Inspirational, motivational and enlightening books for personal and self-development.
Table of contents
1.4.1. Download Ancient Wisdom e-book - Free PDF (84 pages - 2.4MB)
1.35. night - elie wiesel
1.38. s.u.m.o. - paul mcgee
1.39. eunoia - christian bok
1.40. the art of war - sun tzu
1.68. sperm wars - robin baker
These books are life-changing in some way for many people, and might be for you too.
A book can change our thinking, feelings, knowledge, attitudes, skills, etc.
In a world of millions of books, it can be helpful to understand quickly and easily which books - just a few books - can make a big difference to our lives, and the lives of others.
These books are my recommendations - mostly old books, and many that can be brought now very cheaply. I'm open to other suggestions.
A book has to be special to be listed on this page.
I don't review many books, and I don't recommend books lightly.
Different books suit different people, but there are some books that are probably universally appealing, because they are so brilliant.
This means these books are extremely well-written, they contain really useful and impressive content: ideas or entertainment, or dramatic prose or poetry, or tools and educational material that can change our thinking, or outlook, and improve our understanding and skills and wisdom, etc.
"Books are the treasured wealth of the world, and the fit inheritance of generations and nations... Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert and influence on mankind... How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones." (Henry David Thoreau, American writer and philosopher, 1817-62, from his book Walden, written in 1854.)
The book links go mostly to Amazon.co.uk and commission goes towards running and developing the website, thank you.
Enjoy these recommended books, old and new, for inspiration, teaching, communicating and learning.
Many of the older books are available very inexpensively via Amazon. Shop around.
New books will be added. Authors and publishers are invited to send review copies to me, but please be aware that a book must be very special indeed to be included on this page.
If there were just one book on this list I would urge everyone to read it is this. I discovered it too late in some respects, but most of you reading this review will be able to make more full use of its teachings. Having lost my partner to suicide in April 2015 and experienced extra traumatic events afterwards, I entered my own world of suicidal feelings, which I continue to inhabit. I am not the only one. Globally hundreds of millions of people consider killing themselves.
The world was mildly sick in 1971 when Alvarez wrote this book. Now the world is really very seriously ill, and the need for people to read this book (together with books about how to stay well) has never been greater. Al Alvarez is a sensationally brilliant writer and an extraordinary man. He was among Sylvia Plath's friends when she killed herself, the explanation of which begins the book and the journey for both author and reader. Plath was lost because she isolated herself from help. The same applies to most suicides in modern times. Then as now friends and family do not talk enough about suicide and its risks. People don't get help until it's very late and sometimes too late.
This book will reduce the chances of someone you know dying by suicide, and it will keep you safer too, when and if life's stress or upsets turn more serious. This book will probably help you understand suicide if you've been bereaved in this way. The book ends with Al Alvarez's own suicide attempt and somewhat miraculous survival. In between these two horrifically beautiful bookends (yes suicide can be explained beautifully, as can birth and death and tragedy, etc), Alvarez gives us the most compelling and deeply expert study of suicide ever written. Suicide is not what it seems, and philosophically is as complex as life itself.
The most urgent and important aspect now is that globally nowadays there is a suicide every 30 seconds, and the trend is rising. That's a million people every year. Particularly worrying is the fast-rising increase among young people: suicide is now the major cause of death for youngsters in very many parts of the world. So we all need to understand the subject better. This book gave me so much - it helped me understand my own experiences, and has been fundamental in my own survival.
The Savage God contains some of the most profound and useful teachings you will ever find, beyond what most people dare to explore all of their lives. (If you have particular interest in suicide, and wider matters of wellness and mental health, please look at Alan Chapman's project www.festivaloflifeanddeath.org - the world's biggest suicide and wellness conference/concert, happening in Leicester UK and many other venues/nations on 8th September 2018)
There are thousands of career self help books. Thousands every year.. Very many of these books say basically the same things, and many would help anyone improve work/life success if the teachings were actually to be applied, which is the real challenge. This book by successful USA businessman Tim Cole is rather good; as a helpful map of what lies ahead, and a reference manual to check progress and keep a steady course, given all the distractions. It's very well written and structured, and orientated to encourage the reader to think of him/herself as a business, or venture, rather than the inward emotional subjective view we tend to default to in typical thinking and decision-making.
This book is pure gold for teachers, trainers, learners and leaders...
