Happy Books: A Comparison

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:

Credibility

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

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

Application/”Workbookiness”

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.

Humor

Especially on the subject of improving one’s outlook on life, a little bit of humor can go a long way.

Motivation

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:

The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Phd

 

 

 

 

 

You Are a BadA* by Jen Sincero

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

 

 

 

Strengths Finder by Tom Rath

 

 

 

 

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

 

 

 

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:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

ThriftBooks

BetterWorldBooks

BooksAMillion

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.

 

 
Credibility
Personal Examples
Application
Humor
Motivation
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?

Book Review: When We Wake is a Refreshing YA Sci-Fi Read for $3.47

Sometimes, you need a fresh perspective on old subject matter, whether it be in life or in books. When We Wake provides a new perspective on what many would consider a very tired genre: dystopian. But this is a refreshing, unique perspective on life after governmental collapse. Why should you read it? Well…

What Is When We Wake About?

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027. She’s happiest when playing the guitar. She’s falling in love for the first time. And she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should be the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. The future isn’t all she had hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better world?

Who Should Read When We Wake, And Why?

It’s only loosely “dystopian” because it straddles two time periods and focuses more on the personal side of things than the political. Maybe because I write in this genre (sci-fi, pre-apocalyptic), I was fascinated by Karen Healey’s take on our future. I thought it particularly interesting that she set the book in Australia. She ties the setting in really well with the plot, using both the country’s actual history and its imagined future to provide impetus for the conflict the main character strives unknowingly against. Tegan is a well-drawn character, and I love the diversity and scope of characters Karen includes. I loved the sequel too. Both were refreshing, compelling reads!

So, if you like dystopian books like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Glimmer by Phoebe Katanadis, or Whisper by Lynette Noni, you’ll like When We Wake.

What’s The Deal?

You can get When We Wake for $3.46 on BetterWorldBooks, with free shipping!

 

 

Everneath, a YA Retelling of the Persephone Myth: Book Review and Deal

According to myth, the ancient Greek god Hades abducted the goddess Persephone. He took her to the Underworld and forced her to marry him. Hermes rescued her, but Hades tricked her before she could return to the surface. He fed her pomegranate seeds, and by so doing, ensured that she would have to return to him every six months. This is the how the Greeks explained the seasons: Winter was Persephone’s Underworld time, and Summer was not.

There have been almost 140 retellings of that myth, according to GoodReadsKaitlin Bevis identifies eight that are young adult re-tellings. One of those is Everneath by Brodi Ashton. It’s the first book in a trilogy, followed by Everbound and Evertrue. Overall, I enjoyed the whole series, although the second book not as much as the first. For those of you who like YA romances, this is a series to get, especially with the deal I’m going to tell you about.

What Is Everneath About?

From GoodReads:

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished. She was sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now her captor has allowed to return to her old life…before she’s banished back to the underworld forever. She has six months before then for good-byes she can’t find the words for. She has six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack. He was the person most devastated by her disappearance, and the one she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. She has to decide between cheating fate to remain on the Surface with Jack or returning to the Everneath and becoming Cole’s queen.

Why I Liked Everneath, Everbound, and Evertrue, And You Might Too

I absolutely LOVED Everneath; ten stars all the way. It was good in part because Ashton switched deftly between flashbacks and present day, while still moving the plot along. And the main characters of Nikki and Cole are wonderful and HUGELY complex, Jack a little less so. I really liked Everbound too, but it felt like a slightly different book. Because it had less love triangle and more action and took place in a very different setting, it took a little getting used to.  There is a good amount of teenage angst in all three books. The reader’s suspension of disbelief might be stretched sometimes. But all in all, these are enjoyable books for fans of the YA genre.

What’s The Deal?

On Amazon, you can get the first book for $3.75, the second for $4.99, and the third for $5.24, all on Kindle. There is a novella between books one and two, called Neverfall. Goodreads refers to it as the actual book 2, but it’s not necessary to follow the main plot.

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.

