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100 Inspirational Books Everyone Should Read

March 5, 2012

If you’re looking for some reading material that isn’t as dull as the stuff for your college courses or that will really inspire you to excel, become a better person or even change the world, then look no further than the books on this list. Here you’ll find reading material that has inspired millions to live the best lives they can and make the most of their innate talents. With titles that fit into every category from self-help to classic novels, you’re sure to find something that works for you.

Classic Inspirational Works

These books have made a big impact on people and are some of the most classic inspirational works. Pick one up today to see what all the hype is about.

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey: This book has been a top seller since it was published in 1990, offering advice on how to improve your leadership and get ahead in business.
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: First published in 1937, this book aims to help people of all ages understand human nature and use that understanding to garner enthusiasm and improve leadership.
  3. Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale: Those who are looking to make their lives happier, more satisfying or who simply want to learn to believe in themselves and their abilities have a lot to gain by reading this popular title.
  4. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: This short book will help you realize that you’re only as good as you think you are and help you change the way you see and imagine yourself.
  5. Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman: This story may be fictional, but it offers powerful lessons in being strong in mind and spirit rather than in the body.
  6. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay: Check out this best-selling book to learn how Hay thinks we are all responsible for our own happiness or illness and ways that she advises overcoming our negative thoughts to heal our bodies and minds.
  7. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck: In this text you can learn how the path to self-discovery is a tough one, but one well worth following.
  8. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach: No matter what you believe in or what your goals are in life, this book aims to show you the importance of having a higher purpose.
  9. The Art of War by Sun Tzu: This ancient military treatise is still useful today and has become the go-to manual for inspiration on leading and getting ahead in business.
  10. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra: Learn about karma, potentiality, intention, desire and more in your quest to become a more spiritually connected person through this text.
  11. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: This may be a children’s book, but its lessons are still powerful at any age, inspiring you to give and love freely.
  12. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton: This book uses the writings and life of Proust to offer insightful lessons that can improve your life and make you a wiser, happier person.

Inspirational Novels

These novels, both old and new, offer inspiration through the trials and tribulations of their main characters.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Voted as one of the most inspiring books, this title touches on issues of race, justice, class and growing up.
  2. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse: Those hoping to learn more about Eastern philosophy will find insights and inspiration in this beautiful journey of enlightenment.
  3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery: This French classic is a touching fable about love, loneliness and the many trivialities of adult life.
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein: A book that many believe defined the sci-fi genre as being noteworthy may be dated in it’s themes, but you will still find tales of morality, love and what it means to be human.
  5. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn: This unusual novel addresses some of the big issues in society, documenting problems but also offering solutions.
  6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: If you were ever a cynical youth (or an adult) this story documents one young man’s frustration with the phoniness of the adult world and the alienation it can cause.
  7. What is the What by Dave Eggers: Based on the real-life experiences of Valentino Achak Deng, this touching novel exposes human resilience, evil and kindness in an engaging story that will keep you glued to the pages.
  8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: While the main character of this story at first feels no remorse for his crimes, readers will see his conscience catch up with him as the story progresses offering true insights into human morality.
  9. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: For anyone who spent their formative years being shy, or who’s still waiting to come out of their shell, this story about growing into yourself is a must-read.

Health and Fitness

Those looking to lead a healthier, fitter and ultimately happier life and who are in need of a little motivation to do it should check out these titles.

  1. Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss: This book blends religious doctrine with human anatomy, showing readers how their thoughts and health may be connected.
  2. French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano: This author explains how people can still eat the foods they love (cheeses, indulgent chocolates) without packing on the pounds by following this European regimen.
  3. Once a Runner by John L Parker: If you want to start running or are already a devoted jogger, this fictional novel will inspire and educate.
  4. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: Learn to navigate the food choices you make with more aplomb in this book.
  5. Never Give Up by Richard Simmons: Whether you love or hate Richard Simmons you won’t be able to deny the motivation the stories in this book offer.
  6. Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Way from Fat to Thin by Allen Zadoff: Anyone who has ever struggled with dysfunctional ways of eating will appreciate this honest portrayal of the emotional roots of eating disorders.
  7. Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman: This book isn’t just about losing weight–it teaches readers about food so they can made educated choices about what they consume and can make sustained lifestyle changes.
  8. You on a Diet by Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roisen: The authors of this book believe that the best tool for losing weight is knowledge.
  9. Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors by Barbara Delinsky: If you have cancer or another illness, these stories of strength and survival are sure to raise your spirits.
  10. Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge: Check out this book for advice and information on staying young well into your golden years.

