best motivational booksbest motivational books
HappyCoders Glasses

Best Motivational Books
(Updated 2024)

Sven Woltmann
Sven Woltmann
Last update: March 6, 2024

To overcome the challenges and obstacles we face throughout our lives, inspirations from motivational books can nudge us forward.

You want to motivate others? Then take a look at the book recommendations on the psychology of persuasion and books on negotiation techniques.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

the subtle art of not giving a f*ck - mark manson

by Mark Manson

Link to the book at Amazon

We are confronted daily with beautiful and rich people, with superstars, with advertisements for expensive cars and other luxury goods. We worry about who we are and what we have, and – more importantly for many – what others think about who we are and what we have. For many people, this leads to great dissatisfaction.

Mark Manson shows that it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of worrying about everything, we should think about what is really important to us in life and focus on that. And – to use the author’s vulgar language – we should give a f*ck about everything else.

Some things are simply the way they are and cannot be changed. If we accept that and our limits, we can find strength and happiness in other things.

The book is thought-provoking. At the same time, the author’s relaxed manner and numerous anecdotes make it highly entertaining. The language and humor are quite vulgar, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone after reading the book’s title.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes!

Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential

Mindset - Carol Dweck

by Carol S. Dweck PhD

Link to the book at Amazon

Why do some people thrive throughout their lives and succeed in all its areas while others stagnate in their development?

Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford and one of the leading experts on motivation theory, has pursued this question in years of research.

The surprising result:

Not talent or intelligence are decisive for a person's development, but their "mindset". The author distinguishes between the "fixed mindset" and the "growth mindset".

People with a fixed mindset believe that qualities, talents, and intelligence are unchangeable. You either have them, or you don't. They need constant affirmation and like to be in groups where they are the best.

When faced with difficulties and failures, they become insecure, lose motivation, and give up quickly. They often blame others for mistakes.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that personality, talents, skills, and intelligence can be constantly developed and that they can achieve high goals with practice and effort.

Mistakes and failures motivate these people to identify areas for improvement and actively close the gaps by pursuing further education and developing their personalities.

No one is a wholly fixed or growth type – both mentalities coexist in varying degrees in each of us.

We can learn to recognize on a situational basis when we are in the fixed mindset and how to shift into the growth mindset.

Using numerous stories from different areas of life, the author illustrates how ordinary people have achieved great things with the right mindset.

The book provides many practical tips for self-development and – for parents and teachers – for promoting the growth mindset in children, such as praising effort and improvement rather than intelligence and talent.

Despite its academic background, the book is easy to understand and reads smoothly. It inspires reflection on one's own mindset and sparks the desire to grow beyond oneself.

Author's Ted Talk: The power of believing that you can improve

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes!

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit - Angela Duckworth

by Angela Duckworth

Link to the book at Amazon

Like so many others, psychology professor Angela Duckworth has set out to find the secret of success.

After years of research, she is confident that it is not intelligence, talent, or the conditions under which a person grew up alone that determine their success, but rather a combination of passion and perseverance, which the author terms "Grit".

Talent is relevant, but the key to success lies in the effort one puts into a task. The more Grit, the more sustained effort. Effort leads to building and improving skills. The use of those skills, in turn, leads to success.

Grit is not static. The author presents numerous practical strategies and tips for developing and improving Grit in oneself and for teaching and promoting Grit in others (especially one's children and in schools).

The book is engaging and easy to read. Scientific insights are complemented with personal anecdotes from the author and numerous unusual and inspiring stories from sports and academia.

A recommendation for all who strive for fulfillment and success – and for all parents and teachers to foster Grit in children and students.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes!

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive - Daniel H. Pink

by Daniel H. Pink

Link to the book at Amazon

In his best-selling book "Drive", science writer David H. Pink draws on more than half a century of research to explore the question of what motivates people and the extent to which this is taken into account in today's workplace.

Shockingly, most employers rely on extrinsic motivation, i.e., to increase their employees' work performance through external incentives. External incentives can be rewards, such as bonuses, but also punishments, such as pay cuts or job loss.

