15 Best Self-Improvement and Self-Help Books for Building a Remarkable Life

Looking for the best self-help books? I’ve got you covered.

The list below includes self-improvement books on habits, productivity, career/work, personal finance, philosophy, relationships, and life’s meaning.

Habits, Productivity, Career/Work

1. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear book cover | Self-improvement and self-help books

Atomic Habits focuses on helping you make tiny changes to achieve remarkable results.

The book offers a proven framework for daily improvement and strategies for forming good habits and breaking bad ones. 

James Clear interleaves true stories of award-winning artists, Olympic gold medalists, and business leaders to inspire and entertain readers.

Pros:

  • Easy to read and apply strategies in your life
  • A revolutionary approach to forming habits that focuses on your systems, not your goals or who you are

Cons

  • Some of the ideas may seem repetitive if you’ve read a lot of self-help books

2. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport book cover

Cal Newport defines deep work as the capability to concentrate on a mentally challenging task without distraction.

Deep work lets you master complex material quickly and generate better results in less time.

Newport asserts that this skill is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive global economy.

Yet most people find themselves lost in the blur of social media, email, and instant distraction, losing their ability to go deep, not realizing there’s a better way.

A deep work ethic, Newport concludes, will bring you massive benefits and success in a distracted world.

Pros

  • Memorable stories about how historic figures have relied on deep work
  • Actionable insights and advice on how to become more productive
  • Excellent advice on how to build a meaningful life in our current information age

Cons

  • Not the easiest book to read
So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport book cover

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport argues that “follow your passion” is bad advice. 

And choosing passion over skill can lead to anxiety and hopping from job to job searching for the perfect work that fits your pre-existing passions.

Taking an unorthodox approach, Newport argues that passion comes only after you’ve worked hard to become excellent at a valuable skill, not before.

The book provides a practical framework for creating work you love and will transform how you think about your career, happiness, and building a meaningful life.

Pros

  • An evidence-based approach to building a fulfilling career
  • Excellent advice for anyone starting their career, frustrated with their current job, or looking to change career paths

Cons

  • The stand against the “follow your passion” approach may be a bit too extreme

4. Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery by Robert Greene book cover

This book’s premise is that everyone has the potential within themselves to become a master at what they do.

Distilling the habits, routines, and life choices of past greats like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and nine other contemporary masters, Robert Greene offers practical steps for unlocking your passion within and becoming a master.

In short, Greene shares the secret path to mastery and greatness.

Pros

  • One of the most comprehensive books on skill acquisition and mastery
  • In-depth advice and strategies for overcoming the most common obstacles we all face in our careers and lives

Cons

  • The book’s length may be quite intimidating
  • You need to commit a significant chunk of time to finish the book

5. Ultralearning by Scott Young

Ultralearning by Scott Young book cover

Ultralearning aims to help you learn a new skill, stay relevant in your career or reinvent yourself, and adapt to all the changes in your workplace.

Offering nine principles for quickly mastering hard skills, the book positions itself as an invaluable guide to help you get the most out of your career through self-education.

Scott Young draws on latest research to offer the most effective learning techniques, eschewing the old routines and ways of learning.

Pros

  • Stories of how ultralearners have achieved remarkable feats using the techniques in the book
  • Valuable strategies you can implement right away to learn new skills or improve old ones
  • A framework for lifelong learning

Cons

  • If you’ve read any book on learning, some of the ideas here will seem repetitive

6. Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness

In Peak Performance, the authors offer principles that drive performance in almost any field.

You’ll learn how to improve your performance in so many ways, and at the core of the book is the “stress + rest” formula for skill improvement. 

Drawing on cutting-edge science and the life stories of great performers, Peak Performance offers the secret to success and performing at the highest level—sustainably.

Pros

  • Evidence-based strategies for improving your performance
  • Techniques you can implement right away
  • Easy to read

Cons

  • Some ideas may apply more to specific fields like sports and are hard to generalize

7. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman book cover

Four thousand weeks.

That’s how much time you have if you live to the age of 80.

Nobody needs to be told we don’t have enough time to do everything we want.

Yet we are obsessed with our to-do lists and getting things done.

We find ourselves losing the endless battle against distraction, with overfilled inboxes and precarious work–life balance, desperately seeking advice on how to become more productive and efficient—advice that ends up making things worse.

Because the more we get done, the more we have to do, with our to-dos filling up faster than we can tick them off.

Drawing on ancient and contemporary philosophy, Oliver Burkeman offers an entertaining, practical guide to time management.

Burkeman will introduce you to tools for crafting a meaningful life by embracing your limits and life’s inescapable, unchanging truths.

