Out of hundreds, the editors of SUCCESS have narrowed our list to 25 must-read books for achievers. The task wasn’t easy, although our criteria were simple. These are books we’ve read, liked and that made a difference in our lives. We chose books that take a comprehensive approach to money, life and personal development because we know that one-dimensional success really isn’t success at all.
Related: 25 Quotes About Success
You might wonder why your favorite book didn’t make the list. Well, we could’ve filled the magazine with dozens more books. Our top 25 are by no stretch of the imagination the only books you should read. To the contrary, we know reading about and applying techniques and success strategies are the best ways to discover and stay focused on your life’s journey.
We hope our list opens your eyes to something new, inspires you to pick up that volume you’ve always meant to read or to re-read a favorite classic. If you have suggestions on what we didn’t include, we want to hear from you.
We encourage you to find a book that interests you and carve out a few minutes every day to read at least a few pages. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in your journey toward success!
1. How To Win Friends and Influence People
First published in 1937, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was an overnight success with staying power. Today, this book is regarded as one of the all-time best for its lessons on dealing with people.
The chapter titles seem, at first, a little manipulative: “Six ways to make people like you,” “12 ways to win people to your way of thinking.” But the reality of Carnegie’s teachings is that none will work if the intent is manipulation. The word “genuine” appears repeatedly throughout the book. Only with authenticity and honesty will Carnegie’s methods work consistently.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is packed with anecdotes from historical leaders and lessons learned or taught by some of history’s greatest businessmen, making the read as interesting as it is enlightening. And the methods–calling a person by his or her name or looking at the situation from the other’s point of view–work in business and in personal life with family and friends.
Carnegie’s book is a classic. Though he credits many people for inspiring his ideas, his methods are the foundation for many of today’s personal-development and business-management books.
2. The Richest Man in Babylon
Too often, life doesn’t turn out as expected. And money, or the lack of money, plays a large role in people’s ability to handle life’s ups and downs. Perhaps that’s why, in the 1920s, banks and insurance companies decided to distribute short parables written to educate people on important financial principles. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason began in 1926 as a series of pamphlets, the most famous ones later compiled into one of the best-loved money guides of all time.
The book begins with two men realizing that, while they lived a meager existence, one of their childhood friends had become known as the wealthiest man in Babylon. Despite growing up in similar circumstances, their friend seemed to have created a life of gold while they barely scratched out a living.
The situation is all too familiar even today. And like the men who’d come to the realization that they’d failed to think beyond the day at hand, readers have the opportunity to sit at the feet of the richest man in Babylon and learn how to build wealth. They learn how to plan for the future, make wise investments and how to view money as a tool rather than a measure of success.
With time-tested principles and an engaging format, The Richest Man in Babylon is an excellent introduction to finance, and a classic.
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3. Think and Grow Rich
Napoleon Hill, inspired by business legend Andrew Carnegie, spent 20 years of his life studying the lives of some of history’s most successful people. The culmination of his research was the in-depth series, The Laws of Success. In 1937, Hill published another book, Think and Grow Rich, founded on the same philosophies of success. This book condensed the wealth of knowledge he’s accumulated into 13 principles for successful living.
Shorter and perhaps easier to get through than its multivolume predecessor, Think and Grow Rich is as applicable today as it was when it was first released. The title’s principles are founded on Hill’s belief in the power of the mind, and his famous quotes, such as, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” have changed the way millions of people view their lives. When read in its entirety and its principles put into action, Think and Grow Rich not only helps people change their views on life, but also the way they behave and, ultimately, their reality.
More than 30 million copies of Think and Grow Rich have been bought by business students, entrepreneurs and goal-setters around the world. When it was re-released in 2004, it rocketed once again to the top, holding a place on BusinessWeek’s Best Seller list for paperback business books for more than 20 months.
Think and Grow Rich is a timeless classic that should be read by everyone interested in improving their lives and reaching their goals.
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4. The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying
Suze Orman (Crown, 1997) As a financial expert, Suze Orman offers advice on the nuts and bolts of managing money. But whether you’re watching her on television or reading her advice in O, The Oprah Magazine, or in one of her best-selling books, such as 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, her message is clear: Wealth is an attitude and money isn’t the key to acquiring true financial freedom.
In this acclaimed book, Orman challenges readers to face their financial fears and acknowledge the importance of planning for the future. With a three-pronged approach, Orman tackles the mental, physical and spiritual issues that keep people from reaching financial freedom. Also available in audio format, 9 Steps to Financial Freedom encourages personal growth while offering the education necessary to begin the process of building a rich life.
