72 of 2017’s Best Books to Make You Successful

Just in time to push you to achieve your goals for the new year. Read up!
January 10, 2018

1. How to Be Bored

By Eva Hoffman
January; Picador; $16

This deceptively modest little book is an entry in the “School of Life” series of what might be called anti-personal-development books. A writer and scholar, Eva Hoffman takes on the frantic pace of digital life, a common enough theme of contemporary self-improvement books. But she’s not interested in showing how to navigate your inbox or make more efficient use of your time.

Boredom, it turns out, is good for you. Drawing on history, literature and psychology, Hoffman extols idleness as a necessity for creativity and happiness. She suggests cultivating an appreciation for nature, a taste for literature and art, and an ear for music that’s more sophisticated than what your hear in an elevator. She also recommends keeping a journal to explore hidden thoughts and feelings. The time for these pursuits may come at the expense of productivity, but she notes overwork can be a barrier against self-awareness.

2. Beautiful Money

The 4-Week Total Wealth Makeover

By Leanne Jacobs
January; TarcherPerigee; $16

A book that needs two subtitles must have something important to say, right? In this case, the second subtitle, A Holistic Approach to Increasing Your Net Worth, signals what the book promises and how it will be delivered. As a “holistic wealth expert,” Jacobs may extol yoga and Pilates, but mostly her detailed program is designed to help people develop a positive approach to money in the overall context of health and well-being. “True wealth,” she writes, “is an inside job.”

3. Spark

How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success

By Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch and Sean Lynch
January; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $27

Does the Marine Corps do a better job of teaching leadership than elite business schools? Yes, say two former Marines and an Air Force pilot. The Marine approach is scalable to the corporate and small-business realms. As FedEx founder Fred Smith writes in the foreword, “Leadership isn’t about authority. It’s about building credible influence with others.” Smith, a former Marine, spent two tours in Vietnam as a platoon leader and later as a commander.

The book tries too hard to brand its principles: “A spark is all about change.” It’s people who “don’t accept what’s given to them.” It’s a moment of realization, or it’s a “catalyst for personal and organizational change.” You get the idea: familiar concepts cast in perky neo-jargon. Otherwise, the authors offer fresh perspectives on seven key leadership qualities: character, credibility, accountability, intention, service, confidence and consistency.

4. Build Your Dream Network

Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World

By J. Kelly Hoey
January; TarcherPerigee; $23

The world has never been so tightly knit, thanks to digital technology, but as we all know, connections on social media are apt to be superficial and unsatisfying. J. Kelly Hoey has certainly mastered the new tools. She’s a columnist for Inc.com, a regular commentator on CNBC and has been named one of the “25 Smartest Women on Twitter.” She’s also learned the hard way that good old-fashioned quality relationships are as important as ever, and she’s devised a detailed plan for building them in our brave new electronic world.

5. Why Won’t You Apologize?

Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

By Harriet Lerner
January; Touchstone; $24

As a former staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic, Harriet Lerner has studied apologies for more than 20 years. She says you don’t need to know when an apology isn’t coming or “when a bad apology flattens you.” A good apology can deliver almost instant healing. Author of the best-seller The Dance of Anger, Lerner writes with humor and an easy intelligence about apologizing, making amends and forgiving.

6. Getting to “Yes And”

The Art of Business Improv

By Bob Kulhan with Chuck Crisafulli
January; Stanford Business Books; $30

Bob Kulhan, a veteran improv comedian and instructor who also happens to be an adjunct professor at Duke and Columbia Universities, has built a thriving consultancy, Business Improv, by providing experiential training to companies such as Ford, American Express and Verizon Wireless.

Kulhan learned at the feet of comedy royalty such as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, but he also draws on cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to teach people how to think on their feet. The key principle in modern improv is “Yes, and”—a gesture of trust and acceptance that enables a comedian (or businessperson) to build on what they’ve been given. Its contrast, “Yes, but,” kills the comedy, or in business, stifles communication and creativity. “The same skills that make for exceptional comedic improvisation—intense listening, focus, energy, engagement, teamwork, authenticity, adaptability—are skills that any person can utilize to positively impact the workplace.

7. Tools of Titans

The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

By Tim Ferriss
December; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $28

At 673 pages, this book looks and feels like a bible. With interviews and tips from 112 people—including leaders, entrepreneurs, doctors, actors, comedians and more—Tools of Titans could very well be considered a holy book on personal growth. The author and host of his eponymous podcast, Tim Ferriss calls it a “compendium of recipes for high performance.” The book is organized into three parts: Healthy, with insights from likes of former U.S. National Team gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer; Wealthy, with advice from Daymond John, Tony Robbins, Peter Diamandis and others; and Wise, with ideas from several thought leaders including Brené Brown, Paulo Coelho, Malcolm Gladwell and even Seth Rogen.

Ferriss stands by every single word of advice in his book because he’s personally tried them all. “If I can’t test something or replicate results… I’m not interested,” Ferriss writes. He adds by using tactics from the book in “high-stakes negotiations, high-risk environments, or large business dealings,” he’s made millions of dollars and saved countless hours of wasted efforts.

8. Extreme Teams

Why Pixar, Netflix, Airbnb, and Other Cutting-Edge Companies Succeed Where Most Fail

By Robert Bruce Shaw
February; AMACOM; $28

Consultant Robert Bruce Shaw isn’t the first to examine successful 21st-century teams, but his observations are fresh and insightful. The trick is hiring the right people to create the right atmosphere, and maximizing profits by not making profits what matters most. Pixar uses constant feedback, while Whole Foods fosters super-autonomous teams. What they all have in common is the willingness to toss conventional wisdom overboard to make room for innovation.

