Must Read Self Development Books: The Top 7

The Best Self Development Books to Transform your Life Next Year.

Do you often read personal development books?

I admit that for a long time I was somewhat wary of this kind of reading (also called, often in a derogatory tone, self-help). 

And this fear was not entirely without reason: many authors are either imposters or just wordy (taking 100 pages to explain something that could be done in 1 paragraph).

But there are also excellent, hands-on personal development books written by big names whose own results attest to the effectiveness of the methods advocated.

What are these books?

It is precisely to answer this question that I made this list and recommend them to improve our lives. And here, when I say our lives, I mean mine and yours, dear reader. Enjoy it.

The Must Read Self Development Books of the Year

Moral Letters to Lucilius Volume 1

by Seneca

“It is the time for you to reflect: Not only that all things are mortal, but that mortality is subject to no fixed law. Whatever can happen at any time, can happen today.” (On Grief for Lost Friends, Moral Letters to Lucilius, Volume I)

Seneca is my favorite Roman philosopher for a reason: All his letters and manuscripts are atemporal and his thoughts carry invaluable lessons. Some of those lessons even bring the boldest meanings for our age. And at the same time that he is brilliant, his writings are also a pleasure to read.

Or should I say “a joy”, since the term pleasure is not very welcome for stoics like Seneca?

One of the best books I read, ever.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World 

by Cal Newport

Deep Work is the type of book that will assist you in acquiring a meta-skill, or an ability that aids in the acquisition of other abilities.

At some point, you may be concerned about how deeply entangled distraction is in our daily routine and how much we can accomplish if we can break free from those nets of shallowness.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that, by using the methods described in this book, we potentially increase our efficiency in acquiring knowledge by an order of magnitude.

This book also would be a good recommendation for entrepreneurs.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Nobel Laureate in Economics Daniel Kahneman, is a fascinating journey through the mind and an explanation of the two systems that power our thought process.

The author introduces us to two types of human thinking: one that is fast, intuitive, and emotional, and another that is slower, deliberate, and rational. 

Kahneman demonstrates the exceptional powers of the rapid thinking, as well as its flaws and vices, and the impact of instincts on our judgments. Loss aversion, strategic overconfidence, the difficulty of predicting what will make us happy in the future, and the difficulty of accurately detecting the dangers in investments can all be understood if we know how both types of thinking affect us.


by Epictetus,

My first encounter with Epictetus was in Seneca’s works, and I listed both among the 5 greatest ancient authors I ever read.

The Enchiridion is a collection of 50 thoughts from the author, a former slave that somehow managed to raise in life and become a teacher. Some lessons are about how to have a more fulfilled life, others, about a more rational approach to time, relations, and existence. This book is worth reading every single phrase.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

by Cal Newport

Is social media harmful?
Short answer: social media giants are harming our social relationships while benefiting from hyper-targeted ads.

But it’s not that easy. More than just selling ads, social media behemoths want as much of your time as possible. They have entire departments dedicated to making you addicted.

By the end of this book, you will not only understand how you are manipulated, but you will also know how to escape from this trap. This is a knowledge that has the potential to be liberating.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

by Stephen R. Covey

A name that most would expect in a list of must-read self-development books.

This was, as far as I remember, the first self-development book I ever read. I was initially skeptical about the idea of reading this type of book.

But The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was a recommendation from a friend I trust. He said this book went far beyond the usual cliché of “hacking your way to success.” 

He was right. The entire book is not about techniques and quick fixes for success. It’s not even about success in the strictest sense, it’s about principles.

The author shares a series of personal stories to illustrate his point: principles and values (the transformation from the inside out) is the first step on the journey to living an effective life.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

by Jordan Peterson

A fantastic book. While most self-development books focus on quick fixes, Jordan Peterson provides an ontological foundation for his writing that stems from the Bible, Latin and Greek philosophy, and modern psychological research. 

If you liked this list of must-read self-development books, I also recommend:

Antifragility: A Taleb Concept To Help You During the Next Year

3 Life Lessons from Skin in The Game – Nassim Taleb

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Levi Borba is the CEO of, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks, and best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.

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