My Favorite Self-Help and Happiness Books

Confession: I love self-help and happiness-centered books. I really do! I am one of those people who strives to always be learning and growing, both in my career and personally. I certainly enjoy a good business book often, but lately I’ve been really loving a book that kind of goes beyond just work into all parts of your life. I hope I work to learn, grow, and change my entire life. It makes me feel excited and hopeful about the future.

Now I have to also confess that I rarely actually read these books. I tend to listen to them as audiobooks (on Audible), mainly when I am driving, working out, or completing tasks at home (like dishes or laundry). The weather has been great lately, so I’ve been taking daily morning walks and almost always have my latest audiobook in my ears. It’s a great habit that gets me ready to start my day.

I thought I would share some of my favorite books that fall in this category from over the years and I would LOVE to hear your suggestions in the comments of any books that have helped you as well!

The Success Principles

This is what I am currently listening to and I LOVE it. I had it recommended to me a few times but I had put off reading it because it’s pretty long. I am listening to the audio version, but after a while I decided to purchase the book as well because I can tell it’s one I’m going to read again (maybe not right away, but maybe). You could totally read this as a kind of daily devotional, if the size of the book scares you. It is so packed you won’t want to fly through this one too quickly anyway. I also love all the additional resources the book suggests, which can be found on its website.

The Power of Habit

I read this one a couple years ago and Trey is reading it now, so it’s been fun to get it explore some of the ideas again through conversations with him. As the name of the book suggests, it’s all about habits. How we form them, how to potentially influence or change them, and the motivation behind the human mind. Even if you’re not interested in learning to change or improve your own habits, I think this book has valuable lessons for anyone in business or marketing as well because it might help you better understand the habits of your customers.

The Compound Effect

The gist of this book is how small things can add up in a big way. I love this concept! There are so many days I feel like I’m doing enough or I don’t have space to add much more in my life, but this book showed me that’s not true at all because I can harness the power of little (tiny, really) actions and have a big impact in my life, my business, my relationships, and the lives of others.

Meaningful Work

This book is somewhat geared toward small business owners in that it shares the story of Shawn Askinosie’s career (which itself is super inspiring) and also encourages the reader to, well, seek meaningful work OR add more meaning to the work they may already do. There is a lot about facing the deeper fears in our lives, which is challenging work but super worthwhile. And I also love how the book focuses on meditation (and/or prayer) and creating a mission statement or big goal for your life and career. I would certainly recommend this to anyone, not just small business owners. But for those of you who do work for yourselves or are thinking about changing careers to something more independent, this is a MUST read.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

This book may not be for everyone but I would certainly recommend it to anyone. Essentially, the author has a feminist awakening later in her life after being a part of the conservative church for many years. I related to Sue’s story a lot and I found a lot of peace and comfort from hearing her (so articulately) put into words many similar things to what I’ve experienced in my own life.

The Happiness Project

Loved this book from Gretchen Rubin and I believe she’s come out with a few others since this one first hit the shelves. I love how she approaches the idea of being happy in such an analytical and list-making, action-taking way. I understand the world more in this way myself, so I found this book really inspiring and helpful. (She also has a great podcast!)

Rising Strong

If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown yet, you should get familiar, friend, because she is awesome! I really loved and learned a lot from this book, which is all about getting back up from failures and setbacks. Raise your hand if you’ve ever failed. (You can’t see it but my hand is held HIGH.) Failing is part of success but it’s painful and I love Brene’s insight and research findings that she shares throughout this book. Also, if you listen to the audio version, she reads it and she’s from Texas so get ready for a little bit of an accent, ya’ll. 🙂

The Four Agreements

This is the next book on my list. So, technically I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s been recommended to me so many times and now the current book I’m reading has mentioned it, so I think it’s clear the universe is letting me know this one is next. Has anyone read it? What did you think?

Love reading and collecting books? Be sure to check out Elsie’s Used Book Collection.

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photo of Elsie’s rainbow bookshelves by Amber Ulmer.
  • Have you seen this comedy series (We’re Fine) about book club? It’s essentially about “a millennial book club gone horribly wrong”. Episodes are only 2-ish minutes each so totally binge-able!

