The best books to help us know ourselves

Who am I?

We live in the age of selfies, when it’s easy to snap a picture of ourselves in the day-to-day activities of our lives. But a deeper and far more satisfying journey is to take a selfie of our inner selves to better understand who we are, what we want, and how to get it. I’ve spent a lifetime on this journey. Self discovery and self understanding, and through them self-empowerment, these are the essence of my work. As a #1 bestselling author, my purpose is to help others discover their purpose, and live it. The five books I’ve recommended here have helped me greatly along that path.


I wrote...

Magic Bullet: The Secret That Can Change Your Life in 10 Seconds—or Less

By Keith Ellis,

Book cover of Magic Bullet: The Secret That Can Change Your Life in 10 Seconds—or Less

What is my book about?

This book takes only 20 minutes to read, but it can change your life forever. You see, we’re born asking questions. Magic Questions turn that skill into a superpower. There’s nothing complicated about it. There’s no ten-step system to memorize, no mantra to chant, no checklist to follow. And it doesn’t cost a penny. The power of a Magic Question isn’t limited by language, gender, culture, race, education, age, or IQ. Anyone on the planet can ask a Magic Question to help solve any problem. All it takes is about 10 seconds to ask it out loud and begin listening to your answers. Then, like a magic bullet, they can help you get what you want from life.

Why? Because Magic Questions let you hack directly into your brain to access mental resources you might not know you have. Combine this with their uncanny power to cut through emotional red tape and Magic Questions become the ultimate catalyst for change. If you ask yourself the right question at the right time, you can begin to change your life in 10 seconds—or less. In fact, when you know what you’re doing, Magic Questions can change your life at the speed of thought. But there is a trick to it. The right questions take you where you want to go in life. The wrong questions take you in the opposite direction.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

First Things First

By Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill

Book cover of First Things First

Why this book?

Too often we don’t know what’s important to us, so we spend our time on what isn’t. That’s a root cause of much of the frustration and unhappiness in our lives. If you’re willing to get to know yourself well enough to understand what’s really important to you—and how to focus on it—this wonderful book is the place to start.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Why this book?

If we are ever to truly know ourselves as human beings, we need to understand where human beings came from. This eye-opening book takes you on a journey from the very beginnings of human culture to the challenges and opportunities of today, in a 30,000-foot view of what we do, why we do it, and how we can do it better.


On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

By William Zinsser,

Book cover of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Why this book?

From the title you might think this book is about writing, and it is. But it's much more than that. Mr. Zinsser makes the point from the beginning that writing clearly is about thinking clearly, and thinking clearly is about knowing who you are and what you want to say.


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear,

Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Why this book?

To know ourselves, we need to understand that we are our habits. If we hope to change our lives for the better, then we need to change our habits. This book helps you understand what that means and how to go about it.


Influence: Science and Practice

By Robert B. Cialdini,

Book cover of Influence: Science and Practice

Why this book?

Entire industries exist to manipulate us based on characteristics of human psychology that nature has programmed into us. An important part of knowing ourselves is to know these characteristics and understand how to use them for our benefit, instead of the benefit of those who would use our human nature against us.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in technology, persuasion, and execution?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about technology, persuasion, and execution.

Technology Explore 42 books about technology
Persuasion Explore 14 books about persuasion
Execution Explore 10 books about execution

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Human Condition, We Have Been Harmonized, and Energy and Civilization if you like this list.