Professional Development

10 Self-Help Books That Actually Help Improve Your Life and Career

There are so many self-help books that promise to change your life. But after reading through a couple, you start to get the feeling that it’s not really saying anything or going anywhere. Trust me, I’ve been there. 

This is why, to help you, I’m going to list 10 self-help books that actually help improve your life and career. Some of these books I’ve read myself (so I can vouch for them), while the others are taken from experts and reviews. 

But before I get into my list, I’d like to look into something important…

What Exactly Are Self-Help Books? 

I like how Eleanor Cummins, a science journalist, puts it:

“Any book can be a self-help book, depending on how it’s read. Political pamphlets, epic poems, and contemporary novels can all offer insight into how to live—or how not to.”

And that’s true. So what exactly is considered a self-help book? 

Well, self-help is now a book genre. The main focus is to help individuals improve various aspects of their lives, whether it’s their mental health, relationships, productivity, habits, or overall well-being. You’ll usually find self-books that give advice, guidance, and practical strategies. 

Because people are always looking for ways to improve themselves, the self-help genre is booming. In fact, from 2020 to 2027, the industry is expected to grow by 5.1%

Now that you have an idea of what a self-help book is, let’s move on to the best self-improvement books of all time. I’ll be focusing on books that can improve both your personal and professional life. 

Here Are the 10 Best Self-Help Books That Actually Help

1. Who Moved My Cheese? – DR. Spencer Johnson


Who Moved My Cheese? by DR. Spencer Johnson is a book I personally read and loved. Now, I won’t go overboard and say it changed my life forever. However, it did show me that accepting change is a MUST

And when you learn that it’s good to accept and even prepare for change, you can open yourself up to new opportunities and growth. You won’t be so afraid of the future, too. 

Now, the book follows 2 mice named Sniff and Scurry and 2 little people named Hem and Haw. Basically, these characters are placed in a maze (the maze of life), and both pairs are looking for cheese (happiness and success). 

I won’t spoil the story for you, but it helps you realize that it’s good to go out and find more cheese instead of complaining about who moved your cheese. 

What you’ll especially love is that this book is a very short read – really only less than 100 pages. So if you aren’t an avid reader, you’ll find it super easy to finish the book. 

2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Convey


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Convey is another best-selling self-help book I’ve read myself. I highly recommend you read this book if you want to become more effective in work or life in general. 

Just to give you a sneak peek, Covey says that the 7 habits to become a more effective person all fall under this diagram Dependence → Independence → Interdependence. He then goes on to list habits under each category of the diagram. 

Again, I won’t go into too much detail about the content of the book. I will say that it’s a super easy read. The one thing that I found especially helpful here is the principle that even the smallest habits can become powerful. 

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie


One study saw a whopping 92% of employers say that soft skills or social skills are essential in the workplace. And I don’t need to tell you that these skills are essential for life, too. 

But what if you’re not great at social skills? Then I would highly recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. As someone who isn’t the most social person, it has taught me great strategies on – as the book tells it – how to win friends and influence people.

I really like this book as it doesn’t tell you to transform into this overly friendly and interesting extrovert. You can still be a quiet introvert and win and influence people through Carnegie’s methods. 

4. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear


Here’s another must-read ‘habits’ book that I can vouch for. James Clear has a different approach in his book Atomic Habits. The book teaches that the most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. 

As I was reading through the book, my biggest take was to tell myself, “I am a good worker” (who I wish to become) and not “I’ll improve my work” (what I want to achieve). 

And it’s not just theory either. Atomic Habits has actionable steps that have really helped me – and I’m sure it will help you, too. I bet you never thought of habits this way. 

5. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brené Brown


This book was recommended by the science journalist and adjunct professor Eleanor Cummins. Here’s what she has to say about the book:

“Daring Greatly remains the essential introduction to vulnerability—which Brown believes is the source of genuine connection with others. More than a decade since it was first released, this book is still helpful to those who want to cultivate openness not only in themselves, but also in their school, family, and workplace.”

So if vulnerability is something that you struggle with, then Daring Greatly by Brené Brown might be the best self-help book for you. 

This book hits a lot of spots – personality development, overcoming fears, acknowledging that feelings are OK, etc… 

6. The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz


At its core, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz Ph.D. teaches you to think success, not failure. The theory behind this book is that you can do anything. The only limit is your mind. 

“The size of one’s success is dependent on the size of one’s thinking” 

To show examples of this, Schwartz goes into short stories about how certain people handled negative and positive events. He also provides tutorials on how to think big and respond positively to events. 

I will say, though, that this book was published in 1959. While there are newer versions of it, the concepts might be a bit old-fashioned. Still, you can get a lot of helpful life lessons here. 

7. Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill 


Before you think, “I’m not after riches.” Know that it’s not all about actual money. You can be rich in knowledge, relationships, health, happiness, and the list goes on. 

This is why Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a self-help book that can benefit everyone – old or young. Napoleon Hill dives into the psychology of success. 

What does he say the secret to success is? It’s the very first word of the book – THINK. Remember, solutions have always been right there with us. We just need to train our minds to think. 

Again, this is an older book, published in 1937. There may be some things that are a bit irrelevant today. However, the main focus can be life-changing. 

8. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss


The Gitnux Market Data Report 2024 saw 97% of employees say that communication is crucial for success. And with Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, you’ll learn how to communicate. More specifically, how to communicate to negotiate. 

Here’s what one reviewer had to say about this self help book:

“It’s not about manipulating people, it’s about helping both parties come to the best conclusion and the best outcome.”

To help you with this, Chris Voss provides certain tactics to improve your negotiation skills. And even if you feel like you never need to negotiate anything (which you do, by the way), it’ll help improve your communication skills, including empathy and active listening, to name a few. 

The best part is that it’s a super easy read. There are no concepts that are hard to grasp. Of course, it’s also a self-help book that actually helps. 

9. How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing – KC Davis LPC


Let’s say you’re a stay-at-home mom who suffers from depression and anxiety, and, on top of all that, has to keep the house in order – children and all. Maybe you’re a single person who’s struggling to take care of yourself. 

Whatever the case, How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis LPC is for those who have mental health challenges. This best self-growth book encourages resilience despite it all. 

KC Davis’ approach is to help you get some control of your life by cleaning and organizing, whether that’s your room, house, office, or whatnot. 

You’ll come across useful tips, step-by-step breakdowns, how to overcome shame in housecleaning, how to interact with that shame, and much more. Plus, because it aims at people who are struggling mentally, you can rest assured that it’s a short book that’s super easy to understand. 

10. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Don Miguel Ruiz


Despite the name, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has a newer version with five agreements. Ruiz lists the 5 agreements you need to grasp, including:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best
  5. Be skeptical, but learn to listen (added into the book in 2009)

With these 5 agreements, Ruiz goes into detail about what they mean and how to apply them to your life. Because it goes against our usual thinking, Ruiz does repeat himself quite a lot. This is to really drive the message through. 

Final Words

If you want to become your best self, I recommend that you read at least one or two of these 10 best self-help books that actually help. Since I list books that have different themes and concepts, you can find one that suits where you are and where you want to improve. 

You can also find other super helpful books here:

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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