Best Motivational Books: Because We All Need Motivation Sometimes

The best motivational books may seem too right to be true when, in reality, they are precisely what you need. If you’re the type of person who faces difficulties with setting and achieving goals, these titles are surely going to help.

Even though we might assume that we have everything together, that may not be the case, and there is always room for improvement even within the most well-rounded individuals.

Motivation is something that can come from anywhere, as long as it inspires you to set and achieve your goals. It’s one thing to know what you want to do, and it’s another thing to go out and do it, which is why these titles are a fantastic choice for someone searching for permanent improvements. Whether you need the motivation to eat healthier or to make career changes, you are guaranteed to find advice from someone who fits your personal situation.

The superb thing about the best motivational books is that they encourage you to make improvements in less time than you would on your own. While reading through numerous pages of invaluable information and experience from others in the same position as you, you’ll find a new and brighter insight.

Instead of following typical step-by-step instructions, you can create a life plan that works with your daily schedule, allowing you to take full control of your life.

These reads will help to inspire your creativity, change the way you see things, and prompt you to take action, so your dreams become a reality. Above all else, the best motivational books keep you grounded and give you realistic advice that you can actually follow.

Everything that you take in will be practical and will help to guide you through the process of transforming yourself so that you can begin capitalizing on the events in your life. There’s nothing that a fantastic motivational book can’t help, and it’s about time you started taking advantage of the life you’re living.

Best Motivational Books


The Motivation Hacker

A book called the Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter is written well and too the point. We all struggle with motivation and building positive habits, and the book made me see habits in a new light with the idea of building success spirals.
Cody McLain

Principles for Success

Ray Dalio has provided me with invaluable guidance and insights.
Bill Gates
Founder / Microsoft

How to Get Rich: One of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets

The books that have had the most influence for me are business biographies/autobiographies. My favorites have been Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson, How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis (the book isn’t as shallow as the title makes it seems), and Made in America by Sam Walton. Reading the stories of these business pioneers has had a big motivation on me to step out of my comfort zone and strive to make an impact.
Gunhee Park

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life

I don’t know a lot of people in our business who feels completely at ease with how much they use their phone. After years and years of a tiny minority trying to get our attention about the dangers of phone addiction, it seems like the idea is finally getting a larger audience. I’m certainly in that camp. I use my phone too much, and I’d like to use it less.

This book gave me the motivation to try harder to actually do something about it. There weren’t any novel arguments or statistics I hadn’t heard before, but recounting them all in one place provided the final push to finally do something. This kicked off a thorough review of not just how much time I spend on my phone, but reviewing what that usage has done to both my capacity for concentration and my motivation to go deeper on topics. I didn’t like the conclusions I came to.

So I’ve started taking more sabbaticals from my phone and the addictive apps on it. I credit this book for finally getting that going.

David Heinemeier Hansson

On the Shortness of Life

Seneca’s letters are the best place to start, but the essays in On the Shortness of Life are excellent as well.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership

Learning the different characters of the heroes of faith in the bible and learning how God sees us as who we are in Him and who we will become and not who we were affirmed my identity in Christ and helped me to see the promises of God in the scripture.
Lilian Ong
Founder/Class Living

Losing My Virginity

I encourage you to read his autobiography “Losing My Virginity” as well as his book “Business Stripped Bare” if you haven’t gone through them yet. Uber-inspiring. For people who want to become Remarkable Entrepreneurs – and express their absolute best.
Robin Sharma
Founder/Sharma Leadership International

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma is a great read especially when I feel burnt out or when the business is going through hard times. This book made me realize that sometimes I need to prioritize myself before the business as my overall health will affect how I manage my team.
Iqbal Ameer
Co-Founder/Livescape Group

The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives

A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking motivation. Many complained they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, and ready to take on new challenges.

The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies drawn from the thousands of kids and teens Bill and Ned have helped over the years to teach you how to set your child on the real road to success. As parents, we can only drive our kids so far. At some point, they will have to take the wheel and map out their own path. But there is a lot you can do before then to help them tackle the road ahead with resilience and imagination.

