Thirty remarkable books that can create a transformational experience for a prisoner. Just as a single spark can set a forest ablaze—so too can a single thought set a mind alight!

These extraordinary books have been selected by Everyman founder Gerald Henry and friends as the 30 most likely books to create a transformational epiphany in a prisoner’s mind. They are presented below in alphabetical order. These books are not available for free but can be purchased from traditional bookstores. We have provided a link to Amazon to make it easy for you to locate each book. They make ideal gifts.

Please note: The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Vedas and all other central religious writings are not included in this selection because they can always be obtained without charge from the prison chapel.

Author: James Allen

For more than a century, As a Man Thinketh has been one of the world’s bestselling and most widely loved inspirational works. This special volume features a revised and updated edition of this immensely powerful meditation and—as an added bonus—an up-to-date version of the author’s first book, From Poverty to Power.

James Allen offers his clear answer in As a Man Thinketh. His words have helped millions for more than a century —and they continue to point the true way to a better life for a troubled humanity.

This inspirational masterpiece is now revised and updated for the twenty-first century so that Allen’s message resonates as freshly today as it has for generations.

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Author: Paramahansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi is a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation. This acclaimed autobiography presents a fascinating portrait of one of the great spiritual figures of our time. The author clearly explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and the extraordinary events commonly termed miracles.

His absorbing life story becomes the background for a penetrating and unforgettable look at the ultimate mysteries of human existence.

Selected as "One of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century," Autobiography of a Yogi is regarded worldwide as a classic of religious literature. Several million copies have been sold, and it continues to appear on best-seller lists after more than sixty consecutive years in print.

Profoundly inspiring, it is at the same time vastly entertaining, warmly humorous and filled with extraordinary personages.

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Author: Inayat Khan

The retreat looms large in the spiritual universe of Sufi master Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Away from mundane concerns, the retreatant takes steps to see through the eyes of God, or in Inayat Khan's words, "to think like the Universe." Inayat Khan's synthesis of Indian and Islamic mysticism creates an attractive and palatable spiritual program, couched in the modern language of the new spirituality--Jungian archetypes, Cosmic Christ, spectrum of consciousness, Being of light. Through human beings, Inayat Khan says, the universe itself is alive, and as human beings, we can participate actively in the evolution of the universe.
Awakening is a handbook for revisioning God as the universe and transforming our own consciousness. Collected from transcripts of his retreat talks, Awakening guides the reader beyond the self through meditative practices, visualization, whirling, and dhikr, the traditional Sufi ritual of remembrance for inviting the Divine Presence into the heart.

At the same time, Pir Vilayat insists that we be awakened in life by loosening the ties of conditioning, challenging deep-seated assumptions, and living a life of simplicity and service. Although its roots are in age-old traditions, Awakening is at the cutting edge of mysticism.

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Swami Prabhavananda (Translator), Christopher Isherwood (Translator)

The Bhagavad-Gita is the Gospel of Hinduism, and one of the great religious classics of the world. Its simple, vivid message is a daily inspiration in the lives of millions throughout the world and has been so for countless generations. This translation is credited with introducing Hinduism to the West.

Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood use the beauty of poetic verse to express the highest truths of Vedanta. It includes an introduction to the Gita, and a study of non-violence versus the need to fight a just war. The critics have singled out this translation:

"The book is self-contained. A complete stranger to the Hindu gospel can pick it up and in one or two evenings follow the poem from its terrific beginnings to its sublime end." - New York Times

"A distinguished literary work." - Time Magazine

The BHAGAVAD-GITA teaches about renunciation, suffering, and confronting life's challenges.

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Author: Thomas Moore

Care of the Soul is considered to be one of the best primers for soul work ever written. Thomas Moore, an internationally renowned theologian and former Catholic monk, offers a philosophy for living that involves accepting our humanity rather than struggling to transcend it. By nurturing the soul in everyday life, Moore shows how to cultivate dignity, peace, and depth of character. For example, in addressing the importance of daily rituals he writes, "Ritual maintains the world's holiness.

