15 Best Spiritual Books to Improve Your Life
Spirituality and spiritual literature is having a renaissance in our technological world that has over-emphasized for matters of the mind and undernourished matters of the heart.
While the word “spirituality is enough to make some people run away,” in its simplest form, it really means connecting with something greater than yourself. For some people, that means the “god” associated with a particular religion. For others, it means an invulnerable belief in progress via science. And for others, it means being connected to fellow humans and the broader environment that surrounds and nourishes us every day.
Regardless of how you feel about the word “spirituality,” the 15 spiritual and philosophical books below will help you transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.
From teaching you how to grieve in the wake of loss, to helping you cultivate more compassion for yourself, to giving you frameworks for dealing with suffering and adversity, these books will undoubtedly transform your worldview in positive ways.
I’ve returned to many of these spiritual books over the years as life has given me new challenges to navigate, and I will continue to update this list with new books as I discover them.
“When you renounce or fight something, you become tied to it. In fighting it, you give it power. So instead of fighting, give in. You might find that what you’ve been resisting no longer holds the same power over you.”
Why it’s Great: Awareness is nourishment for the soul. In a humorous and digestible way, Anthony de Mello helps you understand yourself and the world in a way that will help you improve the quality of your life.
“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.”
Why it’s Great: Eckhart Tolle explores presence, thinking, and spirituality to help you understand what presence means, how thinking and non-acceptance drive a lot of human pain, and how to live a life that reduces suffering.
“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance.”
Why it’s Great: This book directly challenges the thirty-is-the-new-twenty culture. Through research and anecdotes from her time as a clinical psychologist, Meg Jay advocates for being intentional about how you spend your twenties.
“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Why it’s Great: Ryan Holiday provides a framework for learning how to slow down and better deal with the overwhelming amount of information that’s coming at us. Leveraging stories, he shows us how mastering our minds, souls, and bodies can help us create more stillness and equanimity in our lives. Once we’re more “still,” we can think more clearly, more easily make decisions, form better relationships, feel better, and focus on what matters.
“We are at war within ourselves — the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things which the brain does not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will not follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand.”
Why it’s Great: Legendary thinker Alan Watts helps us understand how living in the past and looking toward the future stops us from enjoying the only real thing that we have in life – the present moment. It’s only when we start living in the moment and accepting the inherent uncertainty of life that we begin to enjoy all that life has to offer.
“Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly.”
Why it’s Great: This book will save your soul in difficult times. In it, Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron provides a guide to thriving in the face of a fundamentally groundless and painful world.
“The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Why it’s Great: A life-changing collection of philosophical and spiritual thoughts from Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic and the former Roman Emperor.
“But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible.”
Why it’s Great: Through an entrancing narrative of a man on a summer motorcycle trip with his son, Pirsig takes us on a deeply philosophical journey that explores society, values, and life’s big questions.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
Why it’s Great: Stoic philosopher Seneca reveals time-tested insights about how to live a good life. Through stories, he reveals the wisdom in slowing down, the futility of worrying about the future, the importance of learning how to master your emotions, and how to act in the face of adversity.
“So the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life—peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food.”
Why it’s Great: Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle is a master of exploring difficult spiritual and philosophical topics like the ego, presence, and consciousness. In this enlightening and uplighting guide, he explores how we can all loosen the toxic grip of the ego and enter a fulfilling state of full presence. Pair this with the Power of Now to go deep on the subject.
“Quality questions create a quality life.”
Why it’s Great: A comprehensive and invaluable guide to mastering your mind, body, emotions, and finances from leading life and business strategist Tony Robbins.
“Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them.”
Why it’s Great: A clear and engaging introduction to practicing meditation and cultivating mindfulness in your life. You will learn about what meditation and mindfulness are, why they matter, how to introduce them to your daily activities and way of operating. If you’re interested in living a life with more clarity, presence, awareness, and acceptance, this book will help you get there.
“So if you see things without realizing the background of Buddha nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering. But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life.”
Why it’s Great: This book is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy and practice of Zen Buddhism. You will come away with an understanding of how to practice zazen meditation, the core ideas that underpin Zen, and a healthy dose of confusion about what it all means.
“No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.”
Why it’s Great: In a series of short philosophical essays that explore Stoic principles, Seneca provides a wealth of wisdom to help us deepen friendships, overcome adversity, and live a balanced life. I’ll re-read this series of essays over the years – they’re full of remarkably timeless advice.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Why it’s Great: Through an elegant narrative about an Andalusian shepherd boy, Coelho communicates essential life lessons, including the importance of pursuing your passions, living in the present, and doing things with love and enthusiasm.
Final Thoughts About Spiritual Books
- For more good book recommendations and lessons, check out Foundations, a growing digital notebook with lessons from 100+ timeless books across categories.
- If you struggle to read, try listening to audiobooks with Amazon Audible.
Finally, I send out a weekly Sunday newsletter, Life Reimagined, with helpful ideas and quotes from good books. If you want to receive small nuggets of wisdom and recommendations for future reading every week, you can sign up below.