David Heinemeier Hansson

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

A few months ago, I was drinking a Noah’s Mill whiskey (cute) with my good buddy Brian Balfour and talking about life... During the conversation, we got on the topic of books that changed our lives. I want to share them with you. I judge a book's success if a year later I'm still using at least 1 thing from the book.
Noah Kagan

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I'd recommend a sprinkling of business books followed by a heap of productivity and behavioural psychology books. The business books will help you with principals and the psychological books help with everything else in your life. Building your own business can really [email protected]# you up psychologically.
Mike Benkovich

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

As for business, my favorite would be Good Strategy / Bad strategy by Richard Rumelt. When you read a title like this, you most likely end up wondering whether it is going to be another strategy book loaded with buzz words but lacking in articulate content. Well, this one clearly delivers. It paints an accurate picture of the problem surrounding strategy and explains why there’s so much bad strategy all around us. What a CEO or entrepreneur will find extra useful is the fact that the book also exposes what you need to do in order to create good strategies.
Radu Marcusu

The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization

Finally, a leadership book that I can relate to this book is full of practical and accessible strategies.

Dave Llyod
CEO/Square One Construction

The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business

The Purpose Is Profit provides the roadmap and motivation needed to win the startup game. It is required reading for every entrepreneur committed to building a profitable business.
Barbara Corcoran
Founder/The Corcoran Group

Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success

Change your environment, change your life. Ben Hardy's book is a prescription for excellence and contains the hidden keys to success.
Ryan Holiday
Media Strategist, Author, Founder/Brass Check

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

Here’s a few books I recommend (in this order) on learning how to write effective copy:
  • The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert;
  • Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugerman;
  • Kickass Writing Secrets of a Marketing Rebel by John Carlton.
Nick Janetakis

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization

It’s interesting to learn about what is stopping people from getting what they want and surprisingly most of the time the resistance is self inflicted and in order to succeed in business it’s important to learn how to overcome these social defense mechanisms.
Nadia Al Sheikh

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World

If you read to maintain motivation and be entertained, I recommend a few books that in addition to telling great stories, also contain lessons and learnings. You won’t gain many step-by-step type lessons from these books but you will come away realizing that not all startups, regardless of what stage they are in, are as well polished as they make you think. You will realize that they make mistakes and struggle through the same things you struggle through when first starting out. I find this helps motivate me.
Craig Pearce
Co-Founder/Kid Genius

Positive Psychology in a Nutshell: The Science of Happiness

When asked what books he would recommend to youngsters interested in his professional path, Stephen mentioned Positive Psychology in a Nutshell.
Stephen Lew
Director/The School of Positive Psychology

The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy

Frankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic, Will To Meaning and Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning have gems in them as well.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Last year I read the book 'Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business' by Charles Duhigg. Look passed the click-baity title and you'll find one of the best books on productivity I've ever read... And I've read a lot of them.
Mike Benkovich

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

Like Charlie Munger once said: “I’ve long believed that a certain system - which almost any intelligent person can learn - works way better than the systems most people use [to understand the world]. What you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And, with that system, things gradually fit together in a way that enhances cognition. Just as multiple factors shape every system, multiple mental models from a variety of disciplines are necessary to understand that system. You can read this book to start building a latticework of mental models in your head.
Ola Olusoga

The Stoic Creative Handbook: Struggling Creatives Are Driven By Passion. Thriving Artists Are Driven By Purpose.

My title, The Stoic Creative Handbook, draws heavily on both Steve and Seth’s work. It was Seth’s altMBA program and The Marketing Seminar that helped me develop the posture and mindset of a thriving artist in all the work I do as a musician, teacher, and writer. Reframing what it means to be “successful” has led me to true prosperity and re-engaged my passion for the work I do.
Scott Perry
Author, Stoic Guitarist

Is Your Business Worth Saving?: A Step-by-Step Guide to Rescuing Your Business and Your Sanity

This book is an exceptional step-by-step guide any entrepreneur can learn from because Stacy does an awesome job covering the right lessons with the right detail. The end of each chapter includes Sign Posts to help you take action on critical points along your path. And Chapter Two, in my opinion, is where the rubber meets the road for any business owner--learning how to deal with self-doubt, negativity, self-sabotage, and then the lessons of how to define your priorities and giving yourself permission to fail. Outstanding!
Stephen Woessner
CEO/Predictive ROI

Too Good: The Scott Draper Story

I don’t just read business biographies. I’m a huge tennis fan, so I’ve read a lot of tennis biographies: John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Scott Draper, Rod Laver. There’s so many I’ve read over the years, Jimmy Connors, great, I love it because I love reading the “behind the scenes” stories, the more “soap opera” aspect of tennis, I guess it’s a little bit like my soap opera sometimes.
Yaro Starak

