Must-read personal development books of all time

Growing and spending half of my life in Vietnam, my childhood was engaged to Tran Dang Khoa –  a poet, journalist, editor whom I admire a lot. In an interview about books, he once shared:

There are three factors that I think have the strongest influence on a person’s thinking: the books you read, the people you consider as friends, and the way you think. Among them, books are a great approach to change our outlook on life. I don’t have the opportunity to meet and talk to everyone, so I choose books as an opportunity to “confide” in them.

One of the lessons that I learned from these years in the college, is the concept of input – output model. Simply your current life (output) is the result of what you put in (input). If you only receive information such as negative things, “hot” news on Facebook every day, or spend hours and hours watching TV., then your output will certainly be the same. I must say it can’t be good. And if your daily input is positive articles, creative ideas, great books, useful videos, interesting people… then your output will certainly be different. The message that I would love to transfer here is, one of the most important inputs in our lives is books, because books are the quintessence of humanity, knowledge, and experience of a lifetime.

Reading books every day will help you add a huge amount of input and it will affect your output.

And here is a list of 8 personal development books from our RaizUp Bookstore  that I think will be very helpful for you to have new input for yourself. Of course, there will be many other great books, but in the framework of this blog, I just want to share the books that are popular, have great influence and have useful ideas. If I have the opportunity, I will recommend you more books.

Remember: the right book at the right time can change your life. It takes a mighty powerful book to have that impact on anyone.

Let’s dive in.

Must-read personal development books of all time

  1. Fear Less: How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself
  2. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
  3. How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
  4. Personal Resilience: Survival Strategies for Pandemic Times
  5. Stumbling on Happiness
  6. The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain
  7. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  8. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation

1. Fear Less: How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself by Dr Pippa Grange

If we were truly free from fear, what could we achieve?

We strive for success, but we are rarely happy. The more we try to win – putting on a brave face for work or family – the more we risk losing ourselves. And even reaching our goals can feel strangely hollow. The culprit? Fear. It makes us anxious, or shameful, or turns us into perfectionists. We pretend to be someone else while aiming for a status that’s never truly satisfying.

There is another way. A way to find our true voice, to win on our own terms. Building that open mindset is at the heart of this mould-breaking book by Dr Pippa Grange, the psychologist who helped transform the England team, taking them all the way to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018.

In Fear Less, Pippa Grange shows all of us how, by starting to live with less fear, we can find our real passions and deeper fulfillment. Her simple manifesto enables us to replace stress with courage and connect with the people around us on a far deeper level.

This type of success isn’t about trophies or beating others, it’s about winning at the very deepest level: winning from within. It’s time to fear less.

Read Fear Less: How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself

2. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

A groundbreaking look at why our interactions with others hold the key to success, from the bestselling author of Originals

For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. In Give and Take, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom. Praised by social scientists, business theorists, and corporate leaders, Give and Take opens up an approach to work, interactions, and productivity that is nothing short of revolutionary.

Read Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

3. How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman

Award-winning Wharton Professor and Choiceology podcast host Katy Milkman has devoted her career to the study of behavior change. In this ground-breaking book, Milkman reveals a proven path that can take you from where you are to where you want to be, with a foreword from psychologist Angela Duckworth, the best-selling author of Grit.

Change comes most readily when you understand what’s standing between you and success and tailor your solution to that roadblock. If you want to work out more but find exercise difficult and boring, downloading a goal-setting app probably won’t help. But what if, instead, you transformed your workouts so they became a source of pleasure instead of a chore? Turning an uphill battle into a downhill one is the key to success.

Drawing on Milkman’s original research and the work of her world-renowned scientific collaborators, How to Change shares strategic methods for identifying and overcoming common barriers to change, such as impulsivity, procrastination, and forgetfulness. Through case studies and engaging stories, you’ll learn:

• Why timing can be everything when it comes to making a change
• How to turn temptation and inertia into assets
• That giving advice, even if it’s about something you’re struggling with, can help you achieve more

Whether you’re a manager, coach, or teacher aiming to help others change for the better or are struggling to kick-start change yourself, How to Change offers an invaluable, science-based blueprint for achieving your goals, once and for all.

