Top 15 Best Self Development Books to Read

By Tim Roddy

When I first started my pursuit of knowledge, I never anticipated I would ever be sharing my top 15 best self development books to read. Honestly, I was at my absolute lowest point. I had just suffered an incredible injury to my body and it took a toll on my soul. I had lost my job, my girlfriend and my home. 

I found myself sleeping on church steps, under a bridge and in a tent for the better half of a month. It wasn’t until I was discussing with a fellow friend, that he told me that he had heard of someone that went through something similar to me and told me to read his book.

 He recommended me to read The Noticer by Andy Andrews. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t alone in my pain. Others have endured just as much, if not more and came out stronger and wiser. 

This new realization started my hunger for knowledge and my relentless pursuit of learning how to master my life. I never wanted to feel the low that I had once experienced. It’s been a few years since that day, but since then I have read nearly 97 books on the topics of philosophy, self development, finance, business, psychology and spirituality. 

I decided that I wanted to share my top 15 self development books with you in hopes that they too can help rewire your mind and propel you on a path of joy, purpose and success that it had helped me find. I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: All links on these books are to Amazon. Absolute Ambition is an affiliate partner of Amazon and all purchases will go to helping this blog grow and provide more valuable content. Thanks! & enjoy the read! 

Andy Andrews - The Noticer

As I had said in my introduction to this blog, This book was the first book that was introduced to me that had propelled me on this path that I’m currently on. I’ll hold this book near and dear to me for that reason. In his novel, Andrews tells a story of common wisdom similar to his best seller  The Traveler’s Gift.

The story takes place in Orange Beach, Alabama. A simple town filled with simple people.  But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems—marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest, a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up.  An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul.  Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” he explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. “Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely,” he says.  “Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.”

Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it.

Like The Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer is a unique narrative blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration in which gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a “noticer” just might change a person’s life forever.

The new perspective that I gained from this book changed the trajectory of my life forever. I began to “notice” certain things. Instead of reacting out of anger or jealousy, I began to see both sides of situations and before too long, I was able to see the world in a different light. A sense of “new Perspective” No question that this book made it into our top 15 best self development books to read list. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone searching for a renewed sense of purpose and direction. 

Tony Robbins - Unlimited Power

A rather long read, but if you’re determined to change your life, Unlimited Power is worth the time set aside to complete it. In Unlimited Power, one of the most powerful concepts that Tony speaks about is The Power of Modelling.  This is important to understand before you start to dive deeply into the Unlimited Power. To break it down, If you model the behaviors of those that are where you want to be or how you want to be, you can get to where they are and have what they have. Success leaves clues! 

He also shares his Ultimate Success Formula. 

1) Target-This simply means to know the outcome that you’re after.  The more specific, the more likely you are to achieve it.

2) Action-Take consistent, massive action towards the outcome you desire.

3) Determine Response-Develop the sensory acuity to recognize the response that you’re getting to determine whether you are moving towards your outcome.

4) Adapt And Change Until the Desired Result Is Achieved-Develop the flexibility to change your actions until your desired result is achieved.

I can tell you that after I finished this book, I had noticed a difference in the results of my goals. Before this book, I didn’t really know what I was going after. I had thoughts, dreams of certain things but never really had a vision and game-plan of how to get there. Since the week that I read this book in, I’ve learned how to follow these 4 steps including an extra step that Tony included after this book that is put before action and that’s have a purpose-you need to have a driving force for what you’re going after. If not, you’ll fail. For those development seekers, this book is for you! 

Andy Andrews - The Travelers Gift

Shortly after reading The Noticer, I had found The Travelers Gift and what a treat it was. 

Christian author and motivational speaker Andrews effectively combines self-help with fiction to catch readers’ interest, sustaining momentum while simultaneously passing on instructions for positive thinking. With his can-do style, Andrews tells the allegorical tragedy of one David Ponder, whose woes begin when he loses his job, his confidence and essentially his drive for living. After a succession of losses, Ponder is rendered unconscious after a car accident, and is magically transported into seven key points in history. At each stopping point, he is met by historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, King Solomon, Harry Truman and Christopher Columbus, each of whom imparts one of the seven key decisions that Andrews asserts are essential for personal success.

