I’m a sucker for self help books. I admit it. Mostly because I don’t think anyone can read just one and magically fix their life. I think personal growth is something we work on our whole lives, and reading books with new ideas, processes, or tools are helpful reminders to focus our time and energy where we most want to.
So if you’re a self help junkie like myself, or you know someone who is, here are the latest ones I’ve read and recommend.
Self Help Books Worth Buzzing About
Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
By Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
I checked this book out from the library and admittedly did not pick it up until it was almost due, and there were holds on it, so I couldn’t renew it. The irony of the fact I had to speed read a book about making time is not lost on me.
Still, this book was a great read with easily digestible sections intermixed with drawings and chart examples. The authors come from technology backgrounds at Google and YouTube. While they both enjoy and appreciate technology, they recognized that it was stealing much of their time away from family and other life goals. They offered practical ways to cut back on screen time and refocus your energy.
What I learned: By implementing some of their tactics, I reduced my mindless scrolling on my phone and how I use my social media by 40%. As someone who earned her nickname of “Wi-fi” from her spouse, I know my husband was impressed with this change.
Recommended for: people looking to reduce or better manage screen time in their lives, tech gurus, business minds
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness
By Paula Poundstone
More of an experimental memoir than a self help book, Poundstone’s book chronicles her attempts at getting fit, organized, and learning new skills. Bonus selling point: while listening to the audiobook in the breakroom, one of our library volunteers listened in while washing some toys and both of us were laughing out loud.
Candid about her moderate celebrity status, Poundstone shares real troubles and issues that are identifiable to many. Her self deprecating humor is laugh out loud at moments, and poignant at others.
What I learned: Have a sense of humor about self help. Poundstone takes both martial arts and dance classes and sees strengths and weaknesses in her abilities with both, but that doesn’t prevent her from finding happiness in the trying.
Recommended for: humor fans, humor writers, parents, anyone looking for some motivation and courage to try new experiences/skills
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
This book was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I probably annoyed a lot of people talking about it. Ha!
With examples covering everything from employee culture to drastic lifestyle changes, tragic accidents to court cases, Duhigg explains how habits play a key role in our lives. The book doesn’t view habits as good or bad, but they can certainly play to our successes or vices. And when you understand how habits work, you have more awareness of how to change them.
What I learned: Many of the examples shared were jaw dropping upon breakdown, especially how habits play a role in our marketing culture. Being aware of that, I felt I had more mindfulness around spending habits and company culture. I also understood what elements I needed to play if I wanted to change habits, and I reduced my fast food intake and diet using them.
Recommended for: goal setters, knowledge seekers, marketers, business minds, managers, those in customer service, teachers, coaches, mentors
An older read, but still very relevant. Tracy’s book emphasizes starting your day with the tasks that are the largest or most productive, the “frogs”. Many of us fall into productivity traps like checking emails, and we don’t get around to the larger projects we need to address in a timely fashion. Tackling the most crucial to do’s first ensure increased productivity and fulfillment.
What I learned: Eat That Frog is a short read and includes enough tips and tricks to help you re-channel your focus to make it worthwhile. While the tips didn’t seem new or unexpected, I found it to be a good reminder for anyone with procrastination problems, like myself.
Recommended for: procrastinators, office workers, writers, business minds, anyone interested in productivity boosters
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
By Eckhart Tolle
If you’ve wondered what “living in the now” means, this book explains that. Broken into definitions, explanations, examples, and questions and answers, Tolle illustrates the power of the mind to live in the present. He discusses aspects of ego, listening, subconscious, and more.
What I learned: I’ll be honest, I struggled with this read. There were parts that made me think and I did some journaling around this topic. However, this book is not for everyone, and I admittedly wandered while listening because some of the ideas are very intellectual and I am not well practiced in “the now.” But don’t let me stop you, give it a try.
Recommended for: spiritual seekers, meditation lovers, those with an interest in self awareness
With chapters broken up by the lies Hollis told herself, she goes on to portray how she challenged her own negative thinking and moved past it. Women will find Hollis’ book very identifiable as we all battle “trying to have it all.”
Hollis keeps it real, though. She does not pretend to have all the answers or have everything figured out. She advocates for therapy, faith, and family/friend support that keep her on the right track, and admits she’s still working on things. Written like a great coffee chat with your girlfriend, Hollis is honest, open, and at times very funny.
What I learned: We all spend more time in our own heads than in anyone else’s, so why not make that a pleasant place to be and stop beating yourself up. Get help where you need it, and take control back to follow your dreams.
Recommended for: entrepreneurs, parents, couples, self help book junkies, lifestyle readers, feminists
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
By Gary John Bishop
Here’s the self help book for people who think they don’t like self help books. With no nonsense callouts, and a dash of humor too, Bishop provides the steps you need to take to, well, unfuck yourself.
Bishop points out the realistic fact that we’re all going to die someday, and you don’t want to get there and discover you have regrets about things you had the power to change. Offering tips to help you through the mental homework, this book asks you to consider both what you’re willing and what you’re unwilling (which can be just as important) to do.
What I learned: This book focuses on the stories we tell ourselves, so part of Bishop’s plan is for us to understand where our own stories come from. By knowing why we think the way do, we can prepare for the struggles that we’ll face in trying to change it, making that change more lasting.
