12 Personal Development Books to Take Control and Jumpstart Your Life

UPDATED: May 14, 2024
PUBLISHED: August 29, 2023
man reading a personal development book

Our world is evolving around us faster than ever. From positive changes like technological advances to uncertainties about the economy or the climate, it’s easy to feel out of control. We have manuals for our dishwashers and our cars, but what we really need is guidance on how to operate ourselves. Thankfully, the best personal development books provide the tools and strategies—the instruction manuals—needed to perform at our best levels.

Today, understanding the basics of personal development has become more important than ever. As with learning any new skill, personal growth takes skill and effort. But with so many book options available, it’s easier than ever to read more.

With that in mind, let’s look at the 12 best personal development books to help you optimize the most important person in your life: you.

Classic personal development books

1. The Art of Exceptional Living

By Jim Rohn

With both humor and directness, Rohn lays the groundwork for personal development and professional success. More than 30 years of human behavior studies and a celebrated career as a top motivational speaker provide him with a legacy of authority. Yet, his intimate anecdotes and wit make this work inviting for all readers seeking a strategy to improve their lives.

2. Think and Grow Rich

By Napoleon Hill

This timeless classic remains as relevant today as when it took the world by storm in 1937. Flawlessly merging practical wisdom with motivational insights, Hill empowers readers to harness their thoughts and actions to unlock the secrets to lasting prosperity. Drawing from interviews with hundreds of successful individuals, his book presents a roadmap for readers to achieve their personal and professional development goals.

3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

By Stephen Covey

Developing a growth mindset helps us gain traction on the road to success. But rather than a simple switch that we turn on to “think positive,” it requires building the right mental habits of achievement. In this New York Times bestseller, Covey lays out the methods and practices needed to set goals, prioritize, take action, think to win and much more.

4. How to Win Friends & Influence People

By Dale Carnegie

Some things never change. Personal influence still drives success. But influence requires knowing how to communicate effectively in order to build meaningful relationships. Yet, the pitfalls are many. A strong approach can lead people to feel manipulated and turn from you. In this timeless classic, Carnegie lays the groundwork for gaining the confidence and trust of others.

5. Awaken the Giant Within

By Tony Robbins

Individuals are complicated. To operate at peak performance, we must first master ourselves. That includes mastery of our mental, emotional, physical and even financial condition. Psychology expert Robbins helps you gain this control through fundamental strategies and step-by-step methods outlined in this book, which has been used by millions in their individual personal development journey.

6. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol S. Dweck

A catalyst in the development of the growth mindset model, Mindset set the standard for a new approach in personal growth. Authored by Stanford University psychologist Dweck, Ph.D., this classic book first distinguished growth versus fixed mindsets and created a new genre in personal development and fulfillment. Limit self-doubt, build your resilience and grow with this bestseller.

Recent personal development books

1. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth

In this New York Times bestseller, Duckworth invites readers on a journey to explore how people cope in some of the most challenging situations. From visiting cadets surviving their first days at West Point to interviews with high achievers such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, Grit explores the passions and perseverance that drive success.

2. Hidden Genius

By Polina Marinova Pompliano

The world’s most successful people often seem mysterious to us. Published in 2023, Hidden Genius pulls back the curtain and unlocks the mental frameworks of what drives high achievers to success. More importantly, she unpackages the secrets of their methods of problems-solving, high creativity and performance under pressure.

3. Atomic Habits

By James Clear

Daily practice, both good and bad, can become habits. Building the best daily habits is key to personal growth. In Atomic Habits, Clear dives deep into the power of how even seemingly small habits and incremental changes can help us achieve our dreams. A New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits is a personal development book that has helped more than 10 million readers become a happier, more resilient version of themselves.

4. The Five Second Rule

By Mel Robbins

Entrepreneur, talk show host and in-demand motivational speaker Robbins wants you to transform your life with confidence and courage. Most importantly, she knows the proven strategies and tools to get you there. Whether lack of motivation, negative self-talk or self-doubt hold you back, Robbins provides science-backed methods to defeat procrastination and take action for success.

5. Daring Greatly

By Brené Brown

Personal development and growth don’t mean we need to be perfect. On the contrary, Brown teaches readers that expecting perfection from ourselves leads to paralysis, inaction, stress and unhappiness. Daring Greatly provides a framework to help readers accept their vulnerabilities to become more mindful and transform the ways in which we live, love, lead and flourish.

6. What Color is Your Parachute?

By Richard N. Bolles

With a focus on job-hunting and career success, What Color is Your Parachute? is somewhat of an outlier on our list of best personal development books. Yet, knowing how to find and land the right job is key to overall happiness and success. And the lessons are transferable. Here, Bolles teaches practical methods for success ranging from self-inventory to unveil your passions to negotiating the right salary.

Supplement your personal development reading by enrolling in the Win the Day Accelerator, a comprehensive, 8-part program designed to help you unlock your full potential. Covering topics such as purpose, stress management, awareness and more, it will help you achieve a Winning Life.

Photo by New Africa/shutterstock.com

Bryan Lindenberger

Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.