My Top 7 Books on Purpose

My Top 7 Books on Purpose

Written by: Alicia Curtis
Alicia Curtis

During 17 years as a leadership facilitator and creating the online Purpose Masterclass course, I’ve read a lot of books about purpose. So I’ve collated a list of books that might help you spark your journey to defining, refining and living your purpose.

Variety is key

Purpose will mean something slightly different to everyone so I’ve tried to add a variety of books so each book might appeal to someone different. Choose the one book that connects with you and give it a go!

Here are seven of my favourite books on purpose.

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

My husband to be gave me this book for my 19th birthday. It’s not only a favourite of mine but for many all over the world. This book is a poetic fable about a shepherd on his way to find his treasure. It’s a story about finding your way in the world, living your purpose and trusting the teachers and omens along the way. Coelho’s writing is a dream to read.

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
— The Alchemist

Me to We by Craig and Marc Kielburger

This book is written by Candian brothers and talks about finding meaning in life. A deeper meaning through choosing the right goals, focusing on community and service and giving your practical guidance and strategies to stay engaged with your life meaning. For me, purpose is what you can give to the world and this book perfectly shares this. If this book resonates, the brothers recently teamed up with Richard Branson’s daughter, Holly Branson to write WEconomy which is another great read.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani

This is a newer book written in 2017. Emily does a great job in deconstructing the research to living a meaningful life and the core elements in doing this. Her four pillars include belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. I really loved her storytelling and how easy it was to read – a great book, for sure.

“To Aristotle, eudaimonia is not a fleeting positive emotion. Rather, it is something you do. Leading a eudaimonic life, Aristotle argued, requires cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential. It is an active life, a life in which you do your job and contribute to society, a life in which you are involved in your community, a life, above all, in which you realize your potential, rather than squander your talents.”
— The Power of Meaning

Business as Unusual by Anita Roddick

This is my number one favourite book – ever! Big call, I know. I was eternally inspired by Anita Roddick and the business she started, The Body Shop (unfortunately she passed away many years ago and the business was sold so doesn’t quite retain the essence when she ran in). This book is her business manifesto and explores the opportunity for purpose in business. When I should have been reading my textbooks in the university library, I was reading this book…unsurprisingly it wasn’t long till I started my own business. I go back to this book years later for Anita’s boldness and vision. If you’re in business or want to be in business, this one is for you!

“Be courageous. It’s one of the only places left uncrowded”
— Anita Roddick

Strengths Finder by Tom Rath

Want guidance about what to do in your life, start with your strengths! When talking about purpose, I would always recommend people start with self awareness and reflection about your core strengths. Where do you start to reflect on your strengths? Strengths Finder is a great reference book to help you clarify your strengths (as we can be terrible at doing this ourselves!). Buy the book, do the test and start understanding the strengths you can bring to the world.

Presence by Amy Cuddy

This book is not specifically about purpose per se but it’s not just about power poses either.  Have you watched Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power poses? This book is more about stepping into your own power using simple techniques to overcome fear and perform at your best. I love the idea of strengthening your personal power in the world. This book does not disappoint.

“Focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.”
— Presence

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Back in 2008, Csikszentmihalyi wrote this book which talks about this state of consciousness he named ‘flow’ which is essentially the feeling you get when you are in top form. This book unpacks the science of flow and gives you some great strategies to evoke it in your life.

“To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.”
— Flow

I shall stop there…

I could actually keep quoting more books to read but seven gives you a good start and hopefully there is something that resonates with you. If you’re after something more practical, check out my post, Four Practical Experience to help you form your Purpose.

Books and practice is a mean combination!  Read, act and reflect – repeat! That’s a sure fire strategy to defining, refining and living your purpose.

Tell me what books have inspired you in building your purpose in life on Alyceum’s Facebook page.


The world needs more purpose-driven people. But where do you start? This inspiring guide will give you powerful insights to find and refine your own purpose in life.

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