7 of the Best Self Help Books Published This Year

Full disclosure: I don’t love the term Self-Help. It implies there’s something wrong with the reader that needs to be fixed. I use it because it’s what most readers would use when searching for this genre.

I prefer the term Personal Development, because it feels true to my own process of continually working to improve myself not because something is wrong with me but because I want to grow and learn new things.

COVID put a spin on every book I read this year but the personal development genre more than any other. This pandemic is the biggest collective challenge we’ve faced in my lifetime, and it has tested all of us at the same exact time. That’s made it hard to be at our best for each other.

These books may be particularly relevant during COVID, and will be even more so as we move into a new year that hopefully contains format momentum and yet another new normal.

7 Don’t Miss Self Help Books Published This Year

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy

This might be the most important book I’ve read in years!

It isn’t a book about how to be a good listener. It’s about why we aren’t good listeners. From a young age, we’re taught to speak up. If you’re “too quiet,” someone will likely ask you what’s wrong. Kate Murphy does an amazing job of explaining all the cultural components that have created a society full of people who talk over each other, without truly listening to what others have to say. She gives scientific explanations for how we listens and take in information. What I liked best was her interviews with people who listen for a living, such as an FBI hostage negotiator, a reporter, a salesman, and a hairdresser among others. They explain how listening promotes connection in their particular fields. 

I was expecting a dry science text, but it’s engaging from start to finish. The writing is simple and easy to understand. The author’s tone is compassionate and it’s obvious she cares a lot about improving people’s lives with this book.  It’s a unique book in that it is not only science based but also addressed social science and emotional aspects of conversation and relationships.

The Lazy Genius Way by by Kendra Adachi

This book reminds me of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F–k, which I love. Both concepts come down to: evaluating your life, figuring out what’s most important to you and devoting your energy to those things. 

Kendra’s writing is positive, encouraging, and straight forward. There are 13 lessons that make up The Lazy Genius Way, each is given a chapter and explained in clear terms with specific examples. Kendra writes with honest and humor that was comforting and inspiring to me. 

The lesson about establishing routine was a surprisingly new approach to that topic that I think will stick with me and make a difference in my life. Up until now my daily routines are things I do party for comfort and partly to get things marked off my to-do list. Kendra talks about seeing a routine as an on-ramp that leads to something specific. This is a practical, useful guide that I will definitely refer to again in the future.

Buy Yourself the F-ing Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix You Life From Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster

Part memoir, part how to guide, this is a lovely book about the journey to heal yourself and pursue a genuinely happy life. The writing is relaxed and conversational. It’s funny, touching, and wonderfully honest. 

Tara’s raw honesty in her own stories inspires deep connection with the reader and banishes shame because she reminds us we aren’t alone. She covers every aspect of self care, and looks at every realm of her life from her body to home to work to family to dating and friendships. The book is packed full of guidance from Tara based on her own experiences in many forms: there are journaling suggestions, recipes, and strategies for handing everything from your own inner critic to beginning an exercise regimen.

This book would be ideal for women who are new to the personal development journey or perhaps haven’t even started yet. It’s geared toward women who are looking for a partner and finding their footing in the work world. Yet it will resonate with any woman who has already gone through these stages.

Sabotage: How to Get Out of Your Own Way by Emma Gannon

This short book is absolutely packed with helpful advice. I chose it because I know I’m guilty of self-sabotage, but I had no idea how much I was truly doing it! The biggest thing I got out of this one is the awareness as to when the sabotage is happening. I found this particularly relevant during this time of COVID because it is so easy for me to bail on things and not push myself, and blame the pandemic. I listened to the audio book read by the author. Her voice is soothing and listening was like getting a pep talk from a friend. Her writing is honest and straightforward. Because it’s so short, I think I’ll listen to it again soon to make sure it all sinks in. I highly recommend this book for anyone who suspects they need to make some changes in life. 

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

This is an especially timely read during COVID (which is why I chose it) and particularly for me as I’ve recently entered a personal winter as we are entering our long literal winter where I live. The first half and the last chapter were excellent. The middle meandered a bit and didn’t have a strong connection to the rest. I was expecting a more straight forward memoir, but this was almost better.

I love how May returns to the concept of life being not linear but cyclical. This helps me remember that everything is temporary. She gives examples of ways our lives mimic nature and how we can draw comfort and inspiration from that. Her writing is honest and personal, with vivid natural imagery and examples. 

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith

This book was a straight up gift to humanity during COVID. The majority of the content is Tweets Maggie wrote while she was going through her divorce. They are note-to-self type reminders to keep going though the hard times. I can see why those tweets resonated with her followers and resulted in this book. There are a few essays as well, explaining what was going on in her life at the time and how that inspired what she was tweeting. The theme of the collection is dealing with loss and grief. Maggie explores the questions that pop up when life goes off the rails from what you’d always imagined. 

The messages in this book are especially relevant in this time of uncertainty we are facing due to the COVID pandemic. I found so much of this collection comforting and inspiring. Yes life is scary but I’m still here, waking up each morning, and there are things I want to do with my life. 

Bad Ass Habits by Jen Sincero

A few years ago, I took an online class of this same title from Sincero. It was life-changing stuff at the time, and I’ve referred to the course content several times since then. Here, Sincero takes her basic teachings from her previous Badass books and applies them specifically to habit building. This isn’t about easy quick fixes, but about digging into your identity and asking yourself What kind of person do I want to be. From there, you create your own mantras and goals so you can move forward in a way that doesn’t set you up for failure.

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