The best life-changing books out there truly have the power to take the life you currently live and flip it on its head.
There is absolutely nothing that you cannot learn from the right author who has written the right book. And, as a self-improvement junkie, I’ve read my fair few.
And sure enough, some of these books I do actually consider to be life-changing.
The biggest obstacle to overcome is being able to implement what you’ve read. Because reading in itself is easy, right? You might bob through it and have a few ‘aha!’ moments but it’s only once you’re finished that you can use it to make a significant change.
By understanding what you’ve read and taking action.
So some people do poo-poo books (which is absolutely ridiculous and good luck in life) because ‘how much can you really learn and change from reading a book?!’
Well, the answer there is that it’s up to you.
But there are a lot of great books out there that really do have the answers to life’s problems yet it’s up to us if we want to use what we’ve learned or not.
When it comes to personal development or self-help I would always recommend starting out by READING. Because everything you need to know is out there my friend.
So below is a list of 10 of the best life-changing books that I’ve read over this past year and that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to make a real change in their life.
1. Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed is easily my number 1 book of all time. And believe me when I tell you, that this book could truly change your life.
The main underlying topic of this book is the necessity of failure for success.
So, if you struggle with fear of failure, making mistakes and coping with setbacks on your journey toward success then this book is definitely for you.
It is jammed pack with interesting anecdotes and case studies that explain in-depth why failure avoidance – or lack of responsibility taken – is so incredibly detrimental to progress in life. This explained on both an individual and community level.
Matthew Syed uses an excellent example throughout the book surrounding the cost of failure avoidance/failure denial by referencing the differences between the aviation and healthcare industries.
You should get this book if only to read about these two industries because quite frankly, it’s incredibly shocking but incredibly enlightening.
It does the job so well of explaining what the difference of embracing and learning from failures can do to an industry versus the result of when we don’t.
I can honestly say, as someone who has spent a lot of time ‘beating’ this fear of failure that this book offers the mindset shift that anyone could need.
The research and anecdotes that are referenced are engaging and insightful and quite frankly. The book is un-put-downable. It proposing clear explanations for why failure is absolutely necessary in life, how it is of incredible benefit to progress and what happens when we refuse to learn from our mistakes.
I have no hesitations about recommending this book. If you are willing to absorb and adjust your thinking surrounding failure then this book will change how you approach life for the better.
This book is absolutely number 1!
2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson is one of my favourite so-called ‘self-help’ books. And the reason being is that Mark Manson has a way of writing that infuses logic and understanding with dry, sarcastic humour… and I just love that.
This book does teach you – or rather, tell you – exactly what you should give a fuck about in this world instead, it reinforces the underlying theme of good and bad values and how to act upon them.
That meaning, knowing what is actually important to you and being able to care a lot less about everything else.
We live in a world where we are frantically trying to search for acceptance and approval from external sources but that way lies discontent and a life of misery. What Mark does so well is to grip people real tight and give them a much-needed reality check.
This book is not another personal development book about ‘being positive’. That’s not Mark’s style.
And while I suppose for a lot of people that might feel jarring or unkind, it is all based on sound logic which I am entirely on board with. This is why I love this book so much.
You can read it and notice your head bobbing as you think, ‘Yes, my God you’re so right. Why do I give a shit about THAT?’
The ability to care less about the things that don’t matter is a skill that needs to be learned and practised. It’s not easy. But this book is an eye-opener for anyone who feels the stress and weight of constantly fretting about the things in life that they know, deep down, really don’t matter.
And just to put things into perspective about how widely popular this book is… it had over 47,000 reviews on Amazon, 74% of which are five stars!
For me, this sits comfortably at number two in the list of best life-changing books.
3. 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson… what do I say about this book? Is it life-changing? Hell yes. Is it like the Bible of personal development? Could be. Is this man insanely intelligent? Yes, you might need a dictionary.
12 Rules for life consists of 12 life lessons to help a person build a solid foundation of self-respect, self-confidence, understanding of self and organization on which to build a life of meaning in order to begin living a good life.
To be sure, the title of each chapter sounds relatively basic such as ‘Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping’. Yet every chapter is an intense deep dive into the social, cultural and historical aspects of the lesson.
Sometimes we forget about and totally overlook some of the most basic ways in which we could help ourselves… like standing up tall with our head held high, for example.
It is seemingly so simple and yet these foundations are not in place for most of us and so the rest of the success we are trying to build ourselves are formed on top of wobbly foundations.
This is where this book comes in. Bringing it back to basics but in a way that is incredibly thoughtful and intelligent.
Now, here are some things about 12 Rules for Life, which I do consider a life-changing book…
Jordan Peterson is an INCREDIBLY intellectual and he writes how he speaks.
