is that success (and reaching your goals) requires sacrifice and pain. In Mark Manson’s own words: “What determines your success isn’t, ‘What do you want to enjoy?’ The relevant question is, ‘What pain do you want to sustain?’ The path to happiness is a path full of shit heaps and shame.”
He goes on to a couple of other things that society needs to hear. One is the constant victimization culture that is permeating our society. It’s not helping anyone. Least of all the self-proclaimed victims.
Another is constant the “outrage porn” being perpetuated by the media.
Anyway, I highly recommend grabbing this book ASAP. You should also check out Mark Manson’s website: Life Advice That Doesn’t Suck.
These were books that I really, really recommend. But they’re on the second-tier. While I recommend everyone read them, they’re not quite as life-changing as the ones above.
Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. While it seems focused towards business women, I still suggest this book for everyone. Because her advice on goal-setting and achieving is fabulous.
She hits some of the obvious advice: know where you want to go, check often to make sure you’re still on track, etc. But she explains it in a clear-cut, exciting way that makes you want to get started this very second!
While everyone will be touched by something different, there is one piece of advice in this book that really, really struck me. I’m a shiny-object person. I tend to dream, get excited about some new project, then before I know it, I’ve spent half a year on a side project with no benefit to my long-term business goals. Her advice has helped put a stop to that.
So, let’s let go of the idea of a to-do list and focus instead on creating a results list. And by “result,” I mean, what is the end result I’m looking for from this work session? It’s easy to get sidetracked, and it’s even easier to be moving so quickly in a direction that you don’t realize it’s the wrong direction. I recommend a check-in with yourself every Sunday.Girl, Stop Apologizing by: Rachel Hollis
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. He starts with this (true to me) fact: “My observation is that about 1 person in 20 is achieving a significant measure of his or her goals in life: financial, professional, personal, in terms of relationships, in terms of health, in whatever terms you want to look at. 1 in 20. Or about 5%”.
He then explains one of the most basic concepts we need to know. But one that is often overlooked. I highlighted this in my post “Goals vs. Systems.”
It’s the idea that our small actions- repeated day in and day out- will have the biggest impact over our long-term results. The graphic above basically summarizes the whole book. He also emphasizes that without effort on our part, we’re likely to default to the easiest, least effective actions. Meaning a downward trend is inevitable without deliberate action on our part.
The author illustrates the idea multiple different ways. With multiple different examples. And in multiple different areas of life. I think it’s so that if one of the examples doesn’t quite “click” with you, maybe a different one will. My favorite quote is his busting one of the ideas I HATE about self help…that if you want it bad enough it will happen.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, and it wasn’t for want of desire. If you’ve ever been told, “You’ll get it if you just want it bad enough,” I’m here to let you off the hook: it simply isn’t trueThe Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen
Overall, definitely worth a read. Especially if you’re ready to make small changes consistently and finally see real results.
9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson. Short book, but a good, quick read. Probably not the top of the priority list for reading. But if it’s available, and you have the time, refresh yourself on some basics for successful living. I’m not going to list them all, but they include great advice such as if-then planning and getting specific about goals.
For Specific Situations
Stuff about book
I hate to include this category. Because I respect anyone who has written a book. I’ve only written one (Personal Money Management) and it includes a bunch of printables to walk people through the content. So I know writing is hard.
But in the interest of saving your time and money…skip these books. There are just better ones out there.
Rewire Your Brain
Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life by John B. Arden. The claim of the book is this: “You’ll learn how habits are formed and how to increase good habits and end bad ones. Since your brain is always developing new connections between neurons and killing off old connections that are not being used, you’ll learn how to develop connections that promote good habits and shut off those that support bad habits.”
Following this claim is pages and pages of information on the brain and what the various parts do. While this might (in his mind) establish his credibility, it does precisely zero for us. It’s a waste of time.
I continued reading. I reached page 56 and decided it isn’t shocking information that to build a habit- even something you fear- you focus on the positives, put in effort until it becomes effortless. And then keep the habit so you don’t lose it.
Then we read more about all the chemicals in the brain and what they do…honestly, at this point I gave up. If I hadn’t already participated in cognitive behavioral therapy AND gotten a bachelors in psychology, it might have struck me as more interesting.
But for the average reader…there are much better books out there.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, while technically a book on finances, is more a self-help book on mindset.
Despite its popularity, I’m going to have to recommend you skip this book.
First, I don’t know if it’s because of when it was published (did they not have italic and bold back then?), but he uses ALL CAPS for emphasis. A lot.
He goes on and on about envisioning success. A lot of this is sounds too much like “you didn’t believe right/strong enough” stuff. Goes on to flat out say this auto-suggestion doesn’t work for the “majority of people “ is because they aren’t “well-mixed with emotion or feeling” and “belief”.
“Where failure is experienced, it is the individual, not the method, which has failed.” That’s an easy freaking claim to make when there is no way to prove it false?!
He then claims that you’ll receive inspiration on how to achieve that money. And you must act immediately. But anyone who has tried to build a business knows a million different ideas come to mind. You can’t pursue them all at once. Two-three chapters later he says you might have to try more than one plan.
And I realize the book title is “grow rich”…but he’s very obsessed with money.
Overall, this book expects you to envision success and it will happen. But if it doesn’t happen, clearly you’re not envisioning correctly according to him. I’ll take a good dose of effort over a dose of envisioning stuff everyday.
Do You Have a Book to Recommend?
If you’ve read personal development or self help book- good or bad- let me know! I would love to add it to the list of reviewed books. Just comment below.
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