Graham Williams is an extraordinary writer, expert, and visionary. This is his latest book, kindly offered by Graham in e-book format to download free from this website. Thank you Graham:
Download Ancient Wisdom e-book - Free PDF (84 pages - 2.4MB)
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Workplaces offers a concise and beautiful series of lessons for organizational improvement - and more deeply, radical new ideas, combined with wise old proven ways, to approach - and transform - work, people, aims, business, and leadership.
Besides the wonderful logic and fabulous writing, this book is very innovative, quick, simple - and accessible.
Among Graham's specialisms is storytelling.. and this book is full of stories and analogies that create very impactful concepts and principles - easy to grasp and convey to others - cohesively and strategically assembled - ready to use in so many ways.
Graham's ideas are simple, yet very clever and sophisticated - easy to understand - also powerful and far-reaching in their potential.
Ancient Wisdom is a compact book of brilliant content and irresistibly good ideas - for managers, leaders, trainers, students - really everyone interested in bringing greater happiness and success to workplaces.
Graham also offers a 50% 'early-bird' discount for the Wisdom for Modern Workplaces Conference, Fanta Fe, New Mexico, 3-4 October 2017 - use code: Williams250
Graham Williams, from Cape Town, is a certified management consultant, executive master coach (associate of Change Partners), facilitator, speaker and author who has worked in over 40 countries and many sectors. He brings healing and wholeness to organizations. Storytelling is pivotal. This is all powerful stuff indeed. Graham's other titles including the wonderful books From the Inside Out, The Virtuosa Organisation, and The Halo and the Noose, are available - with regular brilliant newsletters - from his website:
There are many books about stopping smoking and this is considered one of the best. The author takes a radically different approach, which for many is life-changing beyond stopping smoking, although of course stopping smoking is certainly life-changing in itself.
This is a lovely book about European history that offers much more than history. Interestingly and effectively the author chooses to see Europe's story mainly through the lens of Austria's Vienna.
This is a timely book for the early 21st century, because Europe is now in turmoil, facing many challenges, and the outcomes will impact the entire world. History teaches us about the future.
As to the book's qualities, firstly this book is very enjoyable - Larry Hilton brings life, soul, texture and emotion to his subject. He uses academic analysis and creative non-fiction techniques to present history in an extraordinarily entertaining way. Secondly this book is very accessible - Hilton understands how to communicate to his audience. The reader is involved in a narrative, rather than bombarded by meaningless facts. Thirdly, this book opens our minds beyond history - Larry Hilton offers a history of Europe that extends effortlessly into lessons about sociology, politics, culture, nationalities and identities, evolution, power, strategy, economics, chaos, human relationships, groupings and systems - and how to consider our future: what will become of Europe and Europeans, and the implications for the rest of the world. The content is also extensively researched with hundreds of solid sources - it's a joy to read, and a joy to learn from it - about Europe and Europeans, and also how to write non-fiction..
This is a beautiful and constructive accessible book about creativity, which anyone would enjoy reading. The book's fabulous pictures, design, layout - and excellent clear writing style - make the book a joy to read and follow, with lots of exercises and clever clear explanations that encourage experimentation and change in approaching all sorts of creative work. The book itself is excitingly creative - offering many ways to open the mind and attitude - to become more creative. The book also has a very strong spiritual and ethical aspect. The book would be a wonderful teaching aid for anyone working with students - all ages - helping people develop their creative and artistic activities and results. Note that creativity is not just for artists, writers, musicians, chefs, etc!... Everyone benefits from being more creative! Creativity is crucial for innovation, quality improvement, and problem-solving in every type of work - especially in business and organizational management, entrepreneurialism, marketing, training and HR, advertising and selling, professional services, healthcare, administration, leadership and government - really everything. So this is actually a marvellous book for anyone wanting to develop ability to find solutions and new improved ways of doing things, whatever your specialism.
This is perhaps the most beautiful book ever published about tea - it's a lesson in bringing love and quality to writing and business - in 240 sumptuous pages, explaining and illustrating the many fascinating aspects of tea. The book has wonderful pictures of tea in all sorts of situations around the world, and throughout the history of tea. Krisi Smith writes absolutely brilliantly about tea - its history, botany, cultivation (including home-growing), harvesting, varieties, geographical and cultural dimensions, innovative tea blending and mixing, tasting, brewing, serving, etc., all lovingly offered in a fabulous ethical context. Krisi Smith (co-founder with her partner Mike of the Brighton-based Bluebird Tea Company) has created a masterpiece to grace (ironically) any coffee table...
This is a wonderful easy book explaining humankind's evolution, according to the most modern (2016) research. Humbling and compelling. It will change your view of what it is to be human, and our place in the world.
