No matter your reasoning — whether you’re going through something tough, want to grow as a person, or just have some time on your hands — it’s always a good time to read (or listen to!) a personal development book. These books will not only lift you up when you’re feeling down, they are also a great way to learn more about the world, get inspired to try new things, expand your mind, and have an adventure while you do it!
That said, in my experience, not all personal development reads are created equal. I’ve read some real doozies in my day, and while I think that every book brings something to the table, there’s nothing like a good recommendation to help get you started.
So, to help you choose your next read, I’ve compiled a list of excellent travel, self-help, and spirituality books that can help you in your personal development journey.
15 Of The Best Personal Development Books (Travel, Self-Help & Spirituality)
1. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
If I had to choose an all-time favorite book — this would be it. The Untethered Soul brings to light the inner critic we all have in our heads and how we can not only become friends with this voice, but it gives insight into how to stop letting it control our lives.
Michael singer has a beautiful way of showing you how to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. This book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.
2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, Wild is a must read for every adventurous soul.
This real-life story follows the author’s journey after impulsively embarking on a hike of more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail — completely alone. Cheryl has to face her own demons and the story beautifully captures her terrors and pleasures while she forges ahead against all odds on a journey that ultimately healed her.
3. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Ever since listening to Brene Brown’s, The Power of Vulnerability, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for this woman. Brene has the ability to captivate you and gently encourage you to want to be a better person.
The Gifts of Imperfection is a book that should be given to everyone at a young age. How our lives would be different if we all saw our imperfections as strengths instead of weaknesses!
This is an inspiring guide to wholehearted living, rather than just the average self-help book. Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves.
4. The Achievement Trap: The Overachiever, People-Pleaser, and Perfectionist’s Guide to Freedom and True Success by Brandilyn Tebo
My dear friend Brandilyn Tebo has changed so many people’s lives with this book which, until meeting her, I never knew I needed! The Achievement Trap is for anyone who is under the illusion that we MUST achieve in order to prove our worth!
On my personal journey of self discovery, I never understood why I could fulfill all of my lifelong dreams and still feel like something was missing. From a very young age, many of us are taught to constantly strive for more. Once we reach our goals, it’s on to the next one! Which is all well and good, as long as we don’t derive our self worth from these external achievements.
In this book, Brandilyn shows us how we are unconditionally worthy and that goals are games we choose to play. She guides us through exercises and thought experiments to heal the root of insecurity and self-doubt.
5. Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Joe Dispenza
One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Joe Dispenza, has given me the tools to change subconscious patterns that had been controlling my life for years. By combining the fields of quantum physics, neuroscience, brain chemistry, biology, and genetics, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, proves that you’re not doomed by your genes and hardwired to be a certain way for the rest of your life.
In a very easy-to-understand way, Dr. Joe demystifies ancient understandings and bridges the gap between science and spirituality. This book will truly change your life — it has definitely changed mine!
6. The Presence Process: A Journey Into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown
The Presence Process invites us to aspire to ‘conscious emotional response’ as a way of life. We all have deeply suppressed emotional imprints that are programmed into us through experience in the first 7 years of our lives — our subconscious — which is why so many of us react to circumstances in our lives with repetitive, unconscious behaviors.
By reading and applying the simple procedure in this book, it is possible for anyone to transform the quality of their life experience from one of uncontrollable re-activity, to deliberate responsibility. Presence, he defines as authentic beingness where one lives in present moment awareness.
If you have ever wanted to let go of old ways of viewing life that are no longer serving you, this book provides an easy process on how to do just that!
7. Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche
To start off the list, let’s jump straight into a lauded travel memoir. Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche is the tale of a San Franciscan gal who meets a passionate Argentinian man in a bar one fateful night. They quickly fall in love, but there’s a catch — he’s about to set sail on an around the world trip via sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water.
So what does Torre do? Throws caution to the wind, of course.
This is the story of exhilarating travel and new cultures, love in the middle of the ocean, and the realities of being stuck on a sailboat with nobody but a guy you met in a bar. Trust me, there are enough near-misses to keep you right on the edge of your seat.
Now, I realize that Love With a Chance of Drowning isn’t always lumped in the “personal development” category, but between the lessons Torre learns while she’s traveling and the great sense of adventure on every page, this is one that will inspire even the most accomplished traveler.
8. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is perhaps best known for being the author of the mega-hit, Eat, Pray, Love. However, while that definitely fits into the self-development category, I’m going to suggest you read another one of her works, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Big Magic is about creativity. It’s about fear, fulfillment, suffering, and inspiration. It’s about finding the spark within each of us, grasping onto it, and riding it out in the most authentic-to-us ways possible. Elizabeth blends spirituality with starkness in Big Magic, and I guarantee by the end of it you’ll be inspired to let go of some of your doubts and live out your wildest dreams.
9. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
Although Jen Sincero is perhaps best known for her work as a real-life success coach and the author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, I’m going to tune you into her “You Are a Badass” follow-up: You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth.
This book is for everyone who wants to identify and blow past the limiting beliefs and fears that they have surrounding financial success. So many of us have hang-ups around money, and Jen takes a very pragmatic approach to help you get out of your own way and launch you into accepting wealth into your life.
Jen will help you understand the personality traits of people who attract wealth, how to relate to money in a healthy way, throw your doubts around money to the curb and, much like the Elizabeth Gilbert tome listed above, tap into your own limitless creativity.
10. What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
Buddhism is perhaps one of the most powerful yet misunderstood practices in the world, and in What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse takes a deep dive into the four main essences of Buddhism — that all compounded things are impermanent, all emotions are pain, all things have no inherent existence, and Nirvana is beyond concepts.
I think what makes this book so captivating is knowing that every single person is going to walk away with something different. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy it, and you don’t have to read this with any kind of goal in mind. It’s just about acceptance.
Read this with an open mind and an open heart and you’re off to the races.
11. The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
What makes Denmark consistently rank as one of the happiest countries in the world? That’s what journalist Helen Russell set to find out when she found herself unexpectedly living in gloomy, rural Jutland, and what she explores in her book, The Year of Living Danishly.
A country often stereotyped by its dark winters, pastries, and reserved citizens, Russell, over the course of a year in Denmark, makes it her mission to understand every aspect of Danish culture and where they get it right and wrong when it comes to happiness.
Expect to learn a ton about Danish childcare, community, food, design, sexism, and education as The Year of Living Danishly takes a magnifying glass to the happiest place on earth.
12. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
You probably know Jack Kerouac as being the beatnik author of classic Americana novel On The Road, but in case you’ve never delved deeper into his repertoire, let me unearth another gem: The Dharma Bums.
While on a quest for deeper meaning and inner peace, Kerouac, along with a friend, climbs the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, hitchhikes through the western United States, goes to poetry readings, meditates copiously, and has crazy wild parties (among a lot else).
The Dharma Bums is about Kerouac’s personal duality with his spirituality, and how that relates to his journey toward deeper life experiences.
13. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
If you’re into harsh truths and a whole lot of swearing, then The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is for you.
While the consensus seems to be that this is a book you’ll either love or hate, at its crux, it’s all about caring about the right things that will make us happy and to stop giving a f*ck about the things that weigh us down.
Manson argues (with a lot of scientific research) that the constant pursuit of happiness is making people miserable, and that it’s only by acknowledging and accepting our limitations as humans that we can learn to live more fulfilling lives.
As Manson states in the title, this book is a very counterintuitive approach to personal development, and as such you’re guaranteed to walk away with a new opinion — whether you love it or hate it.
14. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Are you ready for a mind-expanding book that’s truly out of this world? Then tune into Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson!
If you’ve ever struggled to truly grasp the science behind how the universe began, how it expanded after the big bang, and all the little atomic shifts and happenings that needed to occur to create the world we perceive today, then this is the book for you. Because let’s face it, how many of us can really wrap our heads around this stuff?
Not only does Neil explain Astrophysics in an extremely easy-to-read way, but he also does so while throwing in some truly groan-worthy jokes, and relating big concepts to instances we interact with every day.
This is another book not typically found in the personal-development category but, for me, this book was an easy ticket to a new perspective and immediately got me out of my head with the nuances of day-to-day life. Get ready to feel very, very small.
15. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
Based on classic Toltec Wisdom, Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a short book that dives into four main ways of thinking that have the power to radically transform our lives and free us from our own mental trappings.
In the book, you can expect to learn all about limiting beliefs and how they rob us of happiness, as well as the agreements that will help us all to live more fulfilled lives. The agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
The book is only 129 pages and is really an easy read, but it’s one that I keep turning back to when I need a bit of inspiration and perspective!
We love personal development book recommendations — please leave your favorites in the comments!