9. Drop the Ball

Achieving More by Doing Less

By Tiffany Dufu
February; Flatiron Books; $26

Tiffany Dufu has a common story, the one about the new mother who thought she could do it all, only to run smack into reality. To put this in perspective, here is a partial list of Dufu’s accomplishments: Launch team member for Lean In; chief leadership officer at Levo, a career and social media website; president of the White House Project; associate development director at Seattle Girls’ School; member of the Women’s Forum of New York.

As much a memoir as a how-to, Drop the Ball recounts Dufu’s struggle and solution: letting go. She learned to recalibrate expectations, concentrate on her to-do list, and accept help from others. Dufu urges women to embrace imperfection and marshal the energy to develop a rich, balanced life—one that includes professional goals. It’s a practical kind of feminism for the 21st century, one endorsed by Gloria Steinem’s enthusiastic foreword.

10. The Nature Fix

Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By Florence Williams
February; W.W. Norton; $27

As Homo sapiens becomes an increasingly urban species, evidence for our dependence upon nature grows stronger. Florence Williams, a contributing editor to Outside magazine, scoured the latest science while traveling the world for examples. Scotland offers “ecotherapeutic” therapy for the mentally ill; in West Virginia, being outside helps children with ADHD. Williams is an elegant yet witty writer, and she makes a terrific guide.

11. The Leading Brain

Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance

By Friederike Fabritius and Hans W. Hagemann
February; TarcherPerigee; $26

The Leading Brain essentially endorses the virtues your mother tried to instill in you—but it’s based on cutting-edge neuroscience, and it comes with specific ways to upgrade your brain, your behavior, and your life. The authors, a pair of German consultants specializing in brain-based leadership, examine and explain many new ideas, including Cognitive Jujitsu, a nifty bit of branding for a technique of redirecting negative emotions to make them productive. The biggest idea is neuroplasticity.

12. What’s Your Presentation Persona?

Discover Your Unique Communication Style and Succeed in Any Arena

By Scott Schwertly and Sunday Mancini
February; McGraw-Hill Education; $26

Science used to think you were stuck with the brain you were born with. Actually, it is possible to rewire the brain, by practice, to support healthier habits, eliminate bad habits, and give yourself lifelong learning. “Neuroplasticity can even make it possible to retrain your brain’s physical abilities simply by imagining those changes,” the authors write. So don’t give up on that air guitar just yet.

We live in a golden age of public speaking. The thing is, most speeches are delivered to small groups, and they are known as presentations or sales pitches. Scott Schwertly, founder and CEO of Ethos3, a presentation design and training boutique in Nashville, Tennessee, offers a proprietary test to determine each individual’s strengths. By classifying you in one of several categories, from scholar to scientist to entertainer, Schwertly promises to hone your presentation skills. You can even become a well-rounded presenter by trying other personas.

13. Sensemaking

The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm

Reading List Roundup: February 2017

By Christian Madsbjerg
March; Hachette Books; $28

Who would imagine that an analyst with an algorithm could understand baseball better than coaches, scouts and managers? Yet Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane was lionized for that idea in Moneyball. This era’s fetish for big data threatens every aspect of human life, warns consultant Christian Madsbjerg, from marginalizing employees to dehumanizing customers, undermining governments and imperiling savings.

Even in liberal arts universities, the pressure to elevate science, technology, engineering and math at the expense of literature, philosophy, art, music, religion and language is enormous. It’s not just that the humanities make life worth living. Nuanced engagement with human culture is the secret behind some of today’s most successful companies and entrepreneurs, Madsbjerg says. Sensemaking reveals the humanistic perspective that Madsbjerg has brought to enthusiastic clients such as Ford, Adidas and Samsung.

14. Unplug

A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers

Reading List Roundup: February 2017

By Suze Yalof Schwartz with Debra Goldstein
March; Harmony; $23

When Suze Yalof Schwartz moved from New York to Los Angeles, she traded a high-profile job as a fashion editor at Glamour magazine for an entirely new career as a “spiritual entrepreneur.” Aside from the self-evident contradiction in that job description, Schwartz has set herself on a serious mission: making meditation safe for the busy, overwhelmed and disbelieving. One of her first steps was founding Unplugged, a meditation studio in LA.

Unplug is written with a no-nonsense approach. She blows up common misconceptions about meditation and explains the science behind why it works. Schwartz provides practical techniques to enable busy people to fit meditation into everyday life. For starters, she says, a quick meditation while standing in line for coffee can jumpstart your day. If you’re curious about what meditation can do for you, Unplug is a great place to begin.

15. Radical Candor

Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Reading List Roundup: February 2017By Kim Scott
March; St. Martin’s Press; $27

“If you can’t say something good about someone,” Alice Roosevelt Longworth famously said, “sit right here by me.” That’s funny, but it’s not what consultant Kim Scott means by “radical candor.” No, she’s talking about “the unnatural act” of delivering honest criticism—and praise—to employees. Praise sounds patronizing, Scott says, and criticism can be brutal. As a result, most bosses avoid genuine open communication altogether, which makes them bad bosses.

Scott has worked as a CEO coach at several Silicon Valley outfits, including Google, Dropbox, Twitter and Apple. She has developed three simple principles for hitting the Goldilocks zone between “obnoxious aggression” and “ruinous empathy”: Make it personal, get [stuff] done and understand why it matters. Scott shows how to receive criticism as well as give it, and how to encourage multidirectional feedback.

16. Boss Bitch

The youngest anchor ever at CNN, Redbook’s first-ever money columnist, and now the star of the syndicated reality competition show Hatched, Nicole Lapin has developed a 12-step career strategy, beginning with “Be the boss wherever you are,” and finishing with “Girls just want to have funds.” In between, this is a witty book with hard-nosed advice. You don’t have to be the boss of anyone but yourself to benefit.

17. Leadership in Focus

Bringing Out Your Best on Camera

Reading List Roundup: February 2017

By Vern Oakley
March; Greenleaf Book Group; $25

In the age of TED Talks, it’s no longer enough to write well, or even speak well, if you want to move your “tribe,” what veteran filmmaker Vern Oakley calls your target audience. An award-winning director for the children’s show Reading Rainbow, Oakley presents the best ways to relax and be your authentic self on camera. In this book, he provides a comprehensive and accessible guide

for making the most of YouTube and other new video technologies.

18. Eyes Wide Open

Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly

Reading List Roundup: February 2017

By Isaac Lidsky
March; TarcherPerigee; $26

The same year Isaac Lidsky was cast on the ’90s sitcom Saved by the Bell: The New Class, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that caused the gradual loss of his sight. Nonetheless, he earned a law degree at Harvard University, became the only blind law clerk in the history of the Supreme Court and now co-owns a construction business in Central Florida. A busy motivational speaker, he shares his insights on how to overcome fear, assumptions and discouragement to live with grace, humor and success.

19. Mindshift

Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017By Barbara Oakley
April; TarcherPerigee; $17

A mindshift, writes Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., is “a deep change in life that occurs thanks to learning.” A professor of engineering at Oakland University, her whole life seems to have led to this insight. Her first degree was in Slavic languages and literature. Oakley has written books about life as a translator aboard a Russian trawler, the genetic and neurological sources of evil, some unintended effects of altruism, and how to learn math even if you’re a humanities major.

The secret to success in a fast-changing world, Oakley suggests, is not so much lifelong learning as it is learning how to learn. Drawing on a course she developed with neuroscientist Terry Sejnowski, Oakley convincingly argues that a few conscious changes in the way people learn activates an astounding new capacity for personal change. Previously entrenched habits can be overcome, and traits once considered handicaps—poor memory, impostor syndrome and age—can be turned into advantages.

20. Maybe It’s You

Cut the Crap. Face Your Fears. Love Your Life.

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017

Veteran life coach Lauren Handel Zander is strong on personal responsibility. Of course, what else could be expected from a life coach who uses Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead as a textbook for her trainees? If Zander’s own career is any indication, it must work. She left a cushy corporate job to strike out on her own at 28. Seven years later Zander started a consulting firm, Handel Group, with her sister in 2004, landing clients at companies such as Sony BMG, Dropbox, The New York Times and LinkedIn.

In Maybe It’s You, Zander shares her secrets, branded as “The Handel Method.” Emphasizing personal accountability, it leaves nowhere to hide. Clients who brave the program, Zander writes, have overcome a variety of debilitating misconceptions or bad habits. Practical and inspiring, Zander’s book shows how owning up to setbacks and shortcomings can turn them into strengths.

21. The Future of Happiness

5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017

Technology makes us more productive, but it comes with a cost: multitasking, 24-hour-availability and the incessant sensation that we are falling further behind. Amy Blankson says there’s good news. Technology also gives us the tools we need to find balance and even happiness amid the distractions of the digital age.

Blankson proposes five strategies for managing a coherent 21st-century life: Stay grounded, distraction is a choice; Think smaller, use technology to understand the world; Train your brain, use emerging technologies to cultivate a positive mindset; Create a habitat for happiness, declutter your space and declutter your mind; Be a conscious innovator, make today’s technology shape the future you want. The wise use of technology can help us achieve happiness right now, she says, not in some distant future.

22. The Sleep Solution

Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017

It’s tempting to subscribe to the maxim, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” All that gets you, though, is an earlier death. As neurologist and sleep expert W. Chris Winter reveals in The Sleep Solution, slumber is critical to physical and mental health, happiness, and performance. A consultant to the military, as well as sports franchises such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Francisco Giants, Winter makes the science accessible as he shares his secrets to good sleep. April; NAL; $26

23. Taking My Life Back

My Story of Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017

Rebekah Gregory stood only 3 feet from one of the bombs that went off at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. After 17 surgeries and more than 65 medical procedures, she agreed to the amputation of her left leg. A devout Christian, Gregory refused to let such hardships ruin her life. Two years after the bombing, she returned to Boston to run in the marathon. This is her story of faith and resilience.

24. Extreme You

Stand Up. Step Out. Kick Ass.Repeat.

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, April 2017

Sarah Robb O’Hagan’s bio is extreme—a failed childhood champion, executive at Virgin Atlantic and Nike, fired twice before 30, global president of Gatorade and Equinox, wife, mother and endurance athlete. Not a fan of moderation, she draws on her own life to illustrate how inner greatness can be achieved only by boldly committing to the extreme; it’s sustained effort that brings extreme success. That doesn’t mean a life of relentless grinding, though. O’Hagan’s outlook is more humane and psychologically nuanced than that.

25. Women Who Work

Rewriting the Rules for Success

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

By now Ivanka Trump is the kind of celebrity who could go by one name, like Cher or Madonna. Of course, she is also now a divisive figure, if only by proxy, whether that’s fair or not. It’s the reason publication of this book was pushed back from March to May. Can a businesswoman so closely associated with men whose policies have received backlash from many women really speak for working women? The truth is she doesn’t really try to.

Trump provides a forum on her website for working women to share their experiences and passions. Women Who Work is an extension of that discussion. For readers who can set aside political feelings, it will be an informative read. Trump acknowledges the luck of being born to a billionaire father while emphasizing the hard work required to build on that advantage. She also insists on being seen as a fully rounded person—a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. Women Who Work is meant to inspire and empower.

26. Insight

Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

Insight offers a bold, exhilarating take on self-improvement. After all, self-awareness is what the entire human project is about. Our scientific name, Homo sapiens sapiens, means doubly wise (or self-aware) man. French philosopher René Descartes declared, “I think, therefore I am.” But some modern neuroscientists believe that self-awareness is an illusion—that people are as driven by instinct as squirrels. Organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich brings fresh perspective to an old question.

