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Best Books on Personal Philosophy

Updated on February 13, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


There are just some books that stick with me. Their wisdom pops up in my consciousness frequently as I go about my life and my business... even though I may have read them months, years or decades ago. I can even see their cover artwork in my mind's eye.

The following books on personal philosophy and more enlightened living are in this elite group. A couple were gifts from friends that made the message all the more special. The others were discovered along my path of self-discovery. But however I came by them, their messages have had a profound impact on my existence.

Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer

Scene: High school library, mid-1970s. Poster showing the cover for Wayne Dyer's new book, Your Erroneous Zones, hangs on the wall. I'm curious. But being brought up in a world where religious solutions were always sought before the psychological, I just filed the poster image in my memory and moved on.

Fast forward about 20 years...

Scene: Shopping mall used book sale, mid-1990s. There it is again. THAT book cover from the 1970s! Okay, this is a sign. I buy the book for, if I remember right, 25 cents. But that meager investment turned out to be one of the greatest turning points of my adult life.

If only I had read this book 20 years before! Your Erroneous Zones is STILL a psychology classic around four decades later because it deals with the entire cast of erroneous emotional rascals we battle every day: approval seeking, guilt, worry, anger, procrastination and more.

After reading this book, I realized how I could have handled past situations so very differently and more effectively. But as Dyer emphasizes, worrying or feeling bad about the past does nothing to make your present any better. At least I realize how to avoid some of these zones for a more enlightened future.

Though the writing has a definite mid-1970s flavor to it, the advice is just a relevant today.

Pulling Your Own Strings by Wayne Dyer

Quickly after Your Erroneous Zones, Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote Pulling Your Own Strings. Where Your Erroneous Zones concentrated on cleaning up one's inner world, Pulling Your Own Strings concentrates on dealing with others.

Like his previous book, this one also provided me with a better understanding of the difficult dynamics that plague so many personal and work relationships. One of the biggest problems this book addresses is our tendency to adopt a victim role, absolving us of taking responsibility for how we act and react. Though it seems unthinkable that anyone would consciously adopt a victim position in a relationship, Dyer discusses some of the ironic payoffs that we subconsciously seek to feel better about ourselves.

Pulling Your Own Strings has also stood the test of time, being as useful today as it was nearly four decades ago.

Being Zen by Ezra Bayda

Switching gears to a more philosophical, but no less practical, book, Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life delves deep into issues of awareness of our actions and thoughts. Frankly, some of it is difficult to handle because it uncovers all the things we'd rather not face. The perspective to be gained from this book can be life changing.

While the discussion of how we keep striving to live a "substitute life" is excellent, it's the poignant stories that really drive the points home. In addition to recounting his own struggles with chronic illness, Bayda discusses his experience working with hospice patients, a scenario that most of us would rather not even think about. Through these stories, one realizes how we are all "skating on thin ice," hoping not to drown in the icy waters of our fragile egos and emotions. There's the woman whose family refuses to accept that she's dying. Then there's the man whose pride, even in his last days, does not allow him to accept help from others. Warning: Get the tissues handy!

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness is billed as an introduction to meditation practice. However, I think it more appropriately should be billed as a guide to more mindful living.

One of the most memorable lessons for me was when you wash the dishes, wash the dishes. While I'm more than happy to let my automatic dishwasher handle the dish washing task, I understand what he meant. When you are doing anything, put your whole attention on what you are doing.

With today's overwhelming level of distractions, and our false belief that we can multitask everything, this is much needed advice.

Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck

A new book in 2012, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want is probably the most "out there" selection of the group. Beck delves deep into the process of manifesting in one's life. While I have to admit a bit of doubt when it comes to the whole manifesting thing (which might be a problem in itself), the very fact that an old friend reconnected with me after years and had this book in hand as a gift when we met might give me reason to reconsider my stance. Actually, I found the exercises in the book to be quite thought provoking and helpful in clarifying goals and discovering happy coincidences.

One of the other things that I loved about the book was Beck's story of her life and experiences at Londolozi game reserve in Africa. It's difficult not to get wrapped up in her accounts of encounters with wild animals that most of us could only dream about. She also has quite a good sense of humor which makes for an enjoyable read.

The Dip by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of my favorite business authors. But his blog, surprisingly, is filled with practical philosophical insights that I frequently print and save. Though most of his books focus on some aspect of marketing and business, The Dip is a refreshing little book (less than 90 pages) that offers thoughts for when we're stuck in the dips of life and wondering whether to quit or stick.

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

If you're going through a difficult time, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by American Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, would be a book to pick up. I know I have now and again over the years.

However, don't expect an "everything's going to be okay" reassurance! Rather, Chödrön discusses how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in the face of uncertainty and troubling emotions and circumstances.

While some of the references to various Buddhist practices can be confusing at times, her overall message comes through clearly. So don't get stuck on those passages.

