Personal or professional development; growth or success mindset – a good book can provide the right insights and an experienced voice. Explore these 18 top self-help books popular with smart and successful achievers.
Why is a good book a game changer for so many?
Because, sometimes, turning that page might be the best thing that happens to you!
Top entrepreneurs and business pros talk about the books that motivated them to embrace risks, be more productive, empowered them, and strengthened their personas.
It’s not just the advice – there’s also powerful insights, slices of expertise, personal stories, even valuable experiences.
Check out the top self-help books to enrich your professional life!
These popular personal development books are favorites with business owners, founders, leaders and profesisonals.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
How we can all choose to become more confident simply by taking action and courting risk, and how those actions change our physical wiring.
Employment attorney Andrea Paris who’s also an avid reader, recommends it “because it gives insights that will help women entrepreneurs break the psychological barriers that hold us back.
Ellyn Schinke, Lifestyle Management, Confidence Coach & Author feels that it highlights the confidence struggles of high achieving women. “…[the authors] talked to high achieving women from CEOs to star athletes and also get into the biology behind confidence in women.
As a former scientist, I appreciated the biological aspects, but I also appreciated hearing that confidence struggles are commonplace. It made me feel connected to my more established and successful female entrepreneur counterparts.”
Successful Women Speak Differently by Valerie Burton
The most successful women are often not the most talented, the most gifted, or even the most experienced. What these women have is a knack for communicating that opens doors and gives them influence.
Courtney Hillesheim, owner at Parent Focus likes how “it delves into how your tone and pitch affect the way people perceive you. This book trains women not to let their voices sound reactionary when we have people trying to push our buttons.
Valerie even discusses how to boost your confidence right before you have to go into a meeting or call. She dives into how our views of ourselves affect the way our voices come out of our mouths!
Successful Women Think Differently by Valerie Burton
Successful women think differently. They make decisions differently. They set goals differently and bounce back from failure differently.
“This book really breaks down negative feelings and thoughts about ourselves,” says Hillesheim. “I didn’t realize how much I was limiting myself and allowing them to stop me from taking risks in my business. She helped me learn to expect negative experiences in business and in life and prepare my mind to react correctly, which was amazing!”
Stop Saying You’re Fine by Mel Robbins
The key is understanding how your own brain works against you. Because evolution has biased your mental gears against taking action, what you need are techniques to outsmart yourself.
““This book teaches you that your brain is always going to find a reason to stop you or slow you down when it comes to taking risks, especially financial ones. This was the book that gave me the get up and go to just put myself, my business and my ideas out there to the world whether they were perfect or not,” says Hillesheim.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.
Vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
Schinke finds it “the single most invaluable book to me as a female entrepreneur. It’s a mindset book, but it’s also a book about becoming okay with taking risks and the vulnerability involved in that process, which is so important to an entrepreneur, particularly a female entrepreneur.”
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte.
What if, first, we got clear on how we actually wanted to feel in our life, and then we laid out our intentions? What if your most desired feelings consciously informed how you plan your day, your year, your career, your holidays — your life?
Kristin Gibson of 614 Boudoir Photography feels this books has really impacted her thinking. “She transformed my approach to business by helping me to think more about how I wanted my business to make me feel, rather than a checklist of accomplishments. I realized that I am more interested in being known for being an amazing photographer, than being busy or making a ton of money. I want to have an ‘it’ factor.
It also carried into how I treat my clients. As a photographer, my images portray a lot of emotion, and I ask my clients and couples, how do you want to feel during your session and then ultimately when you look at photos of yourself? It really opens their eyes to why they try to capture these moments after all.”
The pursuit of happiness
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
One person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment.
Jacquelyn Kyle of Traveliste feels that “the idea of consciously taking note of the things that make me happy (rather than the things everyone says should make me happy) sparked my whole shift from academic to entrepreneur. Her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, is also amazing!”
The Power of Possibilities
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D
You don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction—but you do need to learn and understand the habit of thinking and behaving in ways that will get you there.
This is a top pick self-help books for many. Helena Escalante of EntreGurus finds it to be “a fantastic book that creates mindset shifts in so many areas related to business and life. Despite the fact that it was written in 1959, the principles are timeless and apply perfectly to today’s environment. From the importance of overcoming limiting beliefs to building confidence and handling fear, to setting up your environments for success, this book is an essential guide that I come back to at least once a year to refresh and re-energize my thinking.”
Productivity and Time management
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
How to build habits that lead to happier, more productive lives, despite the pressures of busy schedules.
Self confessed business bookworm Helena Escalante of EntreGurus calls it a “very practical book that taught me how to plan and use time effectively. It’s not your average time management book, yet it’s filled with tips and sensible advice to help you lead a busy life without going crazy while juggling the many responsibilities of family and business.
The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Feriss
Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, this book guides you on how to live more and work less.
“This book helped me see my time as my most valuable asset, helped me learn new and creative time management skills, and changed my whole mindset around my schedule itself,” says Heidi McBain, Author, Marriage and Family Therapist, Texas Licensed Professional Counselor.
Veronica Romney, President and Co-Founder of LoSoMo loves that “it freed me of GUILT and granted me permission to see the world with my family. As an entrepreneur, but also a wife and mother, the freedom from an overload of “work time” has proven to be unmatched in value to me.”
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals.
“This book helped me see that when I was trying to multitask, I was doing a lot of things, but not excelling at any of them,” says McBain. Once I started super focusing my time and energy in one area at a time, big things started happening! It’s a book that completely changed my thinking process and how I can better utilize my skills, and \how I run my business today!”
Also read: 15 proven ways to accelerate your productivity
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
How to tackle what we most love. And how to face down what we most fear – the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives.
