It was through a book recommendation that I first became interested in the world of self-help (a.k.a. personal development, self-improvement, or whatever else you’d like to call it).
I firmly believe that the many books I’ve read since have profoundly changed the way I see and live my life. While I’ve read plenty of interesting titles in my time, there are a handful that have left a lasting impression on me; books that I’ve found hard to put down and some that I will return to again and again.
Here are 9 that you might want to add to your wishlist if you haven’t already read them.
1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
I must have read this book 3 or 4 times already, and each time it is a moving and transformative affair. The first half of the book details the author’s experiences in various Nazi concentration camps, while the second half gives a brief introduction to the branch of psychotherapy he developed before, during, and after the war.
It’s a short book – one that you could probably read in a single sitting if you had the time – but this does not detract from the impact it has had on me and millions like me. It opened up a door into the world of meaning; one that was previously closed to me. For that I will be forever grateful.
I’ve read many of Frankl’s books since and his approach to life is one that really resonates with me. I would be surprised if it didn’t have some sort of impact on the vast majority of readers.
2. The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
This was the book that started it all for me, but I actually found it quite hard going the first time around. I’ve no doubt now that this was just because it was my initial foray into this genre and I wasn’t a big reader at the time.
I read it for a second time a couple of years later and it suddenly made so much more sense to me. I understood why living in the present is so important and I’ve since made efforts to practice what Tolle teaches.
3. The Soul Of Money by Lynne Twist
I read this book at a time of great prosperity for me, when I was earning far more than the average person. Yet, despite the positive direction my bank balance was heading in, I felt disconnected from money and unable to enjoy it.
This book changed my entire view of money and wealth; it made me realize that my yearning to be rich was based on a fear of scarcity and that chasing ever greater fortune actually hid the true abundance that was all around me.
I really think this book could transform the lives of so many people in a society that is seemingly obsessed with wealth and material gain.
4. The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
This is a book I’ve read more recently and it was actually far better than I could have imagined. It discusses the advancements in brain science and the new treatments that are being developed for all sorts of mental conditions.
What I thought might be quite a challenging and technical book turned out to be effortless to read, utterly engaging from cover to cover, and greatly motivational. It taught me just how plastic the brain is and how this can lead to changes in behavior.
This book has given me a great deal of enthusiasm going forward because I now understand how my brain can develop and how this can help me face challenges such as stress, anxiety, and even mindfulness.
5. Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers
I had read Jeffers’ best-selling book “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway” a few years earlier and, while I enjoyed it, I didn’t rate it as highly as many seem to. So when I had the opportunity to read one of her other titles, I had moderate expectations at best.
As it turns out, I connected much more closely with what was written in this follow-up book, and found the concepts and lessons covered to be more applicable to life in general rather than specific situations.
We should all be more accepting of uncertainty because if there is anything that is certain in life, it’s that life is uncertain. This book proves to be a great guide to dealing with this.
6. The Gifts Of Imperfection by Brené Brown
We live in a world that places great value on perfection and I think many people – me included – are afraid to show their rough edges, their flaws, and their limitations.
In this book, Brown takes readers through 10 steps (or guideposts as she calls them) to try and convince us that we should be living more authentic lives, free from the worries of what others might think of us. We should be self-compassionate, resilient, grateful, and faithful.
I know I’ll be reading this book again in the not too distant future, when I’m feeling conscious of my imperfections and failings.
7. The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz
I read this book while on holiday a couple of years ago and it was one that really made me stop and think with each passing chapter. It is essentially a collection of stories from the couch of a psychoanalyst about his patients and how they faced – and often overcame – their issues with his help.
What I loved about this book was just how easy it was to read; it felt more like a work of fiction at times, but it was full of powerful life lessons.
I would literally pause after reading each case history, and digest what I had just read. I felt a little wiser afterwards, and it reminded me that we all face challenges in our lives and it is naive to believe otherwise. But is also taught me that any obstacle can be overcome if the will is there to do so.
8. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky
Stress is probably one of the biggest things I have to confront in my daily life, so I decided to find out a little bit more about what it can do to body and mind.
Sapolsky covers the topic in some detail, making this a pretty hefty book. Despite the breadth and depth of the material, it is actually a fairly easy read. You’ll be introduced to the main by-products of stress and how these impact the physical structure and workings of the body and mind.
Should you ever need a wake-up call as to what stress is doing to you, this is the only book to go for.
While it will not cure you of your stress, it might start you on the path to a calmer future. I hope that’s what it has done for me.
9. Out Of The Darkness by Steve Taylor
I read this a number of years ago now, but I remember being amazed at just how resilient the human character can be. This is another book that is made up of a number of real-life stories, and this time it looks at the transformational impact that intense trauma or turmoil can have.
Each story demonstrates the capacity for human beings to bounce back from the brink of despair. The characters in the stories have suffered what may seem like horrendous periods in their lives, and yet they have all found a degree of serenity through their pain.
It comforts me to know that peace and enlightenment are achievable and that they will remain so no matter what trials and tribulations I encounter in my life.
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