23 Best Motivational Books That Really Work

Updated March 5, 2021
woman reading a motivational book

You are stuck and in a rut. You know you need to make some changes in yourself, but taking an initial step feels impossible and overwhelming. If a step feels like it's too much, try a reach and pluck one of these motivational books off of a shelf, reading your way to a better you. With these self-help bibles by your side, you won't need a fairy Godmother to rescue you from anything. These are some of the best motivational books around, and they are all that you need to start your journey.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven

Who better to help you get your act together than a retired Navy SEAL. McRaven does something unique with his motivational read as he steps away from the cheerleading approach and dives headfirst into the "take responsibility for your life" approach. Life is hard, challenges are always waiting in the wings. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, big time. McRaven helps those feeling despondent to move on from whatever is holding them back and get it together.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

If you need the motivation to change up your physical space, in hopes that cleaning up your environment will clean up your mind and your life (and it very well might,) then this book has everything you will ever need to declutter your universe. Human beings hold on to the unneeded and unnecessary, and this goes for objects as well as attitudes and feelings. Kondo is a master at motivating people to let go and reset their thinking and their environment. She is basically an organizational wizard.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

Hollis writes a smattering of books designed to help people, women in particular, deal with and move through the trials that they are facing. In each chapter, In Girl Stop Apologizing, Rachel looks at a lie that she once believed to be the truth, gives examples of how believing the lie was thwarting and how she managed to overcome the false belief. Her words strike at the heart of anyone who is far too busy pleasing the universe (and mightily failing) and shakes them awake with this idea that you can want it all, have it all, and there is no shame in that game.

Years of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Mega-mogul, Shonda Rhimes, shares her secret to success, and it has to do with one single word. She explains that if people want to achieve high levels of success, they have to say yes to more. Holding back out of fear or because of connectivity to comfort zones is never going to catapult you into anything amazing. Rhimes uses her personal journey to help people understand how one word can truly change a person's life.

Years of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Khaneman

The Nobel-prize-winning writer behind this mind-opening book talks about how people process and make decisions. He challenges those seeking change to consider their own decisions in life, how they arrived at those decisions and how things can turn out when thought systems are changed.

The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck

Finally! A diet you'll actually want to get behind. The Joy Diet is so great because it helps people at the exact space they are in. Not everyone is able to make massive strides to greatness off the bat. This book says hey, this is where you currently are. Understand it, accept it, and work with it. To move in any direction, a person has to fully embrace where they have been and where they are. It's genius and obvious all at once. The book is broken down into ten steps that become mantras for living a happier, more fulfilling life.

The Power Of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

So many people make excuses for why they are failing or why they can't achieve something. Much of the time, the same people lack the self-discipline needed to get things done like a boss. Tracy breaks down the vicious lack-of motivation-make an excuse-fail-feel miserable cycle with his book. He utilized activities, anecdotes, and exercises to help people achieve better self-disciple so that they can do what they need to do even when they really don't want to.

The Power Of Self-Discipline By Brian Tracy

Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking by S.J. Scott

Mental clutter is a common problem for many busy, overworked, stretched-thin people in today's world. We know we need to rid ourselves of the clutter, but getting there is tricky. In his book, Scott unravels the concept of mental clutter, getting to the "why" and helping people make space in their minds for peace, happiness and clarity.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

To be a badass, you have to adopt that mentality and really own it. Sincero encourages those living in the dreaded rut to carefully and purposefully redesign their lives so that their true vision can be realized. In order to make a change, people have to recognize what negative behaviors and mentalities are currently in place. There are things that can be altered, and other things that simply can't. Focus on what is in your control. Her delivery is offbeat, humorous, and makes readers feel like they are receiving advice from a girlfriend, not a superior mind. This book, one of her many, entertains readers while giving them the hard facts that they need to hear so that they can create some positive change in their universe.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

How many times do you sit there and think to yourself: I can not figure this problem out! You push it away, refuse to deal with it, convince yourself that it is above you, and find yourself surrounded by issues that feel insurmountable. A massive part of being successful in life is tackling puzzles, figuring out the hard, and coming up with feasible solutions. Hard does not mean impossible. The most successful people in the world have the ability to see issues from varying angles. Forleo gives readers the tools to be problem solvers so that obstacles are only that and never deal breakers.

100 Days to Brave by Annie Downs

Self-help and motivational reads can get weighty. There is often a lot of information to wrap heads around and lots of work to get done. Annie Downs takes a different approach with 100 Days to Brave. This motivational work reads lighter. It builds on personal narratives by the author that help people recognize, work through, and conquer common fears that are known for holding people back.