Combining her own research with the latest science, Eurich measures the connection between self-awareness and performance, at work and at home. Although 95 percent of her subjects believed they were self-aware, most proved inept at perceiving how they were seen by others. Fortunately self-awareness, the “meta-skill of the 21st century,” is remarkably easy to acquire via Eurich’s counterintuitive insights. This book might help you perform better, make better decisions and become happier. (May; Crown Business; $28)

27. No Limits

Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” wrote Robert Browning in his poem “Andrea del Sarto.” It’s one of the most famous quotes not to come from the Bible, Homer or Shakespeare, and it means we must seek to find the limits of our talent and drive if we are to achieve all that we are capable of. Broadly, that’s the theme of John C. Maxwell’s latest motivational book. Don’t accept perceived limitations, he warns.

The author of more than 70 books, several of them New York Times No. 1 best-sellers, is a top leadership expert, a SUCCESS ambassador and longtime columnist. He identifies 17 core capabilities. Some, such as energy and creativity, are innate, while others, such as attitude, character and intention, are a matter of choice. Maxwell examines each one, giving instructions on how to identify and maximize your potential. The book might not be the first to urge readers to push out of their comfort zone, but few authors have done it with more conviction and effectiveness than Maxwell.

28. Brilliant Living

31 Insights to Creating an Awesome Life

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

Some inflation is at work in the principles of self-improvement. Ten Commandments then Twelve Steps—and now the digits have exploded. Simon Bailey’s 31 insights probably aren’t the most but it’s a big number comprising a focus on faith, family, health, social life, career and so on. Bailey is the leader of the Brilliance Movement, a philosophy centered on celebrating rather than criticizing yourself. Despite the high insight count, Bailey’s message is simple, and many will find it is exactly the spark they’ve been looking for.

29. Becoming Curious

A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but for Casey Tygrett it is also an essential ingredient to human growth. It takes only a little curiosity to move us toward knowing our friends better, to stumble across unforeseen opportunities, to understand our own thoughts and feelings. Pastor, blogger, spiritual director and author, Tygrett takes an engaging approach to being more curious. When we stop asking questions, he says, we give up. That’s how asking questions becomes a spiritual practice.

30. Good People

The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, May 2017

Anthony Tjan brings a timeless human question into the modern business world: What is goodness? In the workplace, goodness is often limited to competence and productivity. Tjan says real goodness includes integrity, compassion, generosity, gratitude and kindness. Sometimes dismissed as soft, these characteristics actually enable leaders to create business cultures of real value and longevity.

31. The Inspiration Code

How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

SUCCESS Reading List: The Inspiration CodeBy Kristi Hedges
June; AMACOM; $25

Just as any child can grow up to be president, says executive coach Kristi Hedges, any employee, manager, or CEO can become a real inspiration to others. The behaviors that make for the kind of active listener and motivational conversationalist people want to follow are not a matter of born talent. They’re the result of skills that can be learned.

Hedges argues that inspirational leadership comes from a few consistent routine behaviors: investing in each conversation with full attention; speaking authentically; displaying the emotion and energy appropriate to each situation; and helping others find meaning in their place within the big picture. Hedges refutes common myths about executive leadership. She says what really moves people to action is genuine communication. With this message, Hedges delivers an exceptional leadership book.

32. I Can’t Make This Up

Life Lessons

Reading List: I Can't Make This UpBy Kevin Hart
June; 37 Ink; $27

In 2016 Kevin Hart became the world’s highest-earning comedian, bringing Jerry Seinfeld’s decade-long run to an end. The pint-size stand-up artist and comic actor took home $87.5 million to Seinfeld’s distant second-place tally, $43.5 million. Hart did it by being—literally—the hardest-working man in show business, logging more than 100 solo shows (grossing $1 million or more each), two movies (Central Intelligence and The Secret Life of Pets), and commercials for Hyundai, Foot Locker and H&M.

Hart wasn’t always rolling in greenbacks. He grew up in North Philadelphia, the son of a single mom who beat him and a drug-addicted father. His early forays into stand-up, while working as a shoe salesman, did not go well. But he never gave up, slowly developing a winning comic persona. Hart nicely mixes humor and pathos in telling the story of his setbacks and triumphs, and the lessons learned at each step along the way.

33. The Bravest You

Five Steps to Fight Your Biggest Fears, Find Your Passion, and Unlock Your Extraordinary Life

Reading List: The Bravest You

Alcoholics have Alcoholics Anonymous. Neurotics have therapy. But what if you’re just an average Joe stuck in a rut? Life coach Adam Kirk Smith has devised a plan for you. In a motivational style, he guides readers through a five-step “Bravery Process” (complacency, inspiration, fear, passion, bravery). The Bravest You doesn’t solve problems so much as equip readers with a box of tools to do the job themselves.

Smith shows how to identify goals and passions in what was once murk and discouragement while also identifying sources of fear—some or all of which might impede progress. Among these are fears of rejection, being judged, inadequacy, loneliness or losing control. Once Smith’s Bravery Process has been diligently mastered, however, such fears need never hinder again, so long as the program is diligently applied and reapplied. Instead of cringing before challenges, those using Smith’s principles should be able to face any situation not only with confidence but with aplomb.

34. Bearing the Unbearable

Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

SUCCESS Reading List: Bearing the Unbearable

Grief is a constant part of the human condition. For that reason, there is no end of works on the subject, such as Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” or George Saunders’ new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Joanne Cacciatore, a Zen priest, supplements the consolations of literature with more practical analysis. Grief, she says, is the flip side of love. Fifty-two brief chapters lead the reader through the process, showing how grief can be a tool of transformation and healing.

