Oct 26th, 2023, 09:00 AM

The Self Help Genre Is Hiding Something We All Deserve

By Grace Amjad
Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures/Petr Kratochvil
Discover the less preachy, more useful sister to your classic self-help books

Self-help has become a catch-all for books with the intention of improving your life in some way or another, and because of that and most people’s tendency to shy away from self-help we are missing out on the gold mine of information known as personal development.

True self-help books, also known as self-improvement, aim to improve your character, behavior, or habits but personal development books seek to educate and train readers to expand their knowledge and skills. Yes, these two sound similar, even Goodreads places personal development under the title of self-help, but they take two different approaches and have two different aims. Self-help books can all be placed in two general categories, scientific and non-scientific. Personal development books are pretty much all scientific and fact-based, and their aim is to educate not preach lifestyles and new ways to live a better life. 

Self-help books encompass books like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, which preaches positive thinking as the solution to everything or Rhonda Byrnes’ The Secret which centers itself on the power of the Law of Attraction and frequency, all the way to Deepak Chopra’s What are you Hungry for?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss and Lightness of Soul and Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love) Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Even from the titles of these books, it is clear that they are suggesting complete changes to the way we live our lives, and although that is certainly what some people want and need, most of us are not looking to change our entire lives. We just want to know more to improve specific things, which is where personal development comes in.

From books like Beth Kobliner’s Get A Financial Live: Personal Finance in your Twenties and Thirties to Chris van Tulleken’s Ultra-Processed People, The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food and even Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. The difference between the two genres may seem insignificant, but think about what the titles are saying: are they trying to entice you into a lifestyle change with slightly vague titles or are they laying out what is behind the pages?

Personal development books are an untapped source of incredibly useful knowledge and skill hidden behind a façade of preachy suggestions of entire lifestyle and mentality shifts. Whether you read them and throw them out after or incorporