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Notable for the 50 Classics book series, Tom Butler-Bowdon, often described as “a true scholar of this type of literature,” gives commentaries on the classic works in the personal development field.

After reading his first personal development book at the age of 25 (Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Bowden became captivated by this type of literature, and at the age of 30, he was ready to identify and communicate the characteristics of personal success based on his own analysis of the concepts and literature in the self-development field. That’s how 50 Classics came into existence.

The first book in the series, the bestselling 50 Self-Help Classics, won the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award (US) for the Psychology/Self-Help category.


50 Classics Book Series

  • 50 Self-Help Classics (2003),
  • 50 Success Classics (2004),
  • 50 Spiritual Classics (2005),
  • 50 Psychology Classics (2007) and
  • 50 Prosperity Classics (2008).


50 Self-Help Classics

50 Self-Help Classics is concerned with the search for authentic happiness and a sense of purpose.

“This book identifies some of the most useful ideas from writings specifically devoted to personal transformation – from inside out.”

Even if you already have an idea of what self-help is, this book will help you expand your understanding and knowledge by the range of titles and authors covered on its pages. The common threads running through the 50 self-help classics are:

-        refusal to accept unhappiness,

-        acknowledgement of life difficulties and avoidance of being defined by them,

-        deciding what we will think and not letting the environment or genes to determine our path.


50 Success Classics

50 Success Classics is about authentic and meaningful achievement.

“This is why the term authentic is used: doing something or becoming something that expresses your full personality and abilities in the most noble way. Success is not an event or a result in isolation, but an expression of the best that is within you.”

Besides authentic achievement, this book is about characteristics of successful people, such as optimism, a definite aim, purpose, or vision, willingness to work, discipline, an integrated mind, prolific reading, risk taking, realizing the power of expectation, mastery and well-roundedness.

Titles covered in this book are divided into four categories: motivation, fulfilling your potential, prosperity and leadership.


50 Spiritual Classics

50 Spiritual Classics is not meant to be a survey of the world’s religions. It provides a list of old or ancient writings next to bestsellers of modern times. Additional books of similar nature or connected theme are mentioned at the beginning of each commentary.

“The spiritual literature is a treasury of collective wisdom, at least equal to the great libraries of science, philosophy, poetry, or fiction.”

The themes in the literature covered in the book(s) are:

-        great spiritual lives, such as Muhammad Asad, St. Augustine, Herman Hesse, W. Somerset  Maugham, etc.,

-        practical spirituality (M. Ghandi, Kahlil Gibran, Miguel Ruiz, Eckhart Tolle, etc.),

-        the great variety of experience (Epictetus, William James, Carl Gustav Jung, C.S. Lewis, etc.),

-        humanity’s spiritual evolution.

50 Spiritual Classics is concerned with divining a life purpose, loss of the little self, living in the present, and perceiving beyond duality.


50 Psychology Classics

What motivates us, what makes us feel and act in certain ways, how our brains work, and how we create a sense of self? 50 Psychology Classics provides us with a deeper awareness in these fields, helping us to gain self-knowledge, a better understanding of human nature, improved relationships and increased effectiveness.

“The focus is on psychology for nonpsychologists, books everyone can read and be enlightened by, or that were expressly written for a general audience. In addition to psychologists, the list includes titles by neurologists, psychiatrists, biologists, communications experts, and journalists, not to mention a dockworker, an expert in violence, and a novelist. As the secrets of human behavior are too important to be defined by a single discipline or point of view, we need to hear from such an eclectic collection of voices.”

The books on the list are divided into seven categories:

  • behavior, biology and genes: a science of the brain,
  • tapping the unconscious mind: wisdom of a different kind,
  • thinking better, feeling better: happiness and mental health,
  • why we are how we are: the study of personality and the self,
  • why we do what we do: great thinkers on human motivation,
  • why we love the way we do: the dynamics of relationships,
  • working out our peak: creative power and communication skills

50 Psychology Classics explores writers, such as Freud, Adler, Jung, Skinner, Piaget etc., but also modern writers such as, Gardner, Gilbert, Goleman, Seligman, etc.


50 Prosperity Classics

50 Prosperity Classics is not just about wealth or money, but also about prosperity – about life, taking in the wider ideas about good fortune, abundance and well-being. It celebrates the act of both sustainable wealth creation and giving.

“If you understand wealth creation as part of the larger concept of prosperity, nothing should hold you back. You have a duty to yourself and the world to maximize resources, use your imagination, and work hard to bring new, valuable things into being. In taking this larger view, you may find that it is possible both to be well off financially and to live with a good conscience.”

The book integrates books relating to inner or psychological aspects of creating wealth and books on the nuts and bolts of personal finance, entrepreneurship, and economics.


-        mastering the inner game of wealth and abundance,

-        secrets of the wealth creator,

-        strategies of personal finance and investing,

-        the flow of wealth and giving something back

The reason why most books on the list are written by American authors is that the U.S. has always placed great emphasis on monetary wealth and entrepreneurship, which led to Americans producing much of the best writing in this area.


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50 Classics by Tom Butler-BowdenNotable for the 50 Classics book series, Tom Butler-Bowdon, often described as “a true scholar of this type of literature,” gives commentaries on the …