Top Inspiring Books
10 min read ⌚
Unfortunately, we’ve all been there.
Suddenly, something happens, and out of nowhere, our perfect little lives start to crumble. Or – maybe, even worse – even though the thing that happens isn’t too earthshattering at first glance, it opens up our eyes to the unfulfilled life we’ve led up to that moment.
And at moments like that, we need some inspiration. To take back things from our loss or reimagine ourselves in more happier versions of us.
Here are 15 of the best inspirational books which can certainly work as your guides on your personal journey to fulfillment. Embark on it as soon as possible.
And stay inspired.
#1. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
“The Alchemist” was published in 1988. Three decades later, it’s still widely read and widely beloved.
An international bestseller, the book has been translated into almost half of the world languages, and it has made Brazilian author Paulo Coelho a global superstar.
A profound and poignant narrative, “The Alchemist” is an inspiring novella which tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy. Santiago believes that he has dreamt a dream of significance; a dream which should help him find a big treasure somewhere around the Egyptian pyramids.
And, indeed, the dream turns out to be prophetic. But not in the way Santiago expects it to be. Nor in the way, you, the spellbound reader, would be able to anticipate at the beginning.
Let’s just say, for the time being, that the greatest treasures, though immaterial, are much weightier than all the gold and money in the world.
#2. “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch
In September 2007, Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was invited to take participation in “The Last Lecture” series of talks. Little did the organizers know that, in the case of Pausch, the series’ title was not merely a metaphor.
Namely, just one month before that, Pausch was given a terminal diagnosis. And he knew that he had no more than half a year left on this planet.
Now, you’d expect a beautiful and touching lecture from such a person. But, you wouldn’t expect an optimistic, upbeat one-hour talk labeled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and viewed by 20 million people on YouTube.
“The Last Lecture” is the book version of this talk. It’s longer and even more fascinating. So much so, in fact, that it has become part of many school curricula.
And for many good reasons.
#3. “Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!” by Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins is a name which has grown to be synonymous with “motivational speaker.” Watch any of his videos on YouTube, and you’ll see why! Sometimes, one wonders if he’s right in what he’s saying or is he merely so convincing that the things come true afterward.
Either way, he does his job well enough that many people see him as something of a personal guru and guide. And with religious devotion, might we add.
“Awaken the Giant Within” is an enormous book, both in terms of its influence and in terms of its sheer length. It’s almost 600 pages – so there’s a lot to take away from it!
If it was a novel, the subtitle would have been a spoiler. Because, “Awaken the Giant Within” is a step-by-step program of self-mastery, aiming to teach you the whys, and the hows of your life.
And, of course, the how-tos of making it better.
#4. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was published in 1970 to rave reviews from the general public. Just like its main character, the book quickly soared to the top of “The New York Times Bestseller” list, and it remained there for the next 38 weeks.
And even half a century later, it is still lovingly cherished and highly ranked.
Originally a three-part novella (Richard Bach added a fourth part in the 2013 edition), “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” tells the story of the seagull from the title. A non-conformist, he ignores his daily duties and passionately tries to learn to fly. As a result, he is banished from his community, but he is unwavering in his determination to be the best flier there ever was.
Soon, the tables turn, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull learns that he was “a one-in-a-million bird” from the very beginning.
You may be too. And this book may show you why.
#5. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne
When Rhonda Byrne’s father died in 2004, depression took over her life. She wasn’t able to do her job as an executive producer for Australian television the same way as before. She wasn’t even capable of functioning properly in her day to day activities. Her life, as she says, collapsed around her.
And that’s when she started reading. Soon enough, she discovered “The Secret.”
Even though the reception of the book may suggest some groundbreaking findings, Rhonda Byrne claims that she, in fact, isn’t saying anything new. She’s merely demonstrating how the secret is something every great person from history knew and employed in his or her life. Plato, Shakespeare, Newton, Beethoven, Edison, Einstein – practically anyone you can think of!