35. Dare to Be Kind

How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World

SUCCESS Reading List: Dare to Be Kind

If anyone is an authority on compassion, it would be Lizzie Velasquez. Born with a rare genetic disorder, she discovered at 17 that her image had been featured in a viral video titled “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” Instead of reacting with anger or self-pity, she stood up for victims, established herself as a YouTube star, and became a renowned motivational speaker. Compassion for others begins with self-acceptance, Velasquez says. In this wise book, she shows us how it’s done.

36. Peak Performance

Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive With the New Science of Success

SUCCESS Reading List_Peak PerformanceBy Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
June; Rodale Books; $25

Success is a science? The latest research, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests it is indeed. Brad Stulberg, a health journalist, and Steve Magness, a performance scientist and Olympics long-distance coach, look across sports and disciplines to find common attributes contributing to performance. They show the best way to alternate effort and rest, how to prime the mind and body, and the motivational power of a sense of purpose.

37. What Motivates Getting Things Done

Procrastination, Emotions, and Success

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017

It’s not a matter of willpower. That’s the good news. A clinical psychologist and a professor in the doctoral program at the Wright Institute, Mary Lamia says procrastination is not a mental problem but a problem centered in human emotions. In fact, she says, some high-achieving people are procrastinators, but they have learned how to use procrastination as a source of motivation: Waiting for the spur of pressing deadlines is part of their productivity cycle. Others feel the need to start on projects immediately. One strategy is not necessarily better than the other, so long as things get done.

In clear prose, Lamia shows how anyone can harness their own personal work style for maximum productivity. She takes the reader on a tour of the emotional lives of high achievers, those who procrastinate and those who don’t, and surveys the current science on motivation. Humans, she says, are motivated not only by the pursuit of positive emotions but also by the desire to avoid negative ones. Managing negative emotions, therefore—shame, fear, guilt, anxiety—is key to her approach. Fortunately, it’s something anyone can learn.

38. Why?

What Makes Us Curious

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017By Mario Livio
July; Simon & Schuster; $26

No one who has spent more than a few minutes observing a squirrel, cat or crow would think that humans have a monopoly on curiosity. But as Mario Livio, an astrophysicist, shows in this fascinating book, we have honed the trait to a high degree of usefulness while also becoming its servant. Consider this: Researchers have determined that eavesdroppers are more distracted when they hear half of a conversation conducted on a telephone than when they can hear both sides from the next table.

Curiosity—that innate drive to learn what we don’t know—is what drove early Homo sapiens to leave Africa and settle the world. Livio interviewed fellow scientists across a spectrum of disciplines in search of why we are so keen to know. He focuses detailed analysis on two of history’s greatest geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also examines the curiosity at the heart of mystery novels. In the end, he finds no scientific consensus on the sources or mechanisms of human curiosity, but he shows it to be an essential part of all art, science and daily life.

39. Fulfilled

How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017

When psychiatrist and scholar Anna Yusim argues for the place of spirituality in human life, she’s not promoting a particular religion or dogma. Instead she’s talking about what works. In her New York City practice, Yusim has discovered that spirituality is often a key strategy for helping patients deal with such modern discontents as depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, alienation, social anxiety and more. Like any therapeutic strategy, it may not be for everyone, but Yusim argues it is a valuable addition to existing approaches to healing, such as talk therapy or medication.

Trained at Stanford, Yale and New York University, Yusim keeps one foot firmly on scientific ground, even as she investigates Buddhism, Kabbalah, shamanism and other spiritual traditions. She reports on studies and evidence from research that is beginning to identify the mechanisms that work. Blending scientific knowledge with spiritual awareness, she has developed a program that claims to help people go beyond healing their immediate neuroses to find lasting health and happiness by looking within.

40. The Camino Way

Lessons in Leadership From a Walk Across Spain

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017

Every year thousands of pilgrims set foot on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, a major Christian pilgrimage route since the Middle Ages. Although the journey is challenging, the spiritual and personal benefits are many. A leadership consultant and speaker, Victor Prince was a hard-driven and competitive businessman when a friend challenged him to undertake the 500-mile walk. By the end, he had become relaxed, kinder and more effective. He shares his insights and applies them to seven important leadership lessons.

41. Perennial Seller

The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017

During an era in which ephemerality seems baked into everyday experience, the notion of creating a product that can sustain its value and function seems quaint. Best-selling writer and media strategist Ryan Holiday begs to differ. Drawing his inspiration from entertainment and the fine arts, he argues that it’s more than worthwhile to strive for lasting work—it’s imperative. Holiday is one of the most consistently original writers in the field, having already updated ancient Greek philosophy (The Daily Stoic), advised detachment (Ego is the Enemy), and exposed the venality of media manipulators (Trust Me, I’m Lying).

42. Let the Story Do the Work

The Art of Storytelling for Business Success

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, July 2017

Leadership expert Esther K. Choy says everyone knows a story is a great way to hook attention and convey a message people will remember. But it’s hard. Choy illustrates skills that make storytelling work—giving raw experience narrative shape, finding the right structure, and ending on the right note. A few basic storytelling techniques, she says, will aid in a range of situations, from interviews to fundraising, from changing minds to establishing strong relationships.

43. Who Are You, Really?

The Surprising Puzzle of Personality

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017By Brian R. Little
August; Simon & Schuster; $17

Most of us still think human personality is a continual tug of war between nature and nurture. Genes versus culture, if you will. According to Brian R. Little, a Canadian academic psychologist currently a fellow at Cambridge University, science has moved far beyond this reductive binary understanding. A third aspect of personality has emerged, Little says—what might be called the follow-your-bliss portion.