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

John has been a mentor and teacher for me for many years and what I love most about him is that he has pushed and helped me personally go through the 5 Levels of Leadership!
Kevin Turner

Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World

Agile Selling shows you how to become an overnight expert, capable of bringing a continuous string of sales-inducing ideas to your clients. Get it to develop superpowers your competitors will envy.
Genevieve Bos

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness

I also really enjoyed reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
John Shea
Founder/No Shame Income

The Internet of Money

It's difficult to pinpoint an exact moment because all of the books helped me in a way. Probably a recent example was the book The Internet of Money by Andreas M. Antonopoulos. He is talking about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. After reading this book I was, damn that's the future and I need to start investing in this technology. Didn't stop ever since.

Ionut Danifeld

Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus

At a time when stress and burnout have become global epidemics, along comes Jesse Itzler to remind us how important it is to be present, intentional and connect with ouselves and with what really matters. With wisdom and humor, he takes us not just inside the monastery, but inside ourselves, toward a life of more stillness, more presence, more patience and more gratitude.
Arriana Huffington
Founder/Huffington Post

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Entrepreneurial professionals must develop a competitive advantage by building valuable skills. This book offers advice based on research and reality--not meaningless platitudes-- on how to invest in yourself in order to stand out from the crowd. An important guide to starting up a remarkable career.
Reid Hoffman

When Panic Attacks

I had been suffering from acute anxiety and panic attacks for 5 years without knowing what the hell was wrong with me while assuming I had every life-threatening disease under the sun. Then one day I picked up a book, When Panic Attacks by Áine Tubridy, and read the back. I immediately said to myself, holy shit, that's me! Needless to say, I went straight to the counter and made the purchase.
Nicky Cullen
Writer, Anxiety Coach

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World

If you read to maintain motivation and be entertained, I recommend a few books that in addition to telling great stories, also contain lessons and learnings. You won’t gain many step-by-step type lessons from these books but you will come away realizing that not all startups, regardless of what stage they are in, are as well polished as they make you think. You will realize that they make mistakes and struggle through the same things you struggle through when first starting out. I find this helps motivate me.
Craig Pearce
Co-Founder/Kid Genius

Developing the Leader Within You

I remember during the days when I was in National Service, between the ages of 19 to 21. I had a lot of time on my hands. I managed to stumble upon the author by the name of John C Maxwell. He was really popular during that period of time and he had so many good titles like “Developing the leader with you.”, “Today Matters.”, “The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership.”. These series of books really mold me into who I am now. These are very deep character building books. And they came at the right time when I was at an age ready to be mentored and guided.
Lex Na Wei Ming

The Magic of Thinking Big

The book shares several theories and tips which can be easily implemented in life for a success journey.
Haris Siddique

Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind

I’m not a morning person and all my life I’ve struggled with waking up early Monday to Friday, and sleeping until noon during the weekends and then waking up with my head in a whirl. The book that really helped me overcome this bad habit was Sleep by Nick Littlehales. It has two simple rules: wake up every day at the same hour and sleep in 90 minutes cycles. I’m still not a morning person and never will I be, but these simple habits helped me sleep less, but rest more.
Iulia Ghita

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

My children’s school recommended that we read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The book has a lot of great information that is as applicable to managers at high growth companies as it is to parents. The key takeaway for me is that highly capable people tend to be risk-avoiders because they are afraid of failure. They get so used to being praised for their achievements that they end up not pushing themselves to their full potential for fear of looking dumb. As a parent (or a manager), the book recommends praising effort, not accomplishment, and creating an environment that encourages risk-taking and celebrates failure. This is a concept that really resonates with me, not only as a part of my parenting style, but in the way I lead at Zillow Group. Our core values as a company encourage employees to take big swings, with the understanding that they won’t all work out. It’s how we’ve achieved our current success, and it’s what motivates our employees.
Spencer Rascoff
CEO/Zillow Group

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

I have 2 books that resonate with me and my work. The first one is a book written by Rick Warren called “The Purpose-Driven Life” and the second one is “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. These are the books that I can read over and over again, because they always remind me what’s my purpose in this life, in my daily job and what I can do with my projects and work to create a purple cow effect.
Robert Katai

The Sports Gene

David Epstein's The Sports Gene made me decide to never tell a child that if you really really want something, and you work really really hard, then you can achieve your dream -- not when it comes to sports, at least.
Gabriel Coarna