A truly life-changing book. Don Miguel Ruiz's simple guidance for life. See the Four Agreements summary review.
A truly life-changing book, this is the author's story of his time in the Nazi extermination camps of the 2nd World War, and how this experience translates into a personal philosophy, from which we can all draw intense and meaningful inspiration.
As compelling and humbling and inspirational as 'Man's Search For Meaning'.
So many lessons in one book. When you read the story of Mandela you understand how the man became such a force. One of the greatest autobiographies. Utterly compellingly inspirational. Also available as a children's illustrated version.
One of those children's books that's really for grown-ups. If you ever feel as though you're stuck in a rut this can help get you out of it. A celebration of innocence and discovery of self. Wonderful stories within a story.
Such a simple little book, with so much common sense about how to get the best out of yourself and life in general. In a cynical world the teachings of books like these do much to encourage truly grown up, giving, behaviour. See the Cherie Carter-Scott Rules Of Life summary review.
Remarkable autobiographical story of endurance and courage in the face of heart-rending personal disaster. Bauby dictated this work after a paralysing accident, letter by letter, by blinking his eye. Beautifully written and truly inspirational.
Life-changing. Something for everyone. See the Stephen Covey Seven Habits summary review.
Provides a remarkable and illuminating explanation of difficult behaviour; the way that personality is formed through experience, and can be changed through unlocking the sub-conscious - primal therapy. A book for anyone to learn more about themselves, personality, relationships, communications and more.
This book is a wonderful refreshing antidote to centuries-old mutual resentments, fears, suspicions, and confusions. It offers a radically new view of the world and the ways its people and organizations operate within it, by offering an innovative framework of ideas and methods that can be learned, transferred, and applied - and which, fascinatingly, harmonize and reconcile hitherto 'irreconcileable differences' between two and unnecessarily conflicting ideologies and peoples. There is a long uneasy relationship between 'the West' and 'the Muslim world'. Wars and persistent tensions are deeply catastrophic failures of human leadership in response to these challenges. Fuelled by idiotic self-interested mass media, and deluded politicians, these failings cascade to society, businesses, and generations of humanity, when actually a billion or more people on each side of the divide would otherwise very happily share a meal together, become good friends, cooperate, and see the world in very similar ways.
The book's high price will put it beyond the reach of most people (although used copies can be had much cheaper), but business and societal leaders, policy-makers, and serious students of life, economics, etc., should invest to obtain a copy.
This book essentially provides an explanation of Islamic principles within a superbly-well structured framework, related to global sustainability from social, economic and human perspectives.
Classic inspirational life-changing book - how to overcome our fears and achieve a stronger power of belief, and greater self-esteem. This remains a global best-selling book on self-discovery and self-development.
Sharon Drew Morgen is regarded by many (including me) as the greatest thinker and writer on selling in the modern age.
She is also one of the greatest thinkers and writers on the subjects of:
- listening and understanding
- decision facilitation
- communications and relationships
Her book 'Buying Facilitation' is an extraordinary innovation for selling, that is still way way ahead of its time. 'Dirty Little Secrets' builds further and more deeply and powerfully on her Buying Facilitation methodology. Her book 'What?' moves her concept into general communications and relationships.
Sharon Drew Morgen writes about processes and methods - explains how and why - and writes at the level of philosophy, and love and humanity. Sharon Drew Morgen is a genius. Her work is life-changing for everyone interested in effective communications - that's all of us - parents, teachers, lovers, corporate and national leaders, businesses, organizations, governments, and life-forms on other planets.
The wonderful organizational development model taken from Seattle's famous fish market
Fish! is based on the four principles of:
- make their day
- be there
- choose your attitude
Seminal management book, written in 1982 - (see the Tom Peters section, as this explains how the book was written and provides Peters' view on the book and how he'd write it today). With its classic eight themes for successful corporations, In Search Of Excellence remains the biggest selling and most widely read management book ever.
Virtually all of the great management and behavioural gurus, from Maslow to Peters, summarised in easy-to-digest format, including details of the books each has written. An invaluable trainer's aid, as well as a brilliantly practical reference work for all managers and business people.
The best introduction and modern guide to Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis theories. Absolutely fascinating, brilliantly written and explained. See the Transactional Analysis section.
By the founder of Transactional Analysis, a simple and illuminating book about people's behaviour. We all play these games. See the advanced Transactional Analysis section.
The remarkable book about transactional analysis, and follow-up. See the Transactional Analysis section.
If you're a manager and you've never read this then get hold of a copy immediately. It's only a little book, but my goodness it's one of the best. It will take you an evening to read it and it will change your thinking for ever.
