The 17 Best Books About the Purpose of Life

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As someone who has now written nine books on the nature of purpose, vision, and finding meaning in your life, you might be wondering why I am writing about other books on purpose.

Well, for one, this embodies most of my research. So in a way this serves as a kind of extended bibliography of my books.

But I would also be much remiss if I did not credit these amazing authors for their work. So much of what I have done is built on their success and vision.

And of course, I don’t want you to stop reading just because you finished my books. If you are looking to find your purpose in life, the work of one author is not going to be enough. My views are my own, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for other people. So for that reason, I recommend everyone read these books in addition to my own books, because you will get a better perspective on what purpose is for you.

To start us off, let’s take a brief overall look at each of the 17 motivational books on this list. Later I will go into minute detail on each one, present the key takeaways of each, and my biggest reasons for including them on the list.

But for now, let’s just get a feeling for all of them together.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

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Let’s start with the most sobering book on this list: Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was an internationally renowned psychiatrist, but one with a hunting history that most thankful he will never have to go through.

For years, Frankl was imprisoned in the Nazi death camps of World War II. It was during this time that he developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy that he called logotherapy.

The primary idea behind this approach is that the core of everything that we do is our search for meaning, and he who has meaning in his life can maintain positive thinking and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This was born out of his observations of those who chose to live through the horrors of the Nazi death camps, and those who chose to commit suicide.

It’s a sobering tale that I recommend everybody read, a fantastic introduction to what gives us all meaning, an essential ingredient for finding our purpose.

2. The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

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Joseph Campbell is well known today as the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The basic story structure that he identified in countless hero myths throughout the world have been used in many successful stories since, most notably Star Wars.

What people don’t often think of when it comes to this book, is the application that it applies into our own best life. I’ve actually written an entire book on the subject, because I believe it is that important.

Our life is a hero’s journey, and even though this book was not written as a self-help book, or even as a story structure guide (it was originally intended as an academic treatise), it still works very much as a guide for our own lives.

3. Noble Purpose: The Joy of Living a Meaningful Life by William Damon

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Noble Purpose is a book that introduces the concept of a life that matters. It goes into the personal and spiritual benefits of having that sense of purpose. People throughout all of history have used a noble purpose, their sense of answering God’s call, to live very fulfilling lives.

One of the things I like about this book is that it goes into detail about how we can live a noble purpose each day, no matter what our lives look like. We don’t have to be Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Teresa, in order to have a noble purpose.

All in all, this is one of those books that really digs deep into the philosophical underpinnings of finding your purpose in living a meaningful life. I recommend it for anyone who wants to dig deep.

4. The Path to Purpose by William Damon

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This book is geared more for young people were trying to find their calling in life, but it absolutely applies to everyone.

William Damon is an expert on young people and adolescents, and this book really digs deep into the issue of why so many of our countries youth are “failing to launch”. Why so many are lacking in career aspirations, personal motivations, etc.

This book is also based on the study that the author conducted, so it’s based in real facts related to our countries youth. So it is a scientific book as well. And seeing as many of the youth described in this book are now adults (it was written in 2008), I have a feeling that many of the ideas in this book are still relevant to adults today.

5. Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

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Have you ever had a trial in your life, only to find that you came out of that trial stronger than you were before?

That is the basis for this book, which is one of the more popular books on the subject. It talks about how life is tragic, and that we all have “necessary suffering” that can be hard at the time, but is absolutely essential for our success in the long run.

A lot of this book focuses on the elderly and those in the second half of life, but really this is full of life lessons that everyone should focus on.

For me personally, I had a stomach condition that was the worst experience of my life, but that condition is what eventually led me to find what my real purpose is. Because suddenly nothing else mattered during that trial, except what did. That experience was the start of my success, my falling upward.

Highly recommended.

6. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Now to add a classic to this list, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the foremost books that really delved into this idea of purpose and being truly independent. You could almost look at it as the first personal achievement book.

You can usually find this book packaged with a number of other essays from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it’s definitely worth a read.

If you struggle with older writing and understanding it, I recommend you read this chapter in our book, as we will go over all of the key points from this essay.

7. The Four Purposes of Life by Dan Millman

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This is a fantastic book if you are looking to find out more about your life’s purpose. Dan Millman has done a ton of research into this topic, and develop the life purpose system, which is a way of finding alignment with your “spiritual law”.

It is a book that is steeped heavily in ancient wisdom, particularly on the writings of Socrates, and it is one of the top rated books on this particular subject.

8. The Element by Ken Robinson

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Sir Ken Robinson is a well-known educator, who gave one of the most-watched Ted Talks of all time. His book, The Element, is a book about discovering your talents and your passions.

If you’ve read my book on finding your purpose, you will know that understanding your talents, your interests, in your passions, are all important steps in understanding your life’s purpose. Because you are naturally attracted to the things that you want to do, and should do, in your life.

This book also goes into some important detail on big questions like what if you’re good at something that you don’t love? Or what if you love something that you’re not good at?

