11 of The Best Motivational Books Worth Reading

The best motivational books help readers overcome everyday challenges. This article rounds up a selection.

When we need inspiration or face a crisis, a motivational book can help light the path towards success. The list of motivational books below can help you face significant or everyday life changes and even improve your home life or career.

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

11 of the best motivational books worth reading

This is one of the most popular motivational books of all time. Sadly Covey passed away in 2012. In his book, he lays out seven habits for finding success at work and in your personal life. A companion workbook is also available. I found the book quite inspiring in that it addresses managing problems at work and at home, which is unusual in a genre like this. The seven habits are:

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win-win
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the saw

Covey says,

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Stephen Covey

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This bestselling motivational book was published in 1936, and it has sold over 30 million copies and is still in print. It addresses topics like increasing your popularity and earning power, becoming a better public speaker and winning people over to your way of thinking.

The book is full of wisdom that’s still useful today. Examples include: don’t criticise, condemn or complain; give honest and sincere appreciation; and arouse in the other person an eager want. The author writes about how to encourage people to like you by smiling, becoming genuinely interested in their problems, and being a good listener. Carnegie writes, 

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie

3. Think and Grow Rich written by Napoleon Hill

This book dates back to 1937 and surprisingly, the advice still applies to difficult times today. Hill offers readers fourteen principles that will help them find spiritual and material wealth. For this motivational book, Hill interviewed some of the greatest business minds of his day, including Henry Ford and J. D. Rockefeller. The book also includes 3 American presidents. Hill offers motivational nuggets like:

“You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.”

Napoleon Hill

4. Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins isn’t for everyone, but he’s one of the most famous motivational coaches of modern times. His coaching process involves training both the mind and the body, and his famous seminars cost thousands of dollars.

Why pay that much when you can get some of his insights via this much cheaper book? Published in 2001, it offers covers topics like feeling out of control and living a life with passion and energy.

It’s one of the longer motivational titles in this list, partly because Robbins writes at length about each idea. Personally, I prefer listening to Robbins via his courses and audiobooks. But, assuming you can wade through the monologues, it’s an inspiring read. Expect motivational advice like,

“If you can’t, you must. If you must, you can.”

Tony Robbins

5. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Published in 1903, the author continues to motivate people even into the present time. His goal was to help people life a better life using advice inside of his short, pocket companion book. This motivational book has a spiritual angle to it. He argues thinking beyond what we are to what we can be is imperative. Allen writes,

“The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state…Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”

James Allen

6. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Published in 1968, this book isn’t about sales at all. It prescribes how to live a life of abundance using ten principles. He dubs these as “The Legend of Ten Scrolls”. Examples include: Master Your Emotions, Multiply Your Value Everyday and The Power of Laughter. Reading this book isn’t about speed. Mandino says it should take you up to 10 months to read it properly. Mandino writes,

“[Every] defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

Og Mandino

7. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

Published in 1998, this book carries a simple motivational message: let go of the clutter. This book aims to help the reader differentiate between what is important versus clutter. He argues managing stress and finding motivation is hard if the little things weigh us down. Carlson writes,

“The key to a good life is this: If you’re not going to talk about something during the last hour of your life, then don’t make it a top priority during your lifetime.”

Richard Carlson

8. Drive by Daniel Pink

New-York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink is one of the more engaging and colorful business authors in recent times. His 2011 book explains what motivates people to perform at work.

Pink also covers why the most effective people are masters of their own time and have a purpose beyond monetary rewards. Pink interweaves personal anecdotes with third-party research. He writes,

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon.”

Daniel Pink

Check out our interview with Daniel Pink.

9. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

This theme of this motivational books was criticized when published back in 1952. However, happiness is a skill anyone can learn with practice and positive thinking. The healthier and cheerier person will be more likely to do well and succeed versus someone who does not hold the same mindset. The power of positivity is the way to go. Peale writes,

“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”

Norman Vincent Peale

10. The Power of Ambition by Jim Rohn

I listened to this inspiring audiobook during a mild case of depression a few years ago. I was surprised by how Jim Rohn’s warm and engaging delivery. Published in 1994, the advice inside of the book isn’t any different to what I’d read elsewhere but Rohn communicates clearly to the reader about how to overcome personal setbacks. He also covers how to find financial freedom. He says,

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

Jim Rohn

11. Atomic Habits by James Clear

New York Times bestselling author James Clear coaches readers how to succeed in their personal and professional lives by reaping the rewards of smart daily decisions.

In this book, Clear outlines how to create lasting good habits and overcome bad ones. He also provides advice on using habit trackers and how to find motivation when a habit falls by the wayside. Expect advice like,

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

James Clear

Listen to my interview with James Clear.

Best Motivational Books: Final Word

It’s sometimes hard to find time to read so many great books. I get through my reading list faster by listening to non-fiction on Audible. I sometimes listen to a motivational audiobook while out for a walk, in the gym or out for a run. If you’re interested, check out my Audible review. Whatever your preference, pick a pick from this list, read or listen to it and get to work!


What can motivational books do for you?

Motivational books can help you get going when you feel tired or despondent. Depending on the book, it may address finding energy at work or for your personal life. They can also provide information, tactics and strategies for setting goals, taking action and creating better habits. And they sometimes serve as a source of inspiration through stories and third-party research.

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