The most important shaping of human personality and individual life occurs, he argues, when we reach for our dreams. While explaining what science says now about the key role of personal projects in personality development, Little says it is crucial for people to divert significant time and energy to creative work even at the expense of other important elements of well-being. In other words, follow your dreams and don’t worry so much about making a living. Seeking a balance between the practical and the creative is, ultimately, how you find who you really are.

44. Excuse Me

The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017By Rosanne J. Thomas
August; AMACOM; $22

When Steve Jobs traded a coat and tie for turtlenecks and jeans, he gave too many younger professionals the idea that the only etiquette that matters anymore is be-yourself casual. This is a huge miscalculation. Etiquette in business is more important than ever, warns Rosanne J. Thomas, founder of Protocol Advisors, an etiquette-training consultancy. Sure, it might not be the same as in the day of the gray-flannel-suit crowd, but good manners are indispensable for avoiding confusion and social blunders in today’s fast-paced workspaces.

The collapse of clear-cut rules of etiquette, the advent of open-plan offices, and increasing connectivity spur energy and creativity. At the same time, the chance of unintentionally offending someone (even your boss) skyrockets. Thomas offers guidance on such up-to-the-minute issues as cellphone use in meetings, proper office attire, electronic manners, business dining, telecommuting and more.

45. Good Enough Now

How Doing the Best We Can With What We Have Is Better Than Nothing

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017By Jessica Pettitt
August; Sound Wisdom; $16

Jessica Pettitt believes waiting to become perfect is a major cause of underachievement, both for individuals and organizations. An educator, consultant, speaker, stand-up comedian and diversity trainer, Pettitt urges people to stop using perfectionism as an excuse for not trying. Don’t worry about failure, just get started. In witty and energetic prose, Pettitt explains how to make that happen: Be true to yourself.

It may be an old idea, but Pettitt brings a fresh perspective. Uncovering your authentic self and following its mandates, Pettitt says, brings about immediate improvement in relationships, work, community, general health and satisfaction. It’s the key to shedding self-doubt and self-limiting misconceptions. By being true to yourself, Pettitt says, you can build on your strengths, compensate for weaknesses, support others, and find success in work and life. To thine own self be true, Shakespeare wrote. Pettitt shows how.

46. iGen

Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017

The millennial generation doesn’t seem dry behind the ears yet, but don’t look now. There’s a very different generation pushing up right behind them, what research psychologist Jean M. Twenge calls “iGen.” Born in the mid-1990s and later, this is the first cohort of true digital natives. There’s never been anything like them before. Parents, educators and employers need to understand them because they are the future.

47. How Do I Get There from Here?

Planning for Retirement When the Old Rules No Longer Apply

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017By George H. Schofield
August; AMACOM; $17

For too many people, retirement planning has become a matter of fear and confusion. Many people now working will live until 90, change jobs numerous times, and have not saved enough. George H. Schofield shows how to dispel the fog by making wise decisions, beginning right now, wherever you are along the way. An honest assessment, followed by self-reflective exercises, and tips for meeting unexpected challenges are the heart of his program.

48. The Innovation Code

The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, August 2017

Disagreement is the soul of innovation, according to Jeff DeGraff, a professor at the University of Michigan. Known as “the dean of innovation,” DeGraff warns that a harmonious work environment is the worst atmosphere for creativity. Instead DeGraff offers a simple framework for bringing together people with clashing viewpoints and making the most of the resulting “dynamic discord.” Do it his way, and DeGraff promises breakthrough innovations for you and your customers.

49. How to Be Happy at Work

The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship

How to Be Happy at WorkBy Annie McKee
September; Harvard Business Review Press; $27

Given the rapid pace and stress of the 21st-century workplace, is happiness even possible? Absolutely, says Annie McKee. A senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and director of its executive doctoral program, McKee argues that happiness is not only possible but more important than ever—and not only for the benefit of workers and managers but for the bottom line, too.

McKee organizes her book around three things she says have to be in place before people work with happiness. One is a sense of purpose, a feeling of contributing to something bigger. Another is a powerful vision that creates a personal sense of hope. The last is genuine friendly relationships with co-workers and bosses. By following McKee’s suggestions, based on her research and experience, leaders can create a positive, healthy work experience in any business, no matter how fast the pace or how intense the pressure.

50. Altered Traits

Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

Altered TraitsBy Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson
September; Avery; $27

51. High Performance Habits

How Extraordinary People Become That Way

High Performance Habits

Oprah.com has called Brendon Burchard, “one of the most successful online instructors in history.” He’s earned other accolades, too, including being named one of the 100 most-followed public figures on Facebook. In his latest book, Burchard distills years of original research and a decade as a top performance coach into six specific habits he says will make you into a high performer—regardless of age, field, skill set or personality.

The six habits of high-performance people: the pursuit of clarity for confidence in themselves and the future; a willingness to generate energy instead of waiting for it to arrive; a capacity for raising necessity, the assurance that what they are doing must be done; a drive to increase productivity; the seeking of influence with co-workers and leaders; and the consistent demonstration of courage. All of these habits are within reach of anyone who wants them, Burchard says. High Performance Habits presents a practical, readable guide to a high-performance lifestyle.

52. The Four Sacred Gifts

Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times

The Four Sacred Gifts

53. Claim Your Power

A 40-Day Journey to Dissolve the Hidden Blocks That Keep You Stuck and Finally Thrive in Your Life’s Unique Purpose

Claim Your Power

54. On Being Awesome

A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck

On Being Awesome

Nick Riggle is a high school dropout and former champion rollerblader who went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy from New York University and become an assistant professor at the University of San Diego. His first book is a deceptively fun-loving tour of philosophy’s most ancient question: how best to live. Riggle uses modern jargon to apply timeless philosophical truths to today’s problems.