Career and Business

Get some insights into improving your business acumen or finding a career that’s right for you in these books.

  1. Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino: This short book offers a wealth of advice on being better at sales.
  2. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman: In this most recently updated version of this book you’ll learn just how the world is connected and what you can expect in the coming years helping you get a leg up in business.
  3. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson: Learn to flourish with change in work, careers or your personal life with this motivational book that’s been a bestseller.
  4. What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles: Job hunters can get classic advice from this manual and even tips for those struggling to find work in hard economic times that can be especially relevant to today’s job market.
  5. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need by Harvey Mackay: Use this book’s lessons to inspire you to become a better networker.
  6. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss: Who wouldn’t want to have mobility, free time and enjoyment in their career? This book offers some ideas on how to get there.
  7. Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking by Tim Hurson: Find some inspiration for your business or startup plans in this book’s tips on making the most of how the mind works.
  8. Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing: A Simple Battle Plan for First-Time Marketers by Jay Conrad and Jeannie Levinson: If you’re embarking on your first business you don’t need to be afraid–use this book as a guide to promoting your goods and services successfully.
  9. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi: Learn how improving your relationships with those around you could lead to greater career success in this book.
  10. The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman: Take a page out of IDEO’s book, the world’s leading design firm, on how to make innovation and design work for you.


These biographies and autobiographies tell the story of individuals who overcame great obstacles or changed the world, offering inspiration for those who want to do the same.

  1. A Child Called “It” by David J. Pelzer: Read this autobiographical story to hear this man’s tale about the bizarre tortures his mother enacted on him as a child and his will to survive and escape.
  2. Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank: While she never intended to see her words published, this diary is a touching and telling tale of the horrors of the Holocaust and the strength of those who struggled to find normalcy within it.
  3. A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: In this amazing autobiography you’ll hear about Nelson Mandela’s journey to fight against apartheid from jail to becoming the president of a nation.
  4. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller: Get inspired by this well-known woman’s tale of overcoming her disabilities to become a writer and activist.
  5. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: This book will remind you that even if you can’t be in a place you love, you can carry the memory with you as a “moveable feast.”
  6. Odette: World War Two’s Darling Spy by Penny Starns: Read about the life of this female spy who was awarded many honors and miraculously survived imprisonment in a concentration camp.
  7. Alun Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges: Despite being discriminated against for his sexuality, in this story you can read about the amazing inventions of this man that set the stage for modern computing.
  8. Reach for the Sky: The Story of Douglas Bader by Paul Brickhill: In this book you’ll read about one man that, despite losing his legs, went on to become a air battle hero–not to mention learning to dance, swim, play tennis and more.
  9. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World by Randall E. Stross: While Edison invented many amazing things, in this story of his life you’ll see how he was met with many failures in his pursuit of success as well.
  10. Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi: Through his non-violent methods, Gandhi was abel to enact great changes in his homeland of India, stories which you can read about in this book.

Personal Reflection and Improvement

Learn to look inside and get inspired to make changes, push yourself or just see what you’re really capable of on your own through these books.

  1. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama: Take a look at the philosophies of the Dalai Lama and studies done by scientist Howard Culter in this touching, inspirational book.
  2. Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins: This classic self-help book aims to get you to take control of your life and start making changes that will change your emotional, financial and physical well-being.
  3. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morror Lindbergh: As a women who faced many challenges in her life, Lindbergh is in a unique place to offer advice on marriage, peace and contentment as she does in this short but impactful book.
  4. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch: Pausch may have been dying as he gave this last lecture, but at its heart is a guide on how to live not to die, offering advice on how to fight for what you want and achieve your dreams.
  5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer: What motivates someone to trade a privileged life for one of isolation? This story follows the rea- life exploits of Christopher McCandless as he takes off into the Alaskan wilderness.
  6. Walden by Henry David Thoreau: Ever want to learn to live more simply and embrace the natural world? This classic novel offers a model and brilliant insights into the relationship between man and the world around him.
  7. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: Read this book by Gladwell to learn how the littlest things in your life can make the biggest difference.
  8. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir: This classic book questions why women must always be defined in terms of men, asking women to think about their place in the world and to question their own empowerment.
  9. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson: Do you find yourself worrying about every little thing? In this book you’ll learn what to let go so you can spend less time fretting and more time enjoying life.
  10. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi: Learn how to make your experiences more genuinely satisfying through this book.


From friendships to dating, these books will inspire you to improve your relationships with the people in your life.

