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If you've never done it before, buying a self-help book can feel really strange or even embarrassing. But hey, there's nothing wrong with seeking guidance! Some of the most motivational books of all time give straightforward advice, while others come from more unexpected places.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This bestseller has been flying off the shelves for more than 80 years. How to Win Friends & Influence People mainly deals with, as the title suggests, how to improve your craft or career, get the job you want, and become the most successful version of yourself.
Dale Carnegie provides advice on how to make people like you (or, perhaps more appropriately for the modern age, follow you), how to persuade people, and how to change people without making them detest you. Pretty handy, right? Many people even call it life-changing.
The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers by Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth is timeless precisely because it covers essentially all of time. This book is the written account of ex-White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers's interview with author and mythologist Joseph Campbell. The interview, which was also made into a PBS series, has inspired millions of people.
In terms of content, Moyers and Campbell explore the myths, religions, and rituals of people throughout the ages. You may be questioning what this has to do with you. Well, as Campbell theorizes, myths exist to teach us something. So this bestseller isn't just historical or literary, it's also one of the most motivational books of all time, imploring us to go out into the world and experience as much as we possibly can.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is literally a step by step guide on how to do life the right way. Even though it is designed to help you achieve success, career wise and in all other aspects of your life, author Covey stresses the importance of kindness and cooperation.
Along with tips on how to be positive and persistent, Covey insists that to get where you want to be in life, you need to understand and work with others. This book will increase your motivation and teach you open-mindedness.
The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Given the title, it's not hard to see why The Power of Positive Thinking would make it onto a list of the most motivational books of all time. Most of us can get hard on ourselves when we don't feel like we're reaching our full potential. When we perpetuate negative thoughts, it becomes harder to make positive change. This book's aim is to break through that kind of stress, anxiety, and even depression in order to create happiness for ourselves.
Congratulations, By The Way by George Saunders
Before becoming a book, Congratulations, By The Way was originally a graduation address given to the students of Syracuse University. It was received so well that The New York Times published a transcript of the speech, which instantly attracted millions of readers.
This isn't a text about getting the career you want. This isn't about how to be successful. It's about something far more important: The idea that you should always be kind to people. Kindness, he advocates, is the secret to life's fulfillment.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
First published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich continues to inspire generation after generation. Its relevance never fades, making it one of the best, most motivational books of all time. The driving forces behind this book are desire and imagination. Author Napoleon Hill argues that you can't reach success or personal fulfillment without these two key ingredients.
When the title tells you this book can make you rich, it doesn't just mean in terms of the dollar sign. Hill teaches you how to actualize your innermost desires and eradicates the commonly held notion that you're not good enough or that you don't deserve it.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Author Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, but he's not just good with stocks and markets and numbers. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Khaneman applies his economical brain to behavioral psychology.
Thinking, Fast and Slow is about breaking bad habits and mental patterns. The best tool for success and self-improvement, he says, is awareness. For example, everyone wants to be happy, but if you're used to feeling sad or stuck, you might end up staying that way because it's familiar. His advice is to realize when you're making these behavioral errors so you can put a stop to them.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird is essentially the creative writer's bible. However, you don't have to be a writer to read it. In her book, Anne Lamott's guide to writing doubles as a guide to life. It's thought-provoking yet surprisingly simple; firm yet uniquely kind. That's why it makes our list as one of the most motivational books of all time.
You could find all of the inspirational quotes you'd ever need in this one relatively short book. One of the most referenced sections in Bird by Bird is about "shitty first drafts," which to a writer is very literal, but abstractly, it's the concept that we need to allow ourselves to make mistakes. Before we can reach the best version of ourselves we desperately seek, we need to make some shitty first attempts—and that's O.K.
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie is on virtually every school reading list. It has also, for better or worse, become synonymous with the phrase "afterschool special." The reason behind both of these phenomena is that it is a highly inspirational and very endearing book.
They say the older a person is, the wiser they are, and that sentiment is at the heart of this beloved memoir. Regardless of your age, Tuesdays with Morrie is one of the best reads when you need some motivation and sense of purpose.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz
Much like the four noble truths are at the center of Buddhism, the four agreements are at the center of Toltec beliefs. In this book, Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the four agreements we make: one with ourselves, one with life, one with God, and one with others. Also like Buddhism, these four essentials outline the path to personal freedom, or enlightenment.
Arguably the most important of this text is the part about our agreement with ourselves. This book talks about how we put limitations on ourselves and how we can free ourselves from those limitations.
Even if you're not religious, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) is one of the best motivational books to read if you need help with self-improvement.