55. The Four

Or, How to Build a Trillion-Dollar Company

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017

Named one of the “World’s 50 Best Business School Professors” by Poets&Quants, Scott Galloway takes on what he has long called The Four Horsemen. These aren’t the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Instead they are the Four Horsemen of the future. Of course, if you work in a competing business category, such as retail, the future probably is an apocalypse. How Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple became so big and disruptive, however, is probably not what you think.

According to Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University, none of the four giants invented anything significant. Instead they stole, copied or bought their ideas. All four make cunning use of evolutionary psychology to tap into customers’ primordial survival instincts: hunting and gathering, the drive to reproduce, the need for love and acceptance, and the hunger for God. Galloway presents rigorous analysis and warns that a Fifth Horseman is on the way, whether Microsoft, Uber, Starbucks or a player to be named later.

56. The Kickass Single Mom

Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017By Emma Johnson
October; TarcherPerigee; $17

Emma Johnson was a business reporter when her husband almost died in an accident. Although he recovered, their marriage, already contentious, did not survive. She was left broke and pregnant, with a toddler in tow. In her struggle to make it as a mom and a breadwinner, Johnson learned that it is possible for modern single moms to win on all counts: Raising healthy children, building rewarding careers, finding financial security, keeping fit and even having fun.

Creator of the popular blog WealthySingleMommy.com and the personal finance podcast Like a Mother, Johnson—a SUCCESS contributing editor—shares her secrets and insights in this book. The overarching message is one of hope and self-reliance. Disregard the doubters and skeptics, including those in your own mind, and you can have it all. Ten million fatherless families in America provide a ready audience for The Kickass Single Mom.

57. Things Are What You Make of Them

Life Advice for Creatives

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017

A coherent philosophy of creative personal development needs more than whimsy and cheek. Adam J. Kurtz, author of 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion, hides his gravitas like a Fabergé egg. As a designer, he literally makes things by hand. Somehow this has turned him into a surprisingly effective personal-development author, with a take on life that is brash yet childlike.

Handwritten on perforated pages, Things Are What You Make of Them is brimming with the kind of color usually found in children’s books. It’s based on a series of essays aimed at artists, writers, entrepreneurs or anyone who wants to cultivate creativity. By some charming sleight of hand, Kurtz takes platitudes (“It’s Magical, Not Magic”; “Nobody Cares”; “Don’t Look Back in Anger”) and endows them with fresh resonance.

58. The Startup Way

How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017

In this follow-up to his New York Times best-seller The Lean Startup, entrepreneur Eric Ries looks beyond his original subject. In the past five years, Ries has applied his startup method to legacy companies (GE, Toyota, Pitney Bowes), Silicon Valley giants (Facebook and Amazon) and startups (Airbnb). Using on-the-ground anecdotes, Ries lays out a new road map for sustainable growth.

59. UnBranding

100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017By Scott Stratten and Alison Stratten
October; Wiley; $25

Given the shiny tools of the digital age, it’s easy to be distracted from those things that, shockingly, have not changed. As the husband-and-wife duo Alison and Scott Stratten explain, no new app can fix bad customer service, poor products or damaged branding. New business technologies and strategies work better when they are married to certain timeless values.

60. How to Be Heard

Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening

Our Favorite Personal Development Books, October 2017

A five-time TED Talk speaker, Julian Treasure knows communication. Founder of The Sound Agency, an audio branding company, Treasure believes listening is just as important as speaking if you want people to heed your message. Treasure interviews world-class public speakers, professional performers and top CEOs for their communications secrets. His simple strategies can be as effective in the home as in the performance hall, the classroom and the boardroom.

61. Dollars and Sense

How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter

Dollars and SenseBy Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler
November; Harper; $28

Economist Dan Ariely, author of the best-selling Predictably Irrational, applies behavioral economics and a dollop of humor—thanks to co-author, comedian Jeff Kreisler—to show why people make bad financial decisions and how to make better ones. Once a buyer has overpaid for something, why is he or she at ease about doing so again? In answering such questions, Ariely and Kreisler examine such common pitfalls (and pratfalls) as credit cards, budgeting and gift-buying. Seldom is such practical advice about a dreaded topic so enjoyable.

62. Blessed in the Darkness

How All Things Are Working for Your Good

blessed_in_the_darkness

Joel Osteen doubles down on his message of positivity and abundance in his new book on suffering. “[God’s] not only going to bring you out,” Osteen writes. “He’s going to pay you back for that trouble. You’re going to come out increased, promoted, and better than you were before.” Given Osteen’s popularity, it’s a message a lot of people will love.

To challenge the way people think of hardship, Osteen uses his own darkest hour as an example. His father died suddenly of a heart attack in 1999, and he had to assume leadership of their church. Since then, attendance has risen from 5,000 to 43,000 a week, making Lakewood Church in Houston the country’s biggest. “You may not realize it, but it’s in the dark places that you really grow,” writes Osteen. “They’re where your character is developed, where you learn to trust God and to persevere, and where your spiritual muscles are made strong.”

63. Get Better

15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work

Get BetterBy Todd Davis
November; Simon & Schuster; $28

Todd Davis, chief people officer at FranklinCovey, a time management consulting company, offers a useful and practical guide based on 30 years’ experience of helping people work together more efficiently. Davis says people aren’t a company’s most valuable resource—it’s the relationships between them. His advice is relevant for managers at all levels and companies of all sizes.

64. Holding Space

On Loving, Dying, and Letting Go

Holding SpaceBy Amy Wright Glenn
November; Parallax Press; $17

In an absorbing narrative—part memoir, part science book, part meditation—Amy Wright Glenn brings death and dying into the light. As a hospital chaplain, she has seen all kinds of death—suicide, accident, disease, old age—and the loss and grief of those left behind. She advocates a kind of mindfulness, a willingness to be present with the death of loved ones, and being at peace with the knowledge of our own mortality.