  1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: Check out this famous book to hear the touching story of a man and his mentor and the lessons he offers even in his dying days.
  2. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray: Perhaps one of the best known relationship books, this text aims to highlight some of the differences between men and women so that better, stronger relationships can be built.
  3. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: If you’re looking for a heart-warming story about love throughout time, obstacles and against great odds, check out this popular novel.
  4. Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood: Learn how to break your pattern of destructive relationships with this authoritative and gripping self-help book.
  5. He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt: This dating guide will help you learn when to give up and move on.
  6. The Missing Piece Meets The Big O by Shel Silverstein: No matter your age you can appreciate the lessons offered in this book about finding friends who fit your personality and becoming a whole person on your own.
  7. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver: Whether you’re married or not, this book offers some great advice to inspire you to improve your relationship.


Those struggling with getting control of their financial life can find some inspiration and advice in these great books.

  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill: Learn how the way you think about business and money could be holding you back with this book.
  2. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley: Check out this book to learn some of the simple and inspiring rules that can help you become wealthy.
  3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter: This book will highlight some of the different lessons about money that both rich and poor parents teach their children.
  4. Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin: Read this book to learn how to keep money from ruling your life.
  5. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker: Learn how to think like a millionaire from this best-selling book.
  6. Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason: These classic parables will help you learn the basics of working with money.
  7. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey: If your financial life is a mess, use this guide to learn how to renovate it.
  8. Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World by Jim Cramer: You don’t have to love Jim Cramer to take away some valuable lessons from this investment-focused book.
  9. Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach: Read this book to educate you and your partner on the basics of finances and to set you on the road to changing them over time.
  10. The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman: For those who feel they need inspiration and help to get out of debt and get control of their money, this book offers the basics to smart finances.
  11. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi: Geared towards Gen-Y professionals, this book offers sound wealth-building advice for any age.
  12. It’s Not About the Money by Brent Kessel: Learn about money from a holistic, Buddhist approach in this spiritual and financial book.

Passion, Purpose and Motivation

Get a little help finding where you belong in life and how to get there with these texts.

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Use this inspiring fable to get guidance and inspiration to follow your dreams.
  2. Getting Things Done by David Allen: If you’re a consummate procrastinator, this book offers you a solution on how to create a system of getting things accomplished.
  3. The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer: Take some lessons on how to be successful from the only man to ever have seven books on the New York Times’ Bestsellers List simultaneously.
  4. Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella: This is the book the movie Field of Dreams was based on, offering readers a chance to see their own inspiration in the game.
  5. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren: Those who believe in God will find this book inspiring, offering them advice on finding their own divine purpose and fulfilling it.
  6. Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck: This book helps readers to harmonize their internal needs and direction (often those that lead us to greater happiness) with social webs to find an ideal balance.
  7. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl: The author of this book shares how he made it through imprisonment in Auschwitz in this novel, offering hope and a path to search for meaning in life.
  8. The Purpose of Your Life: Finding Your Place In The World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, And Uncommon Sense by Carol Adrienne: Unsure of your purpose in life? This book will give you some guidance on using your own skills to uncover your true purpose.


Delve into your spiritual side with these books designed to inspire you to get in touch with God, yourself or the philosophy you believe in.

  1. The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes: This book marks the beginning of the religious science movement and offers food for thought no matter what you believe.
  2. Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East by Baird T. Spaulding: In this collection of books you can learn about some of the great spiritual teachers of the East and the wisdom they have to offer.
  3. The Bible and The Qu’ran: These religious texts have inspired people around the world to change how they think and act.
  4. Power Through Constructive Thinking by Emmett Fox: In this text you’ll learn how your destiny is in your own hands and how to use thought and action to find happiness and contentment.
  5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: In this philosophical novel you’ll learn how to reconcile Eastern and Western beliefs and gain a few pointers on living a mindful life.
  6. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: Read this book to understand how Taoism isn’t a foreign concept, but one that we encounter everyday in our lives.
  7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: Whether you love her or hate her, there is no doubt that this book offers some insights into philosophy and your world view.
  8. Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh: Read this book to learn to live a more mindful, respectful and interconnected life.
  9. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran: Get insights into marriage, friendship, joy, sorrow and many of the things central to human existence in this poetic text.
  10. The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav: In this book, you’ll learn how to become more closely aligned with your soul and use its power to become a happier, better person.
  11. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle: Use this spiritual guide to help you live more in the moment.
  12. No Greater Love by Mother Teresa: Inspired by her faith, Mother Teresa explains how she believes people should love, give and sacrifice for others.

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