The Top 15 Best-Selling Self-Help Books of All Time

woman reading a best-selling self-help book on her couch

If you’re looking for self-improvement books, you are certainly not alone. The self-help book market today is approaching a total of $1 billion and is continually growing. In fact, surveys have shown that one in five people has read a self-help book in the last year. But how do you decide which self-help book is best for you? With hundreds of thousands of titles, it can be a challenge. And picking the one most recently published is not always the best strategy.

When it comes to selecting the best option, your individual situation certainly matters. There are many areas where self-improvement books can help enhance your life–and, as is the case with Ed Kopko’s upcoming book–Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula for Taking on Challenges and Achieving Happiness and Success–teach you how to set achievable goals. But as an overview, the following provides a list of the best-selling self-help books of all time. Based on the number of copies sold, these books have withstood the test of time—and sales!

think and grow rich book cover - a best-selling self-help book1. Think and Grow Rich

Over 80 million copies sold

At the top of the best-selling self-help books list sits this classic by Napoleon Hill. Hill interviewed highly successful business moguls of his time and identified key laws and habits that drive success. Among these were desire, faith, persistence, and the suppression of doubt and negativity. It remains a classic.

the alchemist book cover - a best-selling self-help book

2. The Alchemist

Over 65 million copies sold

As an allegorical novel, Paulo Coelho captures readers’ attention in this story about a young shepherd’s pursuit of treasure. Through this young man’s travels, the book teaches the importance of following one’s heart and dreams while paying attention to the journey. Though indirect in its message and even as fictional work of art, it represents one of the best-selling self-help books of all time.

you can heal your life book cover - a best-selling self-help book

3. You Can Heal Your Life

Over 50 million copies sold

Released in 1984, Louise L. Hay’s book has quickly climbed up the list of top best self-improvement books ever published. The premise states that the mind and body are connected and that many illnesses represent mental and emotional issues. Hay explains how adopting healthy thought- and behavior patterns facilitate physical and holistic healing for all.

rich dad poor dad book cover - a best-selling self-help book4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Over 26 million copies sold

With a focus on financial success, this self-improvement book by Robert T. Kiyosaki highlights the importance of financial literacy. In attaining financial wealth and understanding investments as a strategy to wealth, one readily gains success. It is one of the best self-improvement books out there, especially for those seeking career and life security.

7 habits of highly effective people book cover - a best-selling self-help book5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Over 25 million copies sold

Among one of the most popular self-improvement books, Stephen R. Covey’s book highlights essential practices for those seeking to be better—and live life effectively. In order to change one’s situation, one must change his or her perspectives. The book describes specific habits that facilitate such shifts and enable greater personal effectiveness.

don't sweat the small stuff book cover - a best-selling self-help book6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… And It’s All Small Stuff

Over 25 million copies sold

We all know too well that stress undermines many of life’s pleasures. In Richard Carlson’s book, he provides 100 tips on how to put things in the proper perspective. Through perspective, we can rid ourselves of unnecessary stress and lead a fuller life. This book’s straightforward approach has helped millions and placed it among the best-selling self-help books.

who moved my cheese book cover - a best-selling self-help book7. Who Moved My Cheese?

Over 23 million copies sold

Perhaps the only fable among the best-selling self-help books on the list, this one by Spencer Johnson attained notoriety quickly. The tale describes four common reactions of people dealing with change in their work and their lives. And as a fable, it invites the reader to relate to these reactions and learn from them.

the celestine prophecy book cover - a best-selling self-help book8. The Celestine Prophecy

Over 23 million copies sold

Unique among the best-selling self-help books, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield describes the author’s spiritual and psychological journey. Via the deciphering of a Peruvian manuscript, keen insights reflective of ancient Eastern traditions are revealed. The book is ideal for exploring New Age spirituality and ways to succeed during difficult life transitions.

the secret book cover - a best-selling self-help book9. The Secret

Over 20 million copies sold

Published in 2006, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne quickly reached the top 10 best-selling self-help books of all time based on a simple premise. This premise says that what we think has the power to attract both good and evil into our lives. Thus, “the secret” explains how this law of attraction can serve to attain the best life has to offer.

the power of positive thinking - a best-selling self-help book10. The Power of Positive Thinking

Over 20 million copies sold

If quality of life and personal satisfaction is your goal, this book offers a strategy to achieve just that. Through affirmations and visualizations, Norman Vincent Peale demonstrates in his book how positive thinking can be cultivated. It has remained one of the most popular self-improvement books since its release in 1952.

men are from mars, women are from venus book cover - a best-selling self-help book11. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Over 15 million copies sold

This book by John Gray remains one of the best self-improvement books for those seeking better relationships. By approaching relationship differences from a gender socialization perspective, couples can improve their relations. Since 1992, this self-help book has offered key insights that have been used by millions of people—ordinary people and therapists alike.

how to win friends and influence people book cover - a best-selling self-help book12. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Over 15 million copies sold

Published in 1936, this book has been among the best-selling self-help books for a long time now. Dale Carnegie provides insightful approaches and strategies based on honesty and sincerity to help people deal with differing views. The key is in being able to see other perspectives while expressing one’s own views with respect.

chicken soup for the soul book cover - a best-selling self-help book13. Chicken Soup for the Soul

Over 11 million copies sold

While the very first original motivational book has sold millions, the series of these books represent an exponential reach of self-help messages. Primarily a book to help others find happiness through inspiration and hope, it consists of 101 brief stories. Through this book, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen introduce a unique way of inspiring people to find their own happiness in life.

the four agreements book cover - a best-selling self-help book14. The Four Agreements

Over 7 million copies sold

Don Miguel Ruiz advocates personal freedom in The Four Agreements. The four agreements—which includes sincerity and the pursuit of excellence—can help one identify and release various constraints to achieve that personal freedom. Since 1997, it has been among the best-selling self-help books available.

the road less traveled book cover - a best-selling self-help book15. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

Over 5 million sold

With the premise that life is filled with problems, M. Scott Peck highlights the importance of discipline in this self-help book classic. Balance, truthfulness, delayed gratification and responsibility are the four cornerstones of this discipline. The strategies offered in the book have helped millions.

Best-Selling Self-help Books for a Bolder Life

While many other influential self-help books are available, those listed here remain among the best. Each has stood the test of time. By reading them, you can learn common truths and insights—even though each book offers unique perspectives on strategies for self-improvement.

Regardless of which one of these best-selling self-help books you choose to read, you can be reassured that their message will be a powerful one. And in the process, you will be inspired to be that much bolder in the next steps you take in life.

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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