brilliant and life-changing books
inspirational, motivational and enlightening books for personal and self-development
These books are life-changing in some way for many people, and might be for you too.
A book can change our thinking, feelings, knowledge, attitudes, skills, etc.
In a world of millions of books, it can be helpful to understand quickly and easily which books - just a few books - can make a big difference to our lives, and the lives of others.
These books are my recommendations - mostly old books, and many that can be brouight now very cheaply. I'm open to other suggestions.
A book has to be special to be listed on this page.
I don't review many books, and I don't recommend books lightly.
Different books suit different people, but there are some books that are probably universally appealing, because they are so brilliant.
This means these books are extremely well-written, they contain really useful and impressive content: ideas or entertainment, or dramatic prose or poetry, or tools and educational material that can change our thinking, or outlook, and improve our understanding and skills and wisdom, etc.
"Books are the treasured wealth of the world, and the fit inheritance of generations and nations... Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert and influence on mankind... How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones." (Henry David Thoreau, American writer and philosopher, 1817-62, from his book Walden, written in 1854.)
The book links go mostly to Amazon.co.uk and commission goes towards running and developing the website, thank you.
Enjoy these recommended books, old and new, for inspiration, teaching, communicating and learning.
Many of the older books are available very inexpensively via Amazon. Shop around.
New books will be added. Authors and publishers are invited to send review copies to me, but please be aware that a book must be very special indeed to be included on this page.
inspirational and motivational books - books for management, leadership, business, life lessons...
europe: chained by history - larry j hilton
This is a lovely book about European history that offers much more than history. The author chooses interestingly and effectively to see Europe's story mainly through the lens of Austria's Vienna.
This is a timely book for the early 21st century, because Europe is now in turmoil, facing many challenges, and the outcomes will impact the entire world. History teaches us about the future.
As to the book's qualities, firstly this book is very enjoyable - Larry Hilton brings life, soul, texture and emotion to his subject. He uses academic analysis and creative non-fiction techniques to present history in an extraordinarily entertaining way. Secondly this book is very accessible - Hilton understands how to communicate to his audience. The reader is involved in a narrative, rather than bombarded by meaningless facts. Thirdly, this book opens our minds beyond history - Larry Hilton offers a history of Europe that extends effortlessly into lessons about sociology, politics, culture, nationalities and identities, evolution, power, strategy, economics, chaos, human relationships, groupings and systems - and how to consider our future: what will become of Europe and Europeans, and the implications for the rest of the world. The content is also extensively researched with hundreds of solid sources - it's a joy to read, and a joy to learn from it - about Europe and Europeans, and also how to write non-fiction..
creative strength training - jane dunnewold
This is a beautiful and constructive accessible book about creativity, which anyone would enjoy reading. The book's fabulous pictures, design, layout - and excellent clear writing style - make the book a joy to read and follow, with lots of exercises and clever clear explanations that encourage experimentation and change in approaching all sorts of creative work. The book itself is excitingly creative - offering many ways to open the mind and attitude - to become more creative. The book also has a very strong spiritual and ethical aspect. The book would be a wonderful teaching aid for anyone working with students - all ages - helping people develop their creative and artistic activities and results. Note that creativity is not just for artists, writers, musicians, chefs, etc!... Everyone benefits from being more creative! Creativity is crucial for innovation, quality improvement, and problem-solving in every type of work - especially in business and organizational management, entrepreneurialism, marketing, training and HR, advertising and selling, professional services, healthcare, administration, leadership and government - really everything. So this is actually a marvellous book for anyone wanting to develop ability to find solutions and new improved ways of doing things, whatever your specialism.
world atlas of tea - krisi smith
This is perhaps the most beautiful book ever published about tea - it's a lesson in bringing love and quality to writing and business - in 240 sumptuous pages, explaining and illustrating the many fascinating aspects of tea. The book has wonderful pictures of tea in all sorts of situations around the world, and throughout the history of tea. Krisi Smith writes absolutely brilliantly about tea - its history, botany, cultivation (including home-growing), harvesting, varieties, geographical and cultural dimensions, innovative tea blending and mixing, tasting, brewing, serving, etc., all lovingly offered in a fabulous ethical context. Krisi Smith (co-founder with her partner Mike of the Brighton-based Bluebird Tea Company) has created a masterpiece to grace (ironically) any coffee table...