An accessible and concise instruction and explanation of graphology. Understanding graphology helps you to understand yourself as well as others, and this book is an excellent help.
Maslow's defining work about self-actualisation and the hierarchy of needs. Possibly the most expensive paperback you will ever buy - let me know if you know a cheaper source. See the Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs summary and review.
Albert Mehrabian's work is widely referenced in many aspects of communications, and is the source of the famous and widely misunderstood 93% statistic relating to non-verbal signals. See the Mehrabian Theory summary review. For more information and to order the book go to Albert Mehrabian's website.
Katherine Benziger's work on personality and communications is pioneering and revealing. Her approach to psychometrics is honest and caring, and advocates sensitive and meaningful application of this potent science. See the Benziger Theory summary review.
This book is a fascinating account of the Blair leadership years and explains why he became one of the most reviled figures of modern times, and by implication why so many people have become disillusioned with politics. This book also tells the facts behind the headlines and the spin, and shows why we should all be more interested in what leaders do in our name. Blair was once a hugely popular leader. The book helps to explain in real terms why leadership must be built on ethics and honesty or it ultimately fails.
Nobel Prizewinner and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton, Stiglitz is a leading modern thinker on Globalization and governance. Driven by fairness and justice his previous book Globalization and its Discontents was also a best-seller. This 2006 book is full of facts, statistics and reasoning and is an excellent reference tool. It shows how historical Western thinking fails, and how business and politics need to change.
Considered by many to be the greatest book from the Holocaust, Night is an inspiring record of Elie Wiesel's experiences under the Nazis at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The lessons from Night, written in 1955, concern the survival of the human spirit through unimaginable terrors, and provide inspiration for self-determination and inner resolve. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work against violence, repression and racism.
This entertaining 2005 best-selling book is a collection of socio-economical questions and answers, creatively and scientifically interpreted. Using seemingly obscure subjects, the authors explore motivation and success - from individual and social standpoints - in a genuinely different and enlightening way. Notable sections explain the similarity between drugs traders and conventional business organisations; why it's often not a good idea to sell your house through an estate agent; how crime levels are more related to abortion laws than policing, and how people's names are linked to success in life.
The first popular and accessible commentary on the value of collective judgement. People in groups are remarkably effective in evaluating and deciding things, and the lessons in this book are immensely useful for managers and leaders. It's a counter-view to Sir Alec Issigonis' assertion that a camel is a horse designed by committee, although author James Suroweicki does explain that the key to collective wisdom is independent thought, which arguably most committees struggle to preserve. This book is relevant to life, management and organisations of all sorts. .
Paul McGee's guide to living a positive and successful life is easy and entertaining to read, practical to apply and modern in outlook and philosophy. This is a great book for anyone interested in making the most of their life. SUMO stands for Shut Up Move On.
Eunoia means 'beautiful thinking'. It's the shortest English word containing all five vowels. This book, which took seven years to write and was first published in 2002, is a remarkable literary work. Each of its five chapters contains words using only one of the five vowels. A uniquely strange and beautiful reading experience.
Written in the 6th century BC this is the earliest significant theory on military strategy. It was translated into French in 1772, English in 1905, and influenced many military leaders since these times, latterly also as a reference work in the strategy of business leadership and management.
The highly influential German-born philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788--1860) devised, among deeper concepts, a series of 38 tactics for beating an opponent in a debate. The words 'highly influential' are no exaggeration - Nietzsche, Einstein and Freud were Schopenhauer fans.
A 1937 classic self-improvement book, focused on making money, and probably the first best-seller of its type.
Emotional Intelligence theory pre-dated this 1995 book, and other valid interpretations exist, but Goleman's work made the theory widely accessible.See Emotional Intelligence summary.
Eckhart Tolle's best seller and hugely popular classic spiritual self-help book, first published in 1999.
Buscaglia's best selling 1972 book is based on his pioneering Love Class at the University of California. Buscaglia's ideas remain fundamentally relevant to modern life and our neglect of this essential life need. Born to Love is a lighter and equally beautiful follow-up. See love and spirituality at work.
Albert Ellis pioneered REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior/Behaviour Therapy). This book is a seminal work in the field of modern psychotherapy.
Erikson's Psycho-Sexual Life Stage Theory is an extremely helpful way to understand how people develop. This 1950 book first presented his significant ideas and Life Stage Theory. His other books offer amazing simple frameworks for understanding how we become who we are. See Erikson's Theory summary.
