Best Personal Development Books: Expand Your Mind and Goals

Often, I hear people talk about self-help books as if they are a plague on society. These books, written not to be a one-size-fits-all approach but rather to help each person learn how to work through struggles in life, are often discounted as lesser than other genres.

There has long been the idea that emotional education is less important than other areas of the mind. Still, I can say with certainty that in 2020, emotional education needs to be done alongside all learning for the lessons of life to be truly effective. I can understand why that is, especially when you look at the list of the best personal development books as recommended by a survey of the CEO Library community’s finest.

Regardless of my job title at any given time, personal development has always been important to me. Self-help books have often assisted my need to find better ways to manage myself, interact with those around me, and understand how people are motivated.

Self-help books, which are more appropriately called personal development books, have often been the books that have left the most lasting impact on me. I’ve found that the themes, ideas, and theories laid out in these books are easily applied to many other areas of my life. When I need inspiration or have a problem I can’t seem to solve, I come back to them time and time again to regain my footing.

Of course, not all personal development books are a masterpiece that will change a life completely. I’ve read my fair share of books that just didn’t strike a chord with me. That is why I am now excited to work my way through a lot of different books so that I can share with you what are the best personal development books, such as the ones included on this list.



Best Personal Development Books: Expand Your Mind and Goals



The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens

The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Teens provided me with an excellent set of principles I could build off of for goal setting and personal development.
Miracle Olatunji
Founder & CEO/OpportuniMe

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

This book is a breakthrough, a lyrical, powerful, science-based narrative that actually shows us how to get better (much better) at the things we care about.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms

Personal development book with many interesting insights, written in terms programmers will love and understand. Approachable and not geeky in any way though.
Michael Herrmann

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

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

Imagine working in an organization where the aim of your colleagues is to help you achieve your results. I could not believe it possible. After reading this book I just had to bring Arbinger to the UK to teach our people. What an experience! We are all better people for it. This book touches the very foundation of culture, teamwork, and performance.
Mark Ashworth
CEO/Butcher’s Pet Care

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

The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life

The book is all about self-development, building a strong mindset that helps you to conquest problems and obstacles. We can’t be successful until we keep on learning and implementing new techniques to make them strong skills for us. The book is not only ideal to read just but also epitome enough for practical implementations.

The idea to change begins from thoughts. When you start anything from scratch, you follow a thought process to give practical execution to your idea and for that, you need strength, wisdom, power, courage, inspiration, and guidance.

This book is not only for entrepreneur or marketer instead it’s for everyone who loves to develop themselves to achieve heights in life. It has tons of practical knowledge on leadership; easy to put into practice in your life and career. Read this book and charismatically feel the change inside you.

Haris Siddique

The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

The human world occurs in language so best get good at it!
Bill Liao
General Partner/RebelBio,

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

I loved Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. There’s a reason this book is blowing up. It’s that good.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

The Book of Love and Creation: A Channeled Text

The Book of Love & Creation by Paul Selig, altered how I view my instinctive and intuitive abilities and the place they have in business. A great read for people waking up to their higher selves and their own consciousness in how it relates to their personal impact in the world.
Jules Schroeder
Founder of Unconventional Life

The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure

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

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor

The fact that top-down development methods are great on paper but have not produced benefits (so far) is a point Easterly has made before, heavily influencing yours truly in the formation his own argument against naive interventionism and the collection of humanitarians fulfilling their personal growth and shielding themselves from their conscience... This is more powerful: the West has been putting development ahead of moral issues, patronizingly setting aside the right of the people to decide their own fate, including whether they want these improvements, hence compounding failure and turning much of development into an agenda that benefits the careers (and angst) of humanitarians, imperial policies, and, not least, local autocrats *without* any moral contribution. Talking about a sucker problem.


To put it in an aphorism, they didn't ask the people if they would rather get respect and no aid rather than aid and no respect.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

Proud of our friend and neighbor Olivia Fox Cabane - her book 'The Charisma Myth' launched today and is already #122 of all books on Amazon. It went into its second printing even before launch!
Marissa Mayer
Former CEO/Yahoo!

Think and Grow Rich

I do goal-setting. The first time I read about this was in Napoleon Hill's 'Think and Grow Rich,' I was 16 years old.

