While it is still early in the new year, I want to compile this list of my top five non-fiction books that I suggest people try to tackle this year, or at the very least, add to their ‘to-read’ pile. These five books have been influential in my personal growth as an individual, my spiritual growth, my intellectual growth, and my career growth. I am hoping that these books also can do the same for you, offering you the tools, advice, and sometimes even just the lens to see the world around us differently. Non-fiction books are great because they challenge our assumptions at times, and at other times give us tangible examples to hold on to and shape into our own personal life. They provide us with intellectual food and nourish our creativity and perhaps even help us in our careers, two areas of which I talk about in my holistic health post. One way or another, these books help us to grow, yet not all of these books on this list are strictly in the category of “self-help.” If you would like to purchase any of these books, just click on the title or image of the book displayed, and it’ll take you to Amazon. I should mention that I am an Amazon affiliate, so I will get a small commission should you choose to buy anything, but it doesn’t mean that the price of the book is higher by any means.
The GOAT of all non-fiction books is, of course, the most mass-produced book in existence. With the full Bible being translated into 704 languages and selling over 100 million copies yearly, there is hardly any other book that has such an influence on individuals. While not specifically self-help, the Bible, especially the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, offer us great advice on how we can live our best lives. It is extremely difficult to get through, particularly the Old Testament, but it does offer many pieces of sage advice that we see propagated in other forms today. Many other books, tv shows, or pieces of art draw upon inspiration from the stories within the Bible.
No matter the question you have, the Bible has an answer for it. That is one of the reasons that I put it in first place for people to read. It is one of those books you cannot read in one sitting, and most likely will take you the entire year for you to read it (luckily, it’s only February now). I am currently reading it for my second time, but the first time it took me 9.5 months of dedicated reading time to finish it front to back.
The next reason I am including this book here is because it is one of those books so influential in lives that it demands a second read. A third read. A fourth read. Every single day! At least, this is what I do. I spend at least ten minutes every morning reading the Bible and putting Him first because He has given me everything that I have. I firmly believe that this action, in and of itself, is the reason why I am able to accomplish everything that I do every single day.
How to read it successfully:
If you have tried reading this book in the past but failed in your attempts, don’t dismay. Many people are like you. I tried reading it in high school only to quit in Exodus (the second book). There are a couple pieces of advice I want to give people who want to read this book but feel overwhelmed by its density.
- First, try starting with the New Testament. I suggest starting here because this is the part of the Bible that is most relevant for our lives today. This is what we are currently living, and the language is much easier to understand. Also, it is in this section we get the platitudes of Jesus, which many theologians would agree I imagine, is the most important part of the Bible.
- Second, download an app like “Bible Companion.” This will help you make sense of passages that make no sense. If you want to successfully read the Bible (meaning internalize what you are reading) this is a must. Not having this is essentially reading Ulysses by yourself. Impossible.
- Third, spend just a little time on it every day. Do not try to tackle too much at once. 10, 15, 30 minutes. This is all that you need. While it may not seem that you are getting anywhere, you are, and these little reading sprints will compound over time and allow you to finish this book.
- Fourth, approach the book with an open mind. I feel many people already have their own judgments about the book and the Bible in general. Many of these assumptions don’t hold any weight because they are made by people who have heard what it is about, but yet have never actually read it. Truly, I encourage you to read it with an open mind and start experiencing how God will be working in your life if you allow Him to, and you cry out to Him to help you.
It is so amazing that the second must-read non-fiction book on my list has been translated into over 50 languages and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. It is one of the reasons why I was able to read the Bible successfully. Atomic Habits helps break down habits into easily digestible pieces of advice. Compared to other habit books like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Clear expands upon those ideas and actually gives people formulas for how to instill better habits in their lives. He challenges the assumption that habits take only twenty-one days to form, citing evidence that it actually takes around sixty-six days to form a habit.
One of the key takeaways from this book is the idea of compounding little increments. Growing ourselves each day by 1%. By the end of the year, we will have had a 365% change of the person we are. In essence, we will be completely new. He gives this graph early in the book to show just how dramatic of a change this can be.
