Books designed to improve one's self have been around for centuries and the genre, as we know it, began to take shape in the middle of the 19th century with a book aptly called "self-help" by a wonderfully named man called Samuel Smiles.

This list reflects books that have saved lives, sold millions of copies, spawned publishing empires, influenced work habits and has inspired presidents and prime ministers. We approached the subject from a variety of angles ranging from allegories to straight fiction to ensure diversity in our recommendations. Mind, body and health, family and relationships, work, money and finance, and lifestyle are all covered...

The No.1 choice on this list - Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book - was an easy selection. This historic book has saved thousands of lives of men and women around the world. The AA's 12 steps, outlined in the Big Book, have influenced countless other programs to beat addiction. Many books claim that they will change lives but the Big Book has done it time and again. Early editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book are highly collectible - read our collecting guide to learn why collectors treasure this special book.

If you think we missed a notable self help title, tell us about it in the comments at the bottom of the page. You may also wish to join the debate about whether you can read yourself to happiness.

30 Essential self help books

A Guide to Collecting Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Read the guide

Curated Collections of Self Help Books

What book is missing from this list?