21 minimalist books that inspire simple living

We have curated our list of the 21 best minimalist books to help you simplify your life

The beauty of making a list of minimalist books is that we have centuries of content to draw on. We also have a number of disciplines that go into minimalism, including stoicism, simple living, decluttering, philosophy, and more. Though we included some well-known books, we also wanted part of the list to be lesser known but powerful titles you may not have come across yet. 

Without further delay, here’s a list you can use to find a fresh source of personal growth and minimalist living, no matter if you are an aspiring minimalist or already experienced at this philosophy. 

21 BEST MINIMALIST LIVING BOOKS

A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE

In A Guide to the Good Life, author William Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. 

AN APOLOGY FOR IDLERS

Apology for Idlers Minimalist Book

An irresistible invitation to reject the work ethic and enjoy life’s simple pleasures (such as laughing, drinking and lying in the open air), Robert Louis Stevenson’s witty and seminal essay on the joys of idleness is accompanied here by his writings on, among other things, growing old, visiting unpleasant places and the overwhelming experience of falling in love. 

AS LITTLE DESIGN AS POSSIBLE 

minimalist books - As Little Design as Possible

Dieter Rams is one of the most influential product designers of the twentieth century. Even if you don’t immediately recognize his name, you have almost certainly used one of the radios, clocks, lighters, juicers, shelves or hundreds of other products he designed. This book summarizes his ten principles of good design.  

DOES IT MATTER

Does it Matter - Alan Watts Book

This classic series of essays represents Alan Watts’s thinking on the astonishing problems caused by our dysfunctional relationship with the material environment. Here, with characteristic wit, a philosopher best known for his writings and teachings about mysticism and Eastern philosophy gets down to the nitty-gritty problems of economics, technology, clothing, cooking, and housing. 

ESSENTIALISM

Essentialism - Simple Living Book

By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy—instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

HOW TO BE IDLE

Minimalism books - How to be Idle

From the founding editor of The Idler, the celebrated magazine about the freedom and fine art of doing nothing, comes not simply a book, but an antidote to our work-obsessed culture. In How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson presents his learned yet whimsical argument for a new universal standard of living: being happy doing nothing. 

LESS AND MORE

Dieter Rams - Less and More

In his more than 40 years at Braun, Rams established himself as one of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. True to the principle of “less but better” his elegantly clear visual language not only defined product design for generations, but also our fundamental understanding of what design is and what it can and should do. Less and More offers boundless inspiration for anyone interested in the aesthetic and functional aspects of applied design.

MEDITATIONS

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life. A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written.

ODES TO COMMON THINGS

Neruda - Odes to Common Things Simple Living Book

A bilingual collection of 25 newly translated odes by the century’s greatest Spanish-language poet, each accompanied by a pair of exquisite pencil drawings. From bread and soap to a bed and a box of tea, the “odes to common things” collected here conjure up the essence of their subjects clearly and wondrously.

SENECA ON THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE

Seneca - On the Shortness of Life Stoic Book

The Stoic writings of the philosopher Seneca, who lived from c. 5 BC to AD 65, offer powerful insights into the art of living, the importance of reason and morality, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and timeless wisdom. This selection of Seneca’s orks was taken from the Penguin Classics edition of Dialogues and Letters, translated by C.D.N. Costa, and includes the essays On the Shortness of Life, Consolation to Helvia, and On Tranquility of Mind. 

THE ART OF STILLNESS

The Art of Stillness Book

The Art of Stillness paints a picture of why so many—from Marcel Proust to Mahatma Gandhi to Emily Dickinson—have found richness in stillness. Ultimately, Iyer shows that, in this age of constant movement and connectedness, perhaps staying in one place is a more exciting prospect, and a greater necessity than ever before.

THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY

The Art of Thinking Clearly - Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly distills cutting-edge research from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience into a clever, practical guide for anyone who’s ever wanted to be wiser and make better decisions. Author Rolf Dobelli deftly shows that in order to lead happier, more prosperous lives, we don’t need extra cunning, new ideas, shiny gadgets, or more frantic hyperactivity—all we need is less irrationality.

THE ART OF THE GOOD LIFE

Dobelli - Art of the Good Life Book

The Art of the Good Life is a toolkit designed for practical living. Here you’ll find fifty-two happiness hacks–from guilt-free shunning of technology to gleefully paying your parking tickets–that are certain to optimize your happiness. These tips may not guarantee you a good life, but they’ll give you a better chance. 

THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO

Checklist Manifesto - Book for Minimalists

We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist. 

THE GOOD LIFE HANDBOOK

Good life Handbook - Stoicism Books

The Good Life Handbook is a rendering of Epictetus’ Enchiridion in plain English. It is a concise summary of the teachings of Epictetus, as transcribed and later summarized by his student Flavius Arrian. The Handbook is a guide to the good life. It answers the question, “How can we be good and live free and happy, no matter what else is happening around us?”

THE PARADOX OF CHOICE

minimalist books - The Paradox of Choice

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice—the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish—becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice—from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs—has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.

THE MINIMALISM CHALLENGE

The Minimalism Challenge Book

Written by yours truly, we present 52 small changes and good habits that will simplify your life each week of the year. This set of lessons grouped by major life themes teach you how to live easy for an entire year (and beyond) by cultivating awareness, clarity and focus — essential qualities that empower you to simplify your decision-making, build good habits and focus on what matters most. 

THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS

minimalist books - The Miracle of Mindfulness

In this beautiful and lucid guide, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness–being awake and fully aware. From washing the dishes to answering the phone to peeling an orange, he reminds us that each moment holds within it an opportunity to work toward greater self-understanding and peacefulness.

THE UNDERACHIEVER’S MANIFESTO

minimalist books - The Underachiever's Manifesto

Lower the bar. Turn it down a notch. Get off the Stairmaster. The Underachiever’s Manifesto is the playfully persuasive pocket guide to living life to the least and loving it. With sharp humor and genuine wisdom, this welcome little book extols the fabulous benefits of underachievement in our overextended society.

WAIT: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF DELAY

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay Book

In this counterintuitive and insightful work, author Frank Partnoy weaves together findings from hundreds of scientific studies and interviews with wide-ranging experts to craft a picture of effective decision-making that runs counter to our brutally fast-paced world. Even as technology exerts new pressures to speed up our lives, it turns out that the choices we make––unconsciously and consciously, in time frames varying from milliseconds to years––benefit profoundly from delay. 

WALDEN

Walden - Henry David Thoreau

Walden offers abundant evidence of Thoreau’s ability to begin with observations on a mundane incident or the minutiae of nature and then develop these observations into profound ruminations on the most fundamental human concerns. Credited with influencing Tolstoy, Gandhi, and other thinkers, the volume remains a masterpiece of philosophical reflection.

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Book covers and blurbs courtesy of the respective publishers.

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