This concept is great to understand because many times we expect results instantaneously but don’t get them. We want the quickest solution to something, but sorry to say, folks, that isn’t usually practical. He shows another graph highlighting this common pitfall many of us experience.
And throughout the book it is just chalked full of useful, easy-to-understand advice, and that is why I have read it multiple times over. Clear talks about the useful idea of habit stacking and rewarding ourselves for our habits, changing them from a chore to a game.
For individuals who are struggling with building a great foundation for themselves this year, this is an easy-to-read book that you can devour again and again. When you start putting the advice offered in this book into practice, you will see just how productive and successful your life can be.
This was a very close third place as far as content goes with non-fiction books. In terms of translation, it actually surpasses Atomic Habits, being translated into 52 languages and has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. No doubt it is more ubiquitous than the previous book. Why, then, do I put it here?
The reason why I put it here instead of second place, though, is because Clear’s book is more digestible. It is for people who are looking to build habits. This book is more advanced and for people who are looking to mold their current habits or to cultivate a different frame of thinking. Think of this as your master’s course in habits and Atomic Habits as the bachelor’s degree.
In this book, Covey discusses seven habits that not only can lead to us being more productive but also help us in establishing boundaries, cultivating a new mindset, and overall living a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. To summarize, these seven habits are:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think Win-Win
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Sharpen the Saw
If the advice in this book is taken whole-heartedly and put to the test, these habits help us declutter our lives and allow us to hone into what really matters to us (put first things first). It allows us to see the bigger picture that all of those tiny habits we learned to cultivate in book two allows us to achieve. One of the greatest ideas it talks about is beginning with the end in mind. In essence, this is dealing with establishing priorities, something that is echoed in the Bible when it says in Mark 8:36 ,“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” It is a mindset shift that really helps us bring to focus what we want out of life. And it offers practical advice on keeping an orderly and balanced life through sharpening the saw, never neglecting the other areas of our health.
Like the other two, this book is lifechanging. And one of the best takeaways from this book is this little weekly schedule tracker that I suggest anyone looking to be more productive fill out on a weekly basis. If you want a PDF copy of this weekly tracker, let me know in the comments, and I will reach out to you.
A Milwaukee, Wisconsin graduate, Robert Cialdini is already in my heart, but this book was eye-opening. It isn’t necessarily self-help, but what is offered inside can definitely help people understand more about the world around them. Reading this book, and actually internalizing it, allows us to better know how people and companies try to manipulate us. It is so crazy just how companies phrase things in order to get us to do something. So crazy that you might even call it fiction, but I guarantee this is one of few non-fiction books that will have your jaw dropping. To write this book, Cialdini went undercover for three years, applying for training at telemarketing companies, used-car dealerships, and fund-raising organizations.
The book’s aim is to let you understand why we say ‘yes’ to many things. Cialdini explores this through six main principles:
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
This book is so popular it has been translated into over 30 different languages and sold over 3 million copies. To see a more in-depth look at this book, I suggest visiting a great summation of the book on medium which you can find by following this link.
Not nearly as popular as the others on this list, I include this one in the top five non-fiction books for different reasons. Unlike the other books, The War of Art is the easiest read in this list, not taking any longer than a few hours of solid reading. This means that you can read this book once and read it again whenever you need the motivation it provides. This leads me to the second reason it is included: it offers great motivation for the creative individuals. Being a highly creative individual myself, I absolutely love this book and I will recommend it to any creatives who are trying to push through writer’s block or a creative plateau.
In the book, Pressfield talks to you in plain and simple terms. He paints a picture for you of the many forms of Resistance we face in our day-to-day lives. This Resistance is what hinders us from meeting our creative potential. It is this Resistance we must overcome if we want to be true artists, and this Resistance comes in many forms. From procrastination, perfectionism, not prioritizing effectively, and more, Resistance is everywhere, and Pressfield’s writing lights a fire under our a** in order to go and get stuff done. If you have a few hours or need that extra push to achieve something, give this book a read.
How many of these books have you read? What would your list of the top five non-fiction books be? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts. I’d love to learn more about everyone’s favorite non-fiction books.