Read How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

4. Personal Resilience: Survival Strategies for Pandemic Times by Séverine Obertelli & Peter Tarlow

Humanity suffers from crises and disasters constantly. But the breadth of the latest crisis-the Covid-19 pandemic-has affected almost all corners of the world and has caused millions of deaths and so many more victims who have survived its worst effects but may still suffer long-lasting health issues from it. Those “lucky” enough to have suffered only mild cases or managed to avoid infection altogether are still victims because of social and economic distresses that the pandemic has caused. This book describes the crisis and offers advice and strategies for coping with the stresses. Each chapter explores briefly one of four areas of our human condition, be it health, spirituality, social issues, or finances, and offers strategies through 100 questions and answers about dealing with a pandemic. This book can be a supplement to the seminal book of Personal Reconstruction with specific information about pandemics.

Read Personal Resilience: Survival Strategies for Pandemic Times

5. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

A smart and funny book by a prominent Harvard psychologist, which uses groundbreaking research and (often hilarious) anecdotes to show us why we’re so lousy at predicting what will make us happy, and what we can do about it.

Most of us spend our lives steering ourselves toward the best of all possible futures, only to find that tomorrow rarely turns out as we had expected. Why? As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains, when people try to imagine what the future will hold, they make some basic and consistent mistakes. Just as memory plays tricks on us when we try to look backward in time, so does imagination play tricks when we try to look forward.

Using cutting-edge research, much of it original, Gilbert shakes, cajoles, persuades, tricks, and jokes us into accepting the fact that happiness is not really what or where we thought it was. Among the unexpected questions he poses: Why are conjoined twins no less happy than the general population? When you go out to eat, is it better to order your favorite dish every time, or to try something new? If Ingrid Bergman hadn’t gotten on the plane at the end of Casablanca, would she and Bogey have been better off?

Read Stumbling on Happiness

6. The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul

A bold new book reveals how we can tap the intelligence that exists beyond our brains—in our bodies, our surroundings, and our relationships

Use your head.

That’s what we tell ourselves when facing a tricky problem or a difficult project. But a growing body of research indicates that we’ve got it exactly backwards. What we need to do, says acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul, is think outside the brain. A host of “extra-neural” resources—the feelings and movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the minds of those around us— can help us focus more intently, comprehend more deeply, and create more imaginatively.

The Extended Mind outlines the research behind this exciting new vision of human ability, exploring the findings of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and examining the practices of educators, managers, and leaders who are already reaping the benefits of thinking outside the brain. She excavates the untold history of how artists, scientists, and authors—from Jackson Pollock to Jonas Salk to Robert Caro—have used mental extensions to solve problems, make discoveries, and create new works. In the tradition of Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind or Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, The Extended Mind offers a dramatic new view of how our minds work, full of practical advice on how we can all think better.

Read The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain

7. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The guru to the gurus at last shares his knowledge with the rest of us. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s seminal studies in behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, and happiness studies have influenced numerous other authors, including Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman at last offers his own, first book for the general public. It is a lucid and enlightening summary of his life’s work. It will change the way you think about thinking.

Two systems drive the way we think and make choices, Kahneman explains: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Examining how both systems function within the mind, Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities as well as the biases of fast thinking and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and our choices. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, he shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, contrasting the two-system view of the mind with the standard model of the rational economic agent.

Kahneman’s singularly influential work has transformed cognitive psychology and launched the new fields of behavioral economics and happiness studies. In this path-breaking book, Kahneman shows how the mind works, and offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and personal lives – and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

Read Thinking, Fast and Slow

8. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation by Edward L. Deci

If you reward your children for doing their homework, they will usually respond by getting it done. But is this the most effective method of motivation? No, says psychologist Edward L. Deci, who challenges traditional thinking and shows that this method actually works against performance. The best way to motivate people—at school, at work, or at home—is to support their sense of autonomy. Explaining the reasons why a task is important and then allowing as much personal freedom as possible in carrying out the task will stimulate interest and commitment, and is a much more effective approach than the standard system of reward and punishment. We are all inherently interested in the world, argues Deci, so why not nurture that interest in each other? Instead of asking, “How can I motivate people?” we should be asking, “How can I create the conditions within which people will motivate themselves?”

“An insightful and provocative meditation on how people can become more genuinely engaged and succesful in pursuing their goals.”

Read Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation

Books are invaluable resources, knowledge of mankind. I hope that you will always spend a time to read and ponder the great books that can change your life.

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To dive even deeper into the world of leadership development, check out our Blog: Top 12 Leadership Books To Read For Self-Improvement

Thank you and see you in our next Blog! 😀

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