What comes to mind when you think of a self-help book? Do you think of "Chicken Soup For The Soul," the kind of book that ladles out (pun intended) feel-good advice to its readers? Do you roll your eyes at the concept, or do you believe that reading a great self-help book has the power to change your life?
Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, the reality is that there are a lot of self-help books available at any given bookstore or on Amazon. Which ones are worth picking up and reading? I asked five women to share with me, across a wide range of self-help topics, which books changed their lives and why they would recommend the read to women from all walks of life.
1. "Attached: The New Science Of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find — And Keep — Love" by Amir Levine
Let’s kick this listicle off by talking about love. If you’re in a relationship or single and trying to mingle, breakup coach Nancy Ruth Deen credits this book as one that will change your life.
Deen read Attached when she found herself in a one-sided relationship. She wanted to figure out why she kept going back to that person even when she rationally knew they didn’t want her. Attached gave Deen a scientific way to look at love. As she read the book, she was able to better understand how humans navigate relationships by using three attachment styles: secure, anxious and avoidant.
“For every woman who ever wondered why she falls for emotionally-unavailable partners, this is an eye-opening read,” Deen said.
Deen recommends Attached to her clients who often thank her for the self-help book recommendation. And, in a truly serendipitous turn of events, the person Deen went on a date with after reading Attached is still the person she is with today.
2. "May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook Of Subtle Shifts For Radical Change And Unlimited Happiness" by Gabrielle Bernstein
Six years ago, Marisa Imôn received this self-help book as a gift from her mom. Back then, Imôn was working 80-hour work weeks at a non-profit. She was barely making enough to afford to live on her own. She was also struggling with multiple mental illness diagnoses. May Cause Miracles outlines a six-week program that gives you daily actions to improve your life.
“I made a promise to myself to take every action, every day, no excuses,” Imôn said.
By the end of the six weeks, Imôn had started a process that led her to find stable, emotional wellbeing. It also led her to the path of entrepreneurship. It has been years since Imôn read May Cause Miracles, but she has practiced its program at least six or seven times since then. She even leads groups through the book’s program.
“It’s amazing what you realize you’re capable of accomplishing after being guided through a process that helps you convert any fear into love," she said. “This book truly helps you realize that miracles are natural. You just need to be open and willing to see them.”
3. "Year Of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun And Be Your Own Person" by Shonda Rhimes
Stacy Verdick Case, owner of Peony Lane Designs, describes herself as a “prototypical introvert.” It’s tough for her to say “yes” to trying new things, which is why self-help book Year Of Yes changed everything for her.
After reading the book, Case did a podcast for a major network in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. Her business took off afterwards, and she began teaching people — something she never thought she would do.
“It was a true ‘ah-ha!’ moment for me.” Case shared. “If I hadn’t read it, I’m sure I would still be cloistered in my room wishing fabulous things were happening to me. I continue to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way, and I’m so grateful to Shonda for sharing her story.”
4. "The Gifts Of Imperfection: Let Go Of Who You Think You're Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are" by Brené Brown
One day, therapist Lynn Zakeri, LCSW decided to “jump on the Brené Brown bandwagon,” as she describes it. Zakeri, who had a blog called connecting through therapy, had heard Brown’s TED Talk and felt that Brown spoke her native language. She picked up Brown’s self-help book The Gifts Of Imperfection, and opened the book in bed one night.
“I might have gotten to page two before I had tears flowing,” Zakeri recalled. “Something about [Brown] telling me that I am enough hit hard.”
Zakeri continues to recommend The Gifts Of Imperfection — and Brown’s Ted Talk — because she loves the idea that we can only get closer to people by being vulnerable.
5. "The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun" by Gretchen Rubin
Ciara Hautau, Lead Digital Marketing Strategist at Fueled, has gone through more than a few crazy life changes over the past few years. She graduated from college, moved to Australia, moved home to the United States, took a job in New York City, commuted for a year and eventually moved to Brooklyn. Hautau describes it all as “a whirlwind” and one that left her feeling anxious and confused about the future.
Hautau found herself seeking refuge in self-help books. After a friend recommended she read The Happiness Project, she was hooked from page one.
“As cheesy as it sounds, it captured my attention immediately," Hautau said. She immersed herself in Rubin’s relatable and uplifting voice. The Happiness Project touches on all aspects of life from cleaning out home closets to enhancing your existing and new relationships.
“She gives actionable advice that helps you feel more in control of your life and your happiness. I highly recommend reading this book."