As in a dream a small object may assume significance, so in a life that is animated by ritual there are no insignificant things." This is the eloquence that helped reintroduce the sacred into everyday language and contemporary values.

This New York Times bestseller provides a path-breaking lifestyle handbook that shows how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul.

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Author: Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanse and Tom Lagana

In the spring of 2000, over 100,000 copies of Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul were distributed to prisoners, prison libraries and prison ministries throughout the United States. The hope was that this collection of stories would touch the hearts of prisoners and offer them hope and encouragement, as well as inspire them to transcend the limiting thinking and behaviors of their past.The book was so successful that the co-authors soon found themselves flooded with requests for the book from family members, correctional officers, prison volunteers and others. The book is now available to the general public.

“Every night, I read Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul to my cellmate.”
—Inmate, Montana Women’s Prison, Billings, Montana

“I keep three books next to my bed as daily inspirations. First is the Bible. Then I have my Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul and Serving Time, Serving Others. ”
—Inmate, Houtzdale, Pennsylvania

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Author: Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

In this book, Gurumayi illuminates the mysterious connections between courage and contentment, revealing the surprising origin of fear, the fundamental reason for loving yourself and others, and the secret of transforming difficulties into opportunities for growth.

A remarkable collection of talks on spiritual life, this book brings to light the connection between thee two unique qualities; courage and contentment, and how they already exist within us.It helps seekers overcome fear and feelings of unworthiness and find their true goals.

Gurumayi invites us to explore the inner light of our own hearts. She offers workable methods for creating a golden life of happiness, abundance and service.

In this book, she encourages the reader to find courage and contentment inside, not in other people, places or things. Once a seeker experiences these states within him or herself, there is rejuvenation and real joy in being alive.

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Author: Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of the most inspiring figures of our time. In his classic autobiography he recounts the story of his life and how he developed his concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century.

In a new foreword, noted peace expert and teacher Sissela Bok urges us to adopt Gandhi's "attitude of experimenting, of tesing what will and will not bear close scrutiny, what can and cannot be adapted to new circumstances," in order to bring about change in our own lives and communities. All royalties earned on this book are paid to the Navajivan Trust, founded by Gandhi, for use in carrying on his work.

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Author: Richard Hooper

This book organizes hundreds of sayings attributed to Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and Lao Tzu into topics such as, "The Great Way" and God, Tao and Universal Mind," and assembles the sayings into four parallel columns for easy reference. Edited from over fifty ancient Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist texts, Parallel Sayings demonstrates the common thread that runs through all mystical traditions. The author/editor prefaces each top with an introduction that is insightful and sends a powerful message that will be welcomed by all who seek the truth within, and within their own spiritual tradition.

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Author: Helen Keller

Helen Keller, Time Magazine’s woman of the century, reveals her mystical side in this best-selling spiritual autobiography. Writing that her first reading of Emanuel Swedenborg at age fourteen gave her truths that were “to my faculties what light, color and music are to the eye and ear,” she explains how Swedenborg’s works sustained her throughout her life.

In thos book, Helen Keller traces her spiritual development, revealing her mystical, ecstatic aspect, in this revised and expanded edition of her spiritual autobiography. "Emanuel Swedenborg's message has been my strongest incitement to overcome limitations," she proclaims.

“Helen Keller herself was without conceit; her own words make her a more appealing figure than the woman glimpsed in old newsreels. Her view of her life is motivated by joy and gratitude.”
—The Bloomsbury Review

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Author: Nelson Mandela

This is an articulate, moving account of Mandela's life from his "country childhood" following his birth on July 18, 1918 to his inauguration as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. Mandela traces the growth of his understanding of the oppression of the blacks of South Africa; his conviction that there was no alternative to armed struggle; his developing belief that all people, black and white, must be free for true freedom; and the effect that his commitment to overthrowing apartheid had on his family, who "paid a terrible price."

Over a third of Mandela's memoir tells of his 27 years in prison, an account that could stand alone as a prison narrative.

He ends his book with the conclusion that his "long walk" for freedom has just begun: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

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Author: Victor Frankl

In this book, Dr. Frankl explains the experience which led to his discovery of logotherapy. As a longtime prisoner in bestial concentration camps he found himself stripped to naked existence. His father, mother, brother, and his wife died in camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that, excepting for his sister,his entire family perished in these camps. How could he -- every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination -- how could he find life worth preserving?

A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to. He, if anyone, should be able to view our human condition wisely and with compassion. Dr. Frankl's words have a profoundly honest ring, for they rest on experiences too deep for deception.

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Author: Mother Teresa

If No Greater Love doesn't soften your heart, nothing will. Rather than proselytizing, Mother Teresa gives simple encouragement to love and give and sacrifice. The anecdotes she tells--of the woman who calls her crippled son "Teacher of Love," or the child who prefers to live with her mother under a tree to living in the relative comfort of Mother Teresa's home--evoke a bittersweet tenderness in the reader, a feeling that Mother Teresa is correct in saying that we must conquer the world not with bombs but with love.

No Greater Love is the essential wisdom of Mother Teresa — the most accessible, intimate, and inspiring book of her teachings. Thematically arranged to present her revolutionary vision of Christianity in its graceful simplicity, the book features her thoughts on love, generosity, forgiveness, prayer, service, and what it means to be a Christian. A passionate testament to deep hope and abiding faith in God, No Greater Love celebrates the life and work of one of the world’s most revered spiritual teachers.

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Author: Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, the acclaimed Vietnamese Buddhist monk, has drawn from 24 Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources to create this highly acessible retelling of the story of the Buddha. The simple style is engaging, leading the reader through events in the Buddha's life while taking care to present and reinforce the central meaning and tone of his teaching. This is not a scholarly study but rather a heartfelt interpretation that draws on important sources. The result is a beautiful and contemporary book that can offer an attractive introduction for those new to the subject as well as many bright moments for serious students of Buddhism.

Old Path White Clouds is the beautiful classic recounting of the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha over the course of eighty years. It is retold alternately through the eyes of Svasti, the buffalo boy who provided kusa grass for the Buddha's enlightenment cushion, and the Buddha himself.

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Author: Peace Pilgrim

The woman known only as Peace Pilgrim walked on faith across America for 28 years as a penniless pilgrim, spreading a simple and universal message for achieving inner and worldwide peace. Born in New Jersey in the early 1900s, she assumed the name "Peace Pilgrim" in 1953 and began a walking and witnessing odyssey of over 25,000 miles, including every U.S. state, Mexico and Canada.

Peace Pilgrim walked and spoke continuously across America from 1953 until her death in 1981. "Walking until given shelter and fasting until given food," she carried a simple yet powerfully enduring message of peace. A few of her friends later gathered her writings and talks into this first-person account of her experiences and beliefs. Peace Pilgrim has become a spiritual classic, with over half a million copies in print in nine languages.

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Author: Swami Muktananda

This extraordinary book is the spiritual autobiography of a realized Master, Swami Muktananda. In it he describes his own journey to Self-realization. He reveals the process of transformation that he experienced under the guidance of his Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda, from his initiation in August 1947 to his final attainment of enlightenment nine years later. Imbued with the authority of Swami Muktananda's achievement, this intimate and powerful portrait of his life is a testimony to the power of his devotion. The story of Swami Muktananda's yoga journey on the Siddha Yoga path provides a guide to seekers who aspire to the same goal.

“There are so many things inside the human body. If, even once, man could discover his body in meditation, truly he would benefit a great deal from it. Who knows what there is in this body! There are so many chakras just in the head, so many different springs welling with nectar, so many clusters of nerve filaments, so many kinds of musical harmonies, so many different fragrances; there are rays from so many different suns, abodes of so many different deities. Though all this is inside him, man, tragically caught in his delusion, indulges himself in the arid world outside.”

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Author: Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

These five speeches impart the teachings of the Siddha Yoga path for modern seekers with eloquence, erudition, and compassionate humor, making an ancient tradition deeply engaging and vibrantly alive. Each talk, originally addressed to a global audience as a traditional greeting to the new year in the period 1995–1999, offers guidance—both practical and philosophical—for progressing on the spiritual path in today's world and living a noble and purposeful life. The book teaches with illustrative stories and anecdotes and urges all people to make the best use of their lives, to discover the divinity in their own hearts, and to let the joy of the divine suffuse the world.