Of course, Rhonda Byrne doesn’t stop there. She makes the secret much simpler and explains how you can use it, whether you want to earn more money, be in a better relationship or live a healthier life.
You want to learn the secret? Read the book!
#6. “Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Great Lessons” by Mitch Albom
In 1995, Mitch Albom was a popular sports columnist for the “Detroit Free Press,” when a friend of his told him about Morrie Schwartz’s then-recent interview on ABC News’ “Nightline.” He watched the interview. And he was devastated.
You see, Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University, was Albom’s most beloved college teacher. Unfortunately, Albom stopped keeping in touch about a decade and a half before the TV interview. And what did he learn from it?
That Schwartz was suffering from ALS, a terminal disease, the one Stephen Hawking is suffering as well. So, he decided to reconnect with his old teacher. And, soon enough, he started visiting him every Tuesday, for discussions about life and death.
You know – for the last lectures.
Word of mouth made “Tuesdays with Morrie” – published after Schwartz’s death – a global phenomenon. It became one of the top selling memoirs ever and was translated into 45 languages.
And, finally, Oprah Winfrey produced a movie which won four Emmys in 1999!
#7. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
There’s something about near-death experiences that makes life worth living. And there’s something about other people’s stories concerning the lessons they took out from it that can inspire us to live better and more fulfilled lives.
And John Green, unfortunately, heard many of them. In fact, that’s what inspired him to become an author. He originally wanted to become a priest, but while working in a hospital with children suffering from life-threatening diseases, he decided that there’s another way he wanted to reach people.
And that’s what his beloved sixth novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” did – both as a book and, later, as an award-winning film. The story is about two teenagers afflicted with terminal diseases, meeting and falling in love while attending a support group.
But, it’s also so much more! It’s a book about triumphing over the pain and the suffering, a tear-jerker about courage and the ultimate heartbreaks. Utterly beautiful.
#8. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
If you thought it’s astonishing that the first book on our list has been so far translated into half of the world languages, you’ll probably never believe us if we told you that this little classic is translated in practically all of them!
Selling about 2 million copies each year, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is probably the 4th best-selling book ever written. And it was voted the best 20th-century book in the French language!
A poetic novella, “The Little Prince,” is a children’s book about adults. It tells the story of a pilot stranded in the desert who meet the eponymous prince, a visitor from a tiny asteroid. And through him, he learns of the absurdities of our ways.
And how beautiful life can be even if its whole point is cultivating a rare rose.
#9. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson
Nowadays, it’s quite difficult to understand the impact “Who Moved My Cheese” – a 32-page scantily illustrated motivational fable – had on the business world when it first appeared two decades ago.
Spending almost a year on “Publishers Weekly’s” bestseller list, it managed to sell almost 30 million copies worldwide, and earn numerous accolades, before being turned into a cartoon and becoming the subject of many parodies.
It tells the story of four characters, two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two little people (Hem and Haw). They all live in a maze and are in a constant pursuit for cheese. However, they have a different way of finding it, and, moreover, keeping it once they do locate it.
Halfway down the story, the reader realizes that the mice will be fine. And that it’s the people who have to be a bit more organized and less afraid.
And that’s where “the writings on the wall” come in handy.
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#10. “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
One of the most beloved modern poets, Kahlil Gibran, was born in Bsharri, then the Ottoman Empire, modern-day Lebanon. His family emigrated to the United States when he was young. It was there that he started learning art and literature. And it was there that he became the originator of the inspirational fiction genre.
Written in English, “The Prophet,” a small volume consisting of 26 prose poems, was originally published in 1923 and has never been out of print. Its style and philosophical depth have made it a perennial favorite and a popular gift.
The frame narrative of “The Prophet” is fairly simple. Almustafa, the prophet from the title, is stopped by a group of people before boarding a ship which should carry him home. The people ask him questions, and Almustafa’s answers are the 26 prose poems we mentioned.
