I probably don’t have to tell you that 2020 has been a year of extreme change. For some of us, COVID-19 has offered a chance to reflect, evaluate, and improve our lives from within, especially since recent events have proven that not everything is in our control (shocker!).
Faced with more personal time—as we experience unemployment or working from home—it’s never been a better time to pick up one of the best self improvement books of 2020 and get to work developing what we can control: ourselves.
Why I’m Interested in Self Improvement
“A consistent man believes in destiny, a capricious man in chance.”– Benjamin Disraeli
About three months ago, I was a nervous college student about to graduate into a world changed by COVID-19. I had no idea what was coming next. I had applied to an assortment of jobs I knew I wasn’t going to get, spent too many hours tweaking my resume, and was researching the price of plane tickets to Italy on a daily basis.
This is also about the time I picked up one of my first self-improvement books (Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins—more on that one below!). While I read, I began thinking critically about what I wanted my life to look like. For the first time, I was faced with no set path, no plan, and no certainty.
For the first time, I could totally control what happened next. Which was pretty scary!
I became interested in self improvement because I’m interested in leading a fulfilling, prosperous life. I started reading self-improvement books because I wanted to design a life that felt good. A life that didn’t feel like I was sitting around waiting for someone to give me the “All clear!”
Of course, it’s not so simple as all that. Self improvement is a journey; a halting, gradual, zig-zagging kind of journey with lots of bumps, confusing signs, and no cell phone service.
Fortunately, starting the journey happens to be pretty easy. All you need is the knowledge that we are flawed, bizarre beings and that we can start implementing changes to better our lives right now.
The Best Self-Improvement Books of 2020
I’ll be covering seven of the most highly recommended self improvement books for the modern age:
- The Middle Finger Project: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve by Ash Ambirge
- You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly
- Declutter Your Mind by Barrie Davenport and S.J. Scott
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
Let’s dive in!
The Middle Finger Project: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve by Ash Ambirge
“You’ve felt it, right? This tiny little feeling of anarchy inside of you that really wants to say, ‘Oh, fuck this.’”
Ash Ambirge is an absolute hoot-and-a-half with her fresh, irreverent, and insightful narrative.
The first part of the novel covers Ash’s experiences growing up in a trailer park, losing her mother, and finding herself sleeping in a Kmart parking lot with only 26 dollars and nowhere to turn. Yikes!
But Ash is all about trusting your most dangerous ideas, not running scared from them. She shares how her dangerous ideas changed everything for her, and they can change everything for you too.
The second half dives deep and addresses all the advice Ash wished she knew when she first struck out on her own. Her wisdom includes insights such as “be brave enough to cause problems,” and “sometimes you’ve got to be a bitch about money.”
This is the perfect book if you want to empower yourself, shake off imposter syndrome, and become absolutely “unf*ckwithable.”
You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”
If you love an irreverent self-help book, this one’s for you, baby.
Jen Sincero certainly didn’t start as a self-improvement guru by any means. She was just as skeptical about the self-help/spiritual world as anyone else. Too much mysticism and “ra-ra.”
But over time, after living a less-than-satisfactory life for many years, Jen finally decided to start the process of improving herself. Always feeling like she was never fully engaged or using her full capacity, Jen made the change and began investing heavily in self-improvement.
Jen’s book takes all the useful information she learned on her journey and puts it in one convenient place. She helps us learn how to take decisive action, understand our subconscious and conscious minds, and get in tune with God, Energy. Vibrations, or Whatever-you-want-to-call it!
This is a book for anyone feeling disenchanted, disengaged, or like they aren’t reaching their full potential!
The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly
“We are afraid to be ourselves. We are afraid that if people really knew us they wouldn’t love us. That is the deepest of all human fears, lurking in the heart of every person.”
Self-improvement doesn’t just stop with ourselves. It also extends to our closest and most intimate relationships. When we focus on others and give them the time and commitment they deserve, we often find that our own lives have improved dramatically.
Kelly’s unique and thoughtful novel focuses on the value of viewing love as a choice. He shows how intimacy doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual and drives home just why we avoid intimacy so fiercely.
To have fulfilling relationships, we have to be vulnerable. But sharing your deepest self is a terrifying thing. In reality, vulnerability often leads to more respect and appreciation from others. When we show our close friends, family, and loved ones what’s buried inside, it lets them know that we are human too and encourages them in their own messy lives.
This is a book for anyone seeking to improve their relationships with others, gain meaningful intimacy, and truly be known.
Declutter Your Mind by Barrie Davenport and S.J. Scott
“When you learn how to control your mind, you open a door to the vastness of creativity, inspiration, and brilliance that is just behind the clutter of those untamed thoughts.”