After his travel through time, Ponder regains consciousness in a hospital and discovers he is holding letters given to him by the various heroes. The letters offer familiar self-help counsel: accept that the buck stops with you, become a wisdom seeker and a person of action, determine to be happy, open the day with a forgiving spirit, and persist despite all odds. Although Andrews writes from a Christian perspective, his overall message (trust that God is sovereign, but do your part in making your future happen) will ring true with a broad spectrum of inspirational readers. Some astute thinkers may be put off by the simplistic story line, but Andrews does an exemplary job at providing positive suggestions for overcoming life’s obstacles.

To this day, I have all 7 decision letters on me wherever I go. I sometimes take them out and read them aloud to remind myself that I have the power to change the world. Andy Andrews continues to provide material that has the potential to teach you a new perspective on life and the lessons hidden inside the trials. I had to add it to our top 15 best self development books to read list. But quick, here’s just a quick sneak peak of those 7 decisions. 

THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

I will not let my history control my destiny. I accept responsibility for my past. I am responsible for my success. My decisions have always been governed by my thinking. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. My thoughts will be constructive, never destructive.

I WILL SEEK WISDOM.

I will train my eyes and ears to read and listen to books and recordings that bring about positive changes. I will read and listen only to what increases my belief in myself and my future. I will choose to associate with people whose lives and lifestyles I admire.

I will listen to the counsel of those who are wise. By learning from other people’s wisdom, I add their knowledge and experience to my own and dramatically increase my success.

I will not look for someone to open my door; instead, I will seek to open the door for someone else.

I AM A PERSON OF ACTION.

I will create a new future by creating a new me. I inspire others with my activity. I am a leader. Knowing that laziness is a sin, I will create a habit of lively behavior.

I will walk with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. My activity will create a wave of success for the people who follow me. As a leader, I have the ability to encourage and inspire others to greatness. I do not fear failure, because failure exists only for the person who quits.

I do not quit. I am courageous. I am a leader. I seize the moment. I choose now.

I HAVE A DECIDED HEART.

I am passionate about my vision for the future. The power to control my direction belongs to me. Today I will begin to exercise that power.

I will awaken every morning with an excitement about the new day and its opportunities for growth and change.

Yes, I have a dream. It is a great dream. My hopes, my passions, my vision for the future are my very existence. A person without a dream never had a dream come true.

My course has been charted, and my destiny is assured.

TODAY I WILL CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY.

Happiness is a choice. I am enthusiastic about each day. I am alert to its possibilities.

I will become the master of my emotions.

I will greet each day with laughter. I know that enthusiasm is the fuel that moves the world.

The world belongs to the enthusiastic, for people will follow them anywhere! My smile has become my calling card. It is, after all, the most important weapon I possess. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.

I WILL GREET THIS DAY WITH A FORGIVING SPIRIT.

By the act of forgiving, I am no longer consumed by unproductive thoughts. I will forgive those who have criticized me unjustly.

I now understand that forgiveness has value only when it is given away. I forgive their lack of vision, and I forge ahead.

I now know that criticism is part of the price paid for leaping past mediocrity. I will forgive those who do not ask for forgiveness. From this day forward, my history will cease to control my destiny. I have forgiven myself. My life has just begun.

 

I WILL PERSIST WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

I possess the greatest power ever bestowed upon mankind. I hold fast to my dreams. I stay the course. I do not quit.

I acknowledge that most people quit when exhaustion sets in, but I am not “most people.”

I am stronger than most people. Average people compare themselves with other people, and that is why they remain average.

I compare myself to my potential. I am not average. I see exhaustion as a precursor to victory. By persisting without exception, my outcome—my success—is assured.

Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.

When I read this book, it gave me the courage to pursue my passions and dreams without the fear of the unknown as so many are consumed by. It made me feel as courageous as Santiago. Trusting that my Destiny was being guided and I will always reach the destination that was designed for me. It was easy to add The Alchemist to our top 15 best self development books to read. It’s in my personal top 5 actually. This is one the books that has had the most impact on my life. I pray you find that very same courage when you read it. 

Denis Waitley - Seeds of Greatness

In Seeds of Greatness, Denis Waitley shows how to nurture the greatness within you to develop a system that allows you to do in months what many psychologists take years to accomplish. Based on the ten attributes, or seeds, that can lead to a fulfilling life, Denis empowers you to change your life for the better. His secrets will allow you to combine positive attitudes with your natural abilities, choose your goals and follow steps to attain them, understand others and be understood by others, set higher goals, and more. 

