Every year there are dozens of self-help books published in the US. Some are read and soon forgotten and eventually go out of print while others go on to become classics. A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy and has stood the test of time. This is a list of what I consider to be the best self-help book classics.
5. It Works by RHJ
Though not as well-known as the other books on this list, “IT Works!” was first published as a pamphlet in 1926 and has been in print ever since. The author is listed only as RHJ and it was found out later that RHJ was Roy Herbert Jarrett and little is known about him other than he was born in 1874.
“IT Works!” outlined a simple, workable plan for manifesting your desires by focusing your thoughts. The simple, but powerful blueprint as described in the book can be used to obtain whatever you desire, by focusing your thoughts, and has brought happiness and fulfillment to many. Virtually all books on goal setting and mind control published since “It Works!” have followed the same basic ideas. And there is no better proof of validity than imitation!
4. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
The Richest Man in Babylon started out as a series of pamphlets designed to teach financial prosperity and were distributed in large quantities by banks and insurance companies; the pamphlets were bound together and published in book form in 1926. Each pamphlet tells a parable illustrating a different financial skill such as savings, investing, becoming wealthy, etc.
The best known parable is that of Arkad “The Richest Man In Babylon” who is asked by two of his childhood friends how he became wealthy and would he teach them the same. He agrees and share with them how he became wealthy. He tells them that he became rich when he decided that a part of all he earned was his to keep. He paid himself a tenth of all he earned.
If this idea sounds familiar it should many financial writers have adopted this idea most notably David L. Bach best known for his Automatic Millionaire Series of motivational financial books.
3. The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles
The Science of Getting Rich was published in 1910 by the Elizabeth Towne Company. It was written by the New Thought Movement writer Wallace D. Wattles. The book explains how to overcome mental barriers, and how creation, not competition, is the hidden key to wealth attraction.” Each of the seventeen chapters is short and straight to the point.
The Science of Getting Rich preceded similar and equally well known books such as The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel (1912) and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937). It was a major inspiration for Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book and film The Secret (2006). In the 100 years since its publication, it has gone through many editions, and remains in print from more than one publisher.
2. The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale
Not a book but a recording of a weekly pep talk given to Nightingales sales force, he owned an insurance agency at the time, The Strangest Secret, earned the first Gold Record for the spoken word, with sales exceeding one million copies.
Nightingale, known as the ‘dean of personal development,’ reveals how he discovered and lived the secret to success. Demand for the recording was so high that Nightingale partnered with Vic Conant to market the recording and credited with starting the self-help/personal development field.
1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Considered by many to be the greatest self-help book ever published, Hill’s Think and Grow Rich first published in 1937, is the end product of two decades of research conducted by Napoleon Hill.
His research started when Andrew Carnegie (the steel tycoon who was then the richest man on earth) commissioned Hill into organizing a Philosophy of Personal Achievement. Hill, who was a poor journalist, was given a letter of introduction Carnegie and started interviewing over five hundred successful people including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, George Eastman, William Wrigley Jr. and Charles M. Schwab.
The result of Hill’s research was a correspondence course entitled The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons published in 1928. For over seven years Hill gave lectures based on The Law of Success in practically every city in the US. Think and Grow rich, published in 1937 was based on the earlier The Sixteen Laws of Success and condensed the sixteen laws into 13 principles of personal achievement. By 2011 over 70 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide. BusinessWeek Magazine’s Best-Seller List ranked the book as the sixth best-selling paperback business book and Think and Grow Rich is listed in John C. Maxwell’s A Lifetime “Must Read” Books List.