The topics covered are as many, and range from love and marriage to freedom and time, to religion and death. And you’ll know more about each of them.
#11. “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny” by Robin Sharma
Just like many of the motivational writers you’ve grown to love, Robin Sharma worked an ordinary job (a litigation lawyer), before deciding that he’s much more interested in techniques for self-perfection.
“The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” isn’t his first book (it’s his second), but it is the one which retells his personal story in a most inspiring manner. The book is a motivational business fable and is basically a conversation between two friends, Julian and John.
The former (a fictional version of Sharma himself) was a successful trial lawyer, before experiencing a heart attack while arguing his case in court. Fortunately, as he explains, this heart attack would turn out to be one of the best things that could have happened to him.
Because it would initiate a spiritual journey that would enable him to finally live a life of passion and purpose.
#12. “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz
In Don Miguel Ruiz, we have once again a man utterly transformed by a near-death experience. And once again, a writer whose lessons will subsequently transform you because of it.
Already a successful surgeon, Ruiz decided to become a shaman’s apprentice after barely surviving a serious car accident. Afterward, he spent few years exploring the Toltec wisdom and mind-elevating techniques.
His debut book, “The Four Agreements” is the best introduction to what he ultimately learned.
Advocating absolute freedom and living-in-the-moment mentality, “The Four Agreements” explores a fourfold code: “be impeccable with your word,” “don’t take anything personally,” “don’t make assumptions,” and “always do your best.”
A decade later, Ruiz will team up with his son to add a 5th agreement: “be skeptical, but learn to listen.” And that’s another fairly inspirational book.
#13. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown
A research professor at the University of Houston, Brené Brown made a name for herself when in June 2010 she gave a talk at TED Houston, titled “The Power of Vulnerability.” Still one of the most viewed TED talks in history, it would form the basis of her next book, “Daring Greatly,” already featured in our top 15 self-help book list.
And, really, both there and here, we could have included almost any of Brown’s eight books, and we wouldn’t have made a mistake. They are all inspirational, down-to-earth, caring, and hopeful.
“The Gifts of Imperfection” maybe most of all. Featuring ten guideposts to tackle the pressure each of one faces on a daily basis, the book aims to help everybody by teaching him or her that he/she doesn’t need to be anything else than he/she already is – just to please people.
Because with courage, compassion, and connection – he/she can be happy in the face of every obstacle.
#14. “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
We’ve already written about Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” However, here we’ve opted for her debut memoir, “Eat Pray Love;” not because of its status, but much more because of the way it has affected many people we know.
And because, well, not many books have been featured on two episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”!
An autobiographical account, “Eat Pray Love” follows the eye-opening spiritual odyssey of a 31-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she decides to embark on a year-long journey around the world to gain some perspective.
And she gets – in three chapters! First, she eats and enjoys life in Italy for a period of four months; then, she spends three months praying in India; finally, she falls in love with a Brazilian businessman in Bali.
The book has it all. And you can also watch its 2010 movie adaptation. It received lukewarm reviews, but, then again, Julia Roberts is in it!
#15. “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Two weeks after her beloved husband, David Goldberg, suddenly died, Sheryl Sandberg faced the unbearable task of having to prepare her child for a father/child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, replied with some very wise words: “Option A is not available.”
The only thing Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook’s COO and the author of “Lean In,” a book we’ve featured in our top leadership books list – was left with was trying to make the best out of Option B: living without her husband.
And that certainly wasn’t an easy task. She was, as she writes herself, in a void, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.”
And “Option B” is a book about everyone who feels that he’s not really living the life he’s supposed to be. Especially, if due to some life-shattering loss.
It’s a sort of “manual for resilience.” And it may just help you regain some joy and faith.
Just a regular guy with a knack for writing, and digital marketing.
Emir is the Head of International and SEO at 12Min. In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.