However, research shows that such incentives often have the opposite effect: Rewards can lead to narrowed focus, short-term thinking, and unethical behavior. Time and again, we hear about CEOs of public companies using accounting tricks to increase short-term stock market value just to secure their bonuses.

What actually drives people to peak performance in the long term is intrinsic motivation, which is based on the following three principles:

  • Autonomy: the freedom (within certain limits) to decide when, with whom, and how one reaches given goals.
  • Mastery: to continuously improve one's skills through challenging tasks.
  • Purpose: to serve a higher goal than just making money.

The author presents numerous examples where intrinsic motivation is far superior to extrinsic motivation: Wikipedia (compared to the Microsoft Encyclopedia discontinued in 2009), open-source software, and employee-initiated products, such as Post-Its and Gmail.

The scientific experiments and findings are presented entertainingly and easy-to-follow, making the book an enjoyable read.

Let's hope that numerous entrepreneurs will read it and create frameworks to spark more intrinsic motivation among their employees.

Most readers will probably find few surprising insights in this book; however, it can help better understand one's own motivation and see past or upcoming decisions more clearly.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

willpower - roy baumeister, john tierney

by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Link to the book at Amazon

In their best-selling book, Willpower, social psychologist Roy Baumeister and journalist John Tierney explore the influence of willpower and self-control on our lives, success, and well-being and how we can manage our willpower to our advantage. 

With every decision we make throughout the day, we deplete energy. The less energy our brain has available, the more difficult it becomes for us to make further decisions. At the same time, we have less control over our emotions and needs and become more easily irritable. 

Instead of actively deciding, we act impulsively, rely on our habits, and tend toward short-term rewards. For example, we check our email inbox or social media feed to satisfy our brain with passive consumption instead of pursuing our long-term plans. 

However, it doesn't have to be this way.

By getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet, especially with a steady supply of glucose through slow-burning carbs, we can keep our energy levels constant. By adopting good habits and shedding bad ones, we will automatically act in our own interest without actively deciding, thus consuming energy. However, we should not overwhelm ourselves and make changes gradually because change itself requires willpower, and the more changes we make simultaneously, the lower the probability of success. 

The book is written in an easily understandable and entertaining manner. A wealth of exciting research findings and case studies from various areas of life support the author’s explanations. The recommended strategies are practical and can be implemented well. A recommendation for anyone looking to improve their self-control and achieve their long-term goals.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

The Present: The Gift That Makes You Happy And Successful At Work And In Life

The Present - Spencer Johnson

by Spencer Johnson

Link to the book at Amazon

The Present is a story about a young and an old man, about the search for true happiness and success, and the realization that neither can be found in the past or the future, but in undivided attention to the present moment, in consciously living in the here and now.

Instead of repressing past mistakes, we should learn from them and apply the lessons in the present. Instead of just dreaming of a better future, we should plan for it and implement our plan in the present.

This short, engaging read is a recommendation for anyone striving for success and a fulfilling life at the same time.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal With Change In Your Work and In Your Life

who moved my chese spencer johnson

by Spencer Johnson

Link to the book at Amazon

Who Moved My Cheese is the story of two mice and two little people who live in a labyrinth and whose supply of cheese at “Cheese Station C” is coming to an end. While the mice, Sniff and Scurry, immediately start looking for new cheese, the humans, Hem and Haw, struggle with the situation, complain about the injustice of life, and wait for someone else to bring the cheese back.

After a while, Haw accepts the situation, plucks up all his courage, and begins a journey of discovery into the unknown expanses of the labyrinth. He overcomes all obstacles and finally finds a cheese station with the best cheeses he has ever eaten.

The cheese symbolizes what we desire in life, and the disappearance of the cheese stands for life changes. The mice and people show different ways we react to changes, adapt to new situations, overcome fears, and seize opportunities to achieve new heights.

