30 Book Recommendations From Iconic People (Must Read Books)
“The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.” — Mark Twain
You’re confused. You want to pick a good book that will change your life, but you don’t know which one to read since there are too many books recommendations out there.
Choosing a life-changing book to read doesn’t have to be a life-sucking task. I analyzed the book recommendations from some of the most iconic people in the world so you don’t have to.
For simplicity, I’ve only included the books in the self-help category that may change your life regardless of your age. Below, you’ll find the best life-changing books to add to your reading list. Each book recommendation comes with a small description so you can pick your next book to read according to your current interest, desire or need.
Top 10 Recommended Books on Success and Mindset
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” — Jim Rohn
Tim Ferriss introduces the idea of lifestyle design where he argues that you don’t have to work a 9–5 job and wait for retirement to enjoy your life. So if you want to escape your job and earn the freedom that comes from location independence, this book is perfect for you.
My favorite quote from The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich:
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” — Timothy Ferriss
When Victor was in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War, he shared his experience on how to cope with suffering and deal with adversity in life. If you’re struggling to find meaning in tough times of life, pick up this book right now.
My favorite quote from Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E. Frankl
The Alchemist is a tale of a man named Santiago who embarks upon his journey of following his dreams. On his path, he learns countless life lessons and discovers himself in the process. If you’re looking for an inspiring story to read, this book is a good choice.
My favorite quote from The Alchemist:
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” — Paulo Coelho
In this book, Ray Dalio discusses the key principles he has found through his experience in investing, management and economics that lead to success in life or business. If you want to know these timeless principles, read this book next.
My favorite quote from Principles: Life and Work:
“If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential” — Ray Dalio
The book highlights the commonalities between the “outliers” who are the most successful people in their field. If you want to become one of the best at what you do, this book is for you.
My favorite quote from Outliers: The Story of Success:
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” — Malcolm Gladwell
The book distinguishes between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. All successful people approach things from a growth mindset. If you think your potential and capabilities are limited, this book should be your next read.
My favorite quote from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” — Carol Dweck
Excellence comes from focusing on the essentials. This book forces you to eliminate distractions so you can do the things that matter. If you’re feeling distracted, leave everything and pick up this book.
My favorite quote from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” — Greg Mckeown
Every creative or artist faces what Steven Pressfield calls as resistance. If you want to succeed in your creative endeavor, you have to win the war against resistance. If you’re a creative fighting a similar war, this book will teach you how to fight the resistance.
My favorite quote from The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles:
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” — Steven Pressfield
Most people think that their dreams and ambitions are unreachable. This book teaches you to use the power of thinking to grow rich. If you’re thinking too small, read this book immediately.
My favorite quote from Think and Grow Rich:
“The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” — Napoleon Hill
The secret behind some of the most successful people on the planet is not luck or talent. It’s their ability to persist. This book emphasizes the importance of focused hard work and perseverance. If you dabble a lot, this book will help you achieve outstanding results through grit.
My favorite quote from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance:
“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” — Angela Duckworth
Top 10 Recommended Books on Happiness and Philosophy
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” — J.K. Rowling
Taoist philosophy can teach you to bring more peace, harmony, contentment, and balance in your life. The wisdom and principles in this book will help you learn the art of living well. If you’re seeking a peaceful and balanced life, grab this book now.
My favorite quote from Tao Te Ching:
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu
In this book, Ryan reminds us of the importance of humility and confidence while avoiding ego. Staying humble in your aspirations, gracious in your success and resilient in your failures are the core principles of this book.
My favorite quote from Ego Is the Enemy:
“Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.” — Ryan Holiday
We see obstacles as a hindrance on our way. We try to avoid them at all costs, and we feel discouraged when we face them. This book shows you that obstacles are not something to be afraid of. In fact, they need to be embraced and used as opportunities.
My favorite quote from The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph:
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” — Ryan Holiday
Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, one of the well-known stoics captured his philosophy in this book. It’s one of the most recommended books on stoicism that will help you understand the principles of stoicism. If you want to download the ancient wisdom of Marcus, get this book now.
My favorite quote from Meditations:
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
The story of Siddhartha is well-known for its insights on suffering, peace, wisdom, and enlightenment. Siddhartha’s story offers a unique perspective and great life lessons. If you’re interested in the life of Buddha and want to learn from it, add this book to your reading list.
My favorite quote:
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.” — Hermann Hesse
We’re all seeking to be happy after all, aren’t we? This book combines lessons from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and behavior economics to help you live a happy life. If you want to rewire your brain for happiness, this book should be your next pick.
