The 9 Best Success Books of 2020
Achieving your goals is easier than you think
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Who doesn’t harbor fantasies about never having to punch a time clock again? It’s not that you’re the idle type or that you’re dreaming of some distant retirement. You just want enough money to be able to call your own shots. You want to live for you, not for your boss.
The dream might be more attainable than you think. Not every successful millionaire is an off-the-charts genius, and the majority of them didn’t just hit the lottery, either. So what do truly successful people have in common? Some authors have been willing to share the secrets they’ve discovered in these enlightening books.
Best Overall: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Mark Manson might well be the most famous blogger who’s ever put his fingers to a keypad, and he has a thought or two to share about his concept of success as well — at least if you define a success in terms of personal satisfaction.
This isn’t a book for the faint of heart or the easily offended. Laden with expletives and off-color humor, Subtle Art is a short, quick read that effectively tells you how to get over yourself and any sense of entitlement you might be laboring under. Manson takes the position that all that advice about positive thinking and having an upbeat attitude is a crock that’s produced a generation of losers.
Give him credit — Manson has done a good bit of research. This isn’t just another opportunity to take an up-on-a-soapbox bow. Kirkus Reviews calls The Subtle Art an “in-your-face guide to living with integrity and finding happiness.” It’s not pretty, but it’s real, and this New York Times bestseller has sold over a million copies since its release in September 2016.
The Best Classic Book on Success: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Of course, you’ve heard of this one. But have you taken the time to read it yet? The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might not be the oldest book on our list, but it’s been called a classic for its insightful advice on achieving success and living a successful life. To date, it’s sold over 20 million copies.
Covey says it all starts from within, with your attitude and the way you eyeball those inevitable obstacles that pop up in your path now and again. He almost dares you not to become successful if you embrace his advice. The book is a list of habits you’ll want to develop if you want to get ahead.
The foreward of the book’s 25th anniversary edition is all new. So go ahead, pick it up, and get inspired.
The Best Celebrity Offering: On Power by Gene Simmons
Yes, this is written by that Gene Simmons of rock ‘n roll fame. Simmons isn’t just about outrageous makeup and guitars. He knows a thing or two about success as well. KISS has more No 1 gold records than any other musical group in America and Simmons has since branched out into reality television and numerous mega-successful entrepreneurial endeavors as well.
On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power is an autobiography, and it does indeed tell of Simmons’ journey from rock band frontman to King of the success hill. It reveals decisions Simmons made along the way and how those decisions shaped his future. This one isn’t just about money. On Power is about life and living and getting to the top, whatever your definition of the top might be.
It’s not just jammed full of Simmons’ own personal observations, but includes input from the likes of Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey as well — others who have made it to their own personal power pinnacle.
The Best Book About Working Less: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
About that time clock you want to stop punching. The full title of this book from the New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Body goes right to the heart of the matter: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.
Timothy Ferriss’ book focuses on building your own business with the ultimate goal of working less today rather than at some distant point in the future. It doesn’t espouse retirement but rather achieving all you want to do in your golden years right now while you’re still young and at the helm of what you’ve created.
The 4-Hour Workweek has been around for a while — an updated version with about 100 additional pages of content was released in 2009 — but its principles and guidelines are timeless. It’s loaded with concrete tips for achieving success without sacrificing everything else in the process, from delegating tasks to eliminating workday clutter to living very well now on less. It’s available as an audio CD, as well as in book form so you can listen to it with your eyes closed while you’re relaxing on the beach.
The Best Book About Living a Successful Lifestyle: The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy is another one that’s been around for a little while, but it’s stood the test of time and was reissued in 2010. It’s not based on the authors’ opinions. Stanley and Danko interviewed a bunch of Americans with net worths of $1 million or more to answer the age-old question: So how did you get so rich?
Here are a few clues: These people don’t live high on the hog, and, in fact, one of them just might be your neighbor — thus the book’s title. But you wouldn’t know it because they don’t live Fortune 500 lifestyles. Their incomes are not necessarily stratospheric, but they have amassed a lot of assets, if not necessarily flashy ones.
The Millionaire Next Door is about taming your lifestyle and your ego to grow more wealth, complete with seven rules to follow to achieve this. Stanley and Danko reportedly spent more than 20 years gathering their data. The Library Journal says their results “reveal fundamental qualities of this group (millionaires) that are diametrically opposed to today’s earn-and-consume culture.”
The Best Book About Ambition and Drive: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Gene Simmons isn’t the only one who knows about power. Robert Greene thinks the word is synonymous with success, too.
You’ll like this one if history is your thing and you believe that there’s a lot to be learned from the past. Greene covers 3,000 years of success-oriented lessons in about 450 pages, and he’s become the darling of both the super-wealthy and the average Joe in doing so.
A lot of Greene’s laws are just common sense, like “Never Outshine the Master,” but that doesn’t make them any less viable. Some are more aggressive, like “Crush Your Enemy Totally.” They come from some pretty reputable sources, too, from Machiavelli to more modern-day success stories. One common thread is that none of these people can be perceived as doormats.
At least one reader has called the book “controversial” due to its edgy, stand-up-for-yourself tone. New York Magazine calls it a “checklist of ambitious behavior.” The 48 Laws of Power is a New York Times bestseller.
The Best Book About Starting a New Business: Zero to One
So you have a great idea for a new business but no one has ever tried such a thing before. Does that mean you’re doomed to failure? Not according to the authors of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. To hear Peter Thiel and Blake Masters tell it, a new, seemingly quirky idea is often the key to success.
They recommend daring to go where no man has gone before, and they offer a lot of good tips for doing so. This book doesn’t just cover the same old startup ground but focuses on developing brand new concepts and implementing them. The premise is that reinventing the wheel isn’t a foolproof recipe for success, but figuring out a way to move forward without wheels might be. In other words, don’t compete. Blaze a new trail.
Released in 2014, Zero to One climbed to No 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best small business books.
The Best Book About Not Giving Up: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Author and psychologist Angela Duckworth has a thing or two to say about the concept of power as well. She feels that success isn’t so much about doing what you excel at as it is about doing it relentlessly. Think commitment, drive, and determination. Duckworth says it really helps if you love what you’re doing, too. Forget that old concept that success requires some luck.
Her opinions are not just hypotheses. Duckworth did extensive research on her theories while she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She backs up her findings through interviews with those who are struggling as well as those who have achieved their own versions of success, including CEOs and at least one NFL coach.
If you fall down—or get knocked down—get back up. Grit tells you how. Released in 2016, Forbes has called it a “must-read business book” for the year.
The Best Motivational Book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
This is by far the oldest book on our list, originally written in 1937, but it’s still a must-read. Napoleon Hill first interviewed a selection of millionaires, including Andrew Carnagie, all those decades ago and gathered their experiences and advice—and some of his own—in Think and Grow Rich.
The book ranges from inspirational anecdotes to slightly chiding admonishments, such as that you should share your wealth after you acquire it. Most notably, Hill doesn’t define success in purely financial terms but as personal achievement and satisfaction. But his book isn’t without its financial insights, too. You’ll remember that the Great Depression happened in the 1930s as well, and Hill devotes some pages to difficult, if not impossible, economic circumstances.
Think and Grow Rich has endured many incarnations over the years, but the 2017 edition is said to restore the original version and it’s indexed for quick reference. It’s also still a very hot seller.