Ain’t no shame in needing a little bit of help—even if it's just from a book. But with so many self-help titles on the market these days, finding the right read for you and your current sitch isn't always a walk in the
park book store.
The whole process is like navigating a literary Goldilocks situation: Some are too cheesy, some are too woo-woo, some are too tough love. Eventually, you can't help but wonder if any self-help book will ever really be juuust right.
That's where this list of pro-approved picks comes in. Written by experts in their fields—journalists, psychologists, social scientists, career coaches, and legit successful people who've been there, done that—these 20 best self-help books promise to put you on the path to being your happiest, healthiest self.
So, read it, print it, save it—whatever you need to be prepared the next time you're just ambling up and down the aisles of your local bookstore in the name of self-improvement. (Yes, people still go there, and yes, people still do that!)
1. Feel Better Fast And Make It Last
Physician and psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, stresses how critical it is for you to know what will help you feel better fast. He offers up powerful brain-based strategies and concrete tools to quickly gain control over anxiety, worry, sadness, stress, and anger—all to help strengthen your resilience and give you more purpose in life.
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking: Does he really fit all that into one book? Yup—and it's totally worth a read. Just take it from a pro: "This book is an excellent resource for those struggling with anxiety, are grief-stricken, feeling sad or hopeless, and/or simply looking to get a deeper understanding of your thoughts and feelings," says Ali Hamroff, a psychotherapist at Liz Morrison Therapy.
2. Game Changers
Sometimes all you need to finally take that jump, cross that one big thing off your bucket list, or finish that lingering project is a little inspiration from the people who've done just that. Best-selling author Dave Asprey works to answer the all-important question, “How can I kick more ass at life?” by pulling together the wisdom of world-class thought leaders, maverick scientists, and disruptive entrepreneurs. The goal: to hand you proven techniques for becoming happier, healthier, and smarter in work and life.
3. The Up Side Of Down
When you hit a huge bump in your career, it can be a hard pill to swallow. But instead of dreading failure, why not embrace it? Business blogger Megan McArdle uses stories from successful people in a variety of careers to illustrate the lessons we need to learn from failing—and how to come out on top.
4. How To Be Single And Happy
Sick of swiping? Had enough crappy blind dates? Over cringeworthy setups? Here to help is clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, who uses her own knowledge, research, and client interviews to help you live your best, happiest life no matter—I repeat, no matter—your relationship status. In getting there, you'll learn to shake off past relationships (and all their baggage), stop overanalyzing bad dates, and rid yourself of any guilt about being single, says Hamroff.
5. You Are A Badass
Forget what you know about self-help books being heavy and sad because, thanks to the likes of Jen Sincero, that's not always the case. (**Oprah voice** Hello, let's celebrate that!) Sincero's read is hilarious and uplifting, and it'll give you a serious dose of motivation to go after whatever you want. Because you’re too much of a rock star not to have the life you've always dreamed about, mmkay?
6. Braving The Wilderness
Sure, you want to connect more with those around you and become a kinder, more empathetic person—but it can be really, really hard when you're dealing with your own sh*t. That's where Brené Brown comes in. "Brené helps normalize the plight of difficulties in the moment and teaches us to how to say, 'yes' to what is happening, whether pleasant or unpleasant," says Alyssa (Lia) Mancao, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Sherman Oaks, California.
You may feel like there’s a lot of hate in the world right now, but this book will fill you up with love. (And tears. You’ll totally cry.)
7. The Gifts Of Imperfection
In the wonderful world of self-help content, Brené Brown (yes, the same woman who wrote the above rec, Braving the Wilderness) is a household name—which makes sense given her vast research and knowledge on shame, perfectionism, and empathy (and how all three impact mental health).
With this title in particular, Brown teaches the reader to let go of perfectionism and lean into the discomfort "that [she's] trying to protecting [herself] from," per Mancao. For all those struggling with vulnerability and perfectionism (**raises hand**), she says this read is right for you.
8. The 5 Love Languages
When it comes to building a good relationship, this book will get you there, and it works without relying on the weird gimmicks so many of these types of tomes turn to. Knowing your love language (how you express and prefer to receive romantic feelings) and your partner’s means you can both get your needs met—and be happier together.
"It has a very straightforward approach in addressing and understanding love languages, while also providing concrete homework to help you practice each skill," says Mancao.
9. Badass Women Give The Best Advice
If you need some encouragement (and some laughs) after a dating dry spell, turn to this self-help book. The author taps the celebs, comedians, and business mavens you adore (think Drew Barrymore and Chrissy Teigen) to deliver advice on sex, dating, and love with a side of sass. This is one book you’re actually going to quote from—and not feel dorky about it.
10. The Four Tendencies
Are you an upholder, questioner, obliger, or rebel? The answer is a window into your personality that's much more reliable than random Facebook quizzes. Gretchen Rubin teaches you how to play to your strengths and work with your weaknesses, so you can make the changes you want (and let's be real, need) in your life.