Like Marie Kondo for your brain, Davenport and Scott focus less on folding laundry and more on learning to tidy up the thoughts in your mind.
The news, our careers, relationships—it’s easy these days to become flooded with an onslaught of negative thoughts. Our cluttered minds quickly affect our emotional states, causing us to act out or even shut down. But rather than let negative ideas spiral us into an emotional sinkhole, we actually can learn to change what we think. We can learn to mediate our minds.
Davenport and Scott break down how to declutter your mind so you can feel more attentive, peaceful, and organized. When we use particular tactics to influence our thoughts, we can determine our emotions and, ultimately, our lives.
This book focuses on four main areas to dejunk, including:
- Your Thoughts
- Your Life Obligations
- Your Relationships
- Your Surroundings
A must-read for anyone struggling with emotional and mental overwhelm!
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
“Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
Brené is a vulnerability expert.
I mean that quite literally! She’s spent over a decade researching vulnerability and how we can become more wholehearted (her term for the opposite of shame). This is certainly a great read for anyone with a scientific mind and approach to self-help!
This #1 New York Times bestseller banishes the myth that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and instead demonstrates that it is a sign of real strength.
Shame, comparison, and disengagement keep us from showing up and having the courage to confront the untidy world that is our lives. But when we decide to dare greatly, we let ourselves be known and we can start creating the life we’ve always dreamed of.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
“But the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people — that person is headed for higher earning power.”
For the salesperson, business owner, or anyone who interacts with people at all—this book is for you!
One of the most popular self improvement books of all time, Dale draws from hundreds of testimonies and stories to show how we can start dealing with people more effectively and improve our relationships.
From understanding the negative effects of criticism to learning how to genuinely appreciate others, the stories Dale shares reveal powerful insights. Dale gifts us with a moving and spectacular reminder that everyone is human and deserving of kindness.
Highly recommended for anyone struggling to handle sticky situations, angry clients, or just wanting to improve their relationships. Because the smoother we can make any of our interactions, the happier we, and the people around us, will be.
If you’re interested in this topic, but don’t have the time to read the whole book, take a look at this article that breaks down some of Dale Carnegie’s best quotes.
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
“More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”
This #1 National Bestseller is probably the definitive self improvement book of the modern age.
Tony Robbins is an absolute revelation. After reading the first few chapters, you’ll be inspired to start making immediate and drastic changes to improve your life. I certainly did!
This book is chock-full of inspirational quotes and useful homework assignments. It’s a book that teaches you how to ask the important questions, change your mindset, and use your emotions to your advantage.
I highly recommend Tony’s masterpiece for anyone who wants to learn how to take immediate action and shape their future. If you’re looking for specific, actionable advice, this is a great choice. It’s a perfect read to help you harness the unlimited power sleeping within.
My Top Choice – The Middle Finger Project: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve by Ash Ambirge
I can’t recommend this book highly enough! It’s a stunning debut and particularly spoke to me at the time I bought it. Just reading Ash’s words induces a strong feeling of empowerment.
Not only is her advice brilliant, fresh, and to the point, but her voice alone can make anyone feel confident and “unf*ckwithable.” I recommend this book for anyone who:
- Is starting a new business.
- Is young and suddenly realizing that Mom and Pop aren’t coming to bail you out.
- Is ready to give the middle finger to imposter syndrome, meekness, and that feeling of being “not-good-enough.”
- Wants a good laugh while sipping on a glass of wine (wine not mandatory).
When I read Ash’s novel, I was just starting my own business. It was the perfect time to hear her words.
This book spoke to me, which one will speak to you?
Not every self-improvement book is for everyone and not every self-improvement book is meant for you in this time or place.
Sometimes an author’s approach, voice, or story doesn’t resonate. That’s okay. We’re all on different paths and at different junctures in our journeys.
However, with these top seven self improvement books of 2020, you’re sure to find an author, angle, or narrative that jives with you. Wherever you may start, the important thing is just that: starting.
When I began researching the self improvement world a few months ago, I drastically changed my life. I went from scared and directionless to starting my own business, ending a relationship, and moving across the country.
I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m definitely not that uncertain college student anymore. And more importantly, I’m thrilled to see where my self improvement journey takes me next.
If you’re interested in more non-fiction, check out The Best Selling Non-Fiction Books of 2018!
About The Author
Grace Claman is a freelance writer from Kansas living in sunny L.A. where she is staggered by the size of the ocean and thinks palm trees look like cartoons.
Grace is best known for her blog on Medium where she’s been published in popular publications such as The Writing Cooperative, The Ascent, and The Post-Grad Survival Guide.
Besides helping businesses with their online marketing, Grace enjoys speaking horribly broken Italian, reading fantasy novels, and swing dancing. She is currently rediscovering the magic that is Instagram and spends entirely too much time on it.