6 Books to Read When Trying to Establish New Habits

Are you tired of feeling trapped in a loop of procrastination or bad habits? Do you long for a life where your highly effective practices and self-discipline propel you to success and happiness? Well, you're not alone.

The good news is that you can change your behavior and become who you want to be. The key is knowing how to train your brain, and there are books to help. Here's how to find a book on building better habits, along with a list of the six best books to read when trying to establish new habits.

What Kinds of Books are Best for Building New Habits

If you're looking for books on building better habits, there are a few categories to check out. The non-fiction and self-improvement sections are the go-to. Look for titles on productivity, habit development, or organization. Below are other genres to search for books about habits at the library or bookstore:

  • Neuroscience and psychology
  • Productivity
  • Self-improvement or self-help
  • Organizational development

You'll also find books about behavior change in business and economics. You can even learn about habits in books on advertising and marketing.

How Do I Know Which Book Is the Right One for Me?

Choosing the right book to help build better habits can be a process of trial and error. You never know which book will contain your "lightbulb moment". Still, here are some practical tips for choosing books to read when trying to establish new habits:

  • Before you choose a book, read reviews and preview sample chapters.
  • Look at the author's credentials and experience to choose a trustworthy source.
  • Friends and family can be a valuable source of recommendations. Ask what books they've read that have changed their lives and listen for suggestions.

And remember, the "right" book is often a matter of perspective. Keep an open mind and try a few books, authors, or genres to see which resonates most.

How Long Should I Read Each Day to Establish a New Habit?

If you're hoping to start a new reading routine each day, science suggests it will take around 66 days to become an established habit. According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, it is hard to say exactly how long it takes. That's because habit development is unique to each person and each behavior. One study done in the UK found that it could take between 18 and 254 days. So, if you're ready for your new habit to become second nature, stick with it!

6 Books Specifically Designed for Learning Habits

When it comes to self-improvement, you can find several titles specifically designed for learning or changing your habits. Here's a list of six highly recommended, bestselling books to read when establishing new habits.

Goodreads: 4.13 stars from 474,062 ratings

1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Journalist Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit examines the science behind habits and how they impact our lives. It is filled with psychological research and rich anecdotes on what drives habit formation. One of the takeaways from this book is the "habit loop", which consists of a cue, followed by a routine, and a reward. This idea explains why some bad choices become habit-forming. By recognizing cues and rewards, you have the power to change your bad habits. 

Goodreads: 4.38 stars from 635,409 ratings

2. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is a well-known self-improvement book that teaches readers how to create positive habits. It explains the idea of atomic habits, the small, gradual changes that lead to big results. Then, bestselling author James Clear breaks down the four laws of behavior change. The action must be obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. If you struggle with self-control, these principles make it easier to master new habits. This book reminds us that success is not a goal or finish line but an ongoing process of improvement. 

Goodreads: 3.81 stars from 1,542 ratings

3. Rewire by Richard O'Connor, PhD

Dr. Richard O'Connor is a psychotherapist specializing in addiction and mental illness. His book Rewire delves into neuroscience and neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to change). It also explains that we have two selves. We have an aware, intentional self and a subconscious self that makes most of our choices. This book is about rewiring your brain to break bad habits and build healthy behaviors for lasting transformation. 

Goodreads: 3.91 stars from 6,895 ratings

4. Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

If you feel that life constantly pulls you in too many directions to begin a new habit and keep to it, this book is for you. Hyperfocus explores how the mind works and how to improve concentration. In the book, productivity expert Chris Bailey teaches readers how to harness the power of profound focus to boost productivity step-by-step. Pick something to focus on and remove all distractions. Then, pay attention to the one task and redirect your mind when it wanders. Hyperfocus can help you achieve goals and build better habits. 

Goodreads: 4.13 stars from 10,875 ratings

5. High-Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard

High-Performance Habits explains the habits you must master to reach your goals. In the book, three-time New York Times best-selling author Brendon Burchard explains the "HP6". These six high-performing habits include clarity, energy, productivity, influence, courage, and purpose. High-Performance Habits uses exercises, reflections, and stories to demonstrate how readers can make lasting changes. 

Goodreads: 4.15 stars from 697,282 ratings

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Wrapping up our list of the best books to read when trying to establish new habits is a timeless classic. First published in 1988, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has helped millions. Businessman and motivational speaker Stephen Covey gives readers seven keys to unlocking true potential. He explores the value of being proactive, starting with the end in mind, and prioritizing. The book draws from psychology, philosophy, and practical experience. This read is sure to help you on your path to forming new habits and a better life. 

Never underestimate the power of a good book to change your behavior and better your life. Now you know you can break away from harmful patterns and create new habits by digging into these books and embracing their principles. The six books on this list give valuable insights, practical solutions, and inspiring anecdotes to help you grow. So, take action! True transformation comes when you apply the knowledge you learn. So, grab a book and start reading.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Making lifestyle changes that last. 

Arlinghaus, K.R., & Johnston, C. A. (2019). The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(2): 142-144. doi: 10.1177/1559827618818044.  

Clear, J. (n.d.). How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick. James Clear.

Gardner, B., & Lally, P. (2018). Modelling Habit Formation and Its Determinants. In B. Verplanken (Ed.), The Psychology of Habit (pp. 207-229).  Springer Cham. 

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of 'habit-formation' and general practice. British Journal of General Practice, 62(605), 664–666.

doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X659466.

Psychology Today. (n.d.). Habit Formation.

The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.). Changing Habits.

Van Der Weiden, A., Benjamins, J., Gillebaart, M., Ybema, J.M., & De Ridder, D. (2020). How to Form Good Habits? A Longitudinal Field Study on the Role of Self-Control in Habit Formation. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. 

Sources for Images

Sarah Falcone

Author Bio

Sarah S. Falcone, BSN, RN, is a nurse and health content writer in Fort Worth, TX. She draws from 15 years of practicing patient care and nursing leadership, to share her own nursing experiences and expertise online. Connect with her on LinkedIn.