Katelyn Cresmer, of Cresmer says that “this book inspired me to show up for my passions and my visions of the future. It taught me that I am a creative individual that can take any project by storm.”
Also read: Success Mantras from a Creative Career
No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy
Many successful people achieve their accomplishments through self-discipline. How can one achieve success in all three major areas of our life – personal goals, business & money goals, and overall happiness.
Cresmer also values the fact that “Brian showed me through this book that if I disciplined myself and got things done instead of procrastinating I could accomplish anything I wanted.”
Work Life Balance
All In by Arlene Dickinson
To be a successful entrepreneur, you don’t just need to know how to run a business. You need to know how to run your life when the boundary between work and personal time has essentially been erased.
Christy Cook, Founder & CEO at Teach My finds it “so appropriate for female entrepreneurs.
Many female entrepreneurs are also mothers who struggle with work-life balance. Arlene felt there was a gap in the publishing industry. She believed there was a relentless amount of books about starting a business but not many about how to cope with the realities of entrepreneurship. Arlene discusses the emotional and personal demands of being a female entrepreneur and a mother. Being an entrepreneur affects all types of relationships, so it is key to find the balance and buy into a healthy entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Arlene Dickinson’s words and tips really struck a chord with me. I have made a conscious effort to nurture my roles as a wife, mother and entrepreneur. I think about balance on a daily basis and constantly self-check to be certain to correct any imbalances. Ten years on as an entrepreneur, I can wholeheartedly say that I’m still happily married, my teenage son is flourishing and I run a successful business!”
Also read: A WAHM shares her work and mom life balance story
Quest for success
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
How to increase your confidence, tackle daily challenges, live with passion and purpose, and realize all your ambitions – 67 timeless principles and practices used by the world’s most successful men and women.
Self-help your way to the top with this book! Ally Nathaniel, CEO, AN Better Publishing swears by it. “This book was one of the first business books I’ve ever read, and it helped me understand the connection between mindset and success. I learned about affirmations, setting up goals, and living with passion and purpose.”
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort–even their own survival–for the good of those in their care.
Mandy Snell, a Business Coach, draws inspiration from it in a unique way.
“The title of the book is a reference to a time honored tradition in the United States Marine Corps. No matter where you go in the world, you’ll notice that the most junior Marines are the first served at the chow hall. Senior officers do not eat until they are sure that everyone else is taken care of.
As a 20 year (Navy) veteran myself, I was a little apprehensive about the book. Some of my favorite people are Marines – they are fiercely loyal and trustworthy. Certainly, someone who has never been responsible for leading other people into a combat zone could not possibly comprehend the significance of that small act, done daily. Simon Sinek tells that story unbelievably well, and makes it relevant to business cases.
What does combat leadership have to do with being a mom? Ask any mom if she would take a bullet or attempt to lift a car in order to save her child. Moms instinctively act like Marines because they are leaders – the context may be different, but the principles apply regardless of whether you’re leading troops, a business, or a family.
Ultimately, this book became the tipping point that compelled me to start my own business coaching practice. I realized that leadership and values are universal – they don’t change simply because you stop wearing a uniform.”
The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
What if the secret to having the confidence and courage to enrich your life and work is simply knowing how to push yourself?
“This book is about how to avoid unintentionally holding yourself back in life and business,” Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation. “It helped me to focus on taking action – getting beyond hang-ups and moving forward via a very specific strategy.”
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott:
To be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring it’s obnoxious aggression; to care without challenging it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither it’s manipulative insincerity.
Sweeney feels that “it broaches the issue of how women can find balance between being taken seriously and not being taken as a b*t*h. This book helps women take a look at strategic ways to build strong, respectful relationships at work and to succeed in leadership.”
Enrich your professional life with good career books!
In the end, a good book – or the one that impacts your thinking – is the best investment you can make in yourself.
Share your favorite book(s) and how they helped shape your persona.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions. She loves being a Classroom Mentor and teaching students across the U.S. about Job Skills and Entrepreneurship. Read her interview on Huffington Post.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.
Awesome list! I have The 4 Hour Work Week and I have Big Magic but I want to read all the books on your list!! I will be making a purchase of more books from your list.
So many good ones, I feel like I need to read a book on speed reading! Adding Stop Saying You’re Fine to my pile.
The 4 Hour Work Week is a book I always thought about reading but never have. Maybe one day.
Great recs for any professional out there. Definitely taking a look into some of these titles
What an absolutely amazing list of incredible books! I have read a few and definitely want to get my hands on the rest. Though I don’t really read self-help books, I enjoy reading other people’s perspectives on life, success, and love.
I love this article! I’m looking forward to reading some of these titles.
These are great recommendations for professionals. I would definitely recommend them to my friends. Thanks for sharing.
This is a wonderful list! I am saving it because I need some books on mindset.
These books all sound so good! I might have to go online and buy a few. I love how women empower other women to be their strongest self. These books should be read by women of all ages!
Agreed. I tell everyone to read the Confidence Code and to share it with their daughters!
This is such a great list! I really want to add Successful Women Speak Differently by Valerie Burton to my good reads list. I read Daring Greatly last year and I’m currently reading Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend (heavy christian influence in this one.)
I have heard of a few of these books (the 4-Hour Work Week has been on my reading list for a while now) but many of the others you listed are wonderful new discoveries! Gah, so many books to read, I wish I had more of me to read them all at once!
Reese, I “read” the 4-Hour Work Week as an audio book. If you have a commute at all or take walks regularly, audio books are a great way to “read” more books (but I still love real paper books).
thanks for this, ill bookmark these tips. 🙂 yay!