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The Best Self Improvement Books For Personal Growth In 2021

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The infamous 2020 is finally behind us, while 2021 looms in front, nebulous, still undecided about the form it will assume. Will it be friend or foe? Only time will tell.

This uncertainty about what 2021 will hold can be worrisome if we let it. But if there’s one lesson that 2020 has taught me, it’s to focus on what we can control rather than what we can’t.

During 2020, focusing on my personal growth was a lifesaver for me.

If you’re in search of a new perspective on life, or simply seeking to know yourself more intimately, check out the following list of best self improvement books for personal growth.

These reads are sure to challenge the way you think about: happiness, habits, mindset, and your purpose in life.

10 best self improvement books for personal growth in 2021
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The 10 Best Self Improvement Books For Personal Growth

The books recommended in this next section are all books that I have read (and in some cases re-read) in the last year. I have chosen to share these particular books with you because in one way or another they have all had a positive impact on my life, and I hope that they will impact yours as well. 

Books About Happiness

In the last decade or so, I’ve come to understand that happiness is a habit, something that everyone is capable of, but that must consistently be worked towards. 

I read the following books in the hope to shed light on the process of building a happiness habit.


The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

This book is one of the few that I’ve included here that is not written by a researcher or expert in their field. Gretchen Rubin was actually trained as a lawyer, but gave up this profession to become a full time writer.

The thing that I like about this book is that it is an everyday person’s account of how they attempted to improve their own happiness over the course of a year-long experiment she dubbed the Happiness Project.

This project shows how we can improve our overall happiness by simply making small but consistent changes to our daily habits over time. No dramatic life-upending gestures required!


Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

This book was written by an Israeli-born professional squash player turned author and Harvard Psychology Professor. Talk about a big change!

In his book, Dr. Ben-Shahar shares the science of happiness in a way that is easy to understand, and then gives examples that really bring the message home, and finally, teaches the reader how to become happier. 

My favorite thing about this book is that it blends theory and application beautifully. His “hamburger model” of happiness, though comically named, was a real eye-opener for me on how happiness actually works.

In fact, I wrote about the hamburger model of happiness here!

Books About Healthy Habits & Mindset

You can’t have personal growth without addressing habits and mindset!


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

James Clear is a self-help blogger turned author of a national best-seller. I’ve always really admired his work, and he’s become somewhat of a role-model for me.

Like Gretchen Rubin, James Clear does not hold the title of “doctor” but he is really amazing at simplifying complex science into easy-to-understand, actionable steps for the rest of us.

Don’t miss this book for a straight-forward, science-backed 4-step plan to break bad habits and adopt healthier ones.


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

This book was the original handbook for how to understand and actually engineer your own habits. 

James Clear’s book borrows heavily from the ideas of others like BJ Fogg and Charles Duhigg and presents them very clearly all in one place. 

But if you want to go straight to the source, this is it!


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I’m convinced that this book changed the trajectory of my life

Dr. Carol Dweck is a world renowned psychology researcher who in this book, coined the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset which you’ve likely heard about by now.

This book was really written for teachers, parents, and coaches, but every single person can benefit from the concepts presented in this book. Seriously, If I could only recommend one book to anyone for all of eternity – it’d be this one.

But if you haven’t got time to read the whole book, you can check out my posts on the growth mindset here:

If you aren’t familiar with the growth mindset yet – you’re really missing out!


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

This book is a very “colorful” but insightful book on mindset and life in general. 

But be warned, the life lessons in this book are heavily laced with curse words – enough to make even the most seasoned of sailors welcome Manson into their fold. So if R-rated language makes you cringe, definitely skip this one, just know that you’ll be missing out on some fresh and extremely thought-provoking perspectives.

Books About Finding Your Purpose In Life

Those of you that have been following this blog for awhile know that I was injured on the job two days into 2020, and am still working hard to recover. This situation, paired with the global pandemic that followed, were excellent motivators for me to slow down and re-examine the direction that my life was taking.

The following books were part of that deep dive into my life’s purpose.


Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles 

I’ve got to be honest when I say that this book wasn’t at all what I expected when I picked it up. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did!

It reminds me a lot of The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner.

The Blue Zones looks at the similarities in lifestyle in the 5 places around the world where people have the longest life expectancy and highlights the common factors that seem to result in those added years. This book zeros in on just one of those 5 areas – the one in Japan.

It merely brushes over the concept of Ikigai (your life purpose), but that’s really it. If you’re mostly interested in how to find your ikigai, skip this book and check out the next one on the list by the same authors. 

But if you want to wrap your mind around why people in Japan live so long – and hear it right from the mouths of their adorable and sassy old folk – this is the book for you.


