Self Improvement books can get a bad rap.

I get it, some are truly awful. Most are just… ok. Very few are amazing, life-changing, transformational material. I read a lot. Because I am curious by nature. Most self-improvement books are, for me, take what you like and leave the rest. If you adopt this viewpoint, you can get something from almost every book.

Almost every book?

Yup, almost. I didn’t get anything from Rachel Hollis. YMMV.

self-improvement books

But what about those that I found most useful? I’ve picked seven of my favorite self-improvement books to share with you. Here, in no particular order, are my top picks:

  1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. You may recognize Strayed as the author of Wild. I have that one but haven’t read it yet. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of advice on love and life when Strayed wrote anonymously as Dear Sugar on The Rumpus. Despite most of this book not applying to me, I loved it. The writing is so beautiful and you can really see and feel the empathy and passion Strayed has for helping those that write to her for advice.
  2. The Gifts of Imperfection was my introduction to Brene Brown. And I fell hard. I could see myself in the pages I felt like she was speaking directly to me. It’s been a few years since I’ve read this but maybe I need to pull it out again?
  3. The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin. This book has gotten a lot of bad reviews, along with a lot of good reviews. I’ve read both typed of reviews and I can see both the good and bad. For me, this book was one that came in a season of my life that I needed it. At the time, my ADHD was undiagnosed and I think I was chasing dopamine and new experiences. This book was good for that because it’s all about different categories you can do each month for more happiness. Now that I’ve been diagnosed and on medication, I don’t know if this book would be as highly rated. I only say this because I also listen to her podcasts and since I was diagnosed, I hear them in a new light and I don’t feel I am her target audience anymore.
  4. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau is all about quests. He talks to people who have set big goals and their attempts to reach them, including his own to travel to every country by age 35. It’s the ultimate question of what makes you happy, the journey or the destination? 
  5. My Money, My Way by Kumiko Love is an easy-to-read book on personal finance. I’ve read many other personal finance gurus books but they never really resonated with me until My Money, My Way. Love’s (AKA The Budget Mom) philosophy and budgeting process are similar to my own I’ve worked out over the years. If you have tried other famous financial gurus in the past and they never quite felt right? Maybe The Budget Mom is more your speed!
  6. The Brave Athlete by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson is a book all endurance athletes should read in my opinion. It will make you more aware of how you think, your motivation, and really challenges you to work on the mental side of sports. 
  7. The Happy Runner by David and Megan Roche is a humorous look at running. And by humorous I mean they crack jokes throughout while covering some very serious topics. The first half is the philosophy behind the Happy Runner and really delves into the mental aspect of it all. Then they go into training the Happy Runner way.

What is your quest? What self-improvement books have you found most interesting or helpful? Leave ‘em in the comments!

Be sure to find me on TIkTok where I share a clip of what I read each month!

Categories: Books


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.