The 12 All-Time Best Business and Personal Development Books

Curated from Interviews with nearly 150 Authors

In 3 1/2 years of hosting Read to Lead, I’ve been afforded the pleasure of one-on-one sit-down chats with nearly 150 popular business book authors.

If you’re a regular listener to the show, you know that one of my favorite questions to ask each guest is, “Which books over the years have had the biggest impact on you, and why?”

12 best books

With the holidays in full swing, now seems as good a time as any to scour the Read to Lead archives and compile a list of the books receiving more mentions from my guests than all the others.

If you’re struggling with trying to decide what to buy for that special someone this holiday season, maybe the answer can be found on this list.

Or, if there are any on this list you’ve yet to read, maybe now is the time to do a little shopping for yourself too (or add them to your wishlist).

Either way, with some of the world’s most popular and successful authors doing the recommending, you can’t go wrong with any of them.


Scroll down to learn how you can win a copy of all 12 of these books! 


The 12 All-Time Best Business and Personal Development Books

I’ve decided to narrow this list down to the top 12 most recommended business and non-fiction books from my nearly 150 guests over the years.

Occasionally, a non-business book receives a nod. Both the Bible and The Alchemist come to mind as two mentioned often. Those and and few others have been purposely excluded from this list.

Here are the 12 business and non-fictions books receiving the most mentions from some of the world’s bestselling business book authors.

12. 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal by Dan Miller

It’s interesting that this book begins our list as its author, Dan Miller, also began our podcast. He was my first ever guest in episode #001. In that episode we talked about a more recent book of Dan’s called Wisdom Meets Passion.

Dan would appear again in episode #067. Here, we talked about 48 Days to the Work You Love. It’s one of two books making our top 12 that have also been featured on the show. It was January 2015 and the book had just been re-released in a special 10th Anniversary Edition. It has obviously stood the test of time as several former guests have recommended it.

I’ve purchased this book for a number of family and friends over the years. I even recommended it to a coaching client just the other day. It still shocks me to find people who haven’t yet heard of it.

Former guests Kimanzi Constable and Derek Olsen, among others, recommended this read. Kimanzi says he’s read it no less than 5 times and that…

…with each new reading, I find I’m inspired all over again by Dan’s words to keep forging ahead.”

11. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath

That the brothers Heath have yet to appear on Read to Lead as guests doesn’t mean they’ve never been invited (I’m looking to you Dan).

This book was mentioned as a favorite by guests Dan Miller and Dan Pink among others.

Dan Miller says it’s in his all-time Top 10 among business books because of its critical look at how we make decisions. We are often quick to choose between A and B, Dan says. He goes on to say that…

What they’re saying is ‘what about C through Z?’ I often hear people say, ‘Boy, I’m in a job I hate. But if I quit, I won’t make any money.’ Really? Are those the only two choices?”

Though not on our list, another book by the Heath brothers called Made to Stick has also been cited a number of times by former guests.

10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This is the book the Journal of Marketing Research called “among the most important books written in the last 10 years” for marketers.

It’s no wonder then that influencers and amazing marketers like Ray Edwards, Jia Jiang and Lisa B. Marshall would mention it as having had an impact on their careers.

Another guest mentioning the book was the Wharton School’s G. Richard Shell, who called it…

…the best book about human interaction from a psychologist, ever!”

09: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win the Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield

Stephen Pressfield is easily a favorite among my writing friends and colleagues.

No surprise then that this book earns a mention from fellow creatives and previous Read to Lead guests like Sunni BrownTaylor Pearson, and two-time guest Jon Acuff among others.

Guest Ray Edwards says he’s read it at least a dozen times. About the book, Ray says…

Any time I feel stuck creatively, or I begin to feel frustrated about getting bogged down by the details of my work, this book really wakes me up and brings me out of that space.”

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

The “habit” research alone cited in this book makes it well worth the read.

Since its release, Duhigg set out to explore the science of productivity in a book he published earlier this year called Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.

The Power of Habit has been mentioned as a favorite read by Jon Acuff, Michael Bungay Stanier, and Rachel Cruze among others.

About the book, guest Terry Lancaster says…

It’s about how to effectively create habits personally, in organizations, and in products – creating products that are ‘sticky’ and create habits for people to come back to. It’s a great book for a deep dive into the idea of habit formation.”

07: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This is ONE of the rare books I myself haven’t get gotten around to reading. In most circles, it seems the similarly themed book at #3 on this list has overshadowed it.

But for Pat Flynn, Jeff Sanders, and Kimanzi Constable, The ONE Thing is a definite can’t-miss book. In fact, I encourage you to check out Pat’s interview with co-author Jay Papasan below.

About the book, Jeff Sanders says…

It’s such an effective book for really knowing what matters in your life and identifying the few things that make the biggest difference and saying, ‘Today, what’s my ONE thing going to be? Today, how am I going to cut out the distractions and the nonsense and just do the work that really makes a difference to me?’ I need that message in my head as often as possible to remind me to stop doing dumb things.”

