We've found the ones that won't waste your time
The best self-help books – where do you start? There are so many out there that it can make it impossible to choose one. Some claim to be the best self-help books for confidence, others promise that they’re the sacred text for career progression, and more than a few vow to turn you into a wellness angel.
So how can you separate the wheat from the chaff and find the best self-help book for you? You’ve probably heard of The Power Of Now, The Secret, and The Power Of Positive Thinking – but which newer releases can compete with the classics? Is there a book out there that can genuinely empower you, break bad habits and change your life? And is there anything out there to convert the self-help sceptics?
Read on for our complete roundup of 12 self-help books that are actually worth reading.
Best self-help books
Not sure what way to turn? We’ve broken it all down for you so that all you have to do is pick up a copy and get stuck in.
Best self-help books: one for the perfectionist
Brave Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani
Think about every time you haven’t done something because you didn’t feel good enough to. Didn’t apply for that job you wanted because you didn’t think you were qualified? Gave up writing that novel because you convinced yourself your ideas weren’t up to scratch? Or found yourself re-writing emails so that it’s worded just right (and people don’t think you’re too pushy)? Yep – you’re probably a perfectionist. But it’s time to unlearn everything you thought you knew about how to be brave with the help of Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani.
The book focuses on ways in which women are primed to be perfect (and therefore feel inadequate when they don’t achieve what they set out to) before offering up tips and tricks to ensure you’re making courageous decisions in every day life, whether that’s standing up for yourself in a meeting or quitting your job completely and moving to a remote island. Reshma is like your fearless friend throughout, encouraging you to take a leap of faith – even if it means potentially landing on anything but your feet.
If you fear failure and need a bravery boost, this one’s for you.
Best self-help books: one for the anxiety stricken
Jog On: How Running Saved My Life, Bella Mackie
Bella Mackie’s book begins at rock bottom. The journalist and writer starts her story looking back over the days following her divorce, in which she realised she had never learnt any real coping mechanisms, including how to deal with her GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) symptoms she’d had since childhood. She takes the reader back with her over her life during her hardest moments, explaining in detail how her mental health has impacted everything from school to her first marriage.
As the title suggests, the ongoing thread in the book is how Bella used running to self medicate and get her life back on track. So often those of us suffering with our mental health are made to feel as though there are only two lines of treatment: therapy and/or medication. And while these are of course front and centre when it comes to treating mental health, Bella’s book makes a brilliant case for also taking up exercise. Much like Ella Risbridger’s book Midnight Chicken (in which the writer explains how cooking helped ease her mental health problems), Jog On offers a practical way to take on our biggest, most pressing problems. Not only will this book encourage you to take up running – or simply to find something you have a passion for to improve your mindset – it also reminds you you are absolutely not alone. From beginning to end, Bella’s book is highly relatable (she can only manage 2 minutes on her first run), realistic (her descriptions of mental illness are bang on), and will have anyone who suffers with the terror of an anxiety disorder joyously celebrating that somebody finally knows exactly how they feel.
Best self-help books: one to awaken the girlboss within
Work Party: How to Create & Cultivate the Career of Your Dreams, Jaclyn Johnson
What is a ‘work party’? It’s the feeling you get when you’re absolutely killing it in your career and enjoying every minute of it. But the biggest question is – how do you get there?
Author Jaclyn Johnson recalls the highs and lows of starting her own businesses, trusting the wrong people, making the ‘wrong’ moves, following her gut and chasing her dreams in this epic, fun and totally relatable career book. Forget business jargon and the usual run-of-the-mill ‘you can do it’ pep talks. Jaclyn, founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate (a community of women looking to carve out the career of their dreams), gives sound advice to anyone who wants to up their game at work – whether that means starting your own business from scratch, or moving swiftly up the ladder in your current job.
This career bible covers everything from asking for a pay rise to personal branding, and injects fun into following your dreams.
Best self-help books: one for a spiritual awakening
The Universe Has Your Back, Gabrielle Bernstein
Gabrielle Bernstein’s Number 1 New York Times Bestseller is a must-have for anyone feels they’re lacking control over their life and is willing to hand over the reins to a higher power. Whether you’re already totally committed to living by the laws of attraction, or you’re very sceptical about asking the universe for what you want, you need to pick up a copy of this book to find out about the powers of manifestation for yourself.
This guide if for anyone who feels their life is lacking something, is having trouble feeling ‘happy’, or is unsure of the course to take. It promises to help the reader turn fear into faith, focusing on techniques that will having you living your best life in absolutely no time at all.
Best self-help books: one if you’re feeling stuck
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
This book will convince you to get creative with your life. It’s not just for the poets, painters and performers – it’s for anyone who has lost themselves a little bit and wants to rediscover their passions. The book focuses on finding and appreciating joy in every day experiences, doing the things you love, and ignoring the judgement and opinions of others.
The message is clear: this book is here to remind you that you can live big without selling everything and moving to a remote village, or vowing to commit to a sport so that you can compete in the next Olympics. Whether it’s rekindling your childhood love for ice skating or booking a piano lesson after twenty years off the keys, this book will encourage you to forget what others think, focus on what you want, and follow your own interesting and totally unique path.
Best self-help books: one that’s ‘anti guru’
Calm The Fuck Down, Sarah Knight
Best self-help books: one for people pleasers
The Good Girl’s Guide To Being A Dick, Alexandra Reinwarth
Struggle with being honest? Scared to be confrontational? Worried about the consequences of saying what’s really on your mind? Then you need to pick up a copy of Alexandra Reinwarth’s book because it might just change your life for the better.
After going through a BFF breakup, Alexandra decided that she was no longer going to live her life to please other people. Instead, she was going to create her own set of rules and embrace the power of saying ‘no’. She rejects the idea of women having to be ‘nice’ to get where they need to be in life – whether that’s climbing the career ladder, pleasing their peers or having the confidence to do what they really want to do – and instead focuses on ways in which we can ask for (and get) the life that we truly want.
Best self-help books: one for the courage to speak out
Make Trouble, Cecile Richards
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards is ‘enjoying fighting the good fight’. Her memoir details her fight for social justice and acts as motivation for anyone who wants to flex their activism muscle.
From how her journey started to the valuable lessons she learned along the way, Cecile talks about how she fought and won some of the biggest battles of her career – and doesn’t forget about her setbacks, too. She actively encourages being a (hard-working) troublemaker to get where you need to be – even if it all ends in failure. In fact, especially if it ends in failure. Because the most important step following a setback is the ability to pick yourself back up and keep going.
A practical guide to activism, it’s the go-to book for anyone who wants a little encouragement to face their fears and fight for the changes they want to see.
Best self-help books: one to focus on the important things
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck, Mark Manson
This book caused waves when it was released in 2016, and it’s still one of our favourites when it comes to self-help books. Forget a wishy-washy faux-positive author – Mark Manson is here to keep things to-the-point, and isn’t scared to swear while he’s doing it.
His approach differs from the usual self-help book style – instead of encouraging the readers to focus on what they’re not and ‘should be’, he advises them to stop comparing themselves and save their energy for the things that really matter in their lives.