5 Best Self-Improvement Books For A Transformative Year

A white wall with built in bookshelves filled with books, by a green couch and wood table.

Whether you’re looking to achieve big goals, build positive habits, or become a more mindful, grateful person, you can bet there’s a self-improvement book out there for your specific needs.

Back in the day, self-help books were a source of mild shame or ridicule. They weren’t the type of books you’d proudly display on your bookshelf. But these days, there’s a vast array of reputable and inspiring self-improvement books. And everyone from CEOs to creatives have credited them to impacting their lives. 

Self-improvement books are inexpensive, effective tools. The right self-improvement book can offer tons of strategies, advice, and motivation, and can help you develop a strong foundation for your journey towards self-improvement.

When it comes to looking for the right self-improvement book for you, here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Specific tips and strategies. The author should share specific steps one needs to take in order to succeed. So make sure there are exercises, tips, or worksheets. The best self-help books offer practical advice that anyone can do. 

Expertise. What’s the author’s background? Do they have experience in the subject area? While they don’t necessarily need a PhD on the subject matter—some of the most popular and inspiring self-help books are written by ordinary people—their advice should be backed up by real world experience.  

Don’t be embarrassed. The right self-improvement book for you is going to be the one that directly speaks to your needs. Try not to judge yourself and instead, be honest about what you’re looking for. It takes guts to want to improve your life and go for what you truly want. So don’t ignore your deepest desires. If you’re looking for simple tips on how to make money, you’ll probably get a lot more out of  I Will Teach You To Be Rich, than, say, a book about meditation.

Check out an author interview. A good way to gauge if you’ll enjoy an author’s work or not is to check out a print or podcast interview with them. This way, you’ll get a much clearer sense of where they’re coming from and what their strategies are, and you’ll see if you connect with their point of view. 

Above all, you’ll want a book that resonates with you. A great self-improvement book inspires and reminds us that we are capable of great things. 

Self-improvement book for goal setting

Atomic Habits by James Clear

What makes Atomic Habits a great self-improvement book is its mix of inspirational case studies and simple, practical advice. 

When we think about goals, we often think about big, dramatic action. If we want to write a book, we think we need to devote 10 hours a day to writing it. If we want to lose weight, we think we need to eliminate sugar, fat, carbs, etc. But these big changes eventually backfire and lead to quick burnout. Instead, Atomic Habits reminds us that it’s about the tiny, micro changes that lead to big, dramatic results. 

In Atomic Habits, you’ll find such strategies as: how to design your environment to help you succeed and “The Two Minute Rule” to help you overcome procrastination.

This is the perfect self-improvement book for people looking to create effective systems to reach their goals.

Self-improvement book for creativity 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way is one of the most popular creativity self-improvement books for good reason. 

With journal writing exercises, ideas for self-care activities, and Cameron’s supportive voice gently guiding you throughout the book, The Artist’s Way is like the benevolent teacher you’ve always wanted.

You may have heard about The Artist’s Way’s most popular tool: the Morning Pages, a daily morning exercise in which you free-write three pages in your journal. This is a great exercise to kickstart your journal practice and uncover the keys to your creativity. 

The book is organized into 12 chapters and structured like a weekly course. You are meant to do one chapter a week at a time. The Artist’s Way tackles everything from writer’s block to setting boundaries with friends and family, to identifying 5 year goals. No wonder everyone from Elizabeth Gilbert to Tim Ferris have touted the benefits of this self improvement book.

Self-improvement book for memory retention 

Moonwalking With Einstein Jonathan Foer

If you’re looking to develop a new habit, improving your memory is a worthy effort. 

Whether it’s studying for exams or retaining salient information at work, or even remembering people’s names at parties, a stronger memory would make our lives easier in so many ways. 

Moonwalking With Einstein is a non-fiction book that follows Foer, a science journalist, on his quest to compete in the U.S. Memory Championship. Along the way, Foer introduces the reader to individuals with remarkable memories and shares their techniques on how they retain information. Even Bill Gates recommends this book

Self improvement book for personal finance

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi offers personal finance advice in a conversational, no-nonsense way, without any of the guilt. This is what sets him apart from other finance guides, which tend to make you feel bad for having debt or wanting to splurge on nice things.

Sethi doesn’t judge your finance habits and, in fact, encourages you to focus on the things you truly care about, so that you can eliminate the things that don’t make you happy. In addition, he offers sample scripts you can use to negotiate with banks, credit card companies, and more. 

Self-improvement for navigating your career 

Becoming by Michelle Obama 

Some of the most inspiring life advice can be found in a memoir. 

Memoirs are wonderful resources because they offer firsthand accounts of the author’s challenges along with their personal insights into how they overcame them. After reading one, you, too, will feel inspired and ready to take on anything. 

From navigating her career to juggling work and family, Michelle Obama’s Becoming is an inspiring and riveting account of her journey to the White House. In one of the book’s most poignant passages, the First Lady shares her struggles with navigating her professional life and figuring out a career change. She describes how journal writing helped her through this tough time, and allowed her to gain insights into what she really wanted to do with her life. 

This is a great book to read if you feel like you’re in a career rut and are looking for inspiration on making that next, bold step. If you feel inspired by Michelle Obama’s journal writing practice, you can pair this self-improvement book with a notebook to help you gather your thoughts and gain clarity on what you’re looking for.
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