In an earlier post, I presented a list I compiled of 50 things that make me feel good. In a moment lacking inspiration, with over thirty minutes of my daily writing time still to fill, I needed something to go on—I found a middle school prompt that I initially thought would take mere minutes, but required the rest of my writing time for the day to complete. To expand on this writing project, I began an effort to discuss each of the 50 entries, and this post is a result of that project. Read the list at the original post, here.
When I think about self-help books, a variety of book covers begin pin-balling around in my head. It occurs to me the first thing to do is to establish what I mean by “self-help.” Wikipedia calls self-help books any book “that is written with the intention to instruct its readers on solving personal problems.” Let me just clarify that I don’t find Wikipedia to be a reliable source of information the majority of the time. However, it is the prime place anyone seeking to define what a self-help book is would visit.
To me, self-help books are just any books that serve to make me better. If they improve me as a person in some way, large or small, they are self-help books to me. With such a loose definition, almost any book could be self-help, including a fiction novel that teaches me a valuable lesson. Fiction is not what is coming to mind, though.
Let’s talk about some books I consider “self-help” that make me feel good. Some of these I read once, some of them I read a few times, and some of them I still read over and over again. Some of them are faith-based, some of them are secular, and some of them follow specific trends.
The Love Dare, by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick
The Love Dare is a book I recently discovered after watching a movie called “Fireproof,” which came out over five years ago. This is one of those self-help books that is geared toward couples. It is also faith-based. When I read this book, it inspires me to be a better wife. It gives me real ideas to hold onto that will improve my marriage, which improves me by extension. It offers both thought-provoking quotes and scripture to support its ideas, so the faith-centered or secular reader can both appreciate the book while applying the methods explained inside. To make this book even sweeter, it is interactive in a couple of ways. One, there are sections at the end of each day to note when you’ve accomplished a goal and what results you notice. Two, the publishing company that produces The Love Dare has an online evaluation for readers to take before beginning the book. The online evaluation tells them which specific days and ideas the reader needs to focus on most when improving themselves. The assessment can be found here.
Essential: Essays by the Minimalists, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
Essential: Essays by the Minimalists is one of those books that offers so much help on so many topics in such a compact space. Many of the self-help books that make me feel good are ones focused on minimalism. In this particular book, The Minimalists have combined their best essays into one volume, which I find myself reading over and over again. This book is set up in a way that you can read it in order, or you can pick and choose which essays you’d like to read. If there is a particular issue you’re struggling with that you want to read on, just find the appropriate essay. There is no need to read the entire book to find the one nugget of inspiration you’re actually looking for. The whole book is worth a front to back read at some point, though, because Millburn and Nicodemus have a lot of valuable insight to pass on to others. Personally, I have invested in a digital copy of this book that I plan to keep forever, but if you’re financially challenged or just don’t want to own another book (madness!), then you can read many of the major essays from the Minimalists at their essay archive.
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is one of the few books in my life that I have ever had passed along to me. By passed along, I mean a friend (Paula, who also has an awesome blog you can check out here) read and enjoyed the book herself, thought it was something I would benefit from, and gave her personal copy to me to read, then eventually pass on myself. This book is particularly hard to describe, but it makes me feel good. It seems to center on the search for happiness and balance. Any book that promotes happiness and balance promotes a better self. I do feel better for reading it. This is a book I’ve read only once, but I believe another read would have a positive impact on my life. Dan Millman has spent a lot of time promoting balance, happiness, strength, etc. When he speaks, a certain calm exudes from his manner, which tells me he practices what he preaches, and what he preaches must have some validity. Credibility is extremely important because much of what turns people off of self-help books is the feeling that they are just blowing smoke. The only smoke I want to see in my life is the smoke from the fire I’m lighting under my own feet.
Mastermind, by Maria Konnikova
Mastermind is one of those thick, heavy, intellectual sort of books that takes a long time and a plethora of highlighters to wade through. The dense jungle of this book is well worth the struggle, though, and it not only makes me feel good but makes my mind better. We all know how much I enjoy intellect, so anything that might help in that aspect is going to make me smile. It isn’t what you think of when you consider self-help books, but it definitely helps my “self.” When I first started this book, I wasn’t sure I could understand the concepts I would find inside. However, when I was about two chapters in, I realized this book was a version of an alternative college course I took in my third year of school. That course was called Mindful Living, and the primary concept Konnikova is promoting is mindfulness. Once I was in it, and I realized it wasn’t beyond me, I was able to embrace the concepts in this book and use them to better myself each and every day. Now, there is no doubt I could still use a few books on mindfulness. Thank goodness the self-help genre is a giant one.
You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney
You Are Not So Smart insults you from the moment you read the cover, but the insult is good. The insult, in the end, makes you feel good. It made me feel good, and reading this book helped me better myself. The book basically spends each chapter explaining why we do certain things even when we mean to do something entirely different. Or, it will explain a situation in which we think we are awesome by explaining exactly why we are not awesome. Using science, logic, examples, and a ton of intriguing evidence, McRaney opens up a world of knowledge that helps us understand why we do the things we do. Once we understand our actions, we can learn to a) acknowledge that we are not so smart and b) change our actions accordingly in order to stop making the same mistakes over and over again. The book itself is wildly interesting, too, should you have no interest in bettering yourself.