15 Self Help Gurus Who Wrote The Best Books

Although I personally dislike the term “guru”, there have been many so-called people in the self help industry, and the books they have written have been read by millions.

But who is the best?  self help guru of all time?  Or is it one of these inspiring spiritual bloggers instead?

Here’s my list of top gurus.

1. Deepak Chopra ( The Book Of Secrets): 

Time magazine called Deepak Chopra the “poet-prophet of alternative medicine.”

Chopra has released over 50 self-help books and is most famous for his work on enhancing the mind-body connection.

He advocates such techniques as healing through meditation and body scanning.

His best quote is:

 “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”

Without doubt one of the top gurus ever, Chopra has inspired and helped millions of people around the world with his modern-day approach to spirituality.

Here’s what Deepak Chopra’s self-help books teach

Deepak Chopra is all about using natural health and spiritual science to find inner peace.

It can be a real challenge to “keep stillness inside of you,” as Chopra advocates.

It’s all those negative thoughts and doubts and worries that we mere mortals suffer. Those are what stop you from feeling inwardly still. But meditation can help, as Chopra reveals in his books.

2. Eckhart Tolle  (Best Book: The Power of Now)

Born in Germany and educated in Cambridge, Eckhart Tolle has accomplished some truly extraordinary things. He even managed to make Paris Hilton a tiny bit spiritual. She has said that she read The Power Of Now while in jail. He is definitely one of the best meditation teachers ever.

Tolle wrote the masterpiece The Power Of Now.

Here’s why Eckhart Tolle is one of the top gurus

In a nutshell, Eckhart Tolle’s teachings are about Living in the moment.

Eckhart Tolle’s teachings are largely based around the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of the most important Hindu classic texts.

Tolle also uses a lot of Zen Buddhism in his teachings. For instance, his advice on focusing on the present moment is entirely based around Zen.

When you live in the moment you naturally overcome a lot of the stress and doubts that occupy your mind. And you will also enjoy the moment more.

3. Jack Canfield ( Chicken Soup For The Soul )

Jack Canfield has done more for the self-help movement than practically anyone in history.

His must-read Chicken Soup For The Soul sold by the truckload. And it was the entry point to self-help for a lot of people, including this author.

What Jack Canfield’s Self Help Books Teach

Chicken Soup For The Soul turned spirit-science into an easy-to-read page-turner.

Jack Canfield’s tips include positive thinking and being grateful for what you’ve got in life. But then that’s easy for him, he’s worth $25 million.

What makes Jack Canfield so influential? For me, it’s that he’s so down to Earth compared to his contemporaries.

One of his main points is to overcome fear. Do one thing you think you cannot do. When you do one thing you think you cannot do, you’ll start to turn can’t into can.

What makes the Chicken Soup series essential is that they are so simple to read.

4. Dale Carnegie (How To Win Friends And Influence People)

Dale Carnegie was an American lecturer, writer and self-improvement guru.

As a self-help guru, he’s most famous for the absolutely brilliant book on communication, “How To Win Friends And Influence People”.

What makes Dale Carnegie such a good self-help guru

Among Dale Carnegie’s most important teachings are the idea (and now proven fact) that you can change the behaviour of other people by changing the way you act towards them.

 How To Win Friends And Influence People is definitely one of the best self-help books of all time if you want to learn effective communication skills.

5. Jon Kabat Zinn (Wherever You Go There You Are)

Jon Kabat Zinn is not as famous as some of the other self-help gurus on this list. But don’t let that phase you.

This guy’s done more for spirituality in the West than nearly anyone.

He’s famous for bringing Zen meditation to the West.

What Jon Kabat Zinn’s self-help books teach:

Jon Kabat Zinn essentially took the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn and brought them to the West. His principal instructions revolve around mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He advocates getting in touch with the senses and being alive to the world.

Mindfulness is the solution. “Wherever you go, there you are” essentially means to be present and in the moment. To accomplish that, practice mindfulness-based meditations.

6. Wayne Dyer ( Best Book: Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life)

Wayne Dyer is an international bestselling author of more than thirty books and one of the most famous faces in self-improvement.

