Which self help/self improvements books changed your life?
August 30, 2013 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I know self help books have a bad reputation, but some transcend the genre. Any subject, from parenting to finance to spirituality is ok.

For me, two life changing books have been "How to Be an Adult" by David Richo and "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold Kushner.
posted by cherrybounce to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 145 users marked this as a favorite
I think you might like this link.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard. It's not exactly a traditional self-help book, so feel free to flag this for deletion. It did change my life, though.
posted by rtha at 5:02 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Being, Belonging and Doing. It's a teeny book but I find myself repeatedly recommending it. For someone raised in the "so, what do you do?" American cultural emphasis on achievement and career success, thinking about all three pieces - being, belonging, and doing -- as components to a meaningful and fulfilling life was a giant stunning revelation. The fact that over-emphasizing any one of these can lead to greater grief was also a big ah-ha moment.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:18 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

How to Win Friends and Influence People is pretty much the prime example of this. It gets recommended constantly around here.
posted by archagon at 5:38 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Shadows on The Path is beautifully written and honest and intelligent book about embracing our darker sides on the road to a better self. Every paragraph was a relief, it changed my outlook so much, towards acceptance and tolerance of myself and others.

The other one that kicked my ass all over the place was Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior which completely shifted my view of how to occupy space and to orient myself on this lifetime's trajectory, via Trungpa's Rising and Setting Sun teachings. It helped me to be a better parent, for one.

And, well, yeah, there's always Dear Lover, maybe I should have listed that first. A delicious and liberating sex and relationship guide. In my opinion, a must-read for anyone looking for deeper sexual connection with their partner or with themselves.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:40 PM on August 30, 2013

Oh, and I have "How to be an Adult", I love that one too!!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:41 PM on August 30, 2013

Normally I scorn self-help books, but Tamar Chansky's Freeing Yourself from Anxiety is supremely pragmatic and talks to you as if you're an intelligent adult.
posted by scratch at 5:46 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Highly Sensitive Person
posted by candyland at 5:57 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Happiness is an Inside Job
posted by TheLibrarian at 5:57 PM on August 30, 2013

Do I Have To Give Myself Up To Be Loved By You has changed my life. It's spells things out so clearly and, while it is a relationship book, it has helped in other areas if my life as well.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:31 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

"How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life" by Alan Lakein is almost a parody of glib self-help books but it has useful instructions for setting goals, creating prioritised lists, and managing time.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:46 PM on August 30, 2013

I really liked This is How, Augusten Burroughs tough-love self-help book.
posted by shivohum at 7:03 PM on August 30, 2013

It may be a little narrow, or outside of your needs, but Mothering Without a Map: The Search for the Good Mother Within was life-changing for me.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 7:21 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Gift From The Sea (there are some excerpts at this link).
posted by gudrun at 7:44 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't call it a self-help book, but in terms of explaining how people work the way they do, Robert Cialdini's "Influence" is fascinating and a very enjoyable read.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:01 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
Transitions: Making sense oflife's changes
Flow, Mihaly C.
Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
posted by jrobin276 at 8:48 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Getting Things Done by David Allen is practically a cult now, but it really did change my life. I accomplish more work with less stress and I am overall better organized than I have ever been.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Consteuctive Living
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 PM on August 30, 2013

The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I didn't really buy into the whole "ancient Toltec wisdom" thing, but the four agreements themselves changed my life. They're four promises you make to yourself, basically: Be impeccable with your word, Don't take anything personally, Don't make assumptions, and Always do your best. I've found them to be really good guidelines for living in a way that feels right.
posted by vytae at 10:33 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz is pretty sweet too
posted by lakersfan1222 at 11:07 PM on August 30, 2013

I've read each of these books at least three times, often more than that. I find that they key to a self help book working is to really internalise its message. Reading it once and then forgetting about it doesn't work - you have to take the steps and perform the actions for any kind of change to happen.

Peter McWilliams*:

You Can't Afford The Luxury Of A Negative Thought.
This is not a book just for people with life-threatening illnesses. It's a book for anyone afflicted with one of the primary diseases of our time: negative thinking.