Again, it’s the total approach to financial success that sets this and the other financial books on this list apart. Acquiring wealth isn’t as simple as piling up the green stuff. Your beliefs about money, yourself and the world around you have as much to do with wealth as do the riches you acquire.
5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
While Stephen Covey wasn’t the first to write a book on becoming a better, more effective person, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People marked the beginning of a revitalized interest in personal development. With a 15th anniversary edition released in 2004 and more than 15 million copies sold, this book has helped millions change their perspective and their lives.
Unlike many authors of books in this genre, Covey doesn’t promise a simple, quick fix for creating a better life. In fact, mastering the seven habits he outlines could take a lifetime. But as with many personal-development efforts, it’s what you learn as you work toward becoming a truly effective person that matters.
The habits are divided into three sections: Private Victory, Public Victory and Renewal. Private Victory focuses on the individual’s view of himself. The first three habits are: becoming proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first. These habits will challenge you to take responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs and actions. The Public Victory section focuses on creating meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. And because being effective requires energy and focus, the seventh habit, “Sharpening the Saw,” encourages you to engage in activities that promote mental and physical renewal.
Covey says that when our behavior contradicts our beliefs or when our relationships consistently fail, any successes we achieve feel hollow. This book takes a total approach to success and encourages growth and maturity beginning with self, which leads to stronger relationships and greater success at home and at work.
Purchase The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in the SUCCESS Store.
6. Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives
Dan Millman (HJ Kramer, 2006) The first of Dan Millman’s writings, this book is an inspirational story based largely on his college years. The book delves into the notion that a person can be accomplished and successful without feeling alive or genuinely happy.
Millman learns “the way of the peaceful warrior” from a mysterious old man he names Socrates. His mentor leads him through a journey of self-discovery. The lessons the young man endures and later accepts are applicable for anyone searching for greater meaning in life.
7. The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill (Combined Registry Co., 1966) Twenty-six years of research, including interviews with more than 500 self-made millionaires, laid the foundation for this massive collection. After studying the methods and accomplishments of masterminds such as Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt and Alexander Graham Bell, Napoleon Hill compiled what he learned, offering it to the world as the Laws of Success.
More than theories for a book, Hill applied the precepts to his life and discovered immeasurable success. The book’s size might seem intimidating, but Hill wrote so it could be taught to high school students, keeping the text rich but easy to understand. This personal-development guru paves the road to success with timeless wisdom.
8. Acres of Diamonds: All Good Things Are Possible, Right Where You Are, and Now!
Russell H. Conwell (Filiquarian, 2007) Opportunities for success, wealth and happiness often lie under foot and yet go unnoticed. This little book, originally a speech by Russell Conwell, serves as a reminder not to overlook the abundance right on our doorstep.
This timeless work is freely available online, in both written and audio formats, and addresses the myth that fame and fortune are waiting somewhere “out there.” He also dispels the notion that men and women of integrity shouldn’t desire money or wealth. “Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it,” Conwell said. And to that end, he advises readers to begin searching for the diamonds in their lives… at home.
9. As a Man Thinketh
James Allen (Filiquarian, 2007) Published in 1902, “This little volume” as James Allen refers to it, has been a source of inspiration for millions and has influenced the work of many respected personal-development leaders. And with statements such as, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors, that which it loves, and also that which it fears,” Allen paved the way for many contemporary philosophers.
At its core is the belief that “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Allen uses eloquent period language to bring readers to the realization that thoughts and character are inseparably intertwined. Equally as important is the lesson of personal responsibility taking precedence over thoughts and actions. He prescribes focused time to reflect and discover yourself and your dreams, and to put forth energy and time to make those dreams reality. This book, now in the public domain and freely accessible on the Internet, should be in every achiever’s library.
10. Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills That Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed
Brian Tracy (Simon & Schuster, 1995) As suggested by this book’s subtitle, “Strategies and skills that will unlock your hidden powers to succeed,” it’s likely you already possess what’s required to create success in your life. Those who apply these strategies provided by Brian Tracy can make changes that quickly produce results.
Learn how to create success that encompasses every area of life-health, personal and professional happiness, relationships and wealth. Whether you’re already on the road to success or just getting started on your success journey, the principles outlined in the book will help you realize your true potential. Build the life you want and attain the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that you control your destiny.
11. The Seasons of Life by Jim Rohn
Jim Rohn & Ronald Reynolds (Jim Rohn International, 1981) In The Seasons of Life, Jim Rohn and Ronald Reynolds draw parallels between life and the changing seasons. When you learn that change is the only guarantee, you can make the most of each season as it comes into your life.