This means that sometimes it doesn’t feel like an EASY read. And sometimes it can feel pretty dense. The chapters are long and when I say a deep dive into something that seems so simple… I really mean it.
Another point worth mentioning is that for any female readers, Jordan Peterson can sometimes come across… how do I put this… misogynistic.
But I do believe that he speaks about women in terms of their role throughout history and from a biological standpoint. I’ve listened to many of his podcasts etc and no, I don’t believe that he is actually a misogynist.
So bear that in mind and perhaps take it with a pinch of salt.
The lessons in this book are worth overlooking the technical jargon and the sometimes ‘interesting’ views on the role of women.
My number 3 best life-changing book!
4. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is possibly a work of genius. This psychologist has a great sense of humour that is apparent within the very first page and it flows through right until the end.
And this is great for books on finding happiness and self-improvement because they often feel heavy, but not this one.
This book discusses all of the reasons why the majority of us humans have no idea how to make ourselves happy in life.
For the people out there who have a firm grasp on the reality that seeking happiness is a vague goal at best but one that we’d still like to achieve, this book is for you.
It offers great insight into the mind. How our memories work, how we fill in the blanks, how we imagine the future based on the knowledge that may not be all that trustworthy and how we often try to predict the unpredictable.
It comes to a conclusion that at first feels unsatisfying because as always, we want a solid answer.
But the truth is this book does actually provide an answer to finding happiness through understanding why it’s so hard to find it in the first place.
I love his dry humour and I feel as though I came away from this book with some newfound knowledge about how my mind actually works and why remembering the past and looking forward into the future are not necessarily the best ways to find the peace and happiness we are looking for.
My number 4 in the list of the best life-changing books!
5. Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
Influence by Robert B. Cialdini is now the number 1 go-to book for any aspiring marketers and advertisers out there. But don’t let that fool you!
This book is all about the power of persuasion; understanding why we say yes to the things we do and how these techniques are used ethically and unethically in business and everyday situations.
Now, I want to tell you that I found this book so interesting that I read it in only two days. And I am not a fast reader so that is unbelievable for me!
Reading this book armours you with the knowledge of how specific techniques are used to get people to say YES. And while this is particularly relevant to business and sales, for example, you can easily see how it affects us in everyday life.
Honestly, after this book, you will begin to question everything you buy, every advert you click on and every e-mail list you subscribe to.
And that isn’t to scare you. It’s to enlighten you.
The power of persuasion discussed in this book is all about tools tactics people can use to get a person to say yes. It’s about knowing how the mind works and all of our little cognitive biases. Once we know this we can begin to work our magic.
You can stop someone from working their magic on you!
It’s a brilliant book if you have problems with saying, ‘No, thank you’. Because once you know the techniques you can understand if someone has your best interest at heart or if they are only looking to benefit themselves…
And that is powerful.
Influence easily sits at number 5 on the list of best life-changing books!
6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is really the only book you will ever need if you’re wanting to really make a big change in your life.
And the reason is that habits are the underlying driving force behind everything we do and breaking bad habits and replacing them with new shiny healthy ones, is damn hard.
The person who can master the mechanics of habit building (and breaking) will find a new sense of control over their lives that would be hard to find anywhere else. And Charles Duhigg is the MASTER of breaking bad habits.
This book works through every little aspect of how habits are formed, how to recognise negative habits and how to break the loop.
If you are looking to lose weight, get up early, quit smoking, quit junk food, stop biting your nails or anything else of that kind then this book should be your starting point.
Consider this an essential manual for living.
This is a great book packed full of information and practical advice for you to finally kick the bad habits, build new ones and take control of your actions. It’s incredibly powerful and worth it’s weight in gold.
This is number 6 on the list of best life-changing books!
7. The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss…
This is truly one of the great books written. And yes, this book can certainly change your life.
Tim Ferriss is a world renowned podcaster, entrepreneur, author, investor and all-round good egg. His brain is large and mighty and his ability to absorb information and apply it to life in order be the most effective he can be is second to none.
And this book really says it all.
It discusses the necessity to forget about the age old views of saving for retirement and waiting to live life until you’re too old to do so and finding ways to live life now.
It discusses how to make life work for you instead of being stuck in the 9-5 grind and praying for retirement day to come. So many of us are missing out on life because we still live with ingrained traditional beliefs that you go to work, you save and you retire.
But life is passing you by and this book will undoubtedly open your eyes to what life could actually look like if you were willing to take a leap of faith.
I can say this this book single handedly changed the course of my life, the life of my partner and several friends who took action and altered their trajectory for the better after reading this book.
Something to note: I think this book is genius and you should read it. Like now. What I will say is that all of the real juicy good stuff and the stuff that you really need to hear is in the first half of the book.
While I recommend reading it all, the second half isn’t where the ‘light bulb’ moment lives. So, at the very least you should read the first half of this book and that will likely do the trick!
