Say what you want about politics or culture--the past year has been amazing in terms of the books that have come out.

People dedicated to getting what they want in life are on a constant journey to learn more about themselves and the world around them, and the best way to do that is to read.

Below, I've broken down four books that have come out in the past year that are required reading for anyone looking to create his or her dream life--whatever that life is.

These books cover it all:

  • Personal development
  • Sociological aspects of success
  • Philosophy
  • Finance
  • Career advice

Simply put, there is no one on earth who can't benefit from reading these four books:

1. Barking Up the Wrong Tree, by Eric Barker

We're so good at defining what success looks like, but so bad at defining what leads to success.

It turns out, a lot of our notions of "successful behavior" are way off base. For instance, did you know that it is extremely rare for a valedictorian to become a millionaire?

Barking Up the Wrong Tree is a study of what actually causes success--and what doesn't. If you're passionate about doing what you want in life, read this book and see whether you're actually doing the things that will lead to your success or sabotaging yourself accidentally.

2. Real Artists Don't Starve, by Jeff Goins

If your version of doing what you want involves a creative field--if you want to be a writer, for instance--you will inevitably deal with the stereotype of the starving artist.

The cliché is that in order to follow your passion, you need to let go of things like monetary success--because your craft is too pure for that ...

In Real Artists Don't Starve, Jeff Goins destroys this false notion. Instead of saying, "I'm too focused on my craft to worry about money," Jeff points out that truly great art almost always fetches a high price.

The book is a great guide to making money as a creative professional, and one that I'd recommend to anyone whose vision of success involves some artistic pursuit.

3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

In the self-development world, most books are written to fix a "problem" in you:

  • Anxious? Here's a book to cure anxiety.

  • Not productive enough? Here's a book for that.
  • Unorganized? There are libraries full of that book.

And while that in itself is not a problem, a lot of these books are premised around a lie: If you solve this one problem, your life will cease to be a struggle.

That's why Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck has become a bestseller--because he directly calls out that lie. In Manson's philosophy, life is nothing but problems. As he puts it, "Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another."

The question then isn't what problems do you want to fix, it's what problems do you want to have? What challenges are fun to you? What areas of growth do you find meaningful?

4. Make Your Bed, by William McRaven

The only book on this list that can boast of being based on a viral video, Make Your Bed is the distilled wisdom of Admiral William McRaven on how little things, like making a bed, changed his life.

McRaven explained in a speech he gave to graduates at the University of Texas at Austin--the same speech that went viral and formed the base of this book--that as a Navy SEAL, making his bed every day was an incredibly important routine:

"The idea of making the bed is it's the same sense of discipline. It's the same sense that you're going to get up and do something, but it's an easy task to undertake. You roll out of bed, you just put your bed, you make it straight. Again, you get it right, too.

It's not just about kind of throwing the covers over the pillow. It's about making your bed right and walking away and going, 'Okay, that's good. That looks good. I'm, as simple as it sounds, I'm proud of this little task I did.' And that is really what I think sets the tone for the rest of the day."

Sometimes, if you want to effect massive change, it's best to start small.