It’s possible to learn and grow from every experience. The authors help readers understand that every season is necessary and valuable-even winter, when life seems harsh and your actions unfruitful.
12. See You at the Top
Zig Ziglar (Pelican Publishing Company, 2000) There’s room for you at the top! Zig Ziglar’s message has inspired millions to change their lives by helping them do, be and have more than they dared dream possible.
Ziglar offers a nuts-and-bolts approach to developing the self-image, attitudes and habits that make people successful. Learn how to set and achieve goals, how to create momentum that propels you forward in life and why being focused on others is a critical aspect of success. This step-by-step guide will help you excel in every area of life.
13. The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz (Pocket Books, 1995) Thinking big separates the achievers from the average. In this best-selling classic, David Schwartz suggests that it’s not necessarily intelligence or work ethic that move people up the ladder of success, but the personal choice people make to believe that something bigger and better is possible.
Make time to reflect on your life’s goals and expand them. Once you have a clear picture of what you want, focus your energy on achieving that goal. Keep your eyes fixed on your goal and do not allow the small thinking of the world around you to cloud your vision. Schwartz offers practical advice for putting the magic of thinking big to work in your life.
14. The Power of Positive Thinking
Norman Vincent Peale (Fireside, 2007) The belief that positive thoughts lead to a positive reality isn’t a new phenomenon. Decades before The Secret, Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. The book teaches readers that focused, intentional and unyielding belief is required before they can achieve the lives they desire.
The philosophies from this best-selling book have helped millions reach their personal, financial, spiritual and relationship goals. Learn to replace negative thoughts with positive beliefs and to break the worry habit by cultivating a character that isn’t swayed by circumstances.
15. Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!
Anthony Robbins (Free Press, 1992) Within each person is a sleeping giant of greatness. With this book, motivational coach Anthony Robbins seeks to help you “take immediate control of mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny.”
Not one to do things in a small way, Robbins found huge success, lost it all and then, using the techniques outlined in this book, took control of his life and his success. This personal-development classic delves into the specifics of goal-setting, achieving success in relationships, talking to yourself and discovering your true potential.
16. Developing the Leader Within You
John C. Maxwell (Thomas Nelson, 2005) Developing the Leader Within You makes the theories of leadership personal. For those struggling to take the next step in their careers or who doubt their leadership abilities, the book offers practical methods for developing leadership skills.
Recognizing that some people have innate leadership-personality traits, the book provides direction for becoming more effective. But John Maxwell’s book debunks the myth that only an exclusive few are born to be leaders. Instead, he suggests that everyone benefits from learning self-discipline, seeking mentors and adding to their skills through training.
Maxwell defines leadership as influence and points out that a management title isn’t a prerequisite. Regardless of your career, position or personality, learn how to become an effective leader.
17. The One Minute Manager
Kenneth Blanchard (HarperCollins Business, 2000) Apply the principals taught in The One Minute Manager and watch your team’s productivity and job satisfaction grow. This allegorical tale pulls together the wisdom gained through experience, allowing readers to prosper without making their predecessors’ mistakes.
The One Minute management style allows leaders to be efficient and effective with their time. The short chapters in this easy read focus on interaction between managers and their teams. By setting goals that encourage, redirecting, reprimanding and praising appropriately, leaders can get more from their teams while earning their respect.
18. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
Jim Collins (Collins, 2001) If good is the enemy of great, can good companies become great? And if so, how is that transition made with lasting effect? These are some of the questions central to the research that led to the publication of Good to Great.
Five years of investigation uncovered the characteristics that made uncommonly great companies outshine their competition and earn significantly higher profits. Comparing the differentiating traits of good companies and their great counterparts, Jim Collins and his research team learned that, among other things, leaders who willingly work with their heads and hearts, rather than their egos, are required to take a company from good to great. Such leaders create the foundation for the culture and sustainable results that propel an organization to excellence.
19. The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich
David Bach (Broadway, 2003) Who wouldn’t want to become a millionaire automatically? The truths related in this book, as in Bach’s Finish Rich series, are that nothing great is accomplished without forethought. But with a little planning and by putting many aspects of your finances on autopilot, you can be on the road to wealth.
The automatic aspect plan allows readers to save time while saving money. And though many of the principles aren’t new, Bach’s easy-to-understand approach helps the reader understand them in a new way. Some of the highlights include principles such as paying yourself first, and advice about why and how to save for retirement-even if you’re hard-pressed to make ends meet now. Bach also provides advice for accomplishing short-term savings goals and explains that giving is an important part of wealth.
20. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Robert T. Kiyosaki (Time Warner Paperbacks, 2002) The paradigm shift related to work, employment and entrepreneurship has been a long time coming. In one of his most-read books, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki reveals the value of taking control of your financial destiny through entrepreneurship and investing.
In Rich Dad Poor Dad, Kiyosaki contrasts the differences between what the rich and the poor or middle classes teach their children. As a young man, Kiyosaki was taught by his “poor dad” to follow the path of least resistance: Get an education, get a job and work hard. His “rich dad,” his friend’s dad, mentored him to do the opposite. The book acknowledges education is important but it isn’t always best received in a formal learning environment. Lessons include the value of self-employment, how to be self-employed without limiting yourself to the constraints of an employee, and how to create and take advantage of residual-income opportunities. Instead of working hard for money, use the principles in this book to make money work for you.
21. The Greatest Salesman in the World
Og Mandino (Frederick Fell Publishers, 2001) Ten ancient scrolls hold the key to wealth and happiness in this classic parable. A young camel boy wishing to improve his station in life takes his master’s words to heart: “No other trade or profession has more opportunity for one to rise from poverty to great wealth than that of a salesman.” Desiring success and wealth, the young man sets out to become the greatest salesman in the world.
This pocket-sized book can be read easily in an hour, but it’s packed with wisdom for those pursuing a career in sales. Far more than a how-to book on closing the sale, the story encourages the reader to contribute to society and to grow in peace of mind and in heart. Those who apply the principles in the scrolls will learn how to overcome the challenges of sales, how to persist through trials and, ultimately, how to succeed.
22. The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource: Including The 10.5 Commandments of Sales Success
Jeffrey Gitomer (Wiley, 2003) Jeffrey Gitomer has an extremely low tolerance for lamenting salespeople and that comes through in the bold and fast-paced tone of his books. The Sales Bible puts more than 100 sales facts, tips and solutions at your disposal to help you “make sales while others are whining!”
This book magnifies the details of every aspect of sales. Learn the basics and understand how recent changes in selling affect you and your pitch. Discover the keys to setting yourself apart from the competition and finding your prospect’s button. The table of contents is designed to help you quickly identify specific topics. Or just start reading from cover to cover for an excellent education from someone who knows the profession from the inside out.
23. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Dr. Spencer Johnson (Vermilion, 2002) For many people, change can be challenging. It can cause fear, anger and the feeling of being out of control. This popular parable examines change and what happens to those who choose not to embrace it.
“If you do not change, you can become extinct,” is one of the many truisms the characters learn in Who Moved My Cheese? What’s holding you back? Are you taking note of small changes that could lead to more significant changes in the future? In the maze of life, it’s possible to successfully deal with change if and when you clear your mind of expectations and understand that while your comfort zone may be cozy, it’s not necessarily the safest place to live.
24. Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, with other contributors (Health Communications Inc., 1993-2008) Need inspiration? The phenomenal success of Chicken Soup for the Soul offers inspiration on many levels. From the tenacity it took to get the first Chicken Soup for the Soul published (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected by 140 publishers and their book agent before finding a publisher willing to take a chance on their idea) to the thousands of touching and thought-provoking stories, these books will warm your heart and may help you view life from a new perspective.
The original Chicken Soup for the Soul went to the top of the best-seller list in less than a year. Today, one or more of the Chicken Soup books is consistently listed on the New York Times and other major best-sellers lists.
As an entrepreneur, parent or business leader, staying at the top or your game requires regular jolts of passion and healthy doses of laughter. Find both by picking up a copy on a topic that interests you. With more than 170 titles in the series, you’re sure to find one that inspires you.
25. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude
Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone (Pocket Books, 1991) Success through a Positive Mental Attitude was first published in 1960, written by two of history’s greatest personal-development leaders, Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. For almost half a century, this book has been the launching point for those who want to change the direction of their lives.
Hill and Stone recognize that each person has their own definition of success. But whether your desire is to build great wealth, own profitable organizations or be a world-renowned artist, the authors point out, “You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying. Success is achieved and maintained by those who keep trying with a [positive mental attitude].”
This book addresses all areas of life. From getting the job you want to building better relationships with those around you to living healthier longer (Stone lived to be 100 years old!), this book takes an inclusive approach to success, beginning with your state of mind.
Why a must-read? When you’re looking for advice on how to create a successful and rewarding life, why not get the answers from those who have “been there, done that?” These thought leaders and business experts used the principles of positive mental attitude and experienced a lifetime of rewards.