My Inspiration...

After reading these awesome books and others like them, I was inspired to share some of my adventures in pursuing enlightenment in my book, "Looking" Questions: 31 Questions that Can Change Your Business and Your Life. Hope you'll find these exercises helpful on your journey, too.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello B. Leekley! Yep, Dyer's books are as relevant today as when he first wrote them. Being intellectually inclined, I think you'll enjoy some of the others, too. Have a beautiful day!

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 

    5 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

    I agree that Dyer books are worth reading and rereading. I'll keep your other recommendations in mind.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello grand old lady! Hope you enjoy reading some of my picks. Thanks for stopping by and have a delightful week ahead!

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

    6 years ago from Philippines

    You have an interesting and unique set of book choices. Congrats on your own book, as well. Guess I should expand on my reading choices:)

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi PegCole17! Glad you found my fave list helpful. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your summer reading!

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    6 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

    Useful review, here, Heidi. I'm quite impressed by the fact that you are a seeker of self enrichment and published author of several books. This list of suggested reading is quite helpful. I love Wayne Dyer and, like you, I discovered his book, "Your Erroneous Zones" way back when. Thanks for the great list of additional reading material.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Suzettenaples, glad the suggestions got you interested! If you're into books in the self development arena, I think you'll enjoy them. Thanks for stopping by and have a delightful week!

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    7 years ago from Taos, NM

    These are great suggestions of books to read. I have heard of some of them but I have not read any of them. Your article has piqued my interest. Thanks so much for bringing these to our attention!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi B. Leekley! I think you'll enjoy the other selections as well. Cayce's work has been so influential for many, but I haven't delved too much into it. Thanks for suggesting for my reading list!

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 

    7 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

    I've read those and other books by Dyer, and The Miracle of Mindfulness has been on my to read list, but the other books are new to me. Thanks for recommending them.

    A book that had a huge positive influence on my attitudes and thus on my life was EDGAR CAYCE'S STORY OF ATTITUDES AND EMOTIONS. A recent influence isn't a book but rather YouTube videos of Marshall Rosenberg teaching nonviolent communication.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi WiccanSage! If you're into spiritual issues (which it seems you are!), I think you'll enjoy some of these titles. Thanks for stopping by & have a lovely day!

  • WiccanSage profile image

    Mackenzie Sage Wright 

    7 years ago

    These sound really interesting... I am going to put a couple of these on my summer reading list. Great work here, thanks for the book reviews!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello again FlourishAnyway! My book is just a little collection of questions I've found helpful. I hope it helps others gain some perspective, too. I think you'll enjoy the more Zen-like selections as much as I did. Great for getting some new insight for starting the New Year. Cheers!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    7 years ago from USA

    Congratulations on that book! That's quite an achievement! I tend to read a lot of psychological research based books, but I also enjoy Buddhist leaning books such as The Miracle of Mindfulness.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello AliciaC! I hope you'll have a chance to check out and enjoy these books for a New Year's reading list. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely week ahead!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello CMHypno! I've dug out some of Dyer's and other books for rereading in the New Year. Agreed, it's so easy to slip into thinking we don't have a choice when we respond. Glad to see you're also a Wayne Dyer fan. Have a beautiful week!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thank you very much for this list and the descriptions, Heidi. I've heard of two of the books but I haven't read any of them. They look like they are not only useful but also a type of book that I find interesting.

  • CMHypno profile image


    7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

    Interesting hub Heidi. I'm also a great Wayne Dyer fan and my current favourite is 'Excuses Begone.' I try to reread it frequently as it is a good reminder to take full responsibility for your life and not blame circumstances or other people for what happens. I'm a great believer in you may not be able to change what people do, but you can choose how you respond (easier said than done sometimes lol!)

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Sheri Faye! Thanks for the kind comments. Yes, the new book is available on Kindle. I've read almost all of Dyer's work and some of Depak's books, too. Fascinating and helpful for sure. Hope you enjoy the reads! Happy Weekend!

  • Sheri Faye profile image

    Sheri Dusseault 

    7 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

    Hi Heidi. Congrats on your book!! Very are a busy and talented lady. Will it be coming out in Kindle? I have read all (I think) of Wayne Dyer book, as well as Depak and a loads of other. There are some titles here I haven't read but will check them out. Great hub and thanks!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello mylindaelliott! If you've liked Wayne Dyer's work, I think you'll enjoy some of these other selections, too. Enjoy your weekend!

  • mylindaelliott profile image


    7 years ago from Louisiana

    I have read Dr. Dyer's books but not the rest. Thank you for the suggestions.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi billybuc! Since you and I both like to "think about thinking," you're sure to enjoy any one of these selections. Have a lovely weekend!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    7 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Well I haven't read any of these. I guess I have my work cut out for me. :) Have a great weekend, Heidi, and thanks for the recommendations.


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