The Seeds are as follows:

Combine positive attitudes with your natural abilities

Choose your goals and follow steps to attain them

Build on your self-reliance and so enhance your self-esteem

Make the right decisions

Understand others and be understood by others

Overcome feelings of unworthiness

Set higher goals

Stephen Covey - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Few books can impact someone’s system like this one. So of course it made its way into our top 15 best self development books to read. My meaning being, in our lives, we know certain truths to be evident yet we don’t really give them much thought. Covey goes in depth and makes you understand each habit and why it’s important. Here’s a brief overview of those 7 habits

  1. Sharpen the saw. Don’t work yourself to death. Strive for a sustainable lifestyle that affords you time to recuperate, recharge and be effective in the long-term. 
  2. Be proactive. You have a natural need to wield influence on the world around you so don’t spend your time just reacting to external events and circumstances. Take charge and assume responsibility for your life.
  3. Begin with an end in mind. Don’t spend your life working aimlessly, tackling whatever job is at hand. Have a vision for the future and align your actions accordingly to make it into a reality. 
  4. Put first things first. To prioritize your work, focus on what’s important, meaning the things that bring you closer to your vision of the future. Don’t get distracted by urgent but unimportant tasks. 
  5. Think win-win. When negotiating with other, don’t try to get the biggest slice of the cake, but rather find a division that is acceptable to all parties. You will still get your fair share, and build strong positive relationships in the process. 
  6. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When someone presents us with a problem, we often jump right to giving a solution. This is a mistake. We should first take time to really listen to the other person and only then make recommendations. 
  7. Synergize. Adopt the guiding principle that in a group, the contributions of many will far exceed those of any individual. This will help you achieve goals you could never have reached on your own.

Dale Carnegie - How to Win Friends and Influence People

This is one of the first self-improvement books I have ever read and it is also probably one of the oldest in this category.

Written in 1937,  How to Win Friends and Influence People can truly be called a classic. It shows what we all intuitively know:

It doesn’t matter what you’re looking to do, If you are doing business of any kind, you need to make it about the other person.

Everybody wants to feel appreciated, and rightfully so. Learning to take a small effort to make someone’s day will make the world better no matter what your goal is.

I still  remember some of his guidance due to taking notes throughout my read and perhaps this quality is the reason why this book still draws millions of readers to this day. So we had to add it to our top 15 best self development books to read. 

There are way too many of the lessons in this book to write down on this list so you’ll have to dive in for yourself but trust me, it’s worth the plunge. 

Tony Robbins - Awaken the Giant Within

It’s a no brainer that we see Tony Robbins on our top 15 best self development books to read list again. It’s time to wake up and change your life! The author of Unlimited Power now offers advice on such matters as mastering emotions, overcoming debilitating habits such as over-eating, drinking and drug abuse, unleashing the hidden power of body and mind, improving personal and professional relationships, and taking control of personal finances.

 Awaken the Giant Within includes a seven-day mental diet of simple activities aimed at making major changes to one’s life, and offers anecdotes, case studies and personalized self-help tests with a view to revealing the secret power of core beliefs, quantum questions and life metaphors

I absolutely love this book! You can’t get it much better. The acknowledged expert in the psychology of change, Tony Robbins provides a step-by-step program teaching the fundamental lessons of self-mastery that will enable you to discover your true purpose, take control of your life, and harness the forces that shape your destiny.

Napolean Hill - Think and Grow Rich

Hill has created a masterpiece with Think and Grow Rich. I don’t recommend  the edited versions since they all lack important information: some historical, and some pertaining to the goal of the book, which is to think and grow rich.

The word rich might imply that this book is all about material gain, and while it certainly covers that area, it is about much more than that.

This is perhaps the first explicit mention of positive thinking on how to care not just about the cash in your pocket, but also the thoughts in your head.

This book has been able to withstand the destruction of time. It covers all the basics from planning, decision making and persistence, to the more advanced techniques such as auto-suggestion, transmutation and what we can learn from fear.

Think and Grow Rich not only helped me understand the importance of how to think about finances properly but it also taught me how to manage my thoughts of my life. So I had to put this book in our top 15 best self development books to read list. This is not a grow rich book, but a timeless guide to find out what actually matters. As it says clearly in the beginning ‘Riches can’t always be measured in money!’