As an educator, Ken Robinson has an understanding of how these things can be developed, and so I definitely recommend reading this book

9. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

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Start With Why is also based on a Ted Talk, this one given by Simon Sinek. This book is a little more business focused, but it is 100% applicable in our own lives.

The book goes into detail on what Sinek describes as the Golden Circle, a model for understanding why some people and companies do well, and why some don’t.

The answer is “why”. And what you learned in this book is that a why can be very basic, very primal, but if you don’t have it, then your life or your business will not have the direction that it needs to have.

If you are looking to start your own business, then this is a must-read for you. It really breaks down these more spiritual concepts into something that can be quantified on a basic level.

10. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

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When I first learned the meaning of the Japanese word, Ikigai (spelled icky guy), I absolutely fell in love.

Ikigai means your reason for living, your reason for getting up in the morning. In this book goes into detail about how to find yours, and the benefits it has for you.

Did you know that having a purpose, having an Ikigai, will help you live longer? It’s true, and all that is detailed in this book, one that focuses heavily on longevity.

Because longevity is one of the often unseen benefits of finding your north star.

11. Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

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The author of this book once set out to visit every country in the world by age 35. When he did this he had discovered that there were a lot of people just like him, people on a quest.

This is what eventually led him to write this book, The Happiness of Pursuit, which talks about how we all have something that we are trying to do, or at least we should, and that quest alone can bring us happiness.

Now, happiness and purpose are not the same thing, nor is the pursuit of something necessarily the same as having a purpose, but the two are very closely connected. Without something to pursue, it is hard to find meaning in life.

12. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

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Moving on to a more spiritual option, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer is a fantastic book about uncoupling yourself from the thoughts and emotions of the world around us, and really digging in deep into our own minds to uncover the secrets of happiness and success.

Finding purpose has a lot to do with knowing yourself, and there are few books that are better at helping you understand yourself, your personality type and your own mind, then this book.

It helps that it is also a bestseller, and one I would definitely recommend you read.

13. No Plan B for Your A Game by Bo Eason

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This is a book that you will probably not find on many of the similar lists like this one. It focuses more on performance and excellence, and less on purpose.

However, I include this one because it is the book that first gave me a glimpse of my purpose.

Bo Eason is a former NFL player, as well as a internationally renowned stage actor. You probably didn’t think of those two things as being compatible with each other. But what they did have in common was Eason’s attitude, his quest to be the best at what he did.

It is that quest for being the best that really struck me, and Bo Eason goes into detail about how to uncover this quest, and how to make a declaration for what you want to be in life.

14. Good to Great by Jim Collins

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This is another book that is more business focused, and it also focuses a lot on performance and excellence, but it introduces some key concepts that are essential for finding your purpose.

In particular, the Hedgehog Concept, which is a Venn diagram with three circles representing passion, skill, and economic viability.

There are a lot of Venn diagrams that people use when discovering purpose, and this is one that I find very practical for real-world usage, as it applies heavily to business and finance.

Those seeking a more spiritual book may want to pass on this one, but those looking to find a passion and purpose that can be harnessed into a career, definitely check this one out.

15. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

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For the writers and creators out there, this is a must read. This book uncovers what it takes to find your purpose and use it as an artist.

The author, Jeff Goins, says that our search starts with passion, but eventually needs to find a larger purpose for existing, otherwise that passion will not work alone.

Combined with Jeff’s actual experience in finding his own purpose, the information in this book is sure to help you understand more about yourself.

16. Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

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I feel like most of us don’t really understand how limited our time is. We unconsciously assume that we will be here forever. But the truth is, our time on Earth is finite.

So how can we live that single life to the fullest? That’s the idea behind this book, Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. It goes into how we can have a plan for our life, and how that plan fits into the larger “plan” aka the bigger picture of life.

The book focuses on on how to intentionally design our lives to fit with our purpose. So it’s a great book to read once you have identified your purpose so you can take the steps you need to do to fulfill it.

17. Black Hole Focus by Isaiah Hankel

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This is another of my absolute favorites. This book is all about figuring out your purpose in life, then doing everything you can to fulfill that purpose. It explains why people with purpose tend to live longer, gives examples of people like Jim Carrey and Oprah Winfrey who harnessed their pain to turn it into purpose, and talks about how you can use your purpose in a business.

The book is also divided into three easy-to-follow parts that walk you through…

  1. Why you need a purpose
  2. How to find your purpose
  3. How to achieve your purpose-driven goals even when facing huge obstacles

All in all, an amazing read and one I recommend for everyone.

My Top Recommendation

If I had to pick one best book out of all of these, my answer would be Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Not only is Frankl’s story compelling and moving, but his work as a psychotherapist provides the foundation for much of what all of the other books are based on.

That said, I do recommend reading everything on this list. But if you can’t, continue reading and I will provide you with the key points and takeaways from each book.

I hope you enjoy these summaries.