"A modern scripture, shining with the power of Gurumayi's enlightened state and her loving intention for the spiritual progress of every human being."   
—From the foreword by Swami Shantananda, author, The Splendor of Recognition

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Author: Herman Hesse

In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits listening to the river. Some say he's a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and, briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha, enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was just like all the other "child people," dragged around by his desires.

His final epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, he flees from his possessions to become a ferryman's apprentice. Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with the rhythms of nature, learning what lessons he can from the river itself.

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Author: Hazrat Inayat Khan

It is a great privilege to be human so that we can develop our humanity and be human in mind, in reality as well as in form. This development concerns our intelligence, our heart, and our mind.

To become an angel is not very difficult; to be material is very easy; but to live in the world, in all the difficulties and struggles of the world, and to be human at the same time, is very difficult.

If we become that, then we become the miniature of God on earth.

—Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Art of Being and Becoming gathers Inayat Khan's teachings on what the Sufis consider the fruit of the whole creation -- the divine art of creating the human personality. This volume gives methods for training the ego, tuning the heart, and developing will power, all to help one develop and perfect a natural way of being in the world.

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Author: Julia Cameron

With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe, and has, in the years since its publication, spawned a remarkable number of support groups for artists dedicated to practicing the exercises it contains.The Artist's Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist's life. It is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work.

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Author: Dr. John Demartini

This book is about breaking through the barriers that keep us from experiencing our true nature as light. It presents inspiring science and philosophy in a way that is completely accessible to anyone, to reveal and explore the universal laws and principles that underlie our very existence.

It is an extremely real and practical manual for understanding why we live the way we do, and how to transform our lives into our highest vision. You will learn a formula to manifest your dreams, discover the secrets of opening your heart beyond anything you have imagined, find out how to increase love and appreciation for every aspect of your life, receive profound insights on how to create more fulfilling and caring relationships, reawaken your birthright as a true genius, transcend the fears and illusions surrounding the myth of death, and reconnect with your true mission and purpose on Earth.

That is all true, but mainly, this book will deeply touch and inspire you with respect to your own greatness and potential—and the magnificence of every single human soul.

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Author: Don Miguel Ruiz

Full of grace and simple truth, this wonderful book is perfect for anyone making an elementary change in life. Featured in the premiere issue of O: The Oprah Magazine and on Oprah's Favorite Things 2000 segment, The Four Agreements reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob people of joy and create needless suffering.

Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements -- be impeccable with your word, don't take anything personally, don't make assumptions, always do your best -- offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform life into a new experience of freedom, love, and true happiness.

It's the how and why one should do these things that make The Four Agreements worth reading and remembering.

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Author: Paramahansa Yogananda

In this unprecedented masterwork of inspiration, Paramahansa Yogananda takes the reader on a profoundly enriching journey through the four Gospels. Verse by verse, he illumines the universal path to oneness with God taught by Jesus to his immediate disciples but obscured through centuries of misinterpretation: "how to become like Christ, how to resurrect the Eternal Christ within one's self".

This landmark work transcends divisive sectarianism to reveal a unifying harmony underlying all true religions. A groundbreaking synthesis of East and West, it imparts the life-transforming realization that each of us can experience for ourselves the promised Second Coming - awakening of the all-fulfilling Divine Consciousness latent within our souls.

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Translator: Juan Mascaro

The Upanishads, the earliest of which were composed in Sanskrit between 800 and 400 BC by sages and poets, form part of the Vedas - the sacred and ancient scriptures that are the basis of the Hindu religion. Each Upanishad, or lesson, takes up a theme ranging from the attainment of spiritual bliss to karma and rebirth, and collectively they are meditations on life, death and immortality.

The essence of their teachings is that truth can by reached by faith rather than by thought, and that the spirit of God is within each of us - we need not fear death as we carry within us the promise of eternal life.

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Author: Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

In this liberating collection of 14 talks on yogic discipline, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda discusses discipline in seeing, hearing, eating, speaking, and thinking.

