My All Time Favorite Self-Development Books

This is a blog post I’ve been asked to write so many times, and I am so happy to finally be writing it for you!

I know that so many of you are looking to become more self-aware, or are wanting to work on some area of your life, and finding the right books can be a key step in that journey.

I also know that there are SO many “self-help” books out there, and it can feel overwhelming to know which ones to read.

Plus, indulging in too many of these books can often be fueled by a feeling that you’re broken or that someone else knows better about how to live your life than you do.

Before I dive into the actual books, I want to take a second to address how and when to shop for these kinds of books. Here are a few pointers / thoughts about this:

  • You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. Be careful about looking to these kinds of books to “fix you”.
  • YOU have your answers. Yes yes yes, you do. There have been many times that I’ve done the whole “let me get another diet book” thing, but for other areas of my life, too. For instance, when I was struggling with dating, there was a time that I bought books that would teach me how to “attract a man” or “be feminine”, or something along those lines. I realized that taking in that material was just like taking in another diet – I was looking to someone else to tell me how to be successful in some area of my life. Sure, it’s great to gain inspiration, but just notice where you are looking SO much to the outside, and not enough to your own, internal guidance.
  • The right books should inspire you. They should hit on a truth that you already know deep down, and help you bring it to life.  They should feel GOOD to read.
  • If your intuition is screaming at you to STOP reading self-development books and to go read a freakin’ novel, listen! There have been so many times that I felt like “enough is enough. I just want to live my life and enjoy myself without always working on something”, and so I would do just that. Take breaks if you feel inclined. And come back to these books when you 100% feel ready and excited about it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way… moving on! I am going to organize these the best I can by categories, but please know that there is so much overlap with all of this stuff. For instance, “mindset” books can be applied to just about any area of your life.

Here we go…

My favorite books for intuitive eating / relationship with food / body image:

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works: I found this book after a huge binge in the summer of 2007. I was desperate and disgusted with myself. I went to Barnes and Noble at 10pm in NYC and was looking for my next “diet book” that would tell me how to eat and “fix” my food problem. This book caught my eye, and from the moment I read the blurb, something in me said “This is what you need.” The point of Intuitive Eating is getting back to YOU and your own answers around food. It’s stripping away all the BS you’ve taken on in your mind since you were a kid about food. I knew, deep down, that what this book was talking about was what my soul had been yearning for for years. I stayed up all night reading this. It changed my life. *Side note: the first time I tried to implement this, I couldn’t. I was still too reliant on food for emotional support. But, I still knew it was the right path for me, I just needed time to get there. Eventually, I returned to this book and was able to use it to guide me back to myself around food.

How Much Does Your Soul Weigh: Diet-Free Solutions to Your Food, Weight, and Body Worries: This was recommended to me by my first health coach and I loved it.

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight: I think this is such an important book for all women to read. It debunks a lot of what we are told about what it means to be “healthy”. A great book for someone struggling with their body image.

The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss: What I remember most from this book was learning the science behind something that I was intuitively discovering: that when you are in a state of pleasure, your body actually metabolizes food differently. This explains a lot about the phenomenon many of us have experienced where you go on vacation and eat “whatever you want” and don’t gain weight, yet when you try so hard to rigidly lose weight, you don’t lose weight. A lot of interesting nuggets in this book.

Self-Esteem / Self-Acceptance / Mindset:

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself: Guys. I just think every single person should read this book. Life. Changing. I use what I’ve learned in this book every single freakin’ day. Learning to treat myself, talk to myself and BE with myself in a compassionate way is a total game changer. I couldn’t have the business I have, be in the relationship I am in, or be as happy as I am without  knowing how to be compassionate toward myself, my shortcomings, my mistakes, my failures, and my faults. But I had NO idea what this even meant before I read this book (and went to a lot of therapy, lol!). So many of us walk around being SO hard on ourselves and having no clue how to “mother” ourselves. This book teaches all of that, and I wish people learned this in school. These are actual life skills that we are not taught, but they are so so important to learn.

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams: Another one that I will continue to refer back to for probably my entire life. I liked this book so much that I actually went to one of the in-person retreats that the author’s Institute holds (I HIGHLY recommend these events – I went to one at Kripalu). This book helps you DEEPLY know yourself and look at all parts of who you are – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that you can arrive at full self-acceptance. When we walk around not wanting to look at our “shadow” qualities (the ones we don’t like), we actually end up being controlled by them and held back by them. But when we make peace with them, we can feel so much more free to be exactly who we are. Plus, the book focuses a ton on relationships with others – when we can accept ourselves fully, we can then accept others too. This is great for anyone who is ready to stop fighting who they are and instead fully accept themselves, OR someone who is struggling to accept parts of someone close to them (a parent, a partner, etc.).

Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles: When I went through my awful breakup a few years ago, I carried this book around in my purse. Literally. It was like my safety blanket. Gabby Bernstein is a brilliant spiritual leader, speaker, and author. I really recommend every single one of her books (I have them all), but this one particularly stuck with me. Gabby focuses so much on how we can either choose to live aligned with our fear (ego) or with love (our higher self). It was Gabby who first opened me up to the idea that my thoughts aren’t necessarily real, they are just thoughts. This was a total light bulb, turning point moment for me. My thoughts that my body is not thin enough to be loved aren’t necessarily real? They are just thoughts? My thoughts that I am not pretty enough are not real? They just come from my head? Her work really led me down the path to questioning my thoughts, examining my stories and beliefs, and cleansing my thought patterns.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead: Vulnerability is so damn hard, but it makes life so much better. I am so glad that I read and integrated Brene’s ideas in this book – they have changed the game for me in terms of how I show up in relationships and with myself. And with vulnerability comes intimacy and the kind of deep love and connection we all crave. If you’re someone who is scared to be seen, to fully show up for yourself and others, to speak from your heart, or to listen to others, even when what they say may hurt, I would recommend digging into this book and Brene’s work.

Relationships / Dating:

Calling In “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life: One of my coaches recommended this years and years ago, and I thought it was just brilliant. This book really goes deep with you about what you want, what beliefs could be stopping you from having what you want, and so much more. It approaches “calling in a relationship” from the right place, in my opinion – it’s all about YOU and what’s going on for you, internally. An extremely thought provoking, beautiful book.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love: AH! One of the best books I read in terms of relationships. This book talks about 3 different attachment styles: anxious attachment, healthy attachment, and avoidant attachment. I was experiencing a lot of “anxious attachment” symptoms and someone recommended I read this book. Sure enough, I teeter on the line of healthy and anxious attachment, but I definitely experience anxious attachment style much of the time. By reading this book, I felt SO incredibly UNDERSTOOD and validated. I used to feel a lot of shame for feeling “anxious” when dating, and would pound my fists against the wall trying to get my anxiety to stop. I hated this part of me. When I read this book, I finally understood myself, felt far less alone, and learned to accept and live WITH my anxiety. I started approaching dating SO differently and it was extremely liberating to just be like yes, I have anxious attachment style, how can I work with this? I also started sharing this in relationships (vs. hiding it) and it felt so freeing!

The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire: Okay, this one is kind of geared towards men, but ladies… I have never ever felt so understood as I did when I read this book. Also, when Ryan and I were just friends, we got into a discussion one day about masculine vs. feminine stuff, and I bought him this book to read. We joke now that I was foreshadowing and secretly wanted him to read it just in case we ever dated. But he read it… every single page (HOT. I think this made me like him even more). And he learned a TON from it. Now, in our relationship, we reference this book all the time, and we have a greater understanding of each other since we both read it. The book is kind of a guide for men, and helps them excel in work and intimate relationships. And of course, it talks a lot about what women deeply want and need from men, why we are the way we are, what is actually going on when we get “stormy”, and a lot of differences between the masculine and feminine. As a woman reading it, it’ll also give you a TON of insight into men and how they work. I just highly, highly recommend men and women read this book!! Also, David Deida is a genius and has written other books as well (and has tons of audio lectures you can listen to).

Living life:

The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul: This book is one I return to over and over again. The reason I love this one SO much is because Danielle LaPorte really stresses how important it is to design a life that is making YOU happy. Not anyone else. Not the way your parents think life should look or the way your friends are doing life. This book focuses first on “How do you want to FEEL in your life?” and then looks at “okay, given that, how do you want to design your life to help you FEEL that way?”. It gets you out of the whole “get married, buy a house, have kids, get promoted, yada yada yada track” because you think certain things will make you happy and it really helps you dig deep into finding what will truly make you feel how you want to feel in your life. Such a great book to come back to over and over and over again in our lives!

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: I love the concept of this book because in a world where we are becoming increasingly bombarded with outside “stuff”, it helps us refocus on what’s important. What’s truly the best use of our time and energy? What is essential to our success and happiness? I think most of us can agree that we feel quite overwhelmed with life on a pretty regular basis, so this book helps teach us how to focus on what’s truly important, in both a work setting and in our personal lives.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing: Many of you know how much I love this book and how much it has truly changed the way I handle my possessions! Marie Kondo’s book had a major impact on me when I read it several years ago. Her philosophy around what possessions to keep and get rid of centers around one main premise: keep what truly brings you joy, and get rid of the rest. She’s talking about possessions, but she’s really talking about so much more in this book. We keep so much “stuff” around in our homes and lives that doesn’t truly make us happy (even if it once did at some point), and she really pushes us to let things go – physically and metaphorically. Letting go is NOT easy, and in her book, she addresses why we have such a hard time letting go of things. Her book completely changed the way I shop, the way I design my home, and also the way I live my life every day. She really helped me align more with my JOY and let it guide me more in my life.

So, that is a summary for you. Of course, I have read and loved a lot of other books, but I wanted this list to be concise and a culmination of my absolute favorites.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear, what is your favorite self-development book that has had the biggest impact on you?

Love,

Jamie

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  1. I haven’t read all of these books, but love a majority of them! For life, I love The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and for relationships I LOVED Meeting Your Half Orange by Amy spencer. Both were game changers for me! Thank you for sharing these books. I’m def putting them on my reading list.

  2. Camille Krupa says:

    Love the list. Thanks for sharing. Am definitely going to check out Intuitive Eating.

  3. Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley has had so far the biggest impact in my life and changed it dramatically. I always have it in my nightstand next to my bed.

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