Wayne Dyer has been all over the TV with his PBS specials. And thank goodness for that because he was a truly brilliant and inspirational man (and one of the guys who inspired me to get into spirituality myself many years ago).

What Wayne Dyer’s Self Help Books Teach

Wayne Dyer advocates philosophies associated with the New Thought Movement [3] (which states that God is within us all and that our thoughts and mind hold unbridled power). Much of his teachings were about manifesting abundance and prosperity.

Wayne Dyer Quote:

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. “

Don’t just accept your own thoughts and beliefs as gospel. Challenge the way you look at the world. Look at things in new ways. This will change your perception of reality.

What makes him so great is that he is so inspirational.

Why not start by challenging your beliefs about yourself.

Dr. Wayne Dyer - Fragments From The Tao - Beautiful Speech

7. Stephen Covey (Best Book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)


Stephen Covey is the self-help guru behind “7 Habits”, a groundbreaking self-improvement / personal development book. He also sells products designed to make you more efficient and more successful.

Stephen Covey’s empire sells such things as planners and schedules.

Covey studies as a Harvard MBA student and approaches self-help with a business mentality. His advice is practical, straight-up and no-nonsense.

What Stephen Covey’s Self Help Books Teach

They’re are all about developing a mindset of mental fortitude.

 8. Napoleon Hill (Think And Grow Rich)

Napoleon Hill received his teachings from Andrew Carnegie, the American steel magnate.

Carnegie taught Napoleon Hill that success was a formula, a process anyone could follow.

This led to his first book “The Law of Success,” which  was followed by “Think and Grow Rich.” These two books definitely qualify him as one of the most respected self-help gurus ever.

What Napoleon Hill’s Self Help Books Teach

Think And Grow Rich advocates 17 success principles, of which the first is “Definition of Purpose.”

Now, here’s how to do it:

Stop wishing on the future. Write down your life purpose. State it precisely. Now attach a date to it. Pin it on the wall. You now have an official statement of what you will achieve and when. Now go do it.

The fact that Napoleon HIll’s teachings are now world-renowned and scientifically proven make him one of the top personal development gurus of all time.

9. Tony Robbins ( Best Book: of Awaken The Giant Within)

Tony Robbins first gained attention in infomercials where he promoted Jim Rohn’s seminars. He then started his own seminars.

Today, Tony Robbins is one of the most famous self-help gurus in the world.

What Tony Robbins’ self-help books teach

Tony Robbins’  seminars are known for their personality. They’re designed to stir excitement. They focus on immediate action. His two main teachings are: 1) keep energy and excitement high and 2) change negative thoughts for positive ones. His positive energy and charisma have made him one of the most highly regarded personal development gurus of all time.

His self-help books are all about developing the Success Mindset.

10. Richard Carlson ( Best Book:  Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff)

Richard Carlson hit the bestsellers list with “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

Though Carlson was panned by critics at the time, in hindsight a lot of people have come to see his works as masterpieces.

What Richard Carlson’s self-help books teach:

Richard Carson advocates uncomplicated and practical guidance and shows us that we don’t need lofty ideas or clever plans, just a good slice of perspective. His straightforwardness makes him one of the best personal development gurus alive.

I love his down-to-Earth advice.

Essentially his self-help books are about letting go of things.

Your issues probably aren’t that earth-shatteringly important. One day you’ll back and wonder what you ever worried for. So you might as well just stop worrying today.

11. Malala Yousafzai ( Best Book:  I Am Malala)

Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration for millions of women and men around the world. She is easily one of the most influential gurus ever because she herself is such an uplifting and courageous human being.

Dubbed The Bravest Girl in the World by CNN [4], Malala Yousafzai risked her life for her dream: to see women in Pakistan educated and given equality.

All Malala Yousafzai wanted to do was to go to school. Living in the Swat Valley of India (a region where the Taliban have taken over), education was strictly forbidden, as were visible women and music.