Norman Vincent Peale - The Power of Positive Thinking

An international bestseller with over five million copies in print, The Power of Positive Thinking has helped men and women around the world to achieve fulfillment in their lives through Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s powerful message of faith and inspiration.

In this phenomenal bestseller, written with the sole objective of helping the reader achieve a happy, satisfying, and worthwhile life, Dr. Peale demonstrates the power of faith in action. With the practical techniques outlined in this book, you can energize your life—and give yourself the initiative needed to carry out your ambitions and hopes. Here’s just a brief overview of what you’ll learn when you dive into this read. :

  • Believe in yourself and in everything you do
  • Build new power and determination
  • Develop the power to reach your goals
  • Break the worry habit and achieve a relaxed life
  • Improve your personal and professional relationships
  • Assume control over your circumstances
  • Be kind to yourself

As I said before, few books can shake your soul at its roots and wake you up to what you need to work on inside. I never realized the power of positive thinking and the Law of Attraction until I read this book. Afterwards, my life was changed. I had no problem adding this gem into our top 15 best self development books to read. I recommend giving this one a chance.

Viktor Frankl - Man’s Search For Meaning

For three years, Viktor Frankl labored in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He tells us about his experience and that of his fellow prisoners.

Viktor manages to describe his experiences, chilling and uplifting. Confronted with the idea that they would be trapped there for the rest of their lives; he gives us an account of those who found meaning and those who succumbed to nihilism.

In this book, Frankl delivers a powerful message: Finding meaning lies at the core of being human.

From his own experience as a psychiatrist, combined with anecdotes from his time in the concentration camps, he tells us how important it is to find meaning in our own lives and what we can become if we don’t.

Suffering, he conveys to us, is inevitable. But as to how we cope with it is dependent on ourselves. If we can find meaning, even in the worst acts our species have ever inflicted upon their fellow men, we will be able to move forward with renewed purpose.

Rick Warren - The Purpose Driven Life

This book was the first book that I had come across after my new found faith in Jesus. I devoted each day to each chapter. I began to notice my life changing in ways I never thought were possible. I had found my purpose. So of course I had to add it to our top 15 best self development books to read. The New York Times #1 bestselling book by Pastor Rick Warren that helps you understand the purpose of your life. As one of the best-selling nonfiction books in history, with more than 34 million copies sold, and more than 70 translations available, The Purpose Driven Life is far more than just a book; it’s the roadmap for your spiritual journey. A journey that will transform your life.

In The Purpose Driven Life you’ll find the answers to three of life’s most important questions:

  • The Question of Existence: Why am I alive?
  • The Question of Significance: Does my life matter?
  • The Question of Purpose: What on earth am I here for?

I don’t know about you, but I ask myself those three questions daily. And it helps keep me guided and on course. Living out the purpose you were created for moves you beyond survival or success to a life of significance – the life you were meant to live.

You will discover the five benefits of knowing your purpose:

  1. It will explain the meaning of your life.
  2. It will simplify your life.
  3. It will focus your life.
  4. It will increase your motivation.
  5. It will prepare you for eternity.

The Purpose Driven Life is designed to be read in 42 short chapters that will inspire you to stop and realize how God uniquely designed you for a purpose only you can fulfill. It also includes links to 3-minute video introductions to each chapter and a 30 to 40-minute audio Bible study message for each chapter. There are also appendixes including questions for further study and additional resources.

Before you were born, God already planned your life. God longs for you to discover the life he created you to live – here on earth, and forever in eternity. Let The Purpose Driven Life show you how. 

The Purpose Driven Life is available in audio book, ebook, softcover, and hardcover editions. Also available: The Purpose Driven Life video study and study guide, journal, devotional, book for kids, book for churches, Spanish edition, Large Print edition, and more.

John Maxwell - Failing Forward

Are some people born to achieve anything they want while others struggle? Call them lucky, blessed, or possessors of the Midas touch. What is the real reason for their success? Is it family background, wealth, greater opportunities, high morals, an easy childhood?

New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell has the answer: The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.

Most people are never prepared to deal with failure. Maxwell says that if you are like him, coming out of school, you feared it, misunderstood it, and ran away from it. But Maxwell has learned to make failure his friend, and he can teach you to do the same.