06: The 7 Habits of Highly Effect People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

What can I say about this book? It, and a few others on the list, are true classics.

This book gets a mention by personal branding expert Dan Schawbel, public speaking champion Ryan Avery, and former Disney executive Lee Cockerell among others.

With such a diverse group of successful names including it at the top of their lists, should it not be on yours?

Ryan Avery says he’ll…

…fight until we get it in schools. Everyone must read that book. I think it would make the world a better place. It’s changed my life forever.”

05: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9 – 5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

This is hands-down one of my favorite books from last decade.

I was greatly impacted by it personally and, for the first time, began seriously considering what my life might look like were I no longer working a traditional job.

Solopreneurs like Natalie Sission, Dan Norris, and Chandler Bolt all mentioned The 4-Hour Workweek as one of their all time favorites.

Natalie says that Tim’s book was a big foundational book for her. And that…

It caused me to think about things in a different way. Tim set the scene for getting people to think outside of this standardized, traditional world that we live in.”

04: How to Win Friends and Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success by Dale Carnegie

Upon the latest recommendation for this book from guest Pamela Wilson (who read it when she was just 12 years old), I decided to purchase a copy for my 13-year-old nephew. He devoured it in just a couple of days.

In addition to Rainmaker’s Pamela Wilson, influencers like Podcast Movement founder, Jared Easley, sales and productivity expert Rory Vaden, leadership expert John Maxwell, and several others all couldn’t list their all-time favorite books without mentioning this one.

Guest Clay Clark sites it as one of his favorites and says…

If you haven’t read this book you need to. Unless you’re weird, you’re going to have to influence friends and people.”

I think Clay is right. 🙂

03: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

TV personality Steve Harvey was so impacted by this entry that he invited Greg to appear on his talk show. It’s a great interview that you can check out here.

Essentialism seems to have had an impact on so many, from Entrepreneur on Fire’s Kate Erickson and blogger Michael Hyatt, to Margie Warrell and the aforementioned Dan Miller, this is a must-read book.

I was honored to welcome Greg onto Read to Lead for Episode #052. I encourage to check it out.

About Essentialism, guest Margie Warrell says…

It’s just a terrific book in terms of saying ‘no’ and asking yourself, ‘What are the few essential things you really need to focus on?’, and being able to discern…where you add the most value.”

Kate Erickson admits the book changed her.

It was so enlightening. Being a person who very much feels like I need to say yes to everything, and feeling bad about saying ‘no’ to people, or opportunities, this book was so, so powerful.

In addition to my own chat with Greg, I also appreciated Michael Hyatt and Michell Cushatt’s conversation with him as part of their This Is Your Life podcast. You can watch it below.

02: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

I “think” the competition is getting pretty fierce. From my friend and fellow podcaster and blogger Jeff Goins, to Chris Hogan, Tim Sanders, Kelly Roach and Brian Holmes, the impact of this book on the thinking of people I truly respect is unmatched.

There is a newer version out that modernizes the language a bit, but I’ve chosen to link to a version of the original.

Of this book, guest Kelly Roach says…

I’ve probably read it 15 times. I’ll continue to read it for the rest of my life. And I really believe that it’s from that book that I learned how important it is to never act entitled…and how important it is to understand that absolutely anything is possible when you set your mind to it, do the work, and take action.”

01: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

And then there was one. Released in 2001, I had the pleasure of first being exposed to this one around 2003.

That’s the year my love for reading was rekindled, thanks to a former boss of mine who encouraged the staff to read together and led weekly meetings to discuss the books we were going through.

Jim’s book was one of the first business books I read and it will always have a special place in my library.

This one gets mentioned by former Read to Lead guests like Scott Fay, Rory Vaden, Beth Buelow, Chris Hogan, Nancy Duarte, Rick Timmann, Cathy Salit and Dr. Henry Cloud to name a few.

Nancy Duarte, a bestselling author herself, says…

Jim Collins’ work radically changed me. We go back to it almost every year. He said if there’s one thing you can be best in the world at, passionate about and profitable at, do that one thing. That’s when I narrowed what we (Duarte) do to just presentations.

What About You

My hope is that this curated list from nearly 150 of today’s top authors will inspire you to pick up a few reads you maybe haven’t gotten to yet.

Have you read most of the books on this list already? Some of them? None of them?

Any glaring omissions in your view? Any on the list that surprised you?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

Win a Copy of All 12 Books!

For a chance at adding all 12 of these great books to your library, simply take the following two steps:

  1. Share this post you’re reading on your social media platform(s) of choice using the hashtag #ReadtoLead. Rather than copying and pasting the long URL for this post currently in your browser, you can alternatively use
  2. Once you’ve completed Step #1 above, send me an email with “Contest” as the subject line letting me know. My address is jeff [at] readtoleadpodcast [dot] com.