Atlantia by Ally Condie: Well-Crafted and Inexpensive

Can you believe it’s time to start getting kids ready to go back to school? On the one hand, I’m looking forward to watching my oldest start high school and my youngest go into fourth grade. On the other, though, I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve had this summer, playing at Lagoon, going to the movies, and taking “road trips” (i.e., fishing expeditions where I didn’t catch anything but everyone else did). I’m thankful for the relative peace we’ve had, and our health! I also love that I found Atlantia by Ally Condie, and that I can share a great deal on it with you! It’s such a well-crafted book.

What Is Atlantia About?

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.From Amazon:

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Who Would Like Atlantia, And Why?

I love when a well-crafted plot draws you in as it unfolds to reveal many pleats and twists, and then closes in around you as all those twists fold back in on themselves to make a nice little braid of detail. The fact that this plot takes place primarily in an underground city that is vivid and clear adds to the charm of this book. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 10 stars is that, in the end, I couldn’t quite identify with the main character, Rio. I’m not sure that I could put my finger on the reason why, but it has something to do with a slight lack of emotion, or lack of the whole spectrum of emotions in her. Other than that, this was a great read. So, anyone who likes a well-written book will like Atlantia.

Also, if you like fantasy books like The Selection by Kiera Cass or the Matched trilogy, also by Condie, you’ll like Atlantia.

What’s The Deal?

You can get the hardcover version of Atlantia, which sells for $18.73 on Amazon, for $4.59 on Thriftbooks. Dude. Hardcover. You can get a used paperback copy in decent condition for $3.79.

Want a Book to Take You on a Journey? Read The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron, for $3.95.

There are just two kinds of books in this world, in my mind: those that take you on a journey, and those that don’t. That journey can be a physical one, if it describes different places well enough that you can envision them in your mind’s eye. Or it can be an emotional one, if it portrays characters and struggles that feel real. A journey can also be one of imagination, if both the settings and characters are depicted realistically and powerfully and the plot and style of a book are executed with finesse and artistry. The better all four of those elements are, the farther one can journey into one’s imagination. The Forgetting, a book by Sharon Cameron, falls distinctly in that imagination journey category. It took me on such a journey that making my way back to real life when I was done took a little bit longer than usual.

What Is The Forgetting About?

the-forgetting-coverThe premise is that no one in the fictional town of Canaan remembers more than 12 years into their past. Enough records have been kept that they know this happens, so everyone obsessively writes everything down. They do this in journals they keep on themselves constantly.  This way, they will be able to reconstruct their lives after The Forgetting. The main character, Nadia, is unique in that she is the only person who has never forgotten. She remembers what comes right before each Forgetting, when everyone does whatever they want because they know  everyone will forget. She will do anything to prevent that from happening again.

This premise would seem to be so different from our reality that it’d be impossible to allow for any kind of journey.  But the details in the first few chapters are so distilled and poignant. They make you really wonder what it’d be like to remember your family when they don’t remember you.  And those details lead naturally to a description of the setting–a city called Canaan–that is so detailed you can easily imagine yourself running around in it. And, in the case of this book, the setting is very much tied up with the plot. One could even say that it is an outgrowth of it.

But if you think that premise is strange, you might think its eventual explanation even stranger. It reminded me somewhat of Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, the third book in the Chaos Walking series, of which The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book. But, by the time you reach that explanation, you’re so wrapped up in the intricacies of the things that Nadia tries to do to prevent The Forgetting that the explanation makes perfect sense. I can only dream of having the talent for plotting that Sharon Cameron does.

What’s The Deal?

You can get The Forgetting on BetterWorldBooks.com for $3.95 with free shipping.

Good Quote?

The Caretaker

caretaker-coverBy contrast, The Caretaker by Josi Russell is a book that has what some might say is an equally strange premise. Its main character, Ethan Bryant, finds himself the caretaker of 4,000 passengers in cryogenic sleep aboard a ship bound for a planet called Minea. He is resigned to being the only person who is awake, until the ship suddenly wakes up another passenger: a beautiful engineer who, along with Ethan, soon discovers that the ship is instead bound to a destination where they will be enslaved by a highly-advanced, hostile alien race. It starts off feeling real, giving us relatable emotions and familiar routines, and even “leads us into the strangeness,” as Orson Scott Card would say, slowly. But by the time it gets to the explanation, the setting is so utterly foreign and the other characters so difficult to imagine that I became lost. My journey through that book was incomplete and unsatisfactory, I’m sorry to say.

