14 Best Resilience Books for Creating Mental Toughness

Resilience BooksOur capacity to bounce back and recover from life’s upsets is vital for our wellbeing and success and results from how we perceive and deal with the unexpected (Clough et al., 2021).

As coaches and mental health practitioners, we can support our clients’ resilience and mental toughness by developing coping skills, encouraging mental slowing down, and supporting cognitive appraisal (Kellerman & Seligman, 2023).

In this article, we share many of our favorite books that offer deep insight into the closely related concepts of resilience and mental toughness to ensure a complete conceptual understanding of managing change and learning the best tools and skills for our client’s success.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Resilience Exercises for free. These engaging, science-based exercises will help you effectively deal with difficult circumstances and give you the tools to improve the resilience of your clients, students, or employees.

What Are the Best Resilience Books Out There?

While the popular view is that being resilient is about bouncing back from tough times, there is more to it. Resilience is most often forged through the suffering and struggling that create new life paths rather than immediately returning to the journey we were previously on (Neenan, 2018).

While there are many books available that explore resilience, the following are four of our favorites based on their contribution to our theoretical understanding and practical application of the concept.

1. Developing Resilience: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach – Michael Neenan

Developing Resilience

Therapist and coach Michael Neenan uses a cognitive-behavioral approach to increase resilience in clients.

In his insightful book, Neenan explores what we mean when we talk about resilience and discusses why one person can overcome multiple challenges and crises simultaneously while another crumbles.

In doing so, Neenan (2018, p. 4) digs deep into why “inner resilience is the secret to outer results in the world” and why our attitude and how we use our strengths are vital to building and maintaining resilience in the workplace and our relationships.

This is an essential read for anyone wishing to learn how to manage negative emotions and thoughts, identify what is within our control, boost frustration tolerance, and maintain a more positive, resilient outlook.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches – Carole Pemberton


While this is a relatively short book at less than 200 pages, resilience coach Carole Pemberton packs a great deal of practical and helpful information in it on how to coach clients to overcome difficulties and achieve their potential.

Pemberton begins by exploring what resilience is and isn’t and the impact of losing our resilience narrative. She then identifies tools and techniques borrowed from well-validated approaches such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, solution-focused coaching, positive psychology, and mindfulness.

The result is a compact yet expansive guide to helping clients gain (or regain) their resilience. Several case studies offer real-world scenarios and are combined with practical coaching tools.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges – Steven Southwick, Dennis Charney, and Jonathan DePierro


Now in its third edition and updated to include recent traumatic events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this in-depth and valuable book will become a staple resilience resource to be revisited repeatedly.

Steven Southwick, Dennis Charney, and Jonathan DePierro are leaders in trauma and offer deep insight into resilience as a complex product of genetic, biological, social, and psychological factors.

They explore the latest scientific findings and theories using their own and others’ research and interview many highly resilient people. The result is a reference and a guide to help readers adapt and grow from stressful life events.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. The Resilience Club: Daily Success Habits of Long-Term High Performers – Angela Armstrong

The Resilience Club

As a strategic leadership partner, Angela Armstrong supports leaders in delivering sustainable high performance using a series of resilience habits.

She believes that with the right tools and mindset, we can take life’s challenges in stride and say yes to the exciting opportunities that present themselves.

Armstrong shares her FREEDOM model as a framework for helping individuals invest in their wellbeing as a whole person, including mind and body, spirit, and emotions. Key aspects include maintaining focus, finding role models to inspire us to be our best, and building and maintaining an optimistic outlook.

Her goal is for clients to develop a balanced set of resilience habits that support coping and handling both challenges and opportunities as they arise.

Find the book on Amazon.

Best Military-Inspired Resilience Books

Each of the following books is the result of or inspired by military experience or training. They highlight the potential to overcome our most significant challenges and thrive in seemingly impossible situations.

1. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins

Can’t Hurt Me Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Having experienced a nightmarish childhood, David Goggins used mental toughness, hard work, and self-discipline to plot a course from being an overweight and depressed young man into a US Navy Seal and then a world-class endurance athlete.

While much of the book shares Goggins’s experiences of military training and endurance race competitions, he doesn’t hold back from discussing his doubts and fears.

Goggins believes that most of us are operating at 40% of our true capability and ends each chapter of the book with challenges for the reader to complete to tap into the remaining 60%.

While less focused on the research or science behind resilience, the story is inspiring. Ultimately, it shows that many of us are not fulfilling our potential and highlights some real-world approaches that can help us strive for new heights.

Find the book on Amazon.

Can't hurt me: master your mind and defy the odds

2. The Art of Resilience: Strategies for an Unbreakable Mind and Body – Ross Edgley

The Art of Resilience

Ross Edgley is not a former soldier, but through working and training with military professionals, he has developed a military-inspired resilience mindset and became an award-winning extreme adventurer.

In 2018, he completed a daunting world-first: to swim a 1,780-mile journey around Great Britain.

His book invites the reader to join him on his epic voyage. Along the way, he analyzes and learns from the performance of other extreme athletes and military fitness specialists to develop his unbelievable mental strength.

In doing so, he attempts to answer the question posed by his friend and former Special Services soldier Ant Middleton: “What gives you the motivation that drives you through the pain barrier and the resilience to cope with any obstacles that nature throws your way?” (Edgley, 2021, p. ix).

His stoic mindset teaches us how to overcome hardship and create an unbreakable body and mind.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Conflict: How Soldiers Make Impossible Decisions – Neil Shortland, Laurence Alison, and Joseph Moran


Military conflict is brutal, with soldiers making incredibly tough decisions in impossible situations.

This powerful and, at times, painful read identifies the resilience and gritty mindsets needed to make hard decisions, particularly when there is no “right” choice. In exploring how soldiers sometimes have to make the least-worst decision, we begin to understand the factors behind post-traumatic stress disorder and the resilience factors that can offer protection.

The authors recognize a soldier’s personality and military culture as supporting their decisions and how studying combatants can offer insight into building resilience in other high-risk roles such as emergency services.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level – Mark Divine

Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level

Mark Divine is a retired Navy Seal who, having learned resilience and a mentally tough mindset in the military, decided to take his SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind Programs into the workforce to make people realize they are capable of far more than they think.

He believes most of us can accelerate our daily achievements by 20 times what we currently imagine. To do so, we must become better decision-makers under pressure, trust our gut, use visualization, and develop a warrior spirit, deepening willpower, intention, and connection with our selves.

While not rooted in science or research, Divine offers a powerful approach to overcoming negativity, resisting fear, and adopting a resilient mindset capable of achieving much more.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 resilience exercises

Download 3 Free Resilience Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients to recover from personal challenges and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth.

3 Best Books to Become Mentally Strong

Optimum performance and increased resilience rely on heightened mental strength. While there is no single way of ensuring that individuals have the required mental capacities and strengths to manage their lives and perform at the level they wish, there are several books that offer resilience skills and insights that can help, including the following (Clough et al., 2021).

1. What Doesn’t Kill Us: A Guide to Overcoming Adversity and Moving Forward – Stephen Joseph

What Doesn’t Kill Us

Stephen Joseph has spent over 20 years working with survivors of trauma.

His research has led to a deep understanding of how painful and terrible events, such as bereavement because of accidents, natural disasters, terrorism, assault, and severe illness, do not always permanently ruin lives, but can cause dramatic and positive transformation and growth.

In the latter part of the book, Joseph turns his focus to how, as mental health experts, we can take what we have learned and help others see how trauma can have positive implications, resulting in a new search for meaning and becoming an engine for change.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work with Resilience, Creativity, and Connection, Now and in an Uncertain Future – Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin Seligman


In this fascinating book, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin Seligman (the father of positive psychology and author of Flourish) introduce tools and techniques to future-proof our approach to the workplace and our professions.

