Why Read Self-Help Books?

Self-help books often get a bad rap. I think it’s sometimes viewed as a little desperate to read them and a lot of people don’t believe a book is likely to give advice that can help with your life. And with a lot of self-help books, that’s true. Sometimes they offer very vague advice or advice that is (in my opinion) just stupid. So are there good self-help books? And what are the important criteria for picking one?

Personally,I just read two very good self-help books and I’m starting to notice a pattern in what I like.  First, the book has to be on a topic that interests me, which lately has meant books that relate to ways to be happy. It’s a particularly interesting question to me at this time in my life when I fell like an inherent part of being a grad student is questioning whether being a grad student is what will make you happiest (answer, yes, in the long term, haha). Second, the book needs to be written clearly and concisely, without being condescending. If books are either hard to follow or treating you like you’re stupid, they’re just less enjoyable. Finally, they need to include three things: research for evidence, personal anecdotes for interest, and actionable advice for usefulness.

One book I’ve already reviewed definitely met these criteria for me: The How of HappinessI also recently read and enjoyed The 20 Something Manifesto and All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending. I’ll be posting mini-reviews of both those books later today.

Do you ever read self-help books? If so, what do you think makes a good one?


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