I’ve been reading several self-help books lately to help me through some tough times, and I’ve reached a decision. Actually, multiple decisions. One: job hunts are not fun. (Fortunately, mine just ended. Yay!) Two: talking things out with close family, friends, and good therapists helps me a lot. Three: all self-help books are different from each other. No one should go to any one self-help book and expect a definitive answer or answers to all of their challenges. That being said, every self-help book that I’ve read has offered a piece of what I’ve needed. To help you find whatever help you might need, I provide a short description of seven self-help books and a comparison of how they rank on a few important features, which I’ll explain.
The Value(s) of a Self-Help Book
In this context, a self-help book is any nonfiction book that deals primarily with the improvement of self-perception in the reader. This could be for the purpose of helping that reader have a better marriage, career, or family life. The list I’ve compiled here is no more a representation of all the self-help books on the market than I am a representation of all humanity, or even of all book reviewers. But this list is comprised of books that focus on self-improvement for the sake of improving happiness.
I rank them on these metrics:
Some of the best general how-to books I’ve read were by people who weren’t PhDs but had lots of personal experience and had done a lot of research. Conversely, some of the worst how-to books I’ve read have been by people with PhDs. So the credibility of a self-help book’s author(s) isn’t necessarily their education level in the subject matter, although that is a factor. It’s also determined, in my mind, by their personal experience with the topic, the amount of research they’ve done on it, and the types of source material they draw from for that research. If an author quotes several Huffington Post articles as their main documentation, if you will, for humanity’s depravity, they aren’t as credible as one who pulls from multiple academic studies, original pieces discussing patterns of depravity over time, and from current events as related by people who were present at those events.
Personal examples from the author’s own life or from those with those he or she has interacted go a long way in convincing me that what they are saying is true or that they truly understand me and why I’m reading their book. Those examples also have value if they show how someone successfully applied a principle from the book
some self-help books offer nugget after nugget of golden wisdom, and while they have value just for that, they’re much better and more valuable if they provide workbook pages, quizzes, call-outs with questions that make you think (and better yet write down) of ways you can implement what they’re saying in your life the very next day. Others are more workbook than they are wisdom.
Especially on the subject of improving one’s outlook on life, a little bit of humor can go a long way.
Some self-help books can leave you more overwhelmed than when you began. The most effective ones are the ones that break things down into manageable chunks, and encourage you from wherever you are.
The Books and Their Rankings
Without further ado, then, I provide rankings between 1 and 5 (with 1 being the highest or best and 5 the lowest or worst) on the above metrics for the following self-help books:
I don’t rank them in comparison to one other, but rather on a scale of how much value they’ve been to me and how much I think they’ll offer to you. They’re not in any particular order, and I leave it up to you to determine which one is the best for you.
I’ve also looked at the website of five different book retailers to find the best deal on each of these books for you. Those retailers were:
Barnes & Noble
You’ll find the links to those deals if you click on the titles of the books in the table below. They are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click through and buy a book, but it doesn’t change the price of the book for you.
|Self-Esteem Workbook ($5.92)||1 (recommended by my therapist)||4||1||5||1|
|You Are a BadA* ($8)||2||1||5||1 (warning: guffaws are possible)||2|
|Feeling Good ($3.79)||1||1||3||5||3|
|What to Say When You Talk to Yourself ($3.79)||4||5||4||5||2|
|The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ($1.99 Kindle)||1||1||1 (especially if you get a Franklin Day Planner)||4||2|
|The Gifts of Imperfection ($10.99)||1||1 (so good)||4||2||3|
|Strengths Finder ($25.63)||1||2||2||4||1|
|Braving the Wilderness ($14.95)||1||1||5||2||3|
What books would you add to this list, and why?