65. Memory Rescue

Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember What Matters Most

Memory Rescue

“Your brain’s history is not its destiny,” writes Daniel Amen, Ph.D. Not only can memory loss be prevented, he says, you can regain memory already lost. No wonder he’s “the most popular psychiatrist in America,” according to The Washington Post. Author of a succession of best-selling books and host of brain-health shows on PBS, he now brings his principles to focus on boosting memory and preventing cognitive decline.

Fading memory and dementia are inevitable, Amen says. He prescribes a program of lifestyle changes including nutrition, physical and mental exercises, and spiritual practice. Brain health is more than a medical issue, Amen adds, it is a gift from God. When the brain is diminished, our very humanity is compromised. Regardless of age, it’s never too late or too early to start a healthy brain regimen.

66. Higher Is Waiting

Passages of Inspiration

Memory Rescue

It might be hard to fathom now, but growing up, actor and comedian Tyler Perry was a shy boy. He also grew up in poverty and suffered near daily abuse. His father beat him often, and he was sexually molested by a neighbor. Nevertheless, there were moments of grace and love, too. Perry had supportive examples from people like Aunt Mae, who selflessly nursed her grandfather; Mr. Butler, a dignified blind man who sold penny candies on the corner; and his mother, Maxine, whose love never wavered.

What most sustained Perry, however, was his faith. “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve always known there was something greater than myself,” he writes. “This holy force was protecting, loving and keeping me close. It was helping me live through physical pain and emotional heartache and guiding me to envision and believe in extraordinary possibilities.” In Higher Is Waiting, Perry uses suffering and triumph from his own life to inspire people to overcome their misfortunes with humility, forgiveness and love.

67. The Joy of Doing Nothing

A Real-Life Guide to Stepping Back, Slowing Down, and Creating a Simpler, Joy-Filled Life

The Joy of Doing Nothing

“Less is more” is not just a slogan; to Rachel Jonat, it’s a way of life. She’s the creator of The Minimalist Mom website and the author of Do Less, a guide to a minimalist lifestyle. Now further along the minimalist path, she’s here to teach us how to do nothing. If that sounds unlikely, keep this in mind: Jonat and her husband adopted a minimalist way of living in 2010 and paid off $80,000 in debt in two years.

Of course, The Joy of Doing Nothing is not really about doing nothing. It’s about extending the concept of minimalism beyond stuff. It’s about liberating yourself from the sense of urgency that injects so much stress into everyday life. Jonat shows how to step away from the things you think need doing, so you can concentrate on what’s really important. Stop overscheduling, scale back and take care of yourself.

68. Believe It to Achieve It

Overcome Your Doubts, Let Go of the Past, and Unlock Your Full Potential

believe_it_to_achieve_it_3d.png

Motivational superstar Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!, has a new plan to help people let go of negative thoughts. Because this can be really hard to do, Tracy teamed with psychotherapist Christina Stein to comb the latest scientific research for what they call their Psychology of Achievement program.

It’s intended to identify patterns of thinking that keep people from reaching their goals, in business and in life. Some negativity arises from childhood trauma, others from painful later disappointments. Some of the most destructive negative thinking resides in the subconscious, sabotaging efforts at success and happiness. Tracy and Stein promise to help control negativity, replacing it with positive thinking.

69. Discipline Equals Freedom

Field Manual

disciplineequalsfreedom_3d.png

For Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL and author of the New York Times best-seller Extreme Ownership, the only way to make real progress is through discipline. Without discipline, Willink says, it’s too easy to quit. Discipline Equals Freedom is a guide to preparing yourself to succeed.

Part One focuses on your thoughts. “To reach the goals,” Willink writes, “and overcome obstacles and become the best version of you possible will not happen by itself and it will not happen cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way. There is no easy way.” In Part Two, Willink highlights the importance of your actions, how to properly fuel your body, prevent injury and recover. And for those who are really looking to push themselves, the appendix is filled with specific and intense workouts. If you attempt them, remember: Don’t cut corners.

70. The Art of Learning and Self-Development

Your Competitive Edge

artoflearning_3d.png

Jim Stovall and Raymond H. Hull, Ph.D., say personal development is impossible without learning. That’s why learning is the most basic skill, and why you can never stop learning, especially in the modern information economy, where what you know can be more critical than what you do. Stovall, a former Olympic weightlifter turned best-selling author and motivational speaker, and Hull, an expert at training public speakers, share the latest on how to learn, plus how to put new knowledge to work.

71. The Clarity Cleanse

12 Steps to Finding Emotional Healing, Spiritual Fulfillment, and Renewed Energy

the_clarity_cleanse_3d.pngBy Habib Sedeghi
December; Grand Central Life & Style; $27

Habib Sedeghi, a former health expert at Fox News, bases this book on the mind-body practices he used to recover from testicular cancer 20 years ago. Mingling Western medicine with Eastern spirituality, his program promises to rid the body of harmful thoughts, while his Intentional Unsaturation Diet flushes the body of the effects of repressed emotions to make it easier to be clear in body, mind and soul.

72. Activating Happiness

A Jump-Start Guide to Overcoming Low Motivation, Depression, or Just Feeling Stuck

activatinghappiness-_3d.png

Director of psychotheraphy at the Treatment Resistant Depression program at Emory University, Rachel Hershenberg says the little things in life can be as important as the big ones. Everyday choices as simple as turning off the TV and going for a walk, or signing up for a class in something that interests you can, over time, help defeat low motivation and negative moods. Hershenberg bases her strategies on behavioral and activation and commitment therapies, which have worked for many people.

 

This article originally appeared in the January to December 2017 issues of SUCCESS magazine.

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