The story teaches us to recognize change, to see it not as a danger but as an opportunity, to look courageously for new possibilities (“What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”), and to participate in shaping the future – instead of mourning the past and waiting for it to return.

The book is written in simple language and is quick to read (just like the other works by Spencer Johnson), but it can still have a significant impact. Above all, it encourages facing the inevitable changes in life.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Think and Grow Rich

think and grow rich - napoleon hill

by Napoleon Hill

Link to the book at Amazon

In search of a formula for success and wealth, Napoleon Hill spent more than two decades interviewing the wealthiest and most influential Americans of his generation.

Hill published the collected findings - carefully edited into 13 principles - in his 1937 classic “Think and Grow Rich,” which is still in print today.

Many principles are still valid today - nearly ninety years after the book’s publication. These include the burning desire to succeed, absolute belief in one’s abilities, accumulation of specialized knowledge, joining a mastermind group, thorough planning, and perseverance not to be discouraged by failures but to see them as an opportunity to optimize one’s plans.

Other points are outdated, such as the role of men and women, or not scientifically proven (but not disproven either), such as the redirection of sexual energy into implementing one’s plans or thought transference through positive emotions.

The book is written in a surprisingly understandable way for its age, and a variety of contemporary examples support the principles.

Those who have read more modern success guidebooks will find little new here. But in retrospect, Think and Grow Rich indeed contained a priceless wealth of valuable advice.”

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Life

Awaken The Giant Within - Tony Robbins

by Tony Robbins

Link to the book at Amazon

At first, I was a little hesitant to read a book by Tony Robbins. From what I had seen of him so far, he seemed a little too much like a religious leader to me. But after this book was recommended to me from different sides, I had to give it a try. And I must say, I wasn't disappointed.

The book starts with the observation that most people are guided in their daily decisions by their environment rather than by their values – until, at some point, they feel they have lost control. To prevent this, you must resist the "flow" and take your fate into your own hands – in all areas of life.

To do this, you need a vision, and you need to throw all doubts about your abilities overboard and instead strengthen your faith in them.

Doubts are caused by painful experiences in the past, whereas faith is built and strengthened by positive experiences. The trick is to take advantage of pain and pleasure instead of being controlled by these feelings.

The technique for this is called "Neuro associative conditioning". Here we associate habits that we want to get rid of (e.g., smoking, television, procrastination) with pain – and patterns that we want to adopt (e.g., healthy eating, regular exercise, continuing education) with joy.

The book explains this technique step by step, using many practical examples. I recommend it to anyone who wants to take their life (again) into their own hands.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, and it is read by the author himself.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

how will you measure your life - clayton christensen

by Clayton M. Christensen

Link to the book at Amazon

How do you find a job in which you are successful and happy? How do you achieve lasting close ties with your family and close friends? And how do you live a life of integrity?

Clayton M. Christensen, economics professor at Harvard Business School and author of the best-selling book Innovator's Dilemma, offers his personal guidelines as answers to these questions.

A few examples:

  • In your professional life, don't focus primarily on "hygiene factors" such as money, power, and fame, but rather on "motivational factors" such as autonomy and fulfillment of meaning.
  • Consciously plan a long-term career strategy only after a sufficient orientation phase. Question the strategy regularly and adjust it when unforeseen opportunities arise.
  • For your strategy to be effective, make the myriad daily decisions about how to use your resources (money, time, and energy) in accordance with the strategy.
  • Maintain and deepen relationships with family and close friends – at all times – not just when you need help.
  • Spend as much time as possible with your children because they learn not when you want to teach them but in moments when they are ready. The more you are with them in those moments, the more they learn from you and not from others. And the more they adopt your values, too.
  • Don't keep your children from failures, and don't solve their problems for them. Instead, teach them how to solve the problems themselves and deal with failure. With these experiences, they will better cope in adult life when much more is at stake.

For each guiding principle, the author provides exciting anecdotes from his life and startling parallels to the business world. This makes this inspiring book very enjoyable and entertaining to read. If the above guidelines appeal to you, then the book is certainly something for you.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.