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The Ten Best Motivational Books, Ever!

Over the course of my reading years, several non-fiction books have stood out that I refer to time and time again. Whenever I get the ‘blues,’ or need some motivation with my writing or other projects, these are the books that motivate me to create and persevere. 


Please make sure to add your own top ten motivational books in the comments below and to share this with your friends and networks.

Here are my Top Ten Motivational Books:

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts


In this fascinating book, Alan Watts explores humanity’s quest for psychological security, examining our efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in the realms of religion and philosophy. THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY underlines the importance of our search for stability in an age where human life seems particularly vulnerable and uncertain. Watts argues our insecurity is the consequence of trying to be secure and that, ironically, salvation and sanity lie in the recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.

A fantastic book that addresses modernity’s woes with sound logic and reasoning while emphasizing the positives of encouraging ‘spirituality’ in everyday life. This book made things in my mind go ‘click.’ The ideas and succinct philosophy are essential reading for anyone interested in a way forward for humanity  – the blueprint is written here. If you have questions about life and spirituality and the ‘meaning’ of things, I highly recommend that you read this book and share it with someone you love.

The Outsider by Colin Wilson


As relevant today as when it originally published, THE OUTSIDER explores the mindset of characters who exist on the margins, and the artists who take them there. Published to immense acclaim, THE OUTSIDER helped to make popular the literary concept of existentialism. Authors like Sartre, Kafka, Hemingway, and Dostoyevsky, as well as artists like Van Gogh and Nijinsky delved for a deeper understanding of the human condition in their work, and Colin Wilson’s landmark book encapsulated a character found time and time again: the outsider.
 
How does the outsider influence society? And how does society influence the outsider? It’s a question as relevant to today’s iconic characters (from Don Draper to Voldemort) as it was when initially published. Wilson’s seminal work is a must-have for those who love books and are fascinated by that most difficult to understand of characters.

This book blew my mind when I read it. Wilson nails the intersection of art, life, and philosophy and puts forward his reasoned argument that highly creative individuals bordering on genius (writers, painters, philosophers, leaders etc.) are plagued with self-doubt and existential angst and that this is what drives them on to confront deep and sometimes terrible issues that the rest of us would rather ignore. And it is through this courageous confrontation of the dark side of life that beauty and meaning are discovered. 

As a lover of books that confront difficult issues and tough conceptual theories and ideas, this book is a fantastic ‘must read’ that answered so many of my own questions about life and art. Highly recommended. Note: Beyond the Outsider is also worth reading as a follow-up to this book.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999  –  and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, ON WRITING will empower and entertain everyone who reads it  –  fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

As an author who first wrote horror stories, this book was/is my bible. The information is entertaining and informative, but most of all, inspirational. King wrote this book while recuperating from a serious injury, and (for me) what makes this book great is that his determination and humour shine through as he looks back on his life while taking the time to offer advice to aspiring writers. 

For one of the most popularly successful authors in the world to lay it all on the table with this book is incredibly generous (and clever). If you’re a writer, you’d have to be dead inside not to glean at least one or two profoundly insightful pieces of advice or inspiration from On Writing

If you ever wanted to be an author, read this book. There is no BS, the hard road ahead is expertly mapped out in a way that will have you turning the last pages before you know it. I’m up to my tenth reading of this book, and it never gets old. 

    

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts


“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.” So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. SHANTARAM is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear. Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay’s hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas — this huge novel has the world of human experience at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

Fiction or fact, it does not matter, this tome is a masterpiece of prose that will leave most people (with a pulse), breathless. This is truly an epic tale filled with intrigue, adventure and humanity.  It's the kind of book that makes you want to leave your life behind and join the French Foreign Legion or take up base jumping. It reminds me of James Michener’s Caravans mixed with Louis L’Amour’s swash-buckling adventure The Walking Drum. Set in a contemporary setting, Shantaram has a resonance and immediacy that makes it all the more believable and epic as a result.

This book encouraged me to be more adventurous –  to realize that life does not have to be boring and without excitement. Ultimately, the road to realizing your dreams and achieving something truly worthwhile is paved with danger and obstacles that might seem insurmountable but are not impossible to overcome.


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl


MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

In the decades since its first publication in 1959, Man’s Search for Meaning has become a classic, with more than twelve million copies in print around the world. A 1991 Library of Congress survey that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING among the ten most influential books in America. At once a memoir, a meditation, a treatise, and a history, it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living.

This book is one of the most powerful and emotional reading experiences of my life. It is beautifully written, and the message it contains is profound. Whenever I feel low or think the world has treated me badly, I pick up this book and I know that life is good. Not because Frankl went through some really horrible and tragic life events and wrote about them really well, but because he experienced these things and emerged from his tragic experiences with a hope for humanity stronger than ever. 

Frankl's insights into human nature and the struggle between good and evil will leave a deep impression on your heart and mind. Whenever you think you have it tough or the way ahead is too difficult, pick up this book and read it and change your perspective on life for the better.