It doesn’t hurt to tag me on social media too if you can (Ex: I’m @THEjeffbrown on Twitter).

Bonus points if you leave a comment below sharing why you’d like to win (this is not required, but appreciated). 🙂

That’s it! You’re good to go and entered into the drawing. The deadline to share and email me is Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 at 11:59pm CST.


This contest has ended. Congrats to Jon Stolpe, winner of all 12 of these amazing books!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thanks, Jeff! Really great list, and I appreciate you taking the time to search through your archives and put this together.

  • Excellent

    • Thank you Jared! You recommended some great ones.

  • I keep hearing and coming across Essentialism and One Thing, they happen to be 2 books on this list I’ve not had any experience with. I have recently heard about Robert Cialdini, and I’m so interested in his works.

    I’ll really love to win any of these books @JeffBrown

  • jnswanson

    I’ve read four. I’d love to read more. (And I’d love to share a couple of these with some of the people I’m mentoring.)

    • I love that you’re always thinking of others Jon. Thanks for the comment!

  • Pingback: The 12 Best Business and Personal Development Books [Podcast] | Read to Lead Podcast()

  • Fatma Shuaib

    Read to Lead podcast is one of my most reliable resources for my readings. Thanks Jeff.

    Out of top 12, I’ve read/listened to 4 books (1. Essentialism, 2. How to Win Friends & Influence People, 3. The 7 Habits, 4. The One Thing).

    And 3 of them already on my Audible wish list (1. Good to Great, 2. Think & Grow Rich, 3. The Power of Habit)

    Who doesn’t want to when such deluxe collection of books! Some to keep & some to share with beloved ones.

  • Ray Queener

    Thanks for this Jeff!! Read to Lead is one of my regular podcasts and greatly enjoy the work you do! I have read most of these books and will be working on attacking the others!

    • Awesome to hear Ray! Thanks for commenting and, good luck!

  • Jeff, I’d love the opportunity to win these fantastic leadership books. I know they would be valuable in raising the bar on my leadership at work, at church, at home, and in my community. I read Essentialism this year, and it is an incredible resource.

    • Awesome Jon! Isn’t Essentialism an excellent book? Thanks for your comment and for sharing the post. Good luck!

  • I’ve learned so much from your podcasts–somehow I discovered you right at your first one! I’ve read some of these books and know that reading all of them will really help me move my business-and my life-to the next level.

    • Thank you for being such a loyal listener!

  • John Maxwell (he should have a few books on this list!) writes and talks about how influential his dad was, how his dad encouraged him to read leadership books.
    I’d love to win not just to read them but so I can hand them off to my son and encourage him to get started reading them before he goes to college next year.

    • Wow, good point Sovann. How did a John Maxwell book not make this list? 🙂 Love the idea of you passing them onto future generations too. Good luck!

  • Agenna Mathley

    I have read all but Decisive – but it’s on my list, thanks for the great list. I enjoy listening to your podcast, then delving in to the books you review. I have purchased most of these books, but share them and only one currently resides on my book shelf. I would love to win so I can continue to share great books. Thanks for all you do!

    • Wow, all but one? I’m impressed! Thanks Agenna!

  • John Tiernan(ConfidenceDojo)

    Great List Jeff! Would love to add all of these to my collection. Have had several on my ‘to read’ list for a while & might not have checked out some of the others until now – I mean your guests are amazing so these are definitely the cream of the crop. Would love to devour them all and give away to friends/family that might be interested. Thanks

    • Wonderful John. Thanks for the feedback and…good luck!

  • Jeff, why do I want to win?

    Dude… the prize is books!


    📚 📚 📚 📚

    • But of course. If it’s any consolation, the eventual winner was named Jo(h)n. 🙂

      • Nope… it does not.

        But word on the interwebs is Jon is a pretty good guy so I shall celebrate his win.

  • All these books are on my to-read list anyway. So might as well get them all for free from THE Jeff Brown.

    • Absolutely Derek. Thank you for sharing about this on social media. I so appreciate all that you and Carrie are doing. 🙂

  • Jeff,

    Love the podcast, keep up the great work.

    You could just read those 12 books every year and you would still grow in so many ways.

    I haven’t read 48 Days or Essentialism.

    I’m trying something different this year with my reading. I’m still going to read as much as I usually do (100+ nonfiction/year) but I’ve decided to pick 4 books and do a quarterly deep dive where I blog about what I’m learning from them and how I’m applying their lessons to my life.

    1st quarter is Tools of Titans, 2nd is Grit by Angela Duckworth, 3rd is Essentialism and 4th is TBD. Thanks for reinforcing that I made a good choice for the 3rd quarter.

    Be well.


    • That’s awesome! Looking forward to Tools of Titans myself. Thanks for listening.