Pros

  • An unconventional approach to time management that’s refreshing and liberating
  • A wake-up call to the humbling truth of our mortality
  • A healthy, sustainable approach to productivity

Cons

  • The tone of the book seems gloomy in some parts

Personal Finance, Philosophy, Relationships, Life’s Meaning

8. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

This book’s premise is that doing well with money isn’t necessarily about how smart you are. It’s about your behavior.

And it’s difficult to teach behavior, even to really intelligent people.

Money is a primarily math-based field, where formulas and data are supposed to guide our decisions.

But in real life, most of us don’t make money decisions based on a spreadsheet. 

We make them at the dinner table, in a meeting, or during a night’s out with friends—where ego, our unique view of the world, marketing, odd incentives, and our personal history are scrambled together.

In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel shares 19 insightful storylines about why we make strange money decisions and how we can make better sense of our financial life.

Pros

  • Memorable stories packed with actionable advice for daily life
  • A rare personal finance book that’s easy and enjoyable to read
  • An excellent book for personal finance beginners

Cons

  • Probably not the best book if you’re looking for in-depth advice, tips, and formulas on investing, saving, or specific personal finance topics

9. The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon is a timeless classic that offers powerful strategies for building personal wealth.

Written in simple language and in the form of parables, the book offers a deep understanding of common personal finance problems, helping you uncover the solutions to your money dilemmas.

The fascinating, informative stories aim to set you on the path to financial freedom and prosperity.

Pros

  • Short—can be read in one sitting
  • Timeless advice about money
  • Remarkable insights for solving every day financial issues
  • Memorable stories

Cons

  • Some of the ideas need to be adapted to our modern era

10. The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins book cover

We all know money is important.

But we don’t want to spend our whole lives thinking and worrying about it.

Most of us have better things to do with our time.

Yet ignoring your finances can lead to disaster in our personal and professional lives.

In this book, JL Collins offers a simple approach to personal finance and wealth building.

Tackling several money topics, like investing, asset allocation, debt, saving, and financial independence, Collins offers a surefire, simple way to wealth building and preservation.

Pros

  • Offers a case study of how to implement all the ideas in real life
  • Humorous, approachable, and simple
  • One of the most extensive personal finance books
  • Simplifies complex financial jargon into easily digestible information

Cons

  • Some of the ideas seem oversimplified

11. How Not to Die by Michael Greger

How Not to Die reveals science-backed information on the types of diets that help treat and reverse several causes of disease-related deaths.

Most premature deaths can be prevented through a change in lifestyle and diet.

In the book, Dr. Michael Greger examines the top 15 causes of premature death in the US and offers advice on lifestyle/diet interventions for preventing these diseases and living longer, healthier lives.

Dr. Greger also offers a list of 12 superfoods we should consume every day.

Pros

  • Practical, actionable advice 
  • Food recommendations that can be easily found in our daily lives

Cons

  • The advice in the book will not work for everyone

12. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Written as a memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning details Viktor Frankl’s life as a prisoner in Nazi death camps and the spiritual lessons from his survival. 

Based on his experience, Frankl asserts that suffering is unavoidable, but we can choose how to bear it, find hope in it, and move on with renewed purpose.

As humans, Frankl argues, our primary drive in life is the pursuit of what we find meaningful.

Pros

  • An intriguing narrative about the strength of human character
  • A new, liberating way of looking at one of the most perplexing problems: the meaning of life
  • A book that’ll show in awe-inspiring detail both the cruelty and love that humans are capable of

Cons

  • Some parts are hard to get through

13. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way will teach you how to become exceptional at what you do by embracing obstacles instead of avoiding them.

Drawing from ancient stoicism and Greek philosophy, the book calls attention to enduring pain and struggles with resilience and perseverance.

Stoics turn every new obstacle into a chance to get stronger, better, and tougher by focusing on the things in their control and letting go of everything else.

In the book, Ryan Holiday shows how past greats and masters have used stoicism to overcome challenging—even impossible—obstacles.

Pros

  • Full of strategies you can apply in your daily life
  • Inspiring, relatable stories
  • A brilliant introduction to stoic philosophy
  • An enjoyable, easy-to-read style of writing

Cons

  • Not as in-depth as expected
How to Win Friends and Influence People book cover

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic that teaches the art and science of getting along with people.

Dale Carnegie’s experience-tested advice touches on how to communicate effectively, make people like you, become an effective leader, successfully navigate any social situation, and more.

Pros

  • Timeless advice that’ll help you dramatically improve your social skills

Cons

  • Some advice will not work as well in today’s world

15. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman book cover

Falling in love. That’s the easy part.

The challenge is staying in love.

In The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman will teach you how to keep your relationship alive and growing despite the conflicts and demands of daily life.

Dr. Chapman offers a proven framework for showing and receiving love that’ll help you experience deeper, richer intimacy with your beloved.

Pros

  • Insightful, practical advice you can apply to your relationship immediately

Cons

  • The book’s approach may be too traditional and religious for some people

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