Over the last 8-10 years I’ve read countless ‘self help’ and personal development books. And I’ve plenty sat there still waiting to be read too (my “shelf help” section!).
I don’t think there are any I’ve read that haven’t given me some nugget or other to take away and muse upon (if not actually put into action), but certainly there are those that have had a much more profound effect than others, so I’d like to share a list of some of my very favourites.
These are the ones I find I give to my clients, or find myself reaching for again and again when I’m wanting reassurance, inspiration or clarity. Some are profound, some useful, some practical, some quirky, some funny.
I noticed, as I compiled the list, that none are especially long, which maybe says more about my attention span!
I was interested too that there are some ‘classics’ and big name authors I passed over – perhaps I just take them for granted.
I also find it fascinating when I re-read a book. Sometimes it may have failed to make an impression first time around, and then seems profound on a second reading, or vice-versa from seeming profound to now being mundane.
But of course, I’m never the same person as I was in the past – we see and take what we need at the time, which is why we can hear essentially the same message from two different people; with one they manage to light up our neurology and bring the ‘aha’ moment, whilst with the other, we merely encounter something that changes a little of what we know, not changing our very being.
This represents a point in time for me – in 6 months time this would probably be a different list completely!
So, in no particular order here are my top 10 books today:
- The War of Art – Break through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. A recent discovery for me, recommended by a very creative friend and colleague – we’ve been helping each other get over our procrastination in our creative, and not so creative endeavours! Very funny, accessible and reassuring. Also easy to pick up and dip into rather than read end to end – however this does have a drawback for me; I must confess I keep putting off finishing it, preferring to keep dabbling instead!
- Time to Think – Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline. Initially I read this because I’d encountered Nancy’s approach through the coaching world, but I recommend it to managers, leaders and parents. With practice her approach can take your listening and the quality of your attention to deep levels and help unlock the potential in others, and also in yourself. Another readable and human writer – just reading the book helps me feel more centred and calm!
- Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. This is my absolute favourite right now. It helps that George draws on Aikido here and I’m always inspired and intrigued by martial arts, but this is down to earth, practical wisdom that just had me underlining, highlighting and generally saying ‘yes that’s so true’ right through.
- Stop Talking Start Doing: a Kick in the Pants in Six Parts by Shaa Wasmund. Another recent one for me – refreshing, humorous and ‘inhalable content’ as the author herself would say. If I’m honest, it’s not so much the book as Shaa herself that I find inspiring, but there’s still some good wisdom, truth and insight in this very visual book.
- Feel the Fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers. A classic self-help book, but there’s something about how Susan writes, her honesty and facing into those dark corners that I can really relate to, and although it’s now a long time since I first read it, it’s stayed with me and I often go back to it.
- Do it Tomorrow and other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. This book was the start of me transforming how I approach my ‘to do’ list forever. I don’t follow it all, but it gave me practical ideas and inspired me to revolutionise the way I get things done.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl. I’ve mentioned this before in my blog (LINK). Very powerful book, moving, uplifting and inspiring.
- F**k it – the ultimate spiritual way by John C Parkin. Funny, provocative and with simple wisdom around letting go of attachment. Some may find him irritating – I find this grounding and helps me to not take things, and myself so seriously.
- Leadership and Self-deception – getting out of the Box from The Arbinger Institute. An easy and thought provoking read as it’s presented as a story, set in a corporate context but drawing on leadership in all aspects of life. A great one for helping us realise it’s not the other person that’s the problem!
- The Inner Game of Tennis by W Timothy Gallwey. Something of a classic, and especially in coaching, Gallwey’s presentation of how we get in our own way, the impact of our self-judgement and inner critic is compelling even if you don’t play tennis (I don’t btw, but I also found the Inner Game of Skiing really helpful in getting over my accident!)
I hold no expectation that these books will be as profound or useful for you as they have been for me, but I’d love to know what you think, and what would make your list of top 10 self help books?