Dr Peale's 1953 classic book is the source of the famous 'power of positive thinking' expression. The thinking is devout and strongly faith-based. See assertiveness and confidence.
The 1969 bestselling book which spawned the expression 'The Peter Principle'. A wonderful ironic timeless view of organizations and management. See Peter Principle summary.
Edward de Bono is regarded as one of the most innovative thinkers of modern times. This 1985 book founded de Bono's now famous Six Thinking Hats methodology, used for positive thinking, teams and workgroups. Of his other books The Mechanism of the Mind is also accessible and well regarded.
Keirsey's well structured theory underpins his hugely popular Temperament Sorter personality profiling system. Contains self-analysis profiling tool. See personality styles and models.
There are hundreds of books about body language. This is a particularly good one. See body language for subject summary and guide.
A classic spiritual self-help book, and a calming antidote to the ceaseless pursuit of 'success' that affects most of us at one time or another. See stress management - very closely related subject.
Here mainly because these books are huge best-sellers which make us think about things differently..
The seminal 1959 book in the study of motivation in organizations. Contains the statistics from which Herzberg's developed his famous of Motivators and Hygiene Factors theory. See Herzberg summary.
The Classic 1969 book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, which has helped so many deal with personal loss, and which first announced Kubler-Ross's famous five stages of grief cycle. See the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle summary.
Charles Handy is one of the most enlightened writers on work. See the introduction to Charles Handy's ideas.
Dale Carnegie's 1936 classic self-help book, which became a fundamental reference for business and selling. Much of the core thinking applies in modern times. His organization has published an updated version for the modern age. See selling theory and methods for more background.
An extremely useful explanation of the wonderful 80-20 Rule - also known as the Pareto Principle. The 80-20 Rule is a much under-used method for success in life and work. See the Pareto Principle summary and guidance. This book is a revised version.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of the most spiritually warming and inspiring books ever written. Illusions also.
A classic study of leadership, in very readable format for a book written in 1513. The lessons are not all transferable to modern times, but many contain essential wisdom and resonance for leadership today. See leadership for related materials.
A timeless spiritual classic, full of simple lessons for life.
The original and seminal work of the founder of the Reiki System. Surprisingly accessible. Extremely concise. Fascinating and enlightening.
Leading happiness expert Richard Layard's research shows that as societies become richer, they do not become happier. Layard is one of the world's great authorities on the science of happiness.
This is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about the evolution of human sexual behaviour, and by implication, human motivation besides. This book is controversial and attracts criticism, but it's an excellent introduction to ideas about sex and mating and human attraction that need to be more widely understood.
Wonderful book about the evolution and spread of people around the world.
One of the most significant books ever written, Darwin's discoveries and theories about natural selection continue to provide the basis of modern evolutionary thinking. There are other editions of this book so shop around.
Fascinating controversial insight into relationships, particularly between the sexes, and what actually drives and controls human reproduction and behaviour. The evolutionary and physiological factors which determine man's and woman's procreational systems make surprising reading. Warning - sexually explicit.
Fascinating analysis and explanation about why we've evolved to be as we are, and compelling explanation as to why we behave the way that we do - requires some concentration but well worth it. Another incredible book that will completely change your views about people and life.
Recreational wordplay of all sorts. Utterly absorbing. Fascinating facts about words that you can use for training sessions, puzzles and quizzes, dinner parties and word games with friends. See the grammar and language glossary of curious words.
A hugely entertaining, interesting and informative book about the development of the English language. A gem on every page, and a terrific source of language trivia and fascinating facts. The book is also a superb perspective on the development of the English people, as well as the language.
First compiled by Ebenezer Brewer in 1870, this dictionary is especially fascinating if you can find a version/imprint/copy of the 1870 edition. Modern revised versions are useful and fascinating too but have lost much of the original historical language and references. Shop around. Look for the oldest version you can find if you are interested in the history of language and words.
Here some of the best books and dictionaries about word meanings, etymology (the history/origins of words), and sayings, expressions, idioms, cliches, etc.
Note that 'The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary' is a widely misunderstood title - it's actually a vast one or two volume dictionary (depending on the edition, in fact some old editions were four volumes) that can be bought very inexpensively used/second-hand, and typically in great condition. The 'Shorter' Oxford English refers to the fact that it is shorter than the full OED, which stretches to over 20 volumes) The 'Shorter' Oxford Dictionary contains fabulous information for every word, including the word history/etyomolgy. The Shorter Oxford edition shown below is the current very expensive edition, but shop around and you will find recent editions selling for pennies, really, and old editions can be especially useful for exploring word histories.