Psycho Cybernetics

Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz will open your eyes on the topic of self image.
Nick Janetakis

Rich20Something: Ditch Your Average Job, Start an Epic Business, and Score the Life You Want

Rich20Something reminded me that my goals aren't too far off, and that, regardless of my age, I can create a business that gives me freedom and great income!
Arne Giske
Founder/The Millennial Entrepreneur podcast

Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards

If you’re into gamification, like myself and my team, I highly, highly recommend Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, Actionable Gamification by Yu-Kai Chou, and Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to do Extraordinary Things, by Brian Birke. Jane McGonigal is essentially the Martha Stewart of gamification (sans prison sentence), and Yu-Kai Chou is doing great things in the field, pioneering great frameworks like the Octalysis. Can’t wait to get more of their books.
Xi-Wei Yeo
Director/Living Theories

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

A lot of people email me asking about habits - how to form good ones, how to break bad ones, how to stop doing the dumb shit we always do. I've got a friend named James Clear. He's an accomplished author and business owner and is kind of a habit guru. He's probably forgotten more habits research than I've ever brought myself to look at. He just launched his first book. It's called Atomic Habits and it's probably the most practical and complete guide I've ever seen about habit formation and habit change. Do check it out. And then email him and tell him that I have luscious and beautiful hair and he doesn't. Then stick out your tongue and go, Nyah, nyanya, nyah, nyah.
Mark Manson

The Alchemist

There was a moment where I was on a quest for self-discovery. I felt lost and wasn't sure if I was who I was because I made the decision to be me, or if my identity was programmed by culture, society and setting. Because of that, I started reading self-help books to reconstruct identity and mold who I wanted to be. This book helped me.
Ola Olusoga

High Output Management

I picked up the book after Grove passed away this year and I found it so succinct, so clear, and so packed with easy-to-understand analogies. It really gets to the heart of what good management is.
Julie Zhuo
VP Product Design/Facebook

Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion

I met Katrin during her first week of attending CrossFit classes, shortly after my first CrossFit Games championship...Her story is a reminder to fans and aspiring athletes that anyone can achieve greatness if they are willing to work hard enough. It’s also a testament to the power of Iceland’s Dottirs that makes my heart swell with pride.
Annie Thorisdottir
Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

This book was recommended by Daymond John on page 234 of Tools of Titans.

Daymond John

Rich Dad Poor Dad

The funny thing is that the books that had the biggest impact (like my Verne’s favourite) are not necessarily the best books, objectively speaking. They were good enough to present a new worldview that I was not aware of. Timing probably was more important than their intrinsic literary qualities. They “managed” to fall into my lap at the right time. Such a book was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, a mediocre book by my standards of today, but deeply inspirational by the ones from yesterday.

Vladimir Oane

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

Great reading. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. Forget genes! Greatness isn't born, it's grown - the hard way.
Rupert Murdoch
CEO/News Corporation

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

Favorite business or leadership book in a long time.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence

The shift in power to the customer is now a certainty. In her engaging book, Shelle lays out precisely what's going on and how to think about it.
Seth Godin
Entrepreneur, author, marketer

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

I read this book at a time when Udemy was rapidly growing—over the 18 months where we went from 30 to 200 people. It was helpful to read about Horowitz's challenges, worries, and triumphs when addressing the same types of issues at a similar stage of growth. There are so many big decisions you need to make where there's just no clear-cut, right or wrong answer. There are a lot of gray areas. You gather information from your team, but the hard decisions rest with you. This book helped me realize that while I needed to carefully and objectively consider feedback, I was responsible for making a decision in the end—even when it was an unpopular one.

Dennis Yang

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (2nd Edition)

This is next on my list of technical books to read! Refactoring is one of two programming books that I’ve read multiple times (the other is Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns), and I’m due for another reading. What perfect time then to dive into Martin Fowler’s long anticipated 2nd edition, now using JavaScript rather than Java for the code examples.

Like the stoic books, I read Refactoring and that Smalltalk book again and again not because I’m going to learn something new, per se, but because I want to be reminded about what I already know. And what better time to reread than just as we’re kicking off a new major project that needs a fresh architectural foundation.

Also, these two books just remind every time of how much I love the craft of programming. It’s not just having the programs, it’s not just solving problems, it’s simply using my hands and head to program that in and of itself is sublime.

David Heinemeier Hansson