Malala Yousafzai refused to be the victim of the Taliban’s orders. The 15-year-old girl risked her life for her dream: to see women educated. She was shot in the face from point-blank range. Miraculously, Malala Yousafzai survived the Taliban’s attempted murder. Her survival is a miracle for which we should all be thankful. “I want to tell the Taliban to be peaceful,” says Yousafzai. “The real way is to fight through words, to fight with pens. That is my jihad. I am fighting for the rights of every girl.”

When Malala Yousafzai awoke from a week-long coma she asked for her parents by writing on a piece of paper; she was unable to speak as she was left with a breathing tube in her throat.

“I thanked Allah, God, for my survival. My next thought was who was paying for me? My father ran a school but everything was rented. . . . “

Malala Yousafzai truly is a role model for enlightenment. If her story doesn’t make her one of the best self-help gurus ever, I don’t know what does!

Everything about Malala Yousafzai speaks wonders of the power of her mind. The fact that she, a fifteen-year-old girl, risked her life for her principles (for principles that concern the wellbeing of others) is amazing. Clearly, here is a fifteen-year-old girl with the emotional maturity and spiritual development of the most enlightened adult.

Malala Yousafzai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (it was won by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons).

12. Paolo Coelho ( Best Book:  The Alchemist)

Bestselling author Paolo Coehlo is an inspiration and one of the top spiritual gurus in the world.

Paolo Coelho’s books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide. The Alchemist is one of the most popular books of all time. Coelho is a master. And as good as he is in print, he is equally as breathtaking in person. What makes him such a good self-help guru is that he writes with such beauty and passion.

There’s a gravity about Paolo Coelho. When I saw him speak at a conference a couple of years back, I was struck by his sincerity and depth of character. He’s the sort of person you will never, ever forget.

Paulo Coelho: A Warrior's Life (on Spirituality)

13. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar  

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the creator of the Art of Living foundation [5], and one of the most inspiring self-help gurus ever.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the mastermind behind The Art Of Living Foundation, and the leader of NONVIO, a movement which asks individuals to pledge one act of non-violence through any of the various social media outlets.  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has inspired and influenced millions of people the world over. He’s done as much for spirituality as practically anyone alive.

You can tell by the speech below that Sri Sei Ravi Shankar is a truly compassionate, enlightened human being. The saying “Touched by an angel” is applicable here.

Spirituality and Money: A talk given by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Tel Aviv, Israel

14. Thich Nhat Hanh ( Best Book:  Peace In Every Step)

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most respected self-help gurus when it comes to Zen.

One of the eminent leaders of Zen Buddhism, he is the author of many bestselling books, including the classic Peace In Every Step.

I’ve personally learned so many things during meditation, and he covers most of them.

Many of the other speakers on this list try to keep uptempo and positive. Thich Nhat Hanh doesn’t mind delving into deeper matters and discussing dark but important truths.

Thich Nhat Hanh left me with an appreciation for the immense depth of the world. Reading Thich Nhat Hanh, I feel as though I’ve journeyed through the depths of the ocean, and came out with a pearl.

15.  The Dalai Lama ( Best Book: The Art Of Happiness)

The Dalai Lama has inspired millions around the world. He is a Buddhist leader and perhaps the world’s top self-help guru.

The Dalai Lama is one of the most interesting and entertaining characters in the world. He is a big kid and an old sage. He’s playful but wise, the best of both worlds. And when you hear him speak you will never forget it.

The Dalai Lama will make you laugh even as he expands your mind. One of the most iconic individuals in the world, you simply have to hear the Dalai Lama speak in person.

Dalai Lamas Public Talk 6: His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Speech

These are the top self-help gurus in the world in my opinion. But now I’d love to hear your opinion.

Who has inspired you? What was it about them that you really loved?

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  1. This is a great list! I feel grateful for many of these teachers and many of these books, especially Richard Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” And you’re right: He was panned at first and not recognized as the fine teacher he was. In fact, one of the stories in my own spiritual/inspirational book riffs on one of Richard’s stories. I think you would like my book, which is also very down-to-earth and which Spirituality & Practice calls “A wonderful collection of personal stories revealing the path of everyday spirituality.” The book is called “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles.” Let me know if you’d like more information, and thank you for your great website!

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