11. Radical Acceptance
A top pick for Mancao, this book helps you learn to accept each moment as it comes without judging, blaming, or being so self-critical. All of these are easier said than done, but that's where Tara Brach, PhD, comes in.
Through combining her personal experiences and psychological expertise, Brach demonstrates the importance of challenging those ingrained beliefs that you're unworthy or wrong—ultimately empowering you to build a more loving relationship with yourself. Another reason Mancao loves this book? "It’s filled with powerful meditations throughout, the kind of meditations that touch your soul and make you say 'yes' to yourself."
12. Off The Clock
You’ve got so much on your bucket list (get your website up, start going to barre, read…), but no time to do it—or so you think. Laura Vanderkam (who delivered a viral TED talk on this subject in 2016) provides actionable tips that will help you fit in more when you don’t think you can, so you can make room for what really fills you up each day.
13. Option B
"An amazing resource for getting through difficult life moments," this book teaches you how to create and own a new plan when your first doesn't go according to, well, plan, says Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW, a therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina.
While Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, details the tragic death of her husband, she also talks about a variety of devastating losses, such as that of a career, identity, and children. All of these seemingly misfortunes, she explains, can be opportunities to grow...if, that is, you call on your inner resilience and your community.
14. How To Get Sh*t Done
With a title like that, you don't need to tell me twice: I'm sold. But in case you're not there just yet, here's a bit more info: How to Get Sh*t Done
is a question that keeps me up every night is a no-B.S. guide to reframing productivity, so you can best achieve your dreams.
The secret? Stop doing everything for everyone else, and start doing what matters to you, according to author Erin Falconer, editor-in-chief and co-owner of the highly respected self-improvement site, Pick the Brain. Sounds like one huuuge task to take on, but Falconer is there every step of the way with actionable and realistic resources.
15. The Desire Map
Have you ever thought to yourself, Man, I wish figuring out my life was as easy as taking a quiz like I used to do in Seventeen mag? Tbh, same—which is exactly why I immediately put this self-help book on my holiday wish list minutes after Hamroff recommended it.
By providing quizzes, goal-setting activities, feeling-identification worksheets, and a variety of different soul-searching exercises, you can learn to take control of your life and actually achieve the things you want to accomplish, Hamroff explains.
16. Set For Life
"Finances are one of the biggest stressors for most people," according to Tawwab, which is exactly why she recommends this complete guide to finances. Unlike so many of the finance-focused books on the market, this one stands out for being simple and to the point (especially great for newbies!) without being, per Tawwab, "preachy about getting your finances in order" (gah, finally).
So, if you're looking for a book that'll help you get serious about your funds, this no-shame read will do just that and more.
17. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone
Since hitting bookstore shelves in April 2019, it feels like everyone, from the random stranger on your a.m. train to your BFF from college, has read this bright-covered book—and with good reason. Author and psychotherapist Lori Gottleib offers readers an intimate look into the journey of exploring feelings, thoughts, and processes from both the perspective of a patient and a therapist (a.k.a. Gottleib, who, btw, is also a patient to another mind doc).
Funny, honest, and heartwarming, this book not only normalizes therapy, but also showcases the many paths you can take to improve your life, achieve certain goals, and beyond, Hamroff explains. (P.S. It's also a great beach read if you're going on a post-summer vacay any time soon—just sayin' 💁🏼♀️...)
18. 10% Happier
After having a panic attack on national TV, author and Nightline anchor Dan Harris ultimately realized that the one thing he considered his greatest asset was also his greatest problem: the incessant, unrelenting voice in his head.
The best way to rein in that voice? Meditation—something he once thought to be impossible or useless. Harris offers readers an incredibly personal look into his experiences with anxiety and stress, as well as his journey to understanding the benefits of meditation, from the scientific to the spiritual. It's surprisingly refreshing and relatable.
19. Codependent No More
By addressing a common relationship pattern—one that involves losing sight of yourself, your goals, your life to care for or change for your partner—this book gives hope to those wanting to learn how to be "you" again, Mancao says.
An actionable read with a straight-to-the-point title, Codependent No More not only teaches you how to set healthy boundaries, but also provides a range of exercises to help you rediscover yourself and who you are outside of a relationship. Think of this book as your map to navigating the complex world of codependency so that you can ultimately arrive at a place of greater freedom.
20. Gmorning, Gnight!
IMO, there are coffee-table books, and then there are bedside-table books. This collection of affirmations by Lin-Manuel Miranda (yes, the creator of Hamilton) is the latter. Before he was the star you know today, Miranda was an inspirational tweeter, offering his lucky followers (and himself) words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day.
Rather than allowing them to disappear into the ether, he collected his mindful memos, poetry, and sayings so you can always wake up to a little bit of Miranda-style motivation. Each one's like a little dose of self-help that'll inspire you to seize the day.
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