The Ikigai Journey: A Practical Guide to Finding Happiness and Purpose the Japanese Way by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles 

This book is more what I was expecting when I checked out the previous book on this list.

This one really zeros in on HOW to go about finding your life purpose or ikigai. I loved that each chapter was dedicated to a different exercise that could help you unearth your own ikigai.

My favorite chapters were the ones on:

  • Shinkansen objectives (a way of thinking that helps you achieve what you may have once thought to be an impossible goal)
  • The Pomodoro technique, and
  • Benjamin Franklin and his 13 virtues

The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life Chris Guillebeau

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Chris Guillebeau. In this book he looks at the stories of tons of different real-life stories about people who decided to dedicate their life to a “quest”.

For example, one man set out to get rejected every single day and recorded the experience to share on YouTube. One woman wanted to see more birds than anyone ever before. The author even had his own quest of visiting every single country in the world, even the not-so welcoming, war-torn ones.

In this book he asks the question what drives people to dedicate their life to a “quest”, and gives directions for discovering your own quest.


Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life by Ken Sir Robinson PhD

This book is the sequel to the author’s first book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. The first book was more concerned with theory, whereas this one is designed to be a step-by-step guidebook to finding your element. 

Your element is somewhat similar to the concept of ikigai and is defined as the area of intersection between your natural talent and your passion for something – basically, what you are good at and what you enjoy. 

If you aren’t sure what your passion in life is – the activities in this book are perfect to help you uncover it.

10 Self Improvement Books On My Reading List For 2021

I consider myself a life-long learner and am constantly searching for new concepts to learn and skills to master.

The books in this section are books I intend to read in the coming year, in no particular order.

Conclusion

I hope this list of self improvement books has inspired you to do a little personal growth in the coming year! 

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!

  • Have you read any of these books before? What did you think of them?
  • Will you be adding any of my recommendations to your own reading list?
  • Are there any books that I don’t have on this list that you would recommend that I check out?

And finally, would you be interested in forming a little book club to read self improvement or personal growth books?

Let me know! I’ve been thinking about forming a digital book club for awhile now.

Happy reading!

~Clarissa

The perfect personal growth reading list for 2021
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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

100 Replies to “The Best Self Improvement Books For Personal Growth In 2021

  1. These sound like some great books to read. The suble art of not giving a f**k has been on my TBR list for a little while. I’d also recommend Self Love Shift by Georgina Lynch for books that change your mindset and give you a more positive outlook.

    1. The subtle art is a good one Kelly I think you’ll like it. I read your book review on Your blog about the self-love shift and it looked pretty interesting! Thank you, I will add it to my list.

    1. I love them as well Antonia as you might be able to tell! Sounds like you’ve already got a pretty good list going. Thank you for stopping by to check mine out and happy New Year!

      1. You are welcome Abayomi. The subtle art is definitely a good one. It seems to be a crowd favorite here! I hope you like some of the others as well. Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read!

  2. These books sound absolutely incredible, thank you for posting! I specifically like the sound of Ikigai as I love the Japanese culture and how relaxed and at ease it makes me feel!

    1. I’m glad you like them Elle! Yes the Japanese have a fascinating culture, I’ve always been intrigued by them. I think you’ll like the ikigai books – they are some of my favorite! Definitely not to be missed.

    1. Thank you Rachel! I hope that you will find some wisdom and knowledge about yourself in these books. As you can tell 2020 was definitely a year of self-discovery for me, and These books played such a huge part in that. Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read. I wish you the very best 2021!

  3. A lot of people have recommended me to read The Art Of Not Giving A Fuck and Ikagi. But I haven’t read these two books yet. Maybe I should add these two books in my 2021 reading list. Thank you for your recommendations.

  4. These are all great reads, Clarissa! I was on the hunt for some self-help books to kickstart the year and solve some of the issued I had the last year, so they come handy! Thanks for sharing x

    1. That’s awesome Cristina I’m glad this came at such a perfect time for you. I suspected it might be a good time when people would be looking for these books. Best of luck with your goals in 2021!

  5. I’ve always wanted to read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, but you’ve come up with so many other great suggestions!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

    1. It’s definitely worth a read Katie! Mark Manson gives such a fresh perspective to a lot of other self-help books. You either love him or hate him and I love him. I hope you will too!

  6. This is a good list! The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F has been on my to-read list for a long time now. One of my goals this year is to see one self-help/improvement book a month 🙂 I’m interested to read Mindset – The New Psychology to Success from your list! I’m also excited to read Dave Ramsey’s money books (he has a few)

    http://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

    1. That’s a fantastic goal Lynn! What a great idea. I should do something like this for my reading. But lately a lot of my reading has been textbook reading for a certification test I’m studying for. After that I think I might do the same as you! Thanks for the ideas and inspiration.