sapiens - yuval noah harari
This is a wonderful easy book explaining humankind's evolution, according to the most modern (2016) research. Humbling and compelling. It will change your view of what it is to be human, and our place in the world.
the four agreements - don miguel ruiz
A truly life-changing book. Don Miguel Ruiz's simple guidance for life. See the Four Agreements summary review.
man's search for meaning - viktor frankl
A truly life-changing book, this is the author's story of his time in the Nazi extermination camps of the 2nd World War, and how this experience translates into a personal philosophy, from which we can all draw intense and meaningful inspiration.
if this is a man - primo levi
As compelling and humbling and inspirational as 'Man's Search For Meaning'.
long walk to freedom - nelson mandela
So many lessons in one book. When you read the story of Mandela you understand how the man became such a force. One of the greatest autobiographies. Utterly compellingly inspirational. Also available as a children's illustrated version.
the phantom tollbooth - norton juster
One of those children's books that's really for grown-ups. If you ever feel as though you're stuck in a rut this can help get you out of it. A celebration of innocence and discovery of self. Wonderful stories within a story.
feel the fear and do it anyway - susan jeffers
Classic inspirational life-changing book - how to overcome our fears and achieve a stronger power of belief, and greater self-esteem. This remains a global best-selling book on self-discovery and self-development.
if life is a game these are the rules - cherie carter-scott
Such a simple little book, with so much common sense about how to get the best out of yourself and life in general. In a cynical world the teachings of books like these do much to encourage truly grown up, giving, behaviour. See the Cherie Carter-Scott Rules Of Life summary review.
the diving-bell and the butterfly - jean dominique bauby
Remarkable autobiographical story of endurance and courage in the face of heart-rending personal disaster. Bauby dictated this work after a paralysing accident, letter by letter, by blinking his eye. Beautifully written and truly inspirational.
the seven habits of highly effective people - stephen covey
Life-changing. Something for everyone. See the Stephen Covey Seven Habits summary review.
the primal scream - arthur janov
Provides a remarkable and illuminating explanation of difficult behaviour; the way that personality is formed through experience, and can be changed through unlocking the sub-conscious - primal therapy. A book for anyone to learn more about themselves, personality, relationships, communications and more.
islam and sustainable development - odeh rashed al-jayyousi
This book is a wonderful refreshing antidote to centuries-old mutual resentments, fears, suspicions, and confusions. It offers a radically new view of the world and the ways its people and organizations operate within it, by offering an innovative framework of ideas and methods that can be learned, transferred, and applied - and which, fascinatingly, harmonize and reconcile hitherto 'irreconcileable differences' between two and unnecessarily conflicting ideologies and peoples. There is a long uneasy relationship between 'the West' and 'the Muslim world'. Wars and persistent tensions are deeply catastrophic failures of human leadership in response to these challenges. Fuelled by idiotic self-interested mass media, and deluded politicians, these failings cascade to society, businesses, and generations of humanity, when actually a billion or more people on each side of the divide would otherwise very happily share a meal together, become good friends, cooperate, and see the world in very similar ways.
The book's high price will put it beyond the reach of most people (although used copies can be had much cheaper), but business and societal leaders, policy-makers, and serious students of life, economics, etc., should invest to obtain a copy.
This book essentially provides an explanation of Islamic principles within a superbly-well structured framework, related to global sustainability from social, economic and human perspectives.
feel the fear and do it anyway - susan jeffers
Classic inspirational life-changing book - how to overcome our fears and achieve a stronger power of belief, and greater self-esteem. This remains a global best-selling book on self-discovery and self-development.
books by sharon drew morgen
Sharon Drew Morgen is regarded by many (including me) as the greatest thinker and writer on selling in the modern age.
She is also one of the greatest thinkers and writers on the subjects of:
- listening and understanding
- decision facilitation
- communications and relationships
Her book 'Buying Facilitation' is an extraordinary innovation for selling, that is still way way ahead of its time. 'Dirty Little Secrets' builds further and more deeply and powerfully on her Buying Facilitation methodology. Her book 'What?' moves her concept into general communications and relationships.