After all, in a world where social, economic, and technological change is continuous, we must develop a growth and resilience mindset that enables us to thrive rather than be overwhelmed.

Filled with engaging evidence and powerful tools and techniques, Tomorrowmind guides the existing and future workforce to develop the “cognitive abilities we need to live a healthy, meaningful life” (Kellerman & Seligman, 2023, p. 219).

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Psychological Capital and Beyond – Fred Luthans, Carolyn Youssef-Morgan, and Bruce Avolio

Psychological Capital and Beyond

According to Fred Luthans, professor at the University of Nebraska and former president of the National Academy of Management, and his colleagues, psychological capital (PSYCAP) is essential for success, mental strength, and wellbeing in the workplace.

An employee’s psychological capital is characterized by their confidence (efficacy) to take on challenging tasks, their positive outlook on future tasks (optimism), perseverance to succeed (hope), and ability to bounce back or beyond (resilience) to attain success.

While companies require “financial, physical, structural, and technological resources,” individuals can build the psychological capital they need through experience, resilience training, and skills development (Luthans et al., 2015, p. 162).

Ultimately, by building PSYCAP, employees gain a competitive advantage and the ability to face up to and thrive in the face of challenges.

Find the book on Amazon.

Resilience: a mindset for everyday life - Joana Baquero

3 Top Mental Toughness Books

Resilience has a clear synergy with the concept of mental toughness. The latter also refers to “prospering under pressure, not just surviving” (Clough et al., 2021, p.33).

While much of the literature regarding mental toughness focuses on performance in sports and the workplace, it applies to any life domain, determining how we respond in all challenging environments (Clough et al., 2021).

There are many books exploring the content and factors involved in mental toughness. We have chosen three that represent a deep and diverse understanding of the fascinating subject and our research into the subject (Sutton, 2019).

1. On Mental Toughness – Harvard Business Review

HBR Mental Toughness

From the library of Harvard Business Review’s “10 Must Reads,” this book collects ideas and best practices on the subject of mental toughness in the workplace.

Each chapter is from a different author and covers various topics, including rebounding from career setbacks, extreme negotiations, and the challenge of leadership.

Particular favorites include Graham Jones using sports to help readers understand how to leverage the pressure, use the competition, and reinvent themselves. Another, by Alia Crum, rejects the popular notion of stress being irredeemably bad and replaces it with the recognition that it connects us with the most challenging aspects of our lives and can even be enhancing.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Mental Toughness: The Mindset Behind Sporting Achievement – Michael Sheard

Mental Toughness

Despite being over 10 years old and focusing on mentally tough performers in sports, this is a valuable deep dive into the concept and has insight across all aspects of our lives.

Join Michael Sheard for a fascinating journey into the mindset of athletes at the limits of performance. Key elements include understanding mental toughness and how to measure, build, and maintain it.

In his conclusion, Sheard discusses the concept’s innateness versus its plasticity, or ability to develop in response to challenging experiences and an appropriate mental outlook.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Developing Mental Toughness: Strategies to Improve Performance, Resilience and Wellbeing in Individuals and Organizations – Doug Strycharczyk, Peter Clough, and John Perry

Developing Mental Toughness

Perhaps more than any other book in the list, this one by mental toughness researchers and experts Peter Clough, Doug Strycharczyk, and John Perry answers the following key questions:

  • Does mental toughness really exist?
  • Can it be measured?
  • Is it useful?
  • Can mental toughness be developed?

In doing so, the authors offer profound insight into the concept and provide interventions and approaches for use by ourselves or our clients to build a mindset and approach geared toward delivering our best performances most of the time.

Find the book on Amazon.

17 Tools To Build Resilience and Coping Skills

Empower others with the skills to manage and learn from inevitable life challenges using these 17 Resilience & Coping Exercises [PDF], so you can increase their ability to thrive.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

Relevant Resources From PositivePsychology.com

We have many resources available for coaches and counselors working with individuals and groups to support their capacity to handle and overcome tough times and, ultimately, flourish.