Both are worth reading, though, if nothing else but to gain an appreciation for the beauty of the journey and skill of the person who takes you on it.

 

Name a book that has taken you on a journey.

I purchased The Forgetting at Costco, and The Caretaker on Amazon. This post contains an affiliate link from which I gain a small commission if clicked on and purchased from, but this post, of course, only contains links to products I recommend and costs you nothing.

These Broken Stars cover

Book Reviews and Deals: These Broken Stars and This Shattered World: Tidal Wave Reads

I must start this book review by mentioning another book review site, The Book Smugglers, because it is from that site and its really good, in-depth reviews that I learned about These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The book is sometimes called “Titanic in space” because the crash of a giant spaceship is what sets off its main conflict. The daughter of the richest man in the universe, and a poor, orphaned soldier are the only two survivors on a terra-formed, unpopulated planet, and they both hate each other. But they have to get along in order to survive. This is not the first time that such a conflict forms the centerpiece of a story, but it is the first time that it has been done with such original effect.

What Is These Broken Stars About?

From Goodreads:

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.  The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

These Broken Stars cover

Why I Liked These Broken Stars, And Why You Might Like It Too

I, for one,  loved the uniqueness of the plot and the premise, two young people marooned on a planet struggling to overcome the mindsets that keep them apart. They must search for other survivors and a way to communicate an SOS signal. In that sense, the plot is tied inextricably to their movement along their days-long hike.  The evolution of their dynamic feels very real, especially since the story is told from alternating points of view. Lilac, the daughter, learns how and why she should really rely on herself more. Not only that, her eyes are opened to the dark deeds of her father, who has kept her under his gilded thumb her entire life. And Tarver–his discovery of the fact that there are things worth protecting, not just dying for, but living for and taking care of–it’s a beautiful thing.

Were it just for those things, I would have rated These Broken Stars highly. But then, a twist developed that was wholly unexpected, that brought in more of a fantasy feel, that made it even better. I was, in fact, a very bad person when I read this, because I had to read it all through in one day! I felt like this book was well-paced, walking a perfect line between conflict and emotional development. It can be such a struggle to develop both simultaneously. It was one of those books that pulls you inexorably forward to find out what happens. A joy to read.

What’s the Deal?

You can get These Broken Stars for $3.98 on BetterWorldBooks with free shipping.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, sh*, f*, h*, g*d*): 56

Sex: none, although there’s some making out

Violence: little bit

Stars: 10 out of 10

Second Book in the Series: This Shattered World

The second book in the series, This Shattered World, did not disappoint either, although it was about completely different characters. Here’s its description:

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable. They promised better [lives]. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion against them.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine.

Why I Liked This Shattered World, And Why You Might Too

Everything about the second book is different–the characters, the setting, the conflict–but there is the same vividness of setting, starkness of conflict, and unforgettable characters. I wrote this in my Amazon review:

This was a 10 on my not-able-to-put-down scale! I loved everything about it. The plot had the impetus of a tidal wave. It was built around a conflict that was stark and very tense. Though this book’s setting is on a world very different from our own, I didn’t have a problem visualizing where things were taking place. The characters were marvelously believable and wonderfully drawn. There was exactly the right balance between internal monologue and external action; enough of the former to make the extreme changes the two main characters go through seem not only feasible but necessary, and enough of the latter to continually glue my eyes to the pages. Such a joy to read!

This Shattered World cover

What’s The Deal?

You can get This Shattered World through BetterWorld.com for $3.95.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, f*, sh*, h*, g*d*): 51

Sex: same as in book 1

Violence: same as in book 1

Have you read the third book in the series, Their Fractured Light? If so, what did you think?