  7. I love this list of self-improvement books. Much to the dismay of my already overcrowded bookshelf, I have added some of these books to my Goodreads account. I like the sound of the happiness project, as it sounds like a comprehensive guide on realistic changes you can make throughout your day. I have ‘The Power of Habit’ already on my bookshelf, and might give that another read this year. From your glowing recommendation, I have also added ‘Mindset: The Ne Psychology of success’, as that sounds like a fascinating read. I have added a few more from this list as well, and I wish I could buy them all if I’m honest. Thank you for sharing a list I will no doubt be looking at again. 😊

    1. Awww thank you I am so happy to hear that you found so many useful books on this list. Apologize to your bookshelf for me will you? 😂 Yes, I am excited to hear that you will be reading Carol dweck’s mindset book I can never recommend that book enough. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on some of these books with me. Happy New Year!

  8. You have some great options here. I LOVE self-improvement books. They really do help you to keep your mindset framed in a positive and productive way. Have you ever read the book The Magic of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. If I was pressed to choose a single book that had the biggest impact on me over the years, that would be it.

    1. Thank you Britt! No, I have never heard of the book The magic of thinking Big. But I just added it to my reading list. Thank you so much I always get excited for new and inspirational books to read. 😁 I’m definitely a self-help book nerd.

  9. Thanks for the list. I’m challenging myself to read 30 books during 2021. I will choose some books from your list to improve my personality.

    1. That’s an awesome goal Selma! I’m curious what types of books are you looking to read or is it just 30 of any kind? most people that set reading challenges for themselves I’ve seen is only fiction, but I think a combination would be nice!

    1. This is such a great list! I have The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck and Atomic Habits on my to read list, can’t wait to start on them as I’ve heard good reviews. Everything else you recommended sounds good and I’m definitely going to check them out. I plan to read more this year 😊

      Thank you for sharing

      Shuana
      http://www.howivebeen.com

      1. You are very welcome Shuana! It’s one of my goals to read more this year as well. That’s such a great goal! You will definitely love the subtle art and atomic habits They are both fantastic. Thank you for stopping by and taking a look at my list.

    1. Thanks Olivia! I hope that these books will help you get your happiness fix, So to speak. I’ve always thought no matter how how happy you are there’s always room for improvement. Plus something about the science and psychology of happiness just fascinates me. Happy reading!

  10. I am familiar with Mark Manson because he is the kind of person who writes in ways some of my friends connect with. Sometimes a little strong language and total release of emotions is what it takes in writing to express a journey toward happiness!

    Thank you for sharing some great reads; the Ikigai books look especially interesting. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked the list Jaya. Yes I found that a lot of people have read Mark Manson’s book. Rightfully so though, it’s a good one. I love its fresh perspective.

      And yes, I would absolutely recommend that you read one or both of the books on ikigai. Some of the mindset stuff that comes out of Japan is so fascinating. There’s definitely a reason that they live as long as they do.

    1. That’s awesome Erica, me too! Which self-help books are your favorite in particular? Any that have really left an impression on you? I’d love to add them to my list if I haven’t already read them. Happy New Year!

  11. I’m currently reading The Happiness Project! It is very interesting and I agree that I like that it’s written by a normal person so you see honest struggles of her trying to incorporate her resolutions. Most of these books I have not read but I’m going to add a couple to my list! Thanks for the great recommendations

    1. You are very welcome Kathleen! I hope you Find some inspiration or self-discovery in some of these books that I recommended. That’s awesome that you’re already reading the happiness project. The author of that book Gretchen Rubin has a few others that I’m really looking forward to reading here in the next year as well. Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation!

    1. You are very welcome Jade. Atomic habits by James clear might be just the one. It’s all based on science but doesn’t go into all the sciency jargon It has a much more application-based approach which I absolutely love. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog!

  12. These sound like some excellent reads. Having recently gotten a Kindle for Christmas I’ll be sure to grab some of these books!

    1. Ooooh nice Jen! I absolutely love my Kindle. Mine’s probably about 5 years old now but I don’t want to replace it because it has the old backlit screen rather than the paper white. I like the backlit screen so I can read in the dark before bed. I hope you find some inspiration in these books. Happy New Year and happy reading!

  13. These are such great recommendations! I am currently reading, “The Book Of Joy” written by Dalai Lama and Deskond Tutu. I love self improvement books especially about Happiness. Thank you for these. Definitely will be diving I to some of these as well.

