When I was in the graduate school, I hit a glass ceiling in my life.
Up until then, my life wasn’t fantastic either, but I always thought that my life would be better in the future. Then the future came, and I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Until that moment, my life was shaped by three influences.
- People and institutions that had authority on me, my parents, teachers, society, and so on.
- My peer group.
- My instincts.
I wasn’t happy with the life that those influences created. I knew there was more to life and I wanted it. I was looking for a way out.
My First Wake Up Call
Then, I came across a book about NLP in a bookshop. It was the first personal development book that I read. Its content was different than the culture I grew in. It gave me hope.
The author of the book organized workshops. I participated in all of their workshops. I can easily claim that my life changed for the better. It didn’t happen overnight. It took me more than a year to make that change.
In essence, I had to set some boundaries with my family and open up myself to new, growth-oriented peers.
Choose Your Own Influences
External influences bring us to a point in our lives. You might be content with the life those influences created for you. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.
If you aren’t satisfied with that life that your default influences created for you, you can consciously look for new influences and create a new reality in your life. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. It requires a lot of work on your part.
The first step is to learn what’s possible. Unfortunately, this knowledge isn’t taught in the school or in most of our families. You have to go out and look for that knowledge. Once you find it, it will change your life. It did several times in different phases of my life.
Today, I want to share a list of 12 books that might change your life. These are the life-changing books that I read or listened to so far.
Why 12 Book for the Next 12 Months
There are more than 12 life-changing books. My initial list consisted of 20 books. In this list, I want to focus on the top 12 of them.
I’m sure you can read a book in a week, even in a day. However, the goal isn’t to read as many books as possible. The goal is to use the knowledge as much as possible. That’s why I recommend you take a month to process the information in a given book.
Reading a book might take you a week, but applying the knowledge in your life would take at least a month. For more about this, read my post How to Learn Something for Life and Make It a Part of Your Functional Knowledge.
Is This List Complete?
I don’t claim that this list is complete. I’m sure there are other life-changing books that I haven’t read yet. But so far, this is the best that I can come up with.
Hardcopy, Kindle, or Audiobooks?
Nowadays, my favorite format is audiobooks. I work out 6 days a week. That’s around six hours of free time to listen to audiobooks. With the Audible subscription program, audiobooks have a high benefit to cost ratio for me.
Some books don’t have an audiobook version. Then, I read the Kindle version. I like Kindle because I can read those books on my smartphone. I always have my complete library with me.
I understand that some people like the hardcopy versions of books. They’re great if you want to keep a library at home.
In either case, I don’t have any recommendations about which format to use. Nevertheless, one of these books don’t have a Kindle or hardcopy version. Some of them might not have audiobook versions. In such cases, your choice is limited to the available versions.
Without further ado, let’s start our list.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
If I could recommend you a single personal development book, it would be Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This book is about the fundamental principle of personal development.
If you don’t get this principle, everything you learn and do on personal development will be in vain.
This was an eye-opener for me. Once you get this principle, you get it for life. And your life changes, unless you already have the growth mindset of course.
Mastery by Robert Greene
Mastery is a great follow-up book after Mindset. It has some outstanding, inspiring real-life stories of people who adopted the growth mindset and achieved extraordinary success.
The book is based on the idea of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. If you spend 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a field, you’d bound to succeed.
Of course, those 10,000 hours vary between fields and people, but it gives you a good idea of what it takes to succeed in a field.
The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer
This is the real-life story of a college student who discovered mindfulness and yoga, followed his intuition, and ended up as the founder and CEO of a billion-dollar software company, written by himself.
The idea behind this book is when you let go of your worries and the chatter in your mind, your life finds its own flow, and everything falls in place.
Michael A. Singer wrote another book called The Untethered Soul, where he explains his philosophy. You can read that book as a companion, but it’s optional.
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.
Letting Go is an excellent follow-up book after The Surrender Experiment. This book is an excellent guide to achieve the mental state explained in The Surrender Experiment.
For the essence of the book, you can read my post Using Emotional Intelligence to Overcome Your Dysfunctional Patterns, where I share a quote from this book.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
This is a personal development classic for a good reason. It was one of the first personal development books that I read, and I’m glad I did that. If you’re interested in personal development, this book is a must-read.
The Magic of Self-Direction by Brian Tracy
The second habit of highly effective people is to determine what you want. Easier said than done. Luckily there’s an audio-program to do that.
The Magic of Self-Direction by Brian Tracy is a one-hour-long audio-program that includes the introduction and exercises to determine what you want in your life.
You’ll be able to complete all the exercises within an hour while listening to the program. It doesn’t get any better than that. I do this exercise every year to determine the focus of the next year.
I must warn you about the introduction of this program. It contains some outdated references to technology. Nevertheless, the rest of the material is timeless.
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
The Law of Attraction is a popular topic. Some people believe in it, and others think that it’s nonsense. There is a lot of nonsense written on this topic for sure. In either case, I didn’t want to avoid this topic.
If you see the world as black and white, you’ll either hate it or love it. I don’t see the world as black and white. There are some points in this idea that I find useful.
Visualizing the outcome you aim for will increase your probability of achieving it. Will you be able to attract things into your reality by thinking about them but doing nothing about them? Probably not.
Having said that, if you want to read a book about the Law of Attraction, make it this one. It’s an excellent follow-up on the Magic of Self-Direction. Once you determine what you want, you can use the ideas in this book to visualize them.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is a behavioral psychologist who received the Nobel Prize in Economics. This book can be summarized as how we fool ourselves. For more details on this book, I recommend you check my posts where I refer to Kahneman’s work.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Personal finance is a sensitive topic that we often avoid. However, we can’t ignore the fact that finances play a huge role in our lives.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad made a big difference in the way I looked at finances. It’s a simple yet powerful book.
If you like this book and you want to learn even more about personal finances, I recommend The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.
How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
This book made a significant difference in my life. It changed the way I approach communication. It’s easy and fun to read.
The subtitle of this book is 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships. The title and subtitle make no justice to the content of this book.
There are some principles in this book that many people miss. Don’t let that person be you. Don’t let your blind spots in communication keep you from reaching your potential in your career and life.
HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself
Talking about careers, here’s a collection of 10 essential Harvard Business Review articles on self-management. If you ever intend to work in an organization, this book is a must-read.
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
This list would be incomplete without a book on willpower. No amount of learning, planning, or visualizing would add any value to your life if you don’t have the willpower to follow up on all of that.
It’s my sincere wish for you to save this list and go over it in the next twelve months. Read or listen to the book at the beginning of that month. And live the entire month applying the ideas that you have learned from that book.
Go through all the twelve books and let me know how your life has changed in the last twelve months.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.