The Top 5 Classic Self-Help Books

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, Roy Herbert Jarrett known as R. H. J. authored the little book entitled “IT Works!” published in 1926. “IT Works!” outlined a simple, workable procedure for obtaining one’s heart’s desires by focus of thought power. The simple, powerful procedure to obtain whatsoever one desires, by right thinking, has brought happiness and fulfillment to many as they learned how to focus their thoughts. Virtually all books on goal setting and mind control published since “It Works!” have followed the same basic ideas. And nothing exceeds imitation for proof of validity!

4. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which gives financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. Originally, a series of separate informational pamphlets distributed by banks and insurance companies, the pamphlets were bound together and published in book form in 1926. The most important idea in the book is this: “A part of all you earn is yours to keep” meaning you should save a tenth of all you make to invest, doing so will make you wealthy. Modern 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 is a book written by the New Thought Movement writer Wallace D. Wattles and published in 1910 by the Elizabeth Towne Company. The book is still in print after 100 years. It was a major inspiration for Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book and film The Secret (2006). According to USA Today, the text is “divided into 17 short, straight-to-the-point chapters that explain how to overcome mental barriers, and how creation, not competition, is the hidden key to wealth attraction.” The Science of Getting Rich preceded similar financial success books such as The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel (1912) and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937). 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 1 million copies. Nightingale, known as the ‘dean of personal development,’ reveals how he discovered and lived the secret to success. Nightingale partnered with Vic Conant to market the recording due to popular demand for it and is also 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, Hills 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) gave him the assignment of organizing a Philosophy of Personal Achievement. Hill, who was a poor journalist, armed with just an introductory letter from Carnegie, set out to interview 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. Hill then revealed the priceless wisdom of his research in the form of the thirteen steps to success (in Think and Grow Rich) and the seventeen principles of success (in courses and lectures he conducted).