Worldly Wisdom: Confucian Teachings of the Ming Dynasty by J.C. Cleary


The philosophical, religious, and sociopolitical teachings of Confucianism have played a central role in East Asian culture for many centuries. This book presents a selection of passages from leading Chinese thinkers of the later Ming dynasty (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries), a peak period of Confucian creativity influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. Chosen for their practical interest and universal appeal, the passages are concerned with how to develop the personality, conduct social relations, and order society. In contrast to the common misconception of Confucianism as a formalistic ideology linked to authoritarian political regimes, these passages emphasize the cultivation of spiritual qualities as a means of operating harmoniously and successfully in the world.

This book spoke to me.  I can’t explain exactly why, but Worldly Wisdom is my ‘dip-in’ book. When I need some ideas or some motivation, I open it and always come up with a new insight or idea that inspires me. The wisdom provided brims with logical positivity and a timeless intelligence and humanity that is as important and meaningful now as it was when these great thinkers first penned their thoughts.


48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene


Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, THE 48 LAWS OF POWER is the definitive manual for anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control. In the book that People magazine proclaimed “beguiling” and “fascinating,” Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distilled three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.

 Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law 1: Never Outshine the Master”), others teach the value of confidence (“Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness”), and many recommend absolute self-preservation (“Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally”). Every law, though, has one thing in common: an interest in total domination. In a bold and arresting two-color package, THE 48 LAWS OF POWER is ideal whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game.

Aside from the beautiful aesthetic of this superbly crafted book, when you need a push forward with your business or social life, this packs a powerful punch. Filled to the brim with an eclectic selection of the best quotes regarding fundamental laws of human nature, it will inspire you to lift your game, step up, and stand out from the crowd with assertive mantras and knowledge you can use in everyday situations. 

If you're in a leadership role or use strategy in your business (or personal) life, this book is perfect for giving you the edge. Knowledge is power and this book is full of both. Read it.

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee


Compiled from Bruce Lee’s notes and essays and originally published in 1975, TAO OF JEET KUNE DO is the [leading] best-selling martial arts book in the world. This iconic work explains the science and philosophy behind Jeet Kune Do — the art Lee invented — and includes hundreds of Lee’s illustrations. Topics include Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. With introductions by Linda Lee and Editor Gilbert Johnson, TAO OF JEET KUNE DO is essential reading for any practitioner and offers a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest martial artists.

This book is a combat manual of enlightened philosophy. Bruce Lee’s unwavering determination, intelligence, and humanity shouts (or should I say, speaks softly with great authority) from these pages. Despite being a training guide for his self-defence martial art system, this book is so much more. If you’ve ever felt like giving up or seem to take the wrong route every time, read this book and take time to understand the very simple but highly effective principles he espouses. You are bound to change your perspective on life and how you live it. 

This book teaches you how to command respect, take control of your life and emotions, and take the most economical and effective steps forward. Aside from the practical fighting and self-defence applications he teaches, Lee always imbues his thoughts and suggestions with a philosophical twist that is both profound and poetic. A fantastic book that will motivate your mind as well as your body.

Freedom From The Known by J.D. Krishnamurti


Born in poverty in India, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) became a leading spiritual and philosophical thinker whose ideas continue to influence us today. George Bernard Shaw declared that he was the most beautiful human being he had ever seen and Aldous Huxley was one of his close friends. Whether debating politics with Nehru, discussing theories with Rupert Sheldrake and Iris Murdoch, or challenging his students not to take his words at face value, Krishnamurti engaged fully with every aspect of life. He is regarded by many modern religious figures as a great teacher, an extraordinary individual with revolutionary insights; Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra are all indebted to his writings.

FREEDOM FROM THE KNOWN is one of Krishnamurti’s most accessible works. Here, he reveals how we can free ourselves radically and immediately from the tyranny of the expected. By changing ourselves, we can alter the structure of society and our relationships. The vital need for change and the recognition of its very possibility form an essential part of this important book’s message.

This book should be required reading in all schools and for all politicians. It is soaked in a very human message and provides amazingly powerful and simple solutions, for people willing to change their lives for the better and who want to let go of recurring negative thought/life patterns. If you want to truly understand yourself, as an individual and as a human, read this book. It won’t necessarily make you rich or more successful, but you would benefit immensely from it as a leader or mentor. As Krishnamurti explains, freeing oneself from the social constructs, bad habits, enforced stereotypes and expectations of a lifetime is a key part of personal growth and original thinking. 

This book will open your eyes and mind to the possibilities of a ‘new you’.  Perhaps it is a very Eastern way of thinking (philosophically and socially), which makes it seem like a wholly original and unique concept, but to my Western mind,  it shouts truth and a fresh way of thinking that has me constantly referring back to this book when I need personal growth and development.


Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman


Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enhances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it. Offering many simple techniques, Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I -give-up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier... With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school, at work and in children, LEARNED OPTIMISM is both profound and practical–and valuable for every phase of life.

This book operates on many levels – a discourse on the various negative human traits (emotional, intellectual, psychological, social etc.) and a practical work-book for achieving a more positive outlook in your life and activities. It is a very deep, thorough and insightful work that is well worth the effort to read and take the time to fully grasp the methods and suggestions Seligman offers. If you are like me and one of those people who seem to be born cynics, this book is for you. 

The logical reasoning, lack of fluff and use of real-world examples worked really well to illustrate his theories and to show how the applications discussed in this book can be implemented. It has helped me become a lot more optimistic and see things in a much more positive light, and for that reason alone I list it here as one of the most influential and positive self-development books I’ve read.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you find something that will add value to your life in these book recommendations.

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