“I want to help you learn how to confidently look the prospect of failure in the eye and move forward anyway,” says Maxwell. “Because in life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you are going to deal with them. Stop failing backward and start failing forward!”

 

-One thing that I have learned in my life is at one time or another, we will all fail. What matters most is how you deal with it once you do.

Will you give up? Or will you use it as a stepping stone for success?

I recently read an article about new start-ups in silicon valley. Its hypothesis was the more you had failed in the past, the more likely you were going to get funding.

Why?

Because failing teaches you invaluable lessons, and if you decide to continue after you hit the pavement, the more you have it in you to deliver.

Now, this is not in any way our instinctual reaction to failing. Most of us dread it, avoid it or refuse to fail at all costs. All three are by far sub-optimal. It is far better to accept failure where it arises, to accept responsibility and use it as a way to learn about yourself and your weaknesses. I’ve failed so many times in my life, I can say the amount is more than my successes. This book gave me insight on the strength to keep pushing forward. So I had to add it into our top 15 best self development books to read. I hope it gives you the same strength it gave me. 

Hal Urban - Life’s Greatest Lessons (20 Things that Matter)

With more than a quarter million copies sold, award-winning teacher Hal Urban outlines twenty lessons that answer timeless questions about how to make the most of your life.

Life’s Greatest Lessons is a wise, wonderful book. In it, Hal Urban, a parent and an award-winning teacher, presents twenty principles that are as deeply rooted in common sense as they are in compassion. The topics, gathered from a lifetime of teaching both children and adults, span a wide range of readily understood concepts, including attitudes about money, understanding the real meaning of “success,” and the importance of having fun. The book will help you find the best—in the world, in others, and in yourself. Classic in its simplicity and enduring in its appeal, Life’s Greatest Lessons helps us all rediscover that the desire to live a good life is timeless.

Here’s a brief overview of the 20 greatest lessons. This one was easy to add to our top 15 best self development books to read. But don’t take my word for it, I highly recommend this book to everyone. 

  1. Success Is More Than Making Money
  2. Life Is Hard…and Not Always Fair
  3. Life Is Also Fun…and Incredibly Funny
  4. We Live by Choice, Not by Chance
  5. Attitude Is a Choice — the Most Important One You’ll Ever Make
  6. Habits Are the Key to All Success
  7. Being Thankful Is a Habit — the Best One You’ll Ever Have
  8. Good People Build Their Lives on a Foundation of Respect
  9. Honesty Is Still the Best Policy
  10. Kind Words Cost Little but Accomplish Much
  11. Real Motivation Comes from Within
  12. Goals Are Dreams with Deadlines
  13. There’s No Substitute for Hard Work
  14. You Have to Give Up Something to Get Something
  15. Successful People Don’t Find Time — They Make Time
  16. No One Else Can Raise Your Self-esteem
  17. The Body Needs Nutrition and Exercise — So Do the Mind and Spirit
  18. It’s OK to Fail — Everyone Else Has
  19. Life Is Simpler When We Know What’s Essential
  20. Essential #1 Is Being a Good Person

Brendon Burchard - The Motivation Manifesto

The Motivation Manifesto is a pulsing, articulate, ferocious call to claim our personal power. World-renowned high performance trainer Brendon Burchard reveals that the main motive of humankind is the pursuit of greater Personal Freedom. We desire the grand liberties of choice—time freedom, emotional freedom, social freedom, financial freedom, spiritual freedom. Only two enemies stand in our way: an external enemy, defined as the social oppression of who we are by the mediocre masses, and an internal enemy, a sort of self-oppression caused by our own doubt and fear.

The march to Personal Freedom, Burchard argues, can be won only by declaring our intent and independence, stepping into our personal power, and battling through self-doubt and the distractions of the day until full victory is won. Recalling the revolutionist voices of the past that chose freedom over tyranny, Burchard—at times poetic yet always fierce—motivates us to free ourselves from fear and take back our lives once and for all.

Even Paulo Coelho said “The Motivation Manifesto is a poetic and powerful call to reclaim our lives and find our own personal freedom. It’s a triumphant work that transcends the title, lifting the reader from mere motivation into a soaringly purposeful and meaningful life. I love this book” 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. My top 15 self development books that helped change my life and make me in to the man I am today. I pray that even one of these books can guide you and propel you on the right path that you seek. Thank you for reading! Please like, share, leave your thoughts below on what you thought. 

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