This is my number 7 choice on the list of best life-changing books!
8. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is a lesson in being vulnerable and being brave enough to show up as your true self in life.
Brene writes with warmth and kindness. You could easily imagine having a four-hour coffee catch up with her on a casual Wednesday.
In this book, Brene focuses on vulnerability through the lens of shame. Oftentimes vulnerability is associated with weakness which conjures up feelings of shame and embarrassment when in fact, the opposite is true.
Brene speaks passionately about how we can have the courage to be vulnerable in life by being our true authentic selves. Now, while that might sound a bit wishy-washy, this book is far from it.
She discusses how traditional views on gender roles can inhibit both genders from being anything else without feeling intense shame. And, she discusses the harsh realities of what it means to hide behind a facade including being liked by people who don’t really know who you are.
With this book, you will undoubtedly be able to form stronger friendships and relationships through the power of being vulnerable.
Sifting through the first few chapters was enough for me to have an entirely new understanding of my partner and as we discussed the book, some really important discussions took place that genuinely made our relationship stronger.
No one can talk about the power of vulnerability and the debilitating effects of shame better than Brene.
If you struggle with either of these things, this is the book for you.
This is number 8 on the list of best life-changing books!
9. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a very specific type of book for a very specific type of reader.
Allow me to explain.
Extreme ownership encompasses the notion of taking full responsibility for our own actions and how doing so actually puts us in a position of control whilst also demanding greater respect from those around us.
And taking full responsibility is not the same as taking ‘the blame’. It is not about saying ‘this was my fault’ but about recognising the part you had to play in a given situation.
The reason this might not be for everyone is two-fold –
Firstly, each lesson is taught first through a wartime anecdote where the lesson had or had not been in place and the outcome of this for either good or bad. I enjoyed these anecdotes as they helped in understanding the lesson. Following the anecdote, the lesson was then explained in a business setting. Both of these combined made it very clear to understand and helpful in knowing how to implement them in everyday lives.
However, I do recognise that stories of war may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s OK. If you can get past it and see it for what it is, a lesson in extreme ownership, then you will benefit from this book.
Secondly, this book is not for the person who isn’t ready to take responsibility for their actions.
Many people live in a constant state of blame.
Blaming others for mistakes and living in denial of their contribution to the failure of any given event. To be sure, this is done to avoid feelings of shame or guilt but in fact, it is not helpful.
Unless you are willing to begin taking full responsibility for your action then this book is not for you.
If you are ready, however, this book will help you will take back a degree of control in your life and especially in relation to how you deal and communicate with others.
This is my number 9 in the best life-changing books!
10. The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge is an incredibly scientific and jargon-filled book about all things to do with neuroplasticity.
That meaning, how we can continue to learn new things, keep the brain active, rewire it for positive change and enhance our way of life by taking care of the mushy sponges in our heads.
Recently I wondered why my memory was so bad and then I fell into full panic mode thinking that my brain was dying. I know, a tad melodramatic. This is when I stumbled upon this book. And boy, am I glad I did.
This book offers a deep insight into the functions of neural pathways in the brain and body and how we can in fact keep our brains as fit and healthy as our bodies throughout the ageing process.
What I would say about this book is that it is filled with scientific research and technical jargon that might take a little time to absorb. It doesn’t offer any humour or jazzy language – it is very much a ‘fact of the matter’ kind of book.
However, if you are interested in how to delay the ageing process in the brain, how to use continuous learning to keep you sharp and responsive, how to change your brain to remember better, recover from an addiction or find balance… then the answers are in this book.
And as someone who wants to keep the mind as healthy as the body as they age, I find this book particularly hopeful.
So that is my number 10 on the life of best life-changing books!
11. Bold, Brave & Brilliant by Emma Loveday
Yes, consider this a bonus book because there is no way I would put my own book in a list like the one above… That’s just too much ego, isn’t it?
Bold, Brave & Brilliant offers 12 life lessons in cultivating mental strength and emotional resilience. Each chapter offers a lesson in the basics of understanding ourselves, why we tick, and how to approach life with a fearless attitude.
The book offers illustrations with each chapter (and the book is printed in full colour) so you can consider this an easy and uplifting but honest read.
Each chapter finishes with the C.A.L.M analogy to summarise the key point and help guide you in moving forward with each obstacle you are presented with in life.
That is my bonus book in the best life-changing books!
Go Grab Your First Life-Changing Book
There are many other life-changing books out there and I will continue to add them to this list.
But this list consists of the recommended books that I would give to anyone who is looking to begging a journey of self-improvement.
A good book can be hard to come by and by God, there is nothing more infuriating than wasting your time!
So if you’re trying to bust through some difficult time, live a happier life, better yourself and become the person you’ve always wanted to be then consider this a list of books that will certainly get you started.