  14. This is such an interesting list of books. I should definitely pick up at least one of them but then again probably 2 or 3. The books on Happiness and Achieving Goals are the most interesting ones to me. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. You are very welcome Kasia! I hope you will find them just as informative and inspiring as I did. And I hope they will make achieving your goals in 2021 a little easier. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment on this.

  15. So many people have recommended Atomic Habits to me recently that I am super excited to read it. Have it ordered from the library but sooo many people are waiting for it, it will be a while lol. I haven’t heard of the rest but will have to check them out!! Thank you for sharing!!

  16. These are some really great books here. I finally read atomic habits, I’ve read the subtle art of not giving a fvck also. I’ll add some from your list to my reading list for the year. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Honestly, I really love to read self-improvement books but I don’t know I just feel like I can get the same quality of content listening to a podcast or watching a Youtube video, for example. After all, it’s all about the message. But great books!!!
    I’d love to read Thinking Fast and Slow. Seems intriguing and insightful! Thanks for sharing.

    http://www.lifebeginsattwenty.com

    1. I am with you Monique. I don’t really like audiobooks as much as I have tried to get into them. I think the problem for me is that I have a really hard time with auditory learning. I’m much better with visual or kinesthetic learning. So if it’s a fiction book I can sometimes do it on the audiobook but for these sort of nonfiction books I’d always prefer a copy that I can actually read. Plus it’s nice to be able to highlight quotes and passages and stuff that I’d like to come back to. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, and happy reading!

  18. Oooh, love that there are books out there that give you insight on how to improve yourself. I keep hearing about how good The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* is! I need to look into this – especially with it being raw. I don’t mind curse words, it is what it is lol! I saw ikigai a while ago, it just makes sense! Doing the thing you enjoy with value! Enjoy the reads!

    Nancy ✨ mdrnminimalists.com

    1. Thank you Nancy, I always do. And yes definitely check out Mark Manson’s book. I don’t mind the curse words either but Man he’s got enough of them to make those sentences very long. 😂🤣 I think a lot of people get some good entertainment out of it. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my post!

  19. Great post! I haven’t read any of these books but I’ll check them out because I really like the sound of them! Thank you for sharing these self-improvement book suggestions!

  20. I’ve read Mark Manson’s book – love the raw, real-life, practical approach. These books sound interesting. I’ll be adding some of them to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendations.

  21. New Year is a great season to work on changing and growing. I’m not a big fan of this type of books because some don’t even have a consistent philosophy behind them. However, your recommendations seem tempting and interesting 🙂

    Lindifique

    1. Self-help books aren’t for everyone Natalia that’s for sure. I’ve always had a love for them but I know not everyone does. The ones I’ve recommended here are all based in science though so if you ever are tempted these are good ones. 🙂

  22. Great post! I’ve been looking for something like this for as a gift for a friend, as he loves this kind of thing! Thanks for sharing x

    1. I’m glad you liked the recommendations! Yes the book’s about Japanese culture and there health habits and practices have always fascinated me. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment!

  23. Thanks for this listing. I hadn’t heard of most of these books!
    I am definitely gonna check out a couple of them. Don’t think I am ambitious enough to try them all just yet. 🙂

    1. That’s all right Amy you definitely don’t have to read all of them. I think reading any one of them would give you some great insight for personal growth and self-discovery. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Happy reading!

  24. Thanks for so many good choices. I think The Happiness Project sounds good and the How to not give a f*** intrigues me.

    1. That’s awesome Natasha I hope that these will give you the insight that you need to tackle your goals this year. You might check out the one on mindset as well as I actually found that had a huge effect on successfully building new habits. Thank you for stopping by and best of luck with your new habits!

    1. Haha then Mark Manson’s book is definitely the right fit for you Ruth! I hope that you’ll love it as much as I did. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment!

  25. Such a great post and two books I know that I need to read for sure now! Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life and the subtle art of not giving a f*ck, will be keeping my eyes out for these now!

    1. Awesome Hannah both great choices! I absolutely love those Ikigai books. You’re so interesting to me how different cultures approach health and habits so differently than we do. There’s a lot we can learn. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and happy reading!

  26. I really want to read more self-improvement books this year so I’m really excited about this list. I actually just listened to Ikigai today and it was quite interesting. I will absolutely have to read The Ikigai Journey. Can’t wait to add a bunch of these to my TBR and read them.

    1. Reading more self-help books as a fantastic goal for the new year! That’s so funny you were just listening to Ikigai today. Thanks so much for checking out my list and best of luck with your reading goal!

    1. You are very welcome Markus. It looks like it may be another great year to dedicate to reading if we might be stuck inside. I hope these books provide you with some good entertainment and knowledge as well!

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