Sharon Drew Morgen writes about processes and methods - explains how and why - and writes at the level of philosophy, and love and humanity. Sharon Drew Morgen is a genius. Her work is life-changing for everyone interested in effective communications - that's all of us - parents, teachers, lovers, corporate and national leaders, businesses, organizations, governments, and life-forms on other planets.
fish! omnibus - lundin, christensen, paul
The wonderful organizational development model taken from Seattle's famous fish market
Fish! is based on the four principles of:
- make their day
- be there
- choose your attitude
in search of excellence - tom peters and robert h waterman jr
Seminal management book, written in 1982 - (see the Tom Peters section, as this explains how the book was written and provides Peters' view on the book and how he'd write it today). With its classic eight themes for successful corporations, In Search Of Excellence remains the biggest selling and most widely read management book ever.
guide to the management gurus - carol kennedy
Virtually all of the great management and behavioural gurus, from Maslow to Peters, summarised in easy-to-digest format, including details of the books each has written. An invaluable trainer's aid, as well as a brilliantly practical reference work for all managers and business people.
TA today - ian stewart & vann joines
The best introduction and modern guide to Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis theories. Absolutely fascinating, brilliantly written and explained. See the Transactional Analysis section.
games people play, and what do you say after you say hello - eric berne
By the founder of Transactional Analysis, a simple and illuminating book about people's behaviour. We all play these games. See the advanced Transactional Analysis section.
I'm ok you're ok, staying ok - thomas & amy harris
The remarkable book about transactional analysis, and follow-up. See the Transactional Analysis section.
the one minute manager - ken blanchard & spencer johnson
If you're a manager and you've never read this then get hold of a copy immediately. It's only a little book, but my goodness it's one of the best. It will take you an evening to read it and it will change your thinking for ever.
the psychology of handwriting - nadya olyanova
An accessible and concise instruction and explanation of graphology. Understanding graphology helps you to understand yourself as well as others, and this book is an excellent help.
motivation and personality - abraham h maslow
Maslow's defining work about self-actualisation and the hierarchy of needs. Possibly the most expensive paperback you will ever buy - let me know if you know a cheaper source. See the Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs summary and review.
silent messages - dr albert mehrabian
Albert Mehrabian's work is widely referenced in many aspects of communications, and is the source of the famous and widely misunderstood 93% statistic relating to non-verbal signals. See the Mehrabian Theory summary review. For more information and to order the book go to Albert Mehrabian's website.
thriving in mind - katherine benziger
Katherine Benziger's work on personality and communications is pioneering and revealing. Her approach to psychometrics is honest and caring, and advocates sensitive and meaningful application of this potent science. See the Benziger Theory summary review.
yo, blair! - geoffrey wheatcroft
This book is a fascinating account of the Blair leadership years and explains why he became one of the most reviled figures of modern times, and by implication why so many people have become disillusioned with politics. This book also tells the facts behind the headlines and the spin, and shows why we should all be more interested in what leaders do in our name. Blair was once a hugely popular leader. The book helps to explain in real terms why leadership must be built on ethics and honesty or it ultimately fails.
making globalization work - joseph stiglitz
Nobel Prizewinner and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton, Stiglitz is a leading modern thinker on Globalization and governance. Driven by fairness and justice his previous book Globalization and its Discontents was also a best-seller. This 2006 book is full of facts, statistics and reasoning and is an excellent reference tool. It shows how historical Western thinking fails, and how business and politics need to change.
night - elie wiesel
Considered by many to be the greatest book from the Holocaust, Night is an inspiring record of Elie Wiesel's experiences under the Nazis at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The lessons from Night, written in 1955, concern the survival of the human spirit through unimaginable terrors, and provide inspiration for self-determination and inner resolve. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work against violence, repression and racism.
freakonomics - levitt and dubner
This entertaining 2005 best-selling book is a collection of socio-economical questions and answers, creatively and scientifically interpreted. Using seemingly obscure subjects, the authors explore motivation and success - from individual and social standpoints - in a genuinely different and enlightening way. Notable sections explain the similarity between drugs traders and conventional business organisations; why it's often not a good idea to sell your house through an estate agent; how crime levels are more related to abortion laws than policing, and how people's names are linked to success in life.
