I love to read. I’m always in the middle of a book (working on #21 for this year) and I’ve even spent so long in the park reading that I ended up ordering food there.
I like to switch it up: novels, psychology books, funny memoirs, sociology books, those thrillers that are so demented that you wonder, what’s wrong with the author that they even thought of this? And every now and then, I throw a good self-help book in there.
Self-help get a bad rap. Sure, there’s a lot of “fluff” out there— a natural but unfortunate byproduct of any industry worth billions of dollars. Look at The Secret. It’s sold more than 20 million copies and the message is basically, “Think positively!”
But of course, there are some good ones. If I were to make a list of my top ten books of all time, three of them would fall into this category, having changed my life for the better:
The Adonis Complex
The first time I wrote for Whatismyhealth, I talked about two decades of body baggage and mentioned that I had read every single book about male body image in the New York Public Library. That sounds more impressive than it really is because there are only, like, six of them.
But this one is my favorite because it’s less clinical, and addresses the elephant in the room that men too can have body image problems, even if they’re not really talked about the way women’s are. Just like a real-life Barbie would be so thin and top-heavy that she’d tip over, a human-sized GI Joe’s bicep would out-bicep Mark McGwire by 35%. If you’re a dude who’s ever felt too fat, too scrawny, tempted by steroids, whatever, I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck
I’m a big fan of Mark; he’s kind of like a self-help writer who hates self-help writing, which he compares to french fries and soda: tasty and easy to consume, but ultimately empty. He argues that the industry is largely about making people feel good about themselves without actually addressing why they don’t in the first.
The crux of the book is that we need to consciously decide what does and doesn’t matter to us, and give your “f***s” accordingly. And then from there, attacking what makes us uncomfortable rather than avoiding it. “Once we embrace our fears, faults and uncertainties—once we stop running from and avoiding, and start comforting painful truths—we can begin to find the courage and confidence we desperately seek,” he writes.
I have made so many people read this book, by the way.
The Power of Now
The Power of Now is about spiritual enlightenment and on paper, it’s a bit hippy-dippy for my personal taste. I really dig the message, though, which focuses on accepting what is. Eckhart believes that depressed people are too focused on the past while anxious people are too focused on the future. I don’t think it’s possible to live in the present 100% of the time, but I think it’s a good message regardless.
If you think about it The Power of Now is essentially a repackaged version of the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change / The courage to change the things I can / And the wisdom to know the difference.” Googling the serenity prayer to get the exact wording right, I found so many Pinterest boards full of tattoo designs, so I know I’m not the only one who thinks The Power of Now has a good message.
What are your favorite self-help books?
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