The genre of ‘self help’ literature kinda gets a bad wrap in my view. Personally I think they’re a great resource. They can be inspirational, motivational, educational, maybe even life changing. If you’re suffering from any serious issues they probably shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively, but for the most part, I believe they can be very useful.
In my mind, all kinds of books fit into this category. Basically anything where the author is aiming to help and guide the reader to improve their life I see as a type of self help book. I do wonder whether there might be a better phrase to describe this type of book though….I’ll have to keep thinking about that one!
I thought I’d do a little round up of some interesting ‘helping hand’ books I’ve read over the last few years.
‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.
I read this one a good few years back and really took a lot from it. Its largely about accepting the things you are frightened of or worried about but learning to realise that you’ve got it in you to handle whatever life throws at you and about seeing the positive side of ‘bad’ things that may happen. There are points where it gets a little cliche or irritating but I definitely came away from it feeling good and inspired and have even returned to it and reread sections again at times I felt in need of a calming influence!
8 out of 10 stars.
‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo.
I know this book is quite in fashion at the moment and I was intruiged to see what all the fuss was about! My take on it was that its completely barmy. At one point the author even describes how she talks to her socks thanking them for a hard days work! There was, to be honest, very little practical advice in the book that was new to me, or helpful. In fact there was quite a lot I outright disagreed with. Her main message is that items ought to ‘spark joy’ and if not, they’re out. She does modify this a bit, but basically that’s what she’s saying. My loo rolls do not ‘spark joy’ but I’m not about to go throwing them all out. I would say that the best thing about this book is that it does kind of put you in the mood to have a bit of a clear out. Even if you don’t follow her methods to the letter.
6 out of 10 stars.
‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Ruben.
I actually listened to this on audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. (So much so, I’ve probably listened to it two or three times now.) The author, Gretchen, describes her quest for a happier life. She stressed that she is not unhappy, she just wants to find ways to appreciate what she has more and find more joy in her life. I became a massive fan of Ruben’s after discovering this book. She is very intelligent and, I think, very insightful.
10 out of 10 stars.
‘Better than Before’ by Gretchen Ruben.
Of course, being such a fan. I’ve now also read Ruben’s most recent offering. Better than Before is all about habit formation (and in turn, still really about happiness as habits are such a key component of this). I’m sort of obsessed with Gretchen’s four tendencies theory, which relates to how individual’s respond to expectation, both internal and external. Her main message is that there is no set of ways to best form habits, the key is knowing yourself and using the strategies that work for you. My only criticism of the book would be that when I came to read it there was very little new material. Being an avid reader of her blog and listener of her podcasts, I’d basically heard it all before, BUT, that said, I really didn’t care. So much of what she says is so spot on that it was interesting to read again in a polished format. In addition I would say that it is also only repetitive because Ruben is so generous with her material. If you weren’t in a position to buy the book you could easily source all the info elsewhere. I think this shows her main aim is truly to help people and inform them.
10 out of 10 stars.
‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ by John Gray.
Another one I read a good few years back. I think its reasonable to say there’s a fair amount of filler and gimmick in here, however, there’s also some really worthwhile insights (for both sexes!) There were numerous moments reading it where, early twenty-something me had to reread passages in disbelief because it just.made.so.much.sense!
I also like the fact that it doesn’t paint either gender in a negative light. It really works hard to explain the different viewpoints and stress how key it is to learn to empathise. I’m a firm believer that you really can’t generalise, and of course there will always be individuals who won’t fit the mould, and no individual who will fit it on every count, but I really think that for most, there’s an awful lot in here that will ring true.
9 out of 10 stars.