The Best Self Help Books I’ve Ever Read

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I haven’t always been the happy-go-lucky adventurous gal you see on this blog. It’s been a painful journey to self care, self love, and self acceptance. (Maybe more on those three things in a separate blog post). At times I’ve felt isolated, depressed, out of control, and aimless. These are some self help books that truly helped me through those times and gave me tangible strategies to get better.

It’s nice to reflect on these books now, because I realize as I write this article that each author helped me through a different stage in my life, and gave me what I needed at the time. There’s that saying – “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Hopefully one of these books speaks to you and can give you what you need.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

Who is it for? – The hyper-organized, the type – A personalities, and anybody who likes science experiments.

What’s the deal? Part memoir, part how-to guide, this documents Gretchen Rubin’s research into what makes people happy and the way she applies those strategies to her own life.

My Take-Away: This book made me feel like my fate was in my own hands. While I didn’t relate to Gretchen at the time (I was a college freshman, and she was an author, married with kids), I felt compelled to start my own Happiness Project and take active steps to change what was making me unhappy. One measure I took was to start assuming the best in people (such as my roommate at the time) which helped me to get over minor annoyances and have better relationships.

How To Be Alive – Colin Beavan

Who is it for? : Socially-conscious people who think that MAYBE people can make the world a better place. Or people who just hope they can.

What’s the deal? : Colin gives you permission not to follow the standard life path. He talks about ways, small and big, that you can make the world a better place while making yourself happier in turn. He talks about parenting, community-building, the environment, and a whole slew of other topics. Again, practical, actionable advice.

My Take-Away: Colin was the first person to tell me, “Hey, if you don’t want to work a 9-5, that doesn’t make you a bad person.” What?! This book made me think about my whole self and my global citizenship. It inspired me to give up buying new clothes for a year. Do thrift stores freak you out? Maybe this book isn’t for you.

You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero

Who is it for? : The open-minded, the wannabe positive thinker, and those lacking confidence.

What’s the deal? : Jen Sincero uses self-help mixed with The Secret. It’s a little pseudo-sciencey, but she also has some great exercises for banishing insecurities and gaining self-awareness. She’s blunt and to the point, and her voice is strong and clear. She covers topics like money, meditation, forgiveness, and self talk.

My Take-Away: This book is a valuable guide to conquering self-doubt. It makes you feel like a badass. I particularly love the action items at the end of every chapter.

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

Who is it for? : In my opinion, literally everybody can benefit from reading this book. I first heard Brene speak in a TED talk, and that talk permanently changed my life.

What’s the deal? : Brene Brown is a master story-teller and researcher. She has basically cracked the human condition. She talks about shame, vulnerability, and the way that we relate to one another.

My Take-Away: This book might make you cry. It might make you a little uncomfortable. You should probably only read it if you’re ready for some self reflection. Also, it will make you a more peaceful person.



I recently listened to BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert on audio book. (What’s up, 9 hour drive to Boston!) Friends, I really recommend the audio version of this book. She’s so nice to listen to! Gilbert is very encouraging and provides useful ways to think about creativity and how to live a creative life. It affirmed my decision to keep up this blog, and made me think about new creative avenues to explore.


What books have shaped the way you live your life?