the wisdom of crowds - james surowiecki
The first popular and accessible commentary on the value of collective judgement. People in groups are remarkably effective in evaluating and deciding things, and the lessons in this book are immensely useful for managers and leaders. It's a counter-view to Sir Alec Issigonis' assertion that a camel is a horse designed by committee, although author James Suroweicki does explain that the key to collective wisdom is independent thought, which arguably most committees struggle to preserve. This book is relevant to life, management and organisations of all sorts. .
s.u.m.o. - paul mcgee
Paul McGee's guide to living a positive and successful life is easy and entertaining to read, practical to apply and modern in outlook and philosophy. This is a great book for anyone interested in making the most of their life. SUMO stands for Shut Up Move On.
eunoia - christian bok
Eunoia means 'beautiful thinking'. It's the shortest English word containing all five vowels. This book, which took seven years to write and was first published in 2002, is a remarkable literary work. Each of its five chapters contains words using only one of the five vowels. A uniquely strange and beautiful reading experience.
the art of war - sun tzu
Written in the 6th century BC this is the earliest significant theory on military strategy. It was translated into French in 1772, English in 1905, and influenced many military leaders since these times, latterly also as a reference work in the strategy of business leadership and management.
the art of being right - arthur schopenhauer
The highly influential German-born philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788--1860) devised, among deeper concepts, a series of 38 tactics for beating an opponent in a debate. The words 'highly influential' are no exaggeration - Nietzsche, Einstein and Freud were Schopenhauer fans.
think and grow rich - napoleon hill
A 1937 classic self-improvement book, focused on making money, and probably the first best-seller of its type.
emotional intelligence - daniel goleman
Emotional Intelligence theory pre-dated this 1995 book, and other valid interpretations exist, but Goleman's work made the theory widely accessible.See Emotional Intelligence summary.
the power of now - eckhart tolle
Eckhart Tolle's best seller and hugely popular classic spiritual self-help book, first published in 1999.
love, and born to love - leo bascaglia
Buscaglia's best selling 1972 book is based on his pioneering Love Class at the University of California. Buscaglia's ideas remain fundamentally relevant to modern life and our neglect of this essential life need. Born to Love is a lighter and equally beautiful follow-up. See love and spirituality at work.
a guide to rational living - albert ellis and robert harper
Albert Ellis pioneered REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior/Behaviour Therapy). This book is a seminal work in the field of modern psychotherapy.
childhood and society - erik erikson
Erikson's Psycho-Sexual Life Stage Theory is an extremely helpful way to understand how people develop. This 1950 book first presented his significant ideas and Life Stage Theory. His other books offer amazing simple frameworks for understanding how we become who we are. See Erikson's Theory summary.
the power of positive thinking - norman vincent peale
Dr Peale's 1953 classic book is the source of the famous 'power of positive thinking' expression. The thinking is devout and strongly faith-based. See assertiveness and confidence.
the peter principle - laurence j peter and raymond hull
The 1969 bestselling book which spawned the expression 'The Peter Principle'. A wonderful ironic timeless view of organizations and management. See Peter Principle summary.
six thinking hats - edward de bono
Edward de Bono is regarded as one of the most innovative thinkers of modern times. This 1985 book founded de Bono's now famous Six Thinking Hats methodology, used for positive thinking, teams and workgroups. Of his other books The Mechanism of the Mind is also accessible and well regarded.
please understand me 2 - david keirsey
Keirsey's well structured theory underpins his hugely popular Temperament Sorter personality profiling system. Contains self-analysis profiling tool. See personality styles and models.
body language for dummies - elizabeth kuhnke
There are hundreds of books about body language. This is a particularly good one. See body language for subject summary and guide.
peace is every step - thich nhat hanh
A classic spiritual self-help book, and a calming antidote to the ceaseless pursuit of 'success' that affects most of us at one time or another. See stress management - very closely related subject.
blink, and the tipping point, outliers - malcolm gladwell
Here mainly because these books are huge best-sellers which make us think about things differently..
the motivation to work - frederick herzberg
The seminal 1959 book in the study of motivation in organizations. Contains the statistics from which Herzberg's developed his famous of Motivators and Hygiene Factors theory. See Herzberg summary.
