I remember the first time I got my hands on a self-help book. I was baffled. At that moment, I realized my fate was not set in stone. I could become my own drill master and coach. The books I read would set out the training course for me to overcome. All I had to do was listen to that voice that aspired to climb higher and higher.
Every time I committed to a new challenge, I knew it was going to be outside of my comfort zone. But after enough iterations, I also knew it would not just be part of my repertoire; it will be part of me.
Not all self-help books are made equal. Some help starts you out on your journey; others give you a boost when you’ve achieved experience in certain areas.
Here are the best ones that I recommend to read no matter how old you are:
Our Top Picks
“Helps readers learn how to turn their suffering into peace.”
“What sets this self-help book apart from the others are the engaging end-of-chapter exercises.”
“The author breaks up the text with cartoons, quotes, brainstorming ideas, and stories from real teens to bring the book together.”
“This book offers a lot of intention-setting tips to help readers determine the motives behind their goals. “
“This book offers hands-on exercises that engage your mindset and helps you turn negative thoughts into positive ones.”
“The author’s honest, conversational, no-BS tone will light a fire in your soul and help you be upfront with yourself.”
“The book has 240 pages full of snippets from what Oprah refers to as ‘life-changing insights.'”
Until proven otherwise, it’s safe to assume that—as the saying goes—nobody’s perfect. That means we have room for at least some improvement in our lives. And no, we’re not talking about getting a higher-paying job or a new haircut: we’re referring to inner improvement. This involves working on managing some of our less-than-desirable habits and traits—things like being unable to trust other people, having difficulties with interpersonal communication, or lacking self-confidence.
That’s where self-help books can come in handy. It’s basically like someone has thought extensively about the general challenge you’re facing and then walks you through steps to help you figure it out—or at least think about it more clearly. To be clear: self-help books are not a replacement for working with mental health professionals. If you’re dealing with a mental illness, seek out a credentialed person you can speak with in person (or over a video call). But for situations without a clinical element, a self-help book can make a difference.
To help you narrow down your options, here are the best self-help books according to the experts.
Many consider Eckhart Tolle one of the great thought leaders of our time. Prior to “A New Earth,” Tolle wrote “The Power of Now,” a best seller and must-read. The reason “A New Earth” makes this list is quite simple: it goes beyond teaching how to live in the moment and helps readers learn how to turn their suffering into peace. All types of suffering are addressed in the book, from anger and grief to jealousy and anxiety.
Tolle talks a lot about the ego and how to separate ourselves from it. His examples and recommended exercises are not just hocus pocus; they really work and are something anyone can do. Whether your suffering is rooted in jealousy, anger, grief, sadness, anxiety, or depression, Tolle will help you see life from varied perspectives, awakening you to your life’s purpose.
This book is great as a reference point, too. Those who pick up a copy will read it front to back then revisit Tolle’s words over and over again. Others will keep it by their nightstands and flip to a chapter when they’re feeling some excess baggage creep in and could use some words of wisdom.
Far too often, fear gets the best of us. Jen Sincero helps readers go beyond that fear in her New York Times bestseller “You Are a Badass.” What sets this self-help book apart from the others are the engaging end-of-chapter exercises.
Instead of casting the book aside and letting it collect dust after you read the last page, you’ll be inspired to go back and reflect on the previous exercises you responded to. The exercises also drive home the points Sincero makes through her writing. When you feel a dip in your confidence, going back to your entries will put a positive spin on your day and remind you why you should show yourself more self-love. Also, make sure to check out Sincero’s follow-up book, “You Are a Badass at Making Money.”
“Some self-help books include daily therapeutic activities and provide comfort and guidance to individuals who are suffering. I recommend individuals meet with a psychiatrist and therapist, and concurrently utilize self-help books to expedite their healing.”
Many have read, or at least have heard about, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Covey’s son Sean followed in his footsteps, making a spinoff version for teenagers that uses the same principles to help young adults master formative areas of their lives.
To make this self-help book age-appropriate and downright fun to read, Covey breaks up the text with cartoons, quotes, brainstorming ideas, and stories from real teens to bring the book together. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” covers topics like body image, friendships, relationships, goal-setting, peer pressure, bullying, internet safety, and so much more. Gift this book to your teenage son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild. It’s the perfect keepsake to pass down to future generations of teens too.
Deepak Chopra is the self-help guru of our time, and any one of his books could be recommended for various reasons. “What Are You Hungry For?” will help you see your relationship with food in an entirely new light.
While this self-help book could be considered a guide to help with weight loss, it’s really so much more. Chopra does talk about losing weight and also gives a pretty regimented recommendation on what to eat. But he also digs deeper into the reasoning behind our desire to seek this transformation, and fulfillment is at the center of this argument.
Since change isn’t easy for most, the book offers a lot of intention-setting tips to help readers determine the motives behind their goals. Attaching emotion to the things you want in life, health-related or otherwise, makes it easier to stay the course when the going gets tough.
Related: Benefit of meditation
The subtitle of this book provides great insight into the heart of the book: How to stop worrying, relieve anxiety and eliminate negative thinking. “Declutter Your Mind” is a very hands-on book with its reader and full of various exercises to engage your mindset. You will learn the causes of mental clutter, change negative thoughts to positive ones, strategies to help with rocky relationships, identify what’s important to you, the importance of meditation, how to goal set, and much more.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, worry, or anxiety, this powerful book will do its part in offering various techniques, tips, and tricks to cope with an overactive mind. Reviewers consistently note how much they enjoy the actionable exercises in the book and that the co-authors offer more than a sermon on the importance of living mindfully and in the moment.
For one reason or another, some were turned off by Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling “Eat Pray Love.” But don’t let that turn you away from reading her other material, in particular, “Big Magic.” If you’re an artist or creator of any type and have struggled with a blockage that prevents you from pursuing your calling to its fullest, you’ll want to give this a read.
From creating new habits (and ridding yourself of old ones) to overcoming fear and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, Gilbert hits the nail on the head as she dissects the obstacles a creative person may face in pursuing their dreams. Her honest, conversational, no-BS tone will light a fire in your soul and help you be upfront with yourself about what you want from life. A highlight of this book is the usage of real-life examples from regular men and women across the country who have endured in their creative feats.
Oprah is the queen of interviewing spiritual gurus, world leaders, therapists, doctors, and other thought leaders. “The Wisdom of Sundays” takes the best-of-the-best from these conversations and combines them into one uplifting read.
The book has 240 pages full of snippets from what Oprah refers to as “life-changing insights.” Authors in The Wisdom of Sundays include Shonda Rimes, Cheryl Strayed, Tony Robbins, Thich Nhat Hahn, Wayne Dyer, and so many more. Take your time with each individual page to make sure you don’t skim over any of the wonderful and thought-provoking insights inside.