Daymond John

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

Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle over Civil Rights

Moral courage is the subject of this fascinating book. For Martin Luther King Jr. and, especially, for John F. Kennedy the path was rarely simple or straightforward. Steven Levingston has told a gripping, moving, revealing tale.
Evan Thomas

Now, Discover Your Strengths: How To Develop Your Talents And Those Of The People You Manage

This book has been instrumental in how we think about developing talent at Facebook.
Sheryl Sandberg

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

For business, I've read Influence by Robert Cialdini 3 times, and Traction by Gabriel Weinberg twice, so if number of times read indicates favor, then those are it. There are a whole bunch of others, like The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, Confession of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and Running Lean by Ash Maurya, that I've also enjoyed and recommend to people.

Ola Olusoga

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding

I know from personal experience that stepping into the public square to announce that foreign aid is important and effective can be lonely work. Charles Kenny’s elegant book on the impact of aid carefully documents how the quality of life—even in the world’s poorest countries—has improved dramatically over the past several decades. With reams of solid data to support his case, he argues that governments and aid agencies have played an important role in this progress.
Bill Gates

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

These books and their core ideas have stuck with me the most and continue to guide me when I hit crossroads along the way.
Andra Zaharia
Freelance Content Marketer/The Content Habit

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works

For business, I've read Influence by Robert Cialdini 3 times, and Traction by Gabriel Weinberg twice, so if number of times read indicates favor, then those are it. There are a whole bunch of others, like The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, Confession of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and Running Lean by Ash Maurya, that I've also enjoyed and recommend to people.
Ola Olusoga

A History of Modern Computing

Only for those who really care about computers and history, but great to see how many great people have worked hard for us to end up exchanging emojis online.
Joan Boixados

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions

I read a lot of nonfiction and business books - but this is the one I keep on going back to. Enchantment is a mindset--and if you approach your work, each interaction, with this in mind, it will change everything. My copy of this book has dog-ears everywhere. If I could keep it in my bag everyday, I would.
Leah Lizarondo
Co-Founder/412 Food Rescue

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

“The Compassionate Instinct” is a great resource for those who wish to enhance their socio-psyche abilities for thought leadership, especially for wellbeing leadership development. The literature probes into the infinite resources of human capital, particularly into avenues of humans’ compassionate instinct. Our compassionate instinct plays a cardinal role in how we choose to connect to others.
Stephen Lew
Director/The School of Positive Psychology

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk. I think each of you, on reflection, will identify opportunities to operate at a new level with your women employees, leaders, customers, partners, and peers ... 1) please read the copy of Lean In you will be receiving shortly, before we get to the SVP/VP off-site and 2) determine 3-4 specific things you will do differently.
John Chambers

Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week

I feel guilty for not having posted a review earlier: I owe a lot to this book. I figured out the value of intensity training and maximizing recovery. I use the ideas but with minor modifications (my own personal workout is entirely based on free weights and barbells, but I incur --and accept --a risk of injury). I have been applying the ideas for more than three years. Just get over the inhibitions (and illusions of control) and accept the idea of training less. Gratitude.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money

Question: What books would you recommend to young people to be prepared for the future workplaces?

Answer: So many! So many by Seth Godin (Linchpin, The Icarus Deception, Purple Cow) Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Deep Work by Cal Newport, The Choice by Og Mandino, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, No More Dreaded Mondays and 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller, The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, Will It Fly by Pat Flynn, The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews, QBQ by John Miller, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Wow, there are so many more, but that’s a start.

Vincent Pugliese
Author & Professional Photographer

7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change: Micro Shifts, Macro Results

In this book, Esther has beautifully captured the essence of successful lasting change. The seven rules provide a framework for engaging with people and systems in a way that honors everyone and creates the kind of safety necessary for change to take root, all without glossing over the hard parts. A must-read for anyone seeking to have a lasting impact or bring about change.
Elisabeth Hendrickson
Vice President, Research and Development/Pivotal

The Lean Startup

There are quite a few good business books on technology, and I'll list below some I find to be a good starting point. Personally, I like biographies a lot and I mostly read biographies of dead people, because those are the most honest ones. So because the computer age is still very young, there won't be a lot of biographies in my list.
Bogdan Iordache
Co-Founder/How to Web

Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

If my career path is hackers turned business people, I’d say:

Start with the basics and fundamentals:

  • SICP: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
  • Code Complete 2
Santiago Basulto