Recommend for: anyone, but especially those facing transitions in their lives
Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
By August McLaughlin
Combining personal tribulations with a wealth of science to back it up, McLaughlin has created a guide for every woman. Finally, a no shame space for discussing sexual health that advocates whatever path works for you.
From the basic to the advanced, this book is written as if you’re talking with your girlfriends, but full of medically accurate information and body positive / sex positive language.
What I learned: Many women are raised to feel shame about their bodies and their sexuality. McLaughlin’s book is a welcome and much needed addition to the bookshelf. And as a former reproductive health advocate, I wish I’d had this book to refer to students and share with the women I encountered in classes.
Recommended for: all persons who identify as female, people with questions about their sexuality, fans of body positivity/sex positivity, feminists, those who work in healthcare/teach sex ed
Own Your Glow is a beautiful combination of storytelling, self help guidance, journal prompts, and practices. Song lists and inspiring quotes are also sprinkled in.
Whether it’s overcoming hardships, dealing with change, or finding the courage to pursue your dreams, Thomas writes to the reader as if she’s a personal coach and mentor for each.
What I learned: I loved Thomas’ journal prompts to ponder the lessons more fully. The book is full of self love and self care practices. It is a total confidence boosting read.
Recommended for: women in need of a pep talk, journal writers, mothers, entrepreneurs
Those are the self help books I’ve read so far this year.
What titles are on your must read list?
Happy Friday Everyone! We’re taking a change from guilty pleasures to talk about happiness. Specifically, that age old question, Can Money Buy You Happiness? Please welcome the author of The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney!
Plus: He’s offering 3 lucky commenters a chance to win an e-copy of his book! Leave a comment on today’s post to enter, or double your chances by also leaving a comment on my book review of The Power of Happiness here. All comments must be in by Sunday, September 16th 5pm to win!
Can You REALLY Buy Happiness With Money?
“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.”
-Helen Gurley Brown
This past month, American cultural icon Helen Gurley Brown passed away after a lifetime of helping people challenge their beliefs. And, her quote about money really captures the age-old question, “Can money buy happiness?”
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as one would think. To illustrate the challenge, let’s look at two people—one with money and one without. To keep as many things constant as possible, let’s imagine that these two people are twin brothers, Bill and Bob. They are, of course, the same age, have the same parents, and grew up in the same environment. They have the same level of health and are both in sales. They’re both married and have two children each. The main difference between the two brothers is that Bill made an investment when he was in college that made him a lot of money. Bob invested the same amount in a different company and didn’t see a return on his investment.
Bill and Bob have a sister, Bonnie. One day, Bonnie comes to her brothers and tells them that her husband has left and taken all of their money. She’s got young children and doesn’t know how she’ll make the rent. She asks her brothers for a small loan. Bob is struggling to pay his own rent and doesn’t have any extra to give his sister. He feels awful, but must tell his sister, “I don’t have the money right now, but why don’t you and the kids come over to dinner this weekend. I can’t give you financial support, but I can give you emotional support.” Bill has plenty of money and is easily able to give his sister the money. “Don’t worry about it, Sis. It’s my gift to you.”
Later that week, Bill and Bob’s mother ends up in the hospital after a fall. She’s broken her hip and needs surgery. Unfortunately, her insurance won’t cover the entire cost of the surgery. Bill says to his mother, “It’s okay, Mom. I can cover the gap. You just worry about getting better.” Bob visits his mom, too. He brings her a huge bouquet of flowers and a copy of her favorite book. He spends the afternoon with his mother in the hospital reading to her.
The next month, during the brothers’ annual “Guys Weekend,” Bill and Bob are sitting on a small boat on a lake doing some fishing. The subject of happiness comes up. “Bill, are you happy in your life?” asks Bob.
“Yeah, I am. Of course, there are some things I would change…”
“What would you change, Bill? You have all the money you could possibly want. What would make your life better?”
“Well, Bob, I kind of envy you sometimes. Everyone in the family knows that when there is a financial bind, they can come to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the ability to solve problems with money. But I envy the personal connection that you seem to have with everyone. It’s almost as if because you don’t have the financial resources I have, you’re forced to give another kind of support. Money is the easiest kind of support there is to give, and sometimes I think it makes me a bit lazy. What about you, Bob? Are you happy?”
“Yes, I’m happy. But, I’d change some things, too. I do wish I had more money. I think I would be happier if I did. It makes me feel awful when I can’t help Bonnie or Mom. I feel like if I just had the money to solve their problems, then I wouldn’t have to feel terrible for other people so much.”
The brothers lapsed into silence for a few moments and contemplated this. Finally, Bill broke the silence. “I guess it’s like this. Having money makes it easier to do the things that make you happy. It doesn’t MAKE you happy, but it takes away the stresses that can make happiness elusive.”
Bob agreed. “Yeah. I don’t think that one of us is more or less happy than the other, Bill. We each use the resources we have to do the things we can to make others happy. It’s about serving others and giving, whether it’s money or another form of support.”
This story perfectly captures the paradox of money and happiness. You can be happy with money, or you can be miserable with money. You can be happy without money, or you can be miserable with no money. But, there’s no question that having money can at least ameliorate some of the stresses that can make one unhappy. Perhaps, Henry David Thoreau said it best…
“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.