The 20 must-read self improvement books for any student

by | Jun 3, 2021

Self-improvement books have gotten a bad rep these days.

The rise of shady writers looking to make a quick buck have led to an increase in self-improvement books in recent years.

They come up with attention-grabbing titles like “The secret to happiness” or “How to be successful with this one trick” when the content is filled with nothing we didn’t already know.

Does that mean self-improvement books are a sham?

Thankfully no. And to prove that, we listed 20 quality self-improvement books that we’ve read.

The best part is that these books were picked with the interests of students in mind.


7 habits
Sourced from goodreads
Perhaps one of the most inspiring and impactful self-improvement books ever written.

The 7 habits of highly effective people cover 7 habits that are said to bring the maximum long term beneficial results.

It proposes that success is based on the fundamental principles that we integrate into our character like integrity, fairness, humility etc.

This book is a game-changer that’s guaranteed to cultivate your personal management, leadership and problem-solving skills.

2. How to Win Friends And Influence People

how to win friends and influence people
Sourced from flickr
One of the classics. How to Win Friends And Influence has been said to be one of the most influential books ever.

It offers an in-depth breakdown on the secrets of dealing with people. People who have a hard time making friends can seek inspiration from this book.

While students in project work, clubs or CCAs where conflicts are bound to occur will learn to deal with them in a healthy manner.

Similarly, the leaders in those groups will learn to influence, inspire and lead people effectively.

Simply put, if you miss out on this book, it’s your loss.

3.  The Speed of Trust

The speed of trust
Sourced from goodreads
Why is it that we trust certain people more so than others? What are the factors that determine trust? How powerful is trust in our lives? And how can we build trust with others?

This book answers these questions in a simple to understand and engaging manner.

Whether you’re in University, Polytechnic or Junior college, developing trust with your peers play a huge role in reputation. And eventually, reputation will extend into the working world.

4. The Charisma Myth

The Charisma myth
Sourced from flickr
Ever find yourself with an individual whose energy fills the room with their magnetic personality? Tired of being ignored or not taken seriously?

If you’ve ever asked yourself what charisma is, this book answers the question for you.

For the first time, science has dissected and examined charisma so that anyone can learn and apply it.

In the book, you will learn practical techniques and strategies backed up by a variety of sciences to understand what Charisma is, how it works and how to apply it.

5. Happier now

Happier now
Sourced from goodreads
Academic stress, competition with peers and navigating the social dynamics in school are factors that most students agree contribute mainly to stress levels.

According to an IMH study in 2016, 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, with a higher prevalence found among those aged between 18-34.

This statistic is shocking and it seems to tell us that happiness is but an elusive concept.

This book isn’t about always being happy. Instead, it teaches readers how to stop searching for some ambiguous “happy” in the future and start finding more joy in everyday moments.

Backed with science and practical tips, this book is great for people who are struggling with self-love, mental health and more.

6. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking fast and slow
Sourced from flickr
Written by Daniel Kahneman, this book explores the world of behavioural economics and helps us understand how our mind works. He talks about two systems of thinking, system 1 which is more intuitive, while system 2 is more analytical and logical.

Since it takes a lot of effort to use system 2, we are using system 1 most of the time which means that for the most part, we are relying on our gut feeling rather than being logical and rational.

The book helps one understand how people think and why people are so prone to jumping to conclusions, hindsight and confirmation bias.

7. Essentialism

Sourced from Wikimedia
This book will teach you to do only what is essential in life, and eliminate the rest. The goal “less but better” is only achieved when you focus on the vital few things that matter.

Using this concept, students can start doing things that matter most and get rid of things that don’t produce effective results.

For instance, students will learn to study more for some topics, and less for others; students will learn to be more disciplined with their money and time.

8. Shoe dog

shoe dog
Sourced from flickr
If you’re a student thinking of starting your own business, this is a great the entrepreneur book to read.

This book tells the incredible true story of Nike, and how it came to be the massive giant we know today. Knight covers the book in great detail, particularly how tough the climb to greatness was.

Unlike other memoirs, this book wasn’t a display of ego-fueled awesomeness. Instead, it’s a guide to the cut-throat landscape of the business world.

For insights and a raw no-fluff exposure to entrepreneurship, this is the book to get started with.

9. Deep Work

Deep work
Sourced from goodreads
As students, we may have trouble focusing on our work at times. Much of this can be attributed to a lack of energy but most of the time, it’s because we’re distracted.

Deep Work seeks to help us overcome distractions in this digitally connected world so we can devote our focus to cognitively demanding tasks for hours with no interruptions.

Imagine being able to complete your schoolwork or revision in a fifth of the time it normally requires – that’s the power of Deep Work, no kidding.

10. Can’t Hurt Me

can't hurt me
Sourced from
Written by David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, and former US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member who served in the Iraq war.

Goggins had an abusive father, performed poorly at school and had bad experiences with racism.