100 Days to Brave by Annie Downs

The Five-Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Five seconds? Everyone has at least five seconds to turn their life around! This motivational read helps those feeling the daily blahs recognize the "power of the push" and realize that the support they need to take things to the next level was probably there all along. Opening your eyes and seeing what is right in front of you is so much harder than it seems!

Hustle by Neil Patel

So many people end up feeling caught in the daily grind of working in jobs where they don't feel challenged, accomplished, or important. Hustle takes a look at how people get to this place and what they can do to break free from it. The author challenges those needing more out of their professional life to make small changes, apply changes to meaningful hobbies and activities, and achieve a destiny that they never even thought possible. It's an inspiring approach, but throughout the book, everything feels and sounds pretty darn manageable.

Woman in bed with coffee and book

The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

The Power of Positive Thinking isn't for everyone, but for those who cling to spirituality and faith, it moves and motivates. Readers who are missing purpose and direction in their lives take the messages in this self-help book and apply them to their every day. When they finish reading, they are left with a sense of belief in one's self, the power to control their destiny, and improved relationships.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most high-powered, influential women in the world, and she didn't get there by accident. Sandberg uses her own life experiences, insights, and advice to help women understand their power and their ability to rule the world. The book tackles the hard questions, looks at gender inequality, and challenges females to look in the mirror and know that they are just as capable and deserving as their male counterparts. This book leaves readers thinking those three important words: Get. It. Girl.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

This book is blunt, honest and speaks loudly to the newer generations needing a motivational battle cry. Manson's approach is not the typical focus on the positive, and the negative can not touch your approach. Instead, he takes a realistic path, saying the negative will indeed come your way at one point or another, but the trick is knowing how to navigate the bad. The key to success is to develop thick skin, stop wallowing and get over it.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will by Mark Rampolla

Feeling uninspired, like you have reached your ceiling in life and are just going through the motions? High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will by Mark Rampolla, challenges people in similar spots to aim for greatness. There is always something more to set your focus on, you just have to have the mindset and tools to recognize it, go for it, and get it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Listen. Regardless of your political views, you can not deny that former First Lady, Michelle Obama, is anything but inspiring, empowering, and motivating. This book is perfect for those who struggle to digest traditional self-help books. Her tales of growing up on Chicago's Southside and the recounting of the trials, tribulations, and successes that led her to where she is now are enough to make just about anyone get up and seize the day. Becoming has 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It's that good.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

It is such a simple concept to think about, but so hard to achieve. By nature, humans are forever putting others' needs in front of their own. Altucher encourages his readers to simply put themselves first for once. By investing in your personal development and growth, you become powerful, knowledgeable, and able to set forth in the world, reaching higher than you previously imagined. You are your own greatest asset, so treat yourself as so. This book is especially helpful for those who want to make it big in the entrepreneurial realm, but don't know where to begin.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

If your mind is open to change, then The Four Agreements can help lead you to enlightenment. The lessons included in the read lead those with open minds to identify the self-limiting thoughts and behaviors that are holding them back from happiness and encourages them to take the steps towards leaving negativity behind and embracing joy and experiencing freedom and happiness. With 4.8 stars on Amazon, it has done the trick for more than a few people in need of life change.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

The vast majority of motivational books are laid out to present problems and then solutions that help people overcome hurdles in life. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo is written like a story, but it is widely revered as a self-help book because, by the end of it, readers are inspired to create personal change. The story takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, uplifting, inspiring, and making readers tap into their psyche at deep levels. It manages to give everyone something a little different.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Steven R. Covey

In the world of motivational and self-help books, this read is considered a classic. While it isn't new or groundbreaking, it is just as relevant in theme and message today as it was when it first came out. The book identifies the seven habits of effective people and helps those striving for effectiveness to form those habits.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Financial Destiny by Anthony Robbins

This self-help book is a bit of an oldie but is still a goodie. With an Amazon rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, it is clearly still relevant, even thirty years after its first publication. Robbins lays out a plan to take control of your life that feels almost like physical work rather than mental and emotional work. He is like that spotter at the gym screaming in your face to press, only here is screaming at your psyche. Robbins' book has readers identify their purpose, take control of their destiny, and move towards action.

The Most Important Thing

The single most important thing that anyone can do to change their life and motivate them to reach higher, is to recognize a need to even do so. That whole saying, "knowing is half the battle," is totally true. If you know that you need more, or need different, then you have already taken an important step!

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23 Best Motivational Books That Really Work