This post contains the top seven books of the year to help motivate and inspire you to change your life and career for the better.
If I were to characterize this year, as opposed to previous years, I'd have to say that it was the year that motivational books transcended the genre.
But don't take my word for it. Read for yourself!
Subtitle: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Author: Adam Grant
Why It's Worth Reading: Most motivational books (indeed, several on this list) recommend going "all out" to fulfill your dreams. The book takes a more nuanced approach, suggesting that you can be more innovative and creative if you maintain a sense of balance.
Best Quote: "T.S. Eliot's landmark work, The Waste Land, has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's most significant poems. But after publishing it in 1922, Eliot kept his London bank job until 1925, rejecting the idea of embracing professional risk. As the novelist Aldous Huxley noted after paying him an office visit, Eliot was 'the most bank-clerky of all bank clerks.' When he finally did leave the position, Eliot still didn't strike out on his own. He spent the next forty years working for a publishing house to provide stability in his life, writing poetry on the side. As Polaroid founder Edwin Land remarked, 'No person could possibly be original in one area unless he were possessed of the emotional and social stability that comes from fixed attitudes in all areas other than the one in which he is being original.' "
Subtitle: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Author: Angela Duckworth
Why It's Worth Reading: Conventional business wisdom (especially in hiring) is that your company will become more successful if you hire the "smartest guys in the room." This book explains why such teams often crash and burn, and why teams of people who have the determination to succeed (but less natural talent) are almost always more successful.
Best Quote: "For years, several national surveys have asked: Which is more important to success--talent or effort? Americans are about twice as likely to single out effort. The same is true when you ask Americans about athletic ability. And when asked, 'If you're hiring a new employee, which of the following qualities would you think is most important?' Americans endorse 'being hard-working' nearly five times as often as they endorse 'intelligence.' [However,] what we say we care about may not correspond with what--deep down--we actually believe to be more valuable. It's a little like saying we don't care at all about physical attractiveness in a romantic partner and then, when it comes to actually choosing whom to date, picking the cute guy over the nice one. The 'naturalness bias' is a hidden prejudice against those who've achieved what they have because they work for it, and a hidden preference for those whom we think arrived at their place in life because they're naturally talented. We may not admit to others this bias for naturals; we may not even admit it to ourselves. But the bias is evident in the choices we make."
3. The Code of the Extraordinary Mind
Subtitle: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms
Author: Vishen Lakhiani
Why It's Worth Reading: While this book (like many in the genre) is a little heavy on the "look how successful I am" personal experiences, it contains several concepts that are definitely worth learning. In particular, I liked the idea of "becoming unf**kablewith," which the author defines as being " so rock solid in your own self that judgments from others or fear of loss no longer affect you." Great stuff.
Best Quote: "There's an invisible code as to how the world operates--how human beings interact with each other, how we worship, relate with our parents, perform at work, fall in love, make money, and stay healthy and happy. Just as a programmer can program a computer to do specific tasks by understanding its code, you can program your life in the world around you to improve, enhance the way you live and the experiences you have in this lifetime."
4. Be Obsessed or Be Average
Author: Grant Cardone
Why it's worth reading: While technically this is a sales and marketing book, it's got so much positive energy that it's impossible to read it with getting energized!
Best Quote: "When you become unapologetically obsessed, as I am, you'll be at your very best: hyperfocused, persistent beyond understanding, creative to the point of appearing magical, and with an insatiable determination to win that not only attracts great talent but also brings out the best in others. This level of obsession doesn't mean you are selfish or self-centered; it means that you're finally operating at the levels you are always meant to and that you can pull others around you up to their full potential and possibilities."
5. Smarter Faster Better
Subtitle: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
Author: Charles Duhigg
Why It's Worth Reading: Duhigg is probably the best of the contemporary writers on productivity. He considers matters deeply, expresses himself in simple prose, and avoids the clichés endemic to the genre.
Best Quote: "Productivity, of course, means different things in different settings. One person might spend an hour exercising in the morning before dropping the kids at school and consider the day a success. Another might opt to use that time locked in her office returning emails and calling a few clients, and feel equally accomplished. A research scientist or artist may see productivity in failed experiments or discarded canvases, since each mistake, they hope, gets them closer to discovery, while an engineer's measure of productivity might focus on making an assembly line ever faster. A productive weekend might involve walking through the park with your kids, while a productive workday involves rushing them to day care and getting to the office as early as you can. Productivity, simply put, is the name we give our attempts as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. It's a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle. It's about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way."
6. Napoleon Hill's Greatest Speeches
Author: Napoleon Hill
Why It's Worth Reading: Napoleon Hill singlehandedly created the "self-help" movement. While his most famous book, Think and Grow Rich, feels a bit dated, his speeches are timeless: clear, clean, and expressive.
Best Quote: "I believe it befitting to state that twenty years ago I was working as a laborer, at wages of a dollar a day. I had no home and no friends. I had but little education. My future then looked very unpromising. I was downcast in spirit. I had no ambition. I had no definite purpose in life. All around me I saw men, some young, some old, who were whipped--just as I felt that I was. I absorbed my environment as a sponge absorbs water. I became a part of the daily routine in which I lived. It had never occurred to me that I could ever amount to anything. I believed that my lot in life was to be that of a laborer. I was just like a horse that had the bit slipped into its mouth and the saddle buckled on its back. Here is the turning point in my career. Note it well! A chance remark, no doubt made in a half jocular way: 'You are a bright boy! What a pity you are not in school instead of at work as a laborer at a dollar a day!' 'You are a bright boy!' These were the sweetest words I ever heard."
7. On Fire
Subtitle: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life
Author: John O'Leary
Why It's Worth Reading: An incredibly moving and powerful story of one's family's struggle to overcome a personal disaster and what you can learn from their experience. Heartrending and inspiring.
Best Quote: "The fire was a death sentence. My mom didn't know this when she walked into the hospital room that morning. She didn't know at that moment the coming agony of going to bed nightly wondering if her little boy would be alive when the next day arrived. She never imagined pacing the hospital floors at night, crying in lonely, darkened corners of the halls, or enduring the hours of agonized waiting through dozens of surgeries with her son's life hanging in the balance. All she knew--all we knew--was that the fight was on."