Before enlisting, Goggins weighed 136kg and was told that he was too heavy for SEAL training. Within 3 months, he lost enough weight and weighed 86kg.

This is a memoir about how he overcame the hardships in his life to become who he is. This book is great if you are looking to turn your life around, just like David Goggins did.

11. Principles

Sourced from goodreads
Written by Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. In this book, he talks about some lessons he learnt along the way, which made him one of the best investors in the world.

He provides insights into the culture at his company, and the importance of working for what he wanted rather than for what others wanted of him, and the importance of setting clear goals.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in career development, or business in general.

12. The Power of Habit

The power of habit
Sourced from goodreads
We all know how hard it is to break bad habits and form good ones.

The difference between a bad and good habit means everything in the long run.

Good habits can allow you to achieve your goals, while bad habits can set you back. For students, it could mean the difference between getting a 4.0 and a 2.5 GPA

Fortunately, this book dives into the science behind habit creation and reformation. It examines how different companies such as Procter & Gamble and Alcoa, and individuals like Michael Phelps implement keystone habits to bring about their success.

Therefore, this is a must-read if you are looking to replace bad habits with good ones.

13. Outliers

Sourced from goodreads
This book is about people who are able to break the norm and succeed, hence the title “outliers”. The book looks at various factors such as opportunity, upbringing, timing, and many more that affect an individual’s success.

Sure, some people might have a better upbringing or better opportunities, but the book argues that success has more to do with nurture, rather than nature, and that ordinary individuals can still succeed if we position ourselves correctly.

The book also argues that time, not talent is the more important factor for success and that you need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.

14. Failing Forward

failing forward
Sourced from goodreads
Everyone has failed at something at some point in their life before, even professionals.

Michael Jordan once said: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

This book addresses why it’s normal to fail, but also the importance of not ignoring your failures.

It teaches us how to deal with setbacks and failures, and how to build a good culture that encourages a growth mindset within a team.

15. The Obstacle Is The Way

the obstacle is the way
Sourced from goodreads
The Obstacle Is The Way is an inspiring and engaging self-help book on the ancient art of stoicism and how we should be looking at obstacles

What makes this book particularly engaging is how the author fills it up with stories of people across history who managed to turn their adversities into resources for success.

The book also offers a practical system for the average person on how to turn their obstacles into successes. Read this book, and save years of future frustration.

16. The Art Of The Good Life

The art of the good life
Sourced from goodreads
This book offers 52 different principles for you to live your life to the fullest, each of them being short, concise and to the point. Think of these principles as your mental toolkits, at your disposal whenever you run into any situation in life and school.

They provide tips to help you manage your allowance and finances, social circles, studies and much more.

If you want a systematic approach to ignoring external and internal influences on your path to reaching new heights in school, this book is a must-read.

17. Never Split the Difference

Never split the difference
Sourced from goodreads
Written by Chriss Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator, and is now a trainer for businesses for negotiation skills.

Almost everything in life is a negotiation, from asking your parents for more pocket money to persuading your friends.

The book uses lessons learnt from Voss’ career as a hostage negotiator and applies them to situations in your everyday life.

The book serves as a primer to teach people to be better negotiators in life by being genuinely curious and having an open and honest conversation.

18. Man’s search for meaning

Man's search for meaning
Sourced from goodreads
Written by Victor Frankl, who was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and a psychiatrist.

The book outlines some of his time spent in the concentration camps and what he noticed, both from the point of view as a fellow prisoner, and a psychiatrist.

Throughout the book, he outlines the importance of finding a purpose in our own lives, and that hardship is inevitable.

However, when we find purpose, we can move forward and deal with these hardships.

19. Winning With People

Winning with people
Sourced from goodreads
This book is essentially answering the age old question of how we can build better and lasting relationships with others.

Focused on core, essential principles on building relationships, you will find many engaging stories and anecdotes that illustrate these concepts.

At the end of each chapter, the book even dives into practical applications and takeaways. If you’re looking to strengthen your relationships and grow your interpersonal skills, give this book a read!

20. Meditations

Sourced from goodreads
Meditations consist of personal entries written by Marcus Aurelius, a stoic philosopher and the Roman Emperor from AD 161 to AD 180. The book is divided into 12 chapters, allowing us to gain access to some of his thoughts.

The book has several recurring themes, most of which revolves around how one deals with other people, leading a simple life, and acceptance. The book talks about finding inner peace with yourself and learning how to control your expectations and reactions.

It is a good introduction to anyone who is interested in the philosophy of stoicism.

Final thoughts

We hope that after reading this, you’ll have some books shortlisted for your next purchase!

If you’ve read any of these books, comment down below on what you felt you took away from it. These comments can help to guide others in the right direction!

Lastly, if you enjoyed reading our article, check out our Instagram and Telegram channel for similar student-oriented content!