on death and dying - elisabeth kubler-ross
The Classic 1969 book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, which has helped so many deal with personal loss, and which first announced Kubler-Ross's famous five stages of grief cycle. See the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle summary.
the empty raincoat: making sense of the future - charles handy
Charles Handy is one of the most enlightened writers on work. See the introduction to Charles Handy's ideas.
how to win friends and influence people - dale carnegie
Dale Carnegie's 1936 classic self-help book, which became a fundamental reference for business and selling. Much of the core thinking applies in modern times. His organization has published an updated version for the modern age. See selling theory and methods for more background.
the 80/20 principle: the secret of achieving more with less - richard koch
An extremely useful explanation of the wonderful 80-20 Rule - also known as the Pareto Principle. The 80-20 Rule is a much under-used method for success in life and work. See the Pareto Principle summary and guidance. This book is a revised version.
jonathan livingston seagull, and illusions - richard bach
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of the most spiritually warming and inspiring books ever written. Illusions also.
the prince - niccolo machiavelli
A classic study of leadership, in very readable format for a book written in 1513. The lessons are not all transferable to modern times, but many contain essential wisdom and resonance for leadership today. See leadership for related materials.
the prophet - kahlil gibran
A timeless spiritual classic, full of simple lessons for life.
the original reiki handbook - dr mikao usui
The original and seminal work of the founder of the Reiki System. Surprisingly accessible. Extremely concise. Fascinating and enlightening.
happiness: lessons from a new science - richard layard
Leading happiness expert Richard Layard's research shows that as societies become richer, they do not become happier. Layard is one of the world's great authorities on the science of happiness.
why is sex fun? - jared diamond
This is an entertaining and thought-provoking book about the evolution of human sexual behaviour, and by implication, human motivation besides. This book is controversial and attracts criticism, but it's an excellent introduction to ideas about sex and mating and human attraction that need to be more widely understood.
genes, peoples and languages - cavalli-sforza
Wonderful book about the evolution and spread of people around the world.
the origin of species - charles darwin
One of the most significant books ever written, Darwin's discoveries and theories about natural selection continue to provide the basis of modern evolutionary thinking. There are other editions of this book so shop around.
sperm wars - robin baker
Fascinating controversial insight into relationships, particularly between the sexes, and what actually drives and controls human reproduction and behaviour. The evolutionary and physiological factors which determine man's and woman's procreational systems make surprising reading. Warning - sexually explicit.
the selfish gene - richard dawkins
Fascinating analysis and explanation about why we've evolved to be as we are, and compelling explanation as to why we behave the way that we do - requires some concentration but well worth it. Another incredible book that will completely change your views about people and life.
books about words and language, especially etymology and the origins of sayings
making the alphabet dance - ross eckler
Recreational wordplay of all sorts. Utterly absorbing. Fascinating facts about words that you can use for training sessions, puzzles and quizzes, dinner parties and word games with friends. See the grammar and language glossary of curious words.
mother tongue - bill bryson
A hugely entertaining, interesting and informative book about the development of the English language. A gem on every page, and a terrific source of language trivia and fascinating facts. The book is also a superb perspective on the development of the English people, as well as the language.
dictionary phrase and fable - brewer
First compiled by Ebenezer Brewer in 1870, this dictionary is especially fascinating if you can find a version/imprint/copy of the 1870 edition. Modern revised versions are useful and fascinating too but have lost much of the original historical language and references. Shop around. Look for the oldest version you can find if you are interested in the history of language and words.
words, sayings, cliches, and expressions origins books
Here some of the best books and dictionaries about word meanings, etymology (the history/origins of words), and sayings, expressions, idioms, cliches, etc.
Note that 'The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary' is a widely misunderstood title - it's actually a vast one or two volume dictionary (depending on the edition, in fact some old editions were four volumes) that can be bought very inexpensively used/second-hand, and typically in great condition. The 'Shorter' Oxford English refers to the fact that it is shorter than the full OED, which stretches to over 20 volumes) The 'Shorter' Oxford Dictionary contains fabulous information for every word, including the word history/etyomolgy. The Shorter Oxford edition shown below is the current very expensive edition, but shop around and you will find recent editions selling for pennies, really, and old editions can be especially useful for exploring word histories.
If you are a publisher or author and wish to send your book for review and possible inclusion here please do so.