7 Self-Help Books That Are Actually Helpful

woman reading on bed

The self-help genre gets a bad rap. I used to avoid that section of Barnes & Noble like the plague, and scoff at the suckers I saw perusing its titles. The required reading in a college leadership course – Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – changed my mind. And while, like any genre, there are some self-help books not worth their bindings, I have found gems that changed my perspective and outlook on life, and that are applicable to a wide range of lifestyles.

I look for books by licensed professionals and life-long success coaches that provide real-life experience. Their wisdom is often common sense and their solutions are easy to incorporate in your day-to-day. These books can be a valuable addition to your library that you can turn to again and again. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. The Gifts of Imperfection

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The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
  • BrenĂ© Brown
  • Publisher: Hazelden Publishing
  • Edition no. 1 (08/27/2010)
  • Paperback: 160 pages

Perhaps the most powerful book about living your truth, The Gifts of Imperfection is a tenderly-written guide to living your best life by loving you for you. BrenĂ©’s story-guided lessons are all about finding authenticity and acknowledging your own worth. No wonder Forbes included it in ‘Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook on Life.’ If you struggle with the idea of perfection, and often feel isolated and burnt-out, this book is for you.

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  • Simon Schuster
  • Stephen R. Covey
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Edition no. 0 (11/19/2013)
  • Hardcover: 432 pages

You were probably required to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey in middle school, but have you ever read its older brother? I was introduced to this book in college, and it’s one that merits revisiting over and over in different stages of life. Covey’s easily digestible seven habits, accompanied by personal and professional examples, make his book one of the most accessible and universal self-help books ever written. This is a classic that belongs in everyone’s library.

3. The Confidence Code

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The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know
  • HarperBusiness
  • Katty Kay, Claire Shipman
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness
  • Edition no. 1 (04/15/2014)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages

I love a good female power book, and Katty and Claire have written several. This latest addition dives into the meekness that is societally ingrained into the female psyche, and how to break free and learn confidence. Taking action toward building your confidence really is life-changing, at work and at home.

4. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

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Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, The
  • Pages- 346
  • Nathaniel Branden
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • Hardcover: 346 pages

I love this book for moms or teachers, since self-esteem is so critical to child development, but it’s applicable for adults as well. Nathaniel Branden is hailed as the leading expert on self-esteem, but he breaks down years of research into six simple, actionable practices for boosting your (or your child’s) self-esteem daily, and dives into the importance of self-esteem in every aspect of our lives.

5. Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You

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Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You
  • From the creator and star of Hamilton, with beautiful illustrations by Jonny Sun, comes a book of affirmations to inspire readers at the beginning and end of each day. "When the world is bringing you down, Gmorning, Gnight! will remind you that you are awesome."-Booklist Good morning. Do NOT get stuck in the comments section of life today. Make, do, create the things. Let others tussle it out. Vamos!
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Hardcover: 224 pages

Have you heard of a little musical called Hamilton? Then you know the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda. His bedside-table book, Gmorning, Gnight!, is meant to be a sort of devotional to uplift you each morning and each night. The idea began with encouraging tweets Miranda would post twice a day for his followers. He’s since distilled the best of the best in print with cheerful illustrations by Jonny Sun.

6. The Growth Mindset: A Guide to Professional and Personal Growth

The Growth Mindset: A Guide to Professional and Personal Growth (The Art of Growth) (Volume 1)
  • Joshua Moore, Helen Glasgow
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Paperback: 138 pages

Co-written by a life coach and a business executive/mentor, The Growth Mindset focuses on shifting paradigms to pursue growth both at home and at work. The book gives you real-life, researched plans of action that work for all lifestyles, and bridge the gap between your personal and professional goals.

7. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
  • Penguin Books
  • Matthew B. Crawford
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Edition no. 0 (04/27/2010)
  • Paperback: 256 pages

As a motorcycle enthusiast, my father loves Shop Class as Soulcraft. I think it stays on his bedside table permanently. Not quite self-help, Shop Class as Soulcraft addresses the societal ills created when we place so much value on knowledge work, and look down on manual labor. Crawford makes the argument that working with your hands is an act of mindfulness, and is essential for learning self-reliance.

These books may cover different aspects and stages of life, but they have the core make-up of an effective self-help book in common. All truly influential self-help books share easily actionable real-world changes, relatable examples, and professional opinions and research. They offer advice and support for every lifestyle, and can be turned to time and again, and passed down as family knowledge. Do you know someone who could use one of these books? Have you read any of these? Is there a fantastic self-help book I missed? Let me know!

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