11 Life-Changing Books that Offer Invaluable Life Lessons

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Have you ever read a book that changed your life? I have, and I’m about to share a list of the best life-changing books on my bookshelf.  But, before I do, let’s take a moment to look at what you’re looking for in a book, as well as how you’d like your life to change after reading it. 

I believe in the power of books to do several things for us.  Books can inspire us, and they can plant seeds in the form of thoughts or ideas that grow to produce positive transformation in our lives.  Books can be entertaining, which is sometimes what we’re looking for.  Books can also give us a fresh perspective or help us shift our mindset so we can live happier, more fulfilling, more successful lives.  

I love a book that touches my mind and my heart at the same time. I adore books that teach me lessons I need to learn or open my eyes and my imagination.  Books have been there throughout my life to help me in so many ways.  Books have been my friends, teachers, mentors, and companions; they’ve comforted me when I was down and helped me climb higher in ways I never imagined possible.  Life-changing books resonate long after I’ve read the last word on the last page — their messages are woven into the fabric of my life.  

If you’re looking for a life-changing book, I hope you consider the reading list I’ve created here.  In  my opinion, the books on this list are so rewarding that I think everyone should read them. If by chance you have already read these, perhaps it’s time to reread a few.  I read several of these books each and every year.


TIP FOR THOSE WHO ARE SHORT ON TIME

 If you’re short on time for reading books, I suggest you do what I did: join Amazon’s Audible program and commit to listening to a book or two each month.  You can listen on your commute or while you’re doing house chores or exercising.

The Alchemist is my all-time favorite book. I read it (actually I listen to it) at least once a year. I’m not alone in loving this book.  More than 150 million copies have been sold and it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 300 weeks. The book has been translated into more than 80 languages, making it the most translated book for any living author.

On its surface, The Alchemist is a tale about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago’s travels to Egypt and the various life lessons he learns along his colorful journey. I agree with the NY Times who described The Alchemist as more self-help than literature; it’s a timeless parable that makes you rethink how you look at your world.

The lessons from The Alchemist that resonate with me include your fears are often bigger than the obstacles you face and focus on your journey instead of trying to live by someone else’s idea of what your journey should look like.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Your life will never rise above the quality of your habits. That’s why I love James Clear’s Atomic Habits book — it offers practical advice for how to raise the quality of your habits.

I’ve always felt somewhat ashamed for not being able to drop some of my bad habits. Clear explains it’s not that I lacked willpower, but rather my failure was directly related to the systems I used to both break bad habits and build more positive habits. My doctor recommended this book to me because I was struggling to break some unhealthy lifestyle habits; I’m so glad I got that recommendation.

If you want to change your life in any way, a good place to start is learning how to identify and break bad habits that aren’t supporting you and then create new habits that will help you live the life you want. James Clear shows you how to do just that.

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits

This short read from Don Miguel Ruiz poses four simple agreements, suggesting that if you live your life by agreements, it’ll improve the overall quality of your life. These agreements can be used as litmus tests for making decisions and life plans.  The agreements guide you when you’re stuck or confused about which direction to head; the agreements act almost like a compass for guiding you through your life. 

The four agreements are: 

  • Be Impeccable With Your Word
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally
  • Don’t Make Assumptions
  • Always Do Your Best

Don’t worry; sharing those agreements here isn’t really a spoiler. You need to read The Four Agreements to understand how these basic principles work, and I assure you, the book will open your eyes and touch your heart.

 “All the magic you possess is based on your word. Your word is pure magic, and misuse of your word is black magic.” – Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

If your life feels less fulfilling than you’d like, I recommend you read this short yet insightful book. Written by Parker Palmer, the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, Let Your Life Speak discusses how to live your life guided by your own inner compass and according to your own definition of success.  

It’s an excellent book for those just entering their professional lives, but it’s also a fantastic read for anyone ready for a new chapter. Palmer discusses why it’s essential to take a whole-self viewpoint, rather than just pick and choose what we like or dislike about ourselves. He also explains that your “calling” is not something an external source bestows upon you; it’s within you all along, but you must get quiet enough to hear it

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” -Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

You may be more familiar with Steven Pressfield as the famous fiction writer of books like The Legend of Bagger Vance or The Gates of Fire.  The Art of War is a nonfiction work by Pressfield that talks about the resistance people face when creating something new. 

Writers and entrepreneurs will especially enjoy this book, but in my opinion, The War of Art is helpful for anyone who’s ever wanted to create something in their lives regardless of whether that’s a new job or a new business, or anything else. Pressfield talks about the inner battles we all face when putting ourselves out there when we put our work out there where the world can judge it and us.  

Pressfield encourages readers to fulfill their potential and take control of their destinies. He shows us how to overcome procrastination, avoid burnout, and handle imposter syndrome. This book reminds us that we are here to give our gifts to the world and says leading a fulfilling life requires us to take risks and strengthen our determination to do what we know must be done. 

This book changed my life, and I’m not exaggerating.  The fact that you’re reading my blog right now is proof that my life changed because I wouldn’t have been brave enough to follow through and create this website if it weren’t for the lessons learned in The War of Art.