  • Excellent collection of self-help books. No doubt they are best and very inspirational books.

  • You have really great collection of self-help books. I have read only The Power of Habit it was a great book for me. I must read all the book you have mentioned above.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Emma, great collection of books. Thanks for sharing. The Happiness Project and The Power of Habit are my personal favorites. I have learned many great ideas from these books and have implemented them in my life. These have really helped me to become a better person.

  • I haven’t read any of that books but I already read another Gretchen’s book about habits too 🙂

  • I love self-help books too! I love Brené Brown. And I love the books of Louisa Hay too.

  • The Four Agreements is great! It’s so simple yet makes complete sense. I think you’ll love it.

  • Most of these are on my list, but now this is more inspiration to check them out 😉
    -Grace | The Keen Kind

  • I’ve read The Success Principles several times now, and I keep coming back to it over and over. It’s just one of those books that reveals something new and gets me thinking ever time I read it.

  • I just read “The Art of Gathering” and it was so so good in thinking about both personal and professional relationships and event planning, from a 2 person meeting to a major event. Definitely recommend.

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is an amazing book. Read it over and over again makes you inspired that you can make things happen.

  • Check out “the yellow world” by Albert Espinosa
    It really gave me a different perspective of the world.
    Not your typical self help, but still a good short book which gives you many life lessons and let you appreciate life a bit more.

    “last lecture” by randy pausch is also another good one. Check it out!

  • Finish (by Jon Acuff) – — I’m great at starting projects but not great at finishing them. Love Jon’s ideas to help accomplish my goals.

    Love your list and will check out the ones I’m not familiar with yet.

  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis us changing my life. Its speaking directly to women and discussing some difficult topics (like being judgmental of other women ????). Such a good read!!

  • I couldn’t get into The Happiness Project, either, but I’ll give it another shot. In the same thread, Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert was excellent! I highly recommend it.

  • I couldn’t get into The Happiness Project either but I’ve been on the hunt for some new books in this genre lately. Thinking about getting GIrl Wash Your Face & need to read You are a Badass, for sure. Excited to check out some off this list, too!

  • I love the Four Agreements! I read it a decade ago and it was the first self help, spiritual kind of book that I ever read. It is so inspirational, simple and beautiful. Thank you for inspiring me to read it again. I also recommend The Fifth Agreement!



  • Hi Emma, a book I find myself referencing over and over again is” Coach Yourself to Success “by Talane Miedaner. I like it because it gives specific actions you can take for self improvement.

  • The only Self Help book I’ll ever personally recommend is “Life: You’re Doing It Wrong” by Robert Manis. I’ve found pretty much every other one I’ve read (so far) to be oddly overblown and unrealistic XD Glad you found some favorites for yourself, though!

  • I love this!! Thanks for sharing some of your favorite reads / audio books! My favorite one is Only love today by Rachel Macy Stafford. It’s a collection of short stories and little poems / thoughts. I actually start my day reading one or two passages at breakfast, then journal about how I can relate them to my life. All the positive vibes about gratitude, learning to savor more and not put too much on your plate. I highly recommend- also it’s a super cute cover which is why I picked it up in the first place 🙂

    • Isn’t Only Love Today awesome? I go back to it all the time for encouragement!

  • I was hoping you’d be somebody who likes Brené Brown! I loved her book on vulnerability — not all of it, but a lot of it.

  • Have you read You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero? I finished it about a month ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s definitely going to be one I reread. It led me to a couple big realizations about myself, got me to really actually consistently practice meditation, and is making me feel better about a recent major decision that a lot of people in my life think is crazy. Plus, it’s a fast read 🙂

  • I love self-help books! This is such a good list! Two of my top favorites are Girl, Wash Your Face and You Are a Badass!


  • I read The Happiness Project a few years back, and I don’t really like it… maybe self-help books just aren’t for me? Will still be checking your recommendations out, though! And the rainbow bookshelf is beautiful! 😀

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

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