I used to be dismissive of self-help books. But then, my first year in grad school, we were assigned to find ten self-help books that we might use as a therapist. So, one day, I drug myself over to the local Barnes and Noble. With a notebook in hand, I started taking apart their self-help section.
There are a lot of goofy, unhelpful self-help books out there. That being said, what helps everyone is individual. I don’t personally know anyone who managed a true mental health issue (like depression or anxiety) through reading self-help books alone, but I do know that they can be a helpful tool in an overall wellness toolbox.
Okay, I’m going to step-off the soapbox now.
- PostSecret books, by Frank Warren I realize these aren’t technically self-help books, but I think they’re worth mentioning. PostSecret started as an art project, where people mailed secrets on postcards. It turned into a movement, and Frank Warren is an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. The secrets run the gamut from funny to sad to frightening, and everything in between. PostSecret isn’t for everyone; some people might be triggered by some of the secrets. But for most of us, it’s nice to know we’re not alone; that others have the same secrets we do.
- The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin I was very skeptical of this one, figuring that it would be fluffy and silly. But my friend, Ramona, recommended it. She usually picks good books, so I gave it a try. I really liked it. It’s practical, interesting, and best of all, the author doesn’t pretend to be perfect.
- On Writing, by Stephen King If you think this book is only good for aspiring writers, you’d be wrong. Yes, I think every writer should read this book, but it’s also a book about life. The advice and information can apply to many different types of goals. “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”― Stephen King In other words, love what you do, and do what you love, no matter if you’re validated by the world or not.
- This Year I Will: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True, by MJ Ryan We all have habits we want to break, but it’s difficult, even when we feel motivated. A lot of self-help books are one size fits all. This book encourages you to look at what approach will work best for you, and do that.
- For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, by Shaunti Feldhahn I have a Masters in Mental Health therapy, I’m married to a man, and most of my friends are men. Yet this book gave me a lot of information I didn’t know. I can’t tell you how many times, reading this book, I said out loud, “That explains it!” Men and women’s brains are a little different; it’s science. Learning how we think differently can improve communication and empathy. After all, it’s easier to empathize with what you understand. There’s a companion book for this one, For Men Only. It’s on my TBR, and I’m hoping the author does as good of a job explaining women as she does men. The author is Christian, and it influences her writing. I thought that it was lovely, but I know some people may not be into it.
- Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD This is a super-short book, but I think it should be required reading for everyone. I don’t like change, and I know I’m not alone. Even “good change” is stressful for people. This book is a parable about the way that people react to change, and how to improve your outlook.
- The Dude and the Zen Master, by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman This was a fun and unusual book, giving a transcript of various conversations about life and zen between Jeff Bridges (the actor) and Bernie Glassman (a zen master). It references the Dude from The Big Lebowski as a zen figure, and even though I don’t love the movie, their take on it is interesting. There is A LOT of cursing in this book, so if that would interfere with the message, skip this one.
- Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl This book is amazing and difficult to read. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. He explains that what got him through was focusing on surviving long enough to finish his book. He talks about the people who survived, and those who didn’t. He talks about how to find meaning in a life that sometimes seems cruel and unfair.
Are there any books you’d add to the list?