My favorite quote from Stumbling on Happiness:
“The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future.” — Daniel Todd Gilbert
Stoicism is one of the most popular schools of philosophy that teaches us how to live a good life. This book is your guide to not wasting your life using the stoic philosophy. If you want to live a good life and you’re curious about stoicism, this book will guide you.
My favorite quote from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy:
“The best reason for adopting a philosophy of life, is that if we lack one, there is a danger that we will mislive.” — William Ervine
Self-judgment and self-criticism are the biggest obstacles on your way to self-acceptance and self-love. This book teaches you to accept and love yourself through the tales, teachings, and meditations from Tara Brach. If you struggle with self-sabotage, you need this book.
My favorite quote from Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha:
“Imperfection is not our personal problem — it is a natural part of existing.” — Tara Brach
The Essential Rumi is a collection of Rumi’s best poetry. These mystical and beautiful texts will teach you essential lessons about life and love. If you enjoy poetry that makes you think, you need to read this book.
My favorite quote from The Essential Rumi:
“What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.” — Rumi
This book reminds you to come back to the present moment. Our analytical mind is wired to travel to the past or future and to create false perceptions. If you’re looking for a spiritual dive, this book is perfect for you.
My favorite quote from The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment:
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” — Eckhart Tolle
Top 10 Recommended Books on Life Skills
“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” — Roald Dahl
This book teaches you to build a better future, create new things and start a business from scratch. If you’re starting from zero and have no idea how to start, this book will show you how.
My favorite quote from Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:
“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready–for nothing in particular.” — Peter Thiel
Whether it’s your career or your life, you need friends to excel in life. This book gives you the best advice on how to make and keep friends. If you want to improve your relationships or create new relationships, this book will show you the way.
My favorite quote from How to Win Friends & Influence People:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie
This book is worth reading several times because it’s the life and blood of intrapersonal (personal) and interpersonal (relationship) skills. If you want to improve your personal and social skills, you shouldn’t wait for a second longer to get this book.
My favorite quote from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change:
“Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”
— Stephen R. Covey
This book specifically focuses on the science and practices behind creating influence, which is a necessary life skill for everyone. If you want to be more persuasive, this book is your best choice.
My favorite quote from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion:
“We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided” — Robert B. Cialdini
Thinking is a skill that is based on two systems — System 1, which is fast, intuitive, and emotional and System 2, which is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. This book gives you unique insights to help you improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills.
My favorite quote from Thinking, Fast and Slow:
“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it” — Daniel Kahneman
In the modern world, focusing has become a rare and valuable skill. Deep work teaches you the skill of focused work without getting distracted. If you want to get better at focusing at your work or studies, you’ll find this book extremely useful.
My favorite quote from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World:
“Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.” — Cal Newport
Productivity is not just about getting more things done. This book reminds you to get the right things done. If you want to get better at managing your time, this book will change the way you operate.
My favorite quote from The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done:
“Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.” — Peter F. Drucker
Writing is not just for writers. It’s a form of communication that helps you think and present your ideas. This book not only teaches you the art of writing, but it also gives you great advice on life. If you want to improve your writing skills, this book is a must-read.
My favorite quote from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” — Anne Lamott
In this book, Atul reveals the power of keeping checklists to get the right outputs from your efforts consistently. If you want to systemize your work or life using checklists, this book will help you out.
My favorite quote from The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right:
“Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.” — Atul Gawande
Learning how to learn is a skill that sets you apart from the rest. Today, those who can learn faster and better are the ones who will adapt and excel. This book is for you if you want to take your performance and learning skills to the next level.
My favorite quote from The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance:
“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.” — Josh Waitzkin
Read Better And Smarter
That’s a wrap! I hope you found this list of best life-changing books of all time valuable.
There are tons of other books out there and there will never be a shortage of good books to read. So if you want to solidify your learnings and learn from the best, you must re-read or revisit these books. You can do that using your own notes and highlights or by using book summary apps.
I also have a guide on how I read smartly without wasting my time if you want to get the most out of your reading time. My favorite tool for revisiting notes and highlights is Readwise. And for book summaries, I love Blinkist and Optimize.Me.
The final point to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t learn just for the sake of learning. Take the time to actually apply the lessons into your life. For that, I create a daily success checklist that keeps me focused on my current daily habits and sets me up for high-performance and success.
You can grab the cheat sheet that will help you design your own daily success checklist for free by clicking here.
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase a book or service through my link, I get a commission. Thanks for your support.
Originally published at DesignEpicLife.com.