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Personal Development Book Recommendations

Out of the thousands of books I've read, here are twenty of the best personal development books I've found. These books have helped me create and run successful businesses, serve effectively as a Director for multiple company boards, and be a better father, husband, and friend.

Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in the world, pointed to a pile of books when asked about the key to his success.

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” -Warren Buffett

Buffett isn't the only one who feels reading regularly is important if you are going to improve your life. Here are some other names you might recognize who have learned the importance of this habit of highly successful people.

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Financial Book Recommendations

Financial book recommendations - case of money


1.  The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Leading our personal development book recommendations for finances is this book from Dave Ramsey. You'll learn the core habits that you'll need to have in order to get your spending under control and start investing for the future. Before you can even think of running a business or something like that, you've got to have your finances in order. Start here.

2.  The Millionaire Next Door:  The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas Stanley

More than 20 years of research went into this book, figuring out how the wealthy actually behave.  Read this one for an in-depth look into what it actually takes to become and stay wealthy.  You'll be able to identify the seven common traits of the average millionaire and hopefully begin implementing those habits into your own life by the end of this book.

3.  The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

First published in 1926, this book is still topping the charts nearly a century later. There's a reason for that. One of the quickest reads you'll find here, George Clason boils the essentials of building up wealth into this short and easy to read parable.

4.  The Intelligent Investor:  The Definitive Book on Value Investing by Benjamin Graham

Are you thinking of investing in the stock or bond market? Read the Intelligent Investor before you do anything other than picking a target-date fund or an index fund for your 401k. You'll learn the essentials of what makes up a stock price like P/E, P/B, EPS, and when stocks might be getting overvalued.

5.  Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Are you tired of trying scrambling to figure out where you can save an extra few dollars when you don't even have enough money to cover your bills? Think and Grow Rich is about changing your mindset and focusing on the income portion of your finances. If you want to have a practical way of meeting your goals and truly growing yourself, this is the book for you. This is more than just how to become rich, it provides a practical framework for working toward nearly any major life goal.

Business Book Recommendations

business book recommendations - man reading paper

1.  Built to Last:  Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations.

Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies, and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?” Filled with hundreds of examples, this book is bound to help you in your business!

2.  Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins

A research team took 5 years to pour through mountains of data to find out why some companies make the leap from merely being good to being great, and why others do not. With clear findings on what these companies did differently, this fascinating work has become the go-to book for companies who are stuck and looking to grow.

3.  SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

SPIN Selling is essential reading for anyone involved in selling or managing a sales force. Unquestionably the best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the Huthwaite corporation's massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance, this groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) strategy. Looking to grow your sales?  Read this!

4.  The 5 Levels of Leadership:  Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell

John Maxwell gives a clear picture of how leadership really works in this outstanding book. Ever had one of those bad bosses that you only follow because you have to? Don't be that boss! Ever been in an organization where everyone knows who the real leader is even though they don't have an official title?  How do they do that?

This book delivers a clear framework for how to reach the pinnacle of success as a leader, driving results while developing deep relationships. One of my favorites, I believe this should be required reading for anyone in a leadership or management position.

5.  Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service by Performance Research Associates

Are you in the business of serving customers in some way? That was a rhetorical question! Of course you are! If you would like to know the practical steps you and your team need to be taking to ensure that your customers are raving fans, you need to read this! Based on my experience with leading a service department for more than a decade that consistently wins top honors on a national level and boasts a 99.5% satisfaction level, I can personally vouch that these ideas work.

Relationship Book Recommendations

Relationship book recommendations - family walking together on the beach

1.  ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer by Hal and Jenny Runkel

You may not actually be screaming at your partner, but are you a little frustrated with how things are going? Screaming takes many forms, including silence when things get rough. Maybe you have a great relationship, but want it to be even better. Written by a world-renowned expert on helping families resolve conflict and create healthy relationships, this book is the place to start to grow your relationships. Even if you are not married you'll learn ways of responding to others so that your relationship grows deeper and your conflicts become manageable.

2.  ScreamFree Parenting:  The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Runkel

ScreamFree and Parenting don't go together in the same sentence, do they? With 5 kids myself, I can tell you that while you will likely still pull your hair out at times, this book will make a major impact on your family. This isn't just about lowering your voice, it gives practical advice on how to control your own emotional reactions and respond effectively so that you and your kids will have a better relationship. Take charge of your family confidently and lead well with the wisdom captured in this book, you and your kids will be thankful you read this!

3.  The SPEED of Trust:  The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey and Stephen R. Covey

Trust, you either have it or you don't, right? This book challenges that assumption by giving practical advice on how to rapidly build and rebuild trust. After reading this book, I realized it described exactly what I couldn't put into words about what the people I trust did. If you thoroughly trust those around you, things will happen at lightning speed, especially in business. Learn how to foster that by reading this excellent book!

4.  Getting Ready for Marriage: How to Really Get to Know the Person You're Going to Marry by Jerry Hardin and Dianne Sloan

Are you thinking about marriage? How do you know if this is really the right fit? My wife and I used this intensive workbook to make sure we were on the right track before we got married.

You and your partner will be asked hard questions you've never even thought of, and be able to work through scenarios before they happen to make sure you are on the same page. Why wouldn't you invest some time into this before committing to spending the rest of your life with someone? This book brought us much closer together and made it obvious that we were making the right choice.

5.  Click:  The Magic of Instant Connections by Ori and Ron Brafman

You know the feeling. You meet someone, and the two of you just instantly “Click”. How does that happen? This fascinating piece of work digs into the factors that go into this magical feeling and gives practical advice on how to give yourself the best chances of making it happen on a regular basis.

6.  How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

For more than 60 years this book has topped the charts. Number one for a reason, the title says it all. Business or personal relationships, this should be a required read for everyone in my opinion!

Skills & Time Management Book Recommendations

Time management book recommendations - people around a clock.

1.  The Talent Code:  Greatness Isn't Born.  It's Grown.  Here's How.  by Daniel Coyle

This book is one of my absolute favorites of all time. Daniel Coyle goes to 9 of the world's talent hotbeds that have consistently churned out people who have world-class talent to find the answers to the questions “What is the secret of talent and how do we unlock it?” He also engages cutting edge research into how the brain develops to show us three key elements that we need to be doing to grow ourselves in any area we are interested in.

2.  First Things First by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill

I'm getting more done in less time, but where are the rich relationships, the inner peace, the balance, the confidence that I'm doing what matters most and doing it well?

Does this nagging question haunt you, even when you feel you are being your most efficient? If so, First Things First can help you understand why so often our first things aren't first. Rather than offering you another clock, First Things First provides you with a compass, because where you're headed is more important than how fast you're going.  Are you heading in the right direction?

3.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:  Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators, and parents— in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations. It has impacted my life, will you allow it to impact yours?

4.  StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Are you doing what you do best every day? My guess is you aren't. Why do we worry so much about those things that we don't do well rather than focusing on those things we do really well? This best-selling book will help you identify what your strengths actually are, and get you focusing on the areas you can truly be great in.

Personal Development Book of the Month Selections

Click here to check out our full personal development book recommendations list on Amazon, which includes these selections along with our previous book pick of the month.

Personal Development Book Recommendations
Browse Our Personal Development Book Recommendations on Amazon

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Don Smith

Don Smith is the founder of The Personal Growth Channel, a community on a mission to help each other grow in our personal and professional lives. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.

  • Avatar Don Smith says:

    If I had to choose my favorite out of all of these it would probably be The Talent Code. It has some awesome research on how the brain develops and how to develop new skills or refine existing ones. First Things First which teaches you how to achieve your dreams in life would be a close second.

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