14 Best Books In Inspirational Nonfiction: What Makes Them So Great?

Posted on Jul 27, 2023

Avatar Of Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

Home > Blog > Best Books, Non-Fiction > 14 Best Books In Inspirational Nonfiction: What Makes Them So Great?

Some of the best books in inspirational sub-genres are the ones that share more than a motivational message, but also the personal story of the writer or protagonist. In fact, many of the bestsellers in this genre focus on an individual’s life as the key focal point. 

But with that said, there are countless titles that also belong among the best books in inspirational category due to their unique narrative, call to action, and undeniable impact on readers. 

In this article, I break down what makes the best books in inspirational categories stand out, key features, a list of books for your reference, and tools for how to write your own inspirational book. 

What Makes The Best Books In Inspirational Categories Stand Out?

If you want to stand out as a writer and potentially place your book alongside the list of best books in inspirational nonfiction, it’s crucial to include the details you would rather exclude. What exactly do I mean by this? 

As a writer, you’ve likely devoured many books in this sub-genre. You may have felt compelled to a specific action or motivated by the advice or story of the author. But what about the story specifically resonated with you? 

Inspirational books stand out because of their deep look at the inner thoughts of the readers. Consider Gary Keller’s bestseller, The One Thing. With over three million copies sold, this book aids self-development by taking an intimate look at the reader’s own limitations. 

The disconcerting reality is that we each have a limited time period in which to accomplish our goals. Learning how to leverage our time starts with restricting our focus to the most  crucial element we want to pursue. 

This reality is a detail that may feel a bit uncomfortable to include, but it’s the driving force behind Keller’s philosophy. 

Additionally, consider Olympian Lopez Lomong’s book, Running For My Life. This story joins the best books in inspirational nonfiction not just because of his accomplishments but because of how he overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. 

If he hadn’t included the difficult details (being ripped from his mother’s arms, running days without shoes to find safety, the difficulty not knowing English presented), his story of overcoming would not have read as powerfully. 

Key Features To Include

Besides deep authenticity, what are the key features that the best books in inspirational nonfiction include? 

#1 – Share A Personal Life Lesson

Many of the top books in inspirational nonfiction focus on a life lesson the writer learned. Gary Keller understood the importance of focusing on one thing (not two, three, or more) and going after that one thing with irrevocable resolution. 

#2 – Accept Vulnerabilities 

To continue with The One Thing example, sharing a life lesson starts with accepting our limitations, or vulnerabilities. We cannot pursue all our dreams at once and effectively accomplish each one. 

In Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand gives readers a vulnerable look at Louis Zamperini’s life as a prisoner of war, as well as his consequent victories. Without the dichotomy of dark and light, capture and freedom, pain and peace, stories often lack the element of inspiration.   

#3 – Expand Mental Horizons

Particularly evident in inspirational books that focus on self-development is the call to expand mental horizons. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff focuses on how to handle the more minuscule inconveniences of life and focus instead on the broader picture. However, this element is also evident in books like Beloved, Unbroken (mentioned above), and Radical Love

#4 – Reveal Inner Dreams

Without a dream to follow, what truly is inspirational? The dream does not need to be the standard, up and to the right dream of success. For the best books in inspirational nonfiction, these inner dreams frequently take the form of survival, overcoming mental barriers, and accepting limitations. 

David Schwrtz’s title, The Magic of Thinking Big, may feel uncomfortable to business-minded adults. Magic is a make-believe part of childhood, after all. But what if we allowed our inner dreams to come alive, influence our current realities, and even take shape? The best books in inspirational nonfiction allow our inner dreams to take center stage. 

14 Best Books In Inspirational Nonfiction 

Inspirational nonfiction covers a variety of stories, from memoir to self-development. What makes them so iconically inspirational is the method in which the story is told. Learning from the best books in inspirational nonfiction will help equip you as you set out to write yours. Here are fourteen notable mentions you may want to add to your reading list:

  1. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  2. The Magic of Thinking Big, David J, Schwartz
  3. The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino
  4. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson
  6. Radical Love, Zachary Levi
  7. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  8. Dream Big, Bob Goff
  9. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom
  10. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charlie Mackesy
  11. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath
  12. The One Thing, Gary Keller
  13. Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins
  14. Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris

You likely noticed I included a children’s book in the list (#10). However, Mackesy’s storytelling is so impactful that Reader’s Digest included it on their list of top 26 inspirational books. Inspiration is not restricted to adult books.

As you have seen from what makes the best books in inspirational categories stand out, as well as the key factors in each, inspiration covers many sub-genres. 

While inspirational nonfiction is a sub-genre unto itself, it can overlap into children’s books, self-help, and self-development as well. No matter what book you want to write, you can weave elements that inspire readers throughout your writing. 

But now that you have a list of best books in inspirational nonfiction, and know several of the various elements to include, it’s time to get back to you and your project. 

Assessing Your Story: How To Share To Inspire Others

Writing inspirational nonfiction can feel intimidating, if not overwhelming. If you tend to compare your first attempts at writing to the current bestsellers or classics in your genre, you may feel that writer’s block or imposter syndrome creeping back in. 

The good news is, if you want to share your story or a lesson you’ve learned, you can (and probably should!) do so. Here are a few tips on how to begin:

#1 – Start Small

Start small by posting condensed versions of your message/story on your social media accounts. This acts as a test so you can identify what resonates with your audience. 

#2 – Keep Your Drafts (all of them!)

Even if a post doesn’t seem to do well or you feel it somehow missed the mark, don’t throw it out. Instead, keep your drafts in a folder online or in the notes app on your phone. You can reference them later and use them for guidance on what works and what doesn’t. 

#3 – Remember, Everyone Has To Start 

Remember that bestseller you underlined and highlighted until the pages were falling out? That author started with a blank page, too. Refuse to compare your first draft to someone’s final, and instead, recognize everyone has to begin at the same starting line. 

That’s it for today! For additional help, check out the free resource below!

Write Your Book Workshop
Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Get your free audiobook and ebook copy of:

Published: The proven path from blank page to 10,000 copies sold 

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

Interested in working with us?

Book a free strategy call with our expert team!