Gurumayi is a spiritual teacher, author, musician, and the head of the Siddha lineage of meditation masters in the ancient yogic tradition of India.

Discipline gives total freedom; it allows you to go beyond limitations, to break through boundaries and reach the highest goal. The path of discipline will not only save a person's life, it will also give it meaning. How? By introducing him to deeper joy and deeper longings, by creating a silence in which the whisper of the heart can be heard.

Gurumayi says “Truly, discipline is the road to liberation.”

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Author: Paramahansa Yogananda

In this remarkable book, Paramahansa Yogananda reveals the hidden yoga of the Gospels and confirms that Jesus, like the ancient sages and masters of the East, not only knew yoga but taught this universal science of God-realization to his closest disciples. Compiled from the author's highly praised two-volume work, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, this insightful and compact book transcends the centuries of dogma and misunderstanding that have obscured the original teachings of Jesus, showing that he taught a unifying path by which seekers of all faiths can enter the kingdom of God. Topics include:

•  The lost years of Jesus in India
•  The ancient science of meditation: how to become a Christ
•  The true meaning of baptism.

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Author: Henry David Thoreau

"Walden" is the classic account of two years spent by Henry David Thoreau living at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. The story is detailed in its accounts of Thoreau's day-to-day activities, observations, and undertakings to survive out in the wilderness for two years. Thoreau's journal is an exquisite account of a man seeking a more simple life by living in harmony with nature.

Arguably America's most famous nonconformist, Thoreau lived at Walden Pond from July 1845 to September 1847, chronicling his experiences there. It was an experiment in living a life unhindered by social trappings and tradition. His work was not widely renowned for years after his death, but later became a staple in modern culture, defining not only what it means to be an American, but what it means to be human. Come see where the idea of marching to the beat of a different drummer originated. Walden is a classic and essential reading.

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Author: Bo Lozoff

Often called "The Convict's Bible," this book is also relevant and important to any spiritual seeker. Interfaith wisdom, divided into 3 sections: The Big View describes Bo and Sita Lozoff's life of activism and spiritual exploration. Getting Free is a section of detailed instruction in classic spiritual practices. Dear Bo is correspondence between Bo and dozens of the inmates he has challenged, encouraged, and loved. This is an amazing book, which has moved people to great extremes.

Now in its 17th printing, with over 385,000 copies in print, We’re All Doing Time, is available in several languages. It was hailed by the Village Voice as "one of the ten books everyone in the world should read," and has been lauded by prison staff and prisoners alike as one of the most helpful books ever written for true self-improvement and rehabilitation.

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Author: Swami Muktananda

Where Are You Going is excellent for those new to the spiritual path, as it answers many commonly asked questions about life and spirituality. Each chapter describes one basic field of inquiry such as the Self, the mind, mantra, and meditation.

Often, when Swami Muktananda would meet a disciple or a visitor walking on the grounds of one of his ashrams, he would greet them with a question. "Where are you going?" And often that simple question would trigger a profound contemplation. "Where am I going?" you would find yourself wondering, "What am I really doing with my life?".....When an enlightened being comes into your life, this is the question he or she inspires.....

This book is both an handbook of the inner journey and an introduction to the teachings of Swami Muktananda - one of the most highly regarded meditation masters of our time.

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Author: Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is well qualified to write this book, having used the seven principles he shares to achieve his own "rags-to-riches" story. At the heart of Osteen’s message is that achieving a successful, prosperous life of fulfillment can only occur when we stop worrying about the past or future to make the most of each present moment by using our God-given strengths and talents to achieve our goals. The key to doing so are the seven steps Osteen outlines: Enlarge Your Vision, Develop a Healthy Self-Image, Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words, Let go of the Past, Find Strength Through Adversity, Live to Give, and Choose to Be Happy. Mixing biblical teachings with his own personal experiences, Osteen explains each of these seven steps in an encouraging, optimistic manner that makes them accessible to anyone interested in principles of personal growth.

The seven steps Osteen shares will have value to people wanting to know more about practical steps of self-betterment, regardless of their religious denomination.

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