Why not download our free resilience pack and try out the powerful tools contained within? Some examples include:

  • The Resilience Plan (The Four S’s)
    Build a personal resilience approach based on past experiences, supportive people, strategies, wisdom, and identifying solution-seeking behaviors.
  • Doors Closed Doors Open
    Change is constant and unavoidable. In this exercise, we learn and practice the importance of remaining open to opportunities that arise from the challenges we face.

Other free resources include:

  • When Was I Not Resilient?
    These questions encourage clients to reflect on situations when they were and were not resilient.
  • Understanding the Impact of Attitudes on Resilience
    We must identify the beliefs that may worsen our present difficulties and how to change them.

More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit©, but they are described briefly below:

  • The Antifragile Mind

It is vital that throughout our lives, we recognize opportunities for growth in adverse events. Try asking yourself:

    • When did you last experience adversity?
    • What mistakes did you make that contributed to this event?
    • How can you learn from it?
    • What did it teach you about who you want to be?
    • How did it make you stronger?
    • How can you shift from victim to victor in the future?
  • Valued Living During Challenging Time

Your values point to the type of person you want to be. This exercise helps you reconnect with them in light of a current personal challenge:

Step one: Identify the values with which you have lost touch.
Step two: Consider what actions you could take right now to reconnect with each value.
Step three: Take the actions and remind yourself to stay connected.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others overcome adversity, check out this collection of 17 validated resilience and coping exercises. Use them to help others recover from personal challenges and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth.

A Take-Home Message

Resilience is more than just bouncing back; it’s about identifying and using our inner strengths and resources to face up to the challenges we encounter (Neenan, 2018).

Our genetic makeup undoubtedly influences our resilience and mental toughness. Yet, with the proper support, appropriate skills, and a future-oriented, growth mindset, clients can survive unexpected events and flourish when they confront, embrace, and overcome adversity.

The military-inspired books within this article highlight how even individuals in the darkest and most traumatic situations can draw on their inner resilience and build mentally tough outlooks that enable them to cope with their present situation and recover from past trauma.

Although several of the mental toughness books are written with athletes in mind, they highlight the capacity for such approaches and skills to positively impact every aspect of our lives.

The books in this article will inspire, educate, and help you support your clients.

They provide details of the latest research and theories to build resilience and mental strength by adopting powerful approaches, tools, and skills that clients can learn to support themselves going forward, beyond coaching and resilience counseling sessions.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Resilience Exercises for free.

Ed: Updated November 2023

  • Clough, P., Strycharczyk, D., & Perry, J. L. (2021). Developing mental toughness: Strategies to improve performance, resilience and wellbeing in individuals and organizations. Kogan Page.
  • Edgley, R. (2021). The art of resilience: Strategies for an unbreakable mind and body. HarperCollins.
  • Kellerman, G. R., & Seligman, M. (2023). Tomorrowmind: Thriving at work with resilience, creativity, and connection, now and in an uncertain future. Nicholas Brealey.
  • Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2015). Psychological capital and beyond. Oxford University Press.
  • Neenan, M. (2018). Developing resilience: A cognitive-behavioural approach. Routledge.
  • Sutton, J. (2019). Psychological and physiological factors that affect success in ultra-marathoners (Doctoral thesis, Ulster University). Retrieved October 16, 2023, from https://pure.ulster.ac.uk/en/studentTheses/psychological-and-physiological-factors-that-affect-success-in-ul.

What our readers think

  1. T

    David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me is the best.

  2. Timothy Olson

    You seem to have a good list. The books all the reply suggested, I’ve tried, and mostly so bad, couldn’t get past first chapter. Try your list. What happen in your life that lead you to read these books? Are you good now? What are you reading these days? 🙂

  3. Michal

    any fiction books any of you would suggest? classics included 🙂


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