My Favorite "Self-Help(ish)" Books

When I typically think of the "self-help" genre I picture books with either bouncy blondes or white middle-aged doctors on the front, both of which promise me weight-loss success or happiness. Inside there are lots of rules, positive mantras galore, and possibly some appendices with places for me to, like, write my goals or check off some lists or something. 

But truly, self-help really should be anything we read that, well, helps ourselves, right? And sometimes, I need to help myself- god knows know one else is going to. My grandma always used to say "God helps those who help themselves," and while I don't really know if I believe in the God part, I do really believe that we are responsible for our own happiness, health, productivity, etc... Some people hire life coaches, some go to therapy, some takes classes, and some, like me, turn to books. Here are some of my favorite non-fiction guides, some of which are actually memoirs that have served the same purpose, that I've either read or listened to that have helped me in some area of my life:

Being a Mom and Wife
Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis- She's can be a little much sometimes, but listening to this helped me remember some important things about daily life as a working mom.

How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn- More than anything, this just made me laugh about issues in my own life that had usually made me cry (or yell). It was such a good reminder that most couples have similar issues. 

One and Only by Lauren Sandler- I am only having one child, which was not a decision I made lightly. This book had some really interesting research and insights that helped me feel less guilty and more comfortable.  

Confession of an Unlikely Runner by Dana Ayers- I will never be a fast runner, but will keep at it as long as I physically can, just like Ayers. 

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor- Kastor's memoir discusses how she was able to train not only her body to be a top athlete, but her mind too. 

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and then Brain by John Ratey- I read this book many, many years ago and still suggest it to people. Exercise is so important for our bodies, our neurological health, and our emotional states. 

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer- I read this book when I was temporarily a vegetarian, and while I am not anymore, it was still really important it terms of making me understand more about the meat industry. 

The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel- While there's not such thing as the fountain of youth, taking care of our telomeres is the next best thing. This book is a great reminder to eat healthily, exercise, have sex, make friends, challenge your cognition, sleep and cope with stress appropriately. 

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkamp- I listened to this book and it really pushed me to look at my own efficiency. I really try to maximize my time and look at my time in blocks that I assign tasks to. 

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg- I actually just read this and it made so much sense in terms of neurology and psychology. There are a few bad habits (*ahem* afternoon snacking *ahem*) I'd like to break, and I've already been working to internalize some of the tips from this book. I like it when science backs up the advice.  

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King- This audiobook was read by King and it was equally motivating and fascinating. 

Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann- This book is full of tips and advice that McCann has give his students over the years, many of which I'd like to incorporate into my own life as an eventual writer (ha) and as a teacher. 

Social Issues (Race, Feminism, and Class)
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo- This book forced me to take a hard look at my race and what it has gotten me. 

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions and We Should All Be Feminists, both by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- Both of these tiny volumes are empowering and also helpful for moms of boys.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance- I read this after the election and it helped me understand the midwest/rust belt/bible belt a little more. While I still disagree with so many of their views, I at least can be a little more rational now.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay- This book is one of my favorite in the feminist genre. Guess what? You can like pink, shave your legs daily, and still be a feminist. We can make mistakes and still be feminists.  

The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin- I listened to this book years ago and while parts were silly I have still hung on to one of her tidbits about not saving things for a special occasion. Use the good perfume on work days. Wear your real pearls to the gym. Have the special wine tonight. Whatever your saving use it while you're still alive and can enjoy it. 

The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got There by Amanda Ripley- This was a really interesting look at education around the world. 

Banff, Jasper, & Glacier National Parks by Lonely Planet- This travel guide made me realize that I can in fact take my kid out of the country to the wilderness and be totally okay. All I needed was to take the plunge and book tickets.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this list...I also liked Girl Wash Your Face, and then tried to listen (regularly) to her podcasts, but she started to wear on my nerves - she is way too much and almost feels a little fake/strange the amount of $ and path that she has created etc. Also of the 10 lies in her book, I could only identify with a couple (not bragging) but I could still appreciate the book.