DO IT! Let's Get Off Our Buts.
You may find this first part of the book depressing. I'm going to explain why most people aren't living their dreams--and I'm not going to pull any punches.

It's not a pretty picture.

Life 101.
I call this book LIFE 101 because it contains all the things I wish I had learned about life in school but, for the most part, did not.

*These (and his other books) are all available to read online for free.

In Attached, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller reveal how an understanding of adult attachment—the most advanced relationship science in existence today—can help us find and sustain love.

Always In The Kitchen At Parties.
If you're the kind of person who wants to hide in the kitchen at parties, Leil [the author] will help you get out and mingle like a pro.

The Introvert Advantage.
One out of every four people feels overwhelmed at the thought of a business meeting, dreads walking into a party, hates having to make small talk with strangers, feels alone in a crowd - and always prefers to sit on the sidelines and observe. They're introverts, and now comes the book to buttress their resolve and help them find understanding and success living in an extrovert world.

The Power Of Habit
Award-winning New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist & how they can be changed.

Man's Search For Meaning.
Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

Feeling Good.
The good news is that anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other "black holes" of depression can be cured without drugs. In Feeling Good, eminent psychiatrist, David D. Burns, M.D., outlines the remarkable, scientifically proven techniques that will immediately lift your spirits and help you develop a positive outlook on life.

The Art Of Happiness.
The book explores training the human outlook that alters perception. The concepts that the purpose of life is happiness, that happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events—at least once one’s basic survival needs are met and that happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds.

Wealth 101.
Getting what you want, enjoying what you've got.

Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude.
Meet the most important living person!

Somewhere in this book you will meet him -- suddenly, surprisingly and with a shock of recognition that will change your whole life. When you do meet him, you will discover his secret.

Think And Grow Rich.
Think and Grow Rich is a 1937 motivational personal development and self-help book by Napoleon Hill [1] and inspired by a suggestion from Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie. While the title implies that this book deals with how to get rich, the author explains that the philosophy taught in the book can be used to help people succeed in all lines of work and to do or be almost anything they want.

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.
Inside 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®' you'll learn what we are afraid of...and why and the five surprising truths about fear. You'll also learn how to let go of the victim mentality, the secret of making 'no lose' decisions, how to expand your 'comfort' zone, how to create more meaning in your life...and much more.

The Rules Of Life.
"And they're not really rules, they're things we kind of knew already but have forgotten because we were too busy going to the gym and the therapist trying to figure out what was missing and there it was all the time... staring us in the face!"
posted by Solomon at 2:50 AM on August 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: “Buck up.” “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” “Don’t ruin everything.” When you are anxious, sad, angry, or lonely, do you hear this self-critical voice? What would happen if, instead of fighting difficult emotions, we accepted them? Over his decades of experience as a therapist and mindfulness meditation practitioner, Dr. Christopher Germer has learned a paradoxical lesson: We all want to avoid pain, but letting it in--and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame--are essential steps on the path to healing. This wise and eloquent book illuminates the power of self-compassion and offers creative, scientifically grounded strategies for putting it into action. You’ll master practical techniques for living more fully in the present moment -- especially when hard-to-bear emotions arise -- and for being kind to yourself when you need it the most.

Radical Acceptance
: Radical acceptance enables us to see more clearly and to learn how to hold our experiences with compassion. As Carl Rogers once said: "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." Brach has put together a rich compendium of spiritual practices that can serve as a counterbalance to established feelings of neglect, judging ourselves and others harshly, and spurning the bounties of the present moment.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:18 AM on August 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

French Kids Eat Everything
posted by melissasaurus at 1:25 PM on August 31, 2013

The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck.
posted by Jane Austen at 8:40 PM on August 31, 2013

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, by Martin Seligman.
posted by fullerenedream at 10:49 PM on August 31, 2013

Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking helped me quit smoking. While you're reading it you'll be thinking to yourself "Wow, what a stupid self-help book, this will never work" and by the end you're an ex-smoker.

If you're ready to stop smoking (cigarettes) get this book. Official web site is here, but cheaper on Amazon.
posted by amitai at 12:55 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Women Don't Ask, by Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever.
posted by But tomorrow is another day... at 5:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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