“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited to read this book because I didn’t like its title.  Why would I need to read a book that discussed eating, praying, and love (written by a skinny blonde lady; what would she know about eating?!). Then, friend after a friend read it and I felt left out, so I bought a copy to take along with me on a long plane ride. I laughed so hard, and people stared (it was a little embarrassing).  And, I cried a lot (again, embarrassing).  The struggles and lessons Gilber shared hit home for me, and her beautiful warm words deeply touched my heart.    

If you haven’t already read this book, do it. If you’re already read this book, reread it. I learn new lessons every time I read Eat, Pray, Love because each time I read it, I’m at a different place in life and am ready to receive lessons I wasn’t ready for before.  

NOTE: If you’re tempted to “cheat” and just watch the movie, don’t.  The movie doesn’t have half the emotional depth and life-changing advice that’s packed in the book.  I don’t blame Julia Roberts; she did her part.  It’s just too difficult to turn these kinds of books into movies.

 “We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”  -Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and philosopher.  He was also a Holocaust survivor.  Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, chronicles what he experienced as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II.  

Man’s Search for Meaning is both heartbreaking and unbelievably inspirational. Reading Frankl’s thoughts about life purpose, living a life of meaning, and claiming what power you do have even in the direst of circumstances is something you’ll never forget.  That’s why this is a must-read on this list of life-changing books.

 “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.” -Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The Untethered Soul is another New York Times best-seller on our list of best life-changing books.  You may have seen Michael Singer on an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, or perhaps you’ve seen his interview with Tony Robbins.  If you haven’t heard of Singer’s work yet, I recommend you get acquainted with it.

To be honest, I struggled a bit with this book at first.  I picked it and put it down more than once because it didn’t resonate with me the first few times I attempted to read it.  On the third try, a lightbulb went off; the book met me where I was, which was a time of near-constant change and challenge in my life.

In The Untethered Soul, Singer discusses why and how to e an observer of the voice inside your head so that you’re no longer enslaved by its nonstop (often negative) chatter, much of which is unhelpful and some of which can be destructive.  He discusses how our elaborate attempts at pain avoidance causes more pain than facing that which we think will cause us pain, but in fact, often helps us grow.  

Singer also shares ways to experience more freedom and happiness in our lives by changing how we define what happiness is and rethinking what it takes to live a happy life. The Untethered Soul is an inspiring book, but it’s also quite practical. It’s a book for everyone, but those currently struggling with difficult life situations or circumstances will find it particularly enlightening.

“If you’re willing to be objective and watch all your thoughts, you’ll see that the vast majority of them have no relevance. They have no effect on anything or anybody, except you. They are simply making you feel better or worse about what is going on now, what has gone on in the past, or what might go on in the future.” -Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

I miss Wayne Dyer so much; I used to look forward to his PBS specials and new books that seemed to arrive like clockwork every couple of years. While Dyer is no longer with us, thankfully he left us with plenty of timeless works for living happier and more fulfilling lives.  

My absolute favorite Wayne Dyer book is There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem.  This is another life-changing book that I read at least once a year.

What problem are you facing?  Financial? Career? Relationship? Health? Or something else?  In There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, Wayne Dyer guides you along the path for handling whatever you’re going through with a calm heart and a cool head. Dyer draws from several spiritual traditions to offer support and inspiration.

“You have everything you need for complete peace and total happiness right now.”  ― Wayne Dyer, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem  

Want an easy-to-use tool guaranteed to help you change your life for the better?  Then, grab a copy of Mel Robbins’ The Five Second Rule book because her five-second rule comes with incredible life-changing motivation.

The subtitle for the book is “Transform your life, work, and confidence with everyday courage.”  Robbins’ five-second rule moves you from doubt and hesitation to action, and therein lies its true power. Robbins explains that you need to apply the rule not just to big issues and circumstances but use the five-second rule as a daily habit whether you’re addressing something big or relatively small in your life.  Small acts practiced over time add up.  

“Change your decisions, and you’ll change your life. And what will change your decisions more than anything? Courage.”  – Mel Robbins, The Five Second Rule

Author Lysa TerKerust wrote Forgiving What You Can’t Forget to help you “discover how to move on, make peace with painful memories, and create a life that’s beautiful again.  This is another New York Times bestseller on our list of best life-changing books.

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget is a perfect book for those living with unresolved pain or having trouble moving on from some of the most difficult experiences and painful moments of their lives. The book helps you face your bottled-up resentments and deal with people who will not or cannot make amends or say they’re sorry.  

“Staying here, blaming them, and forever defining your life by what they did will only increase the pain. Worse, it will keep projecting out onto others. The more our pain consumes us, the more it will control us. And sadly, it’s those who least deserve to be hurt whom our unresolved pain will hurt the most.” -Lysa TerKeurst, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget

Thanks for Checking Out Our List of Life-Changing Books

I hope our list of life-changing books introduced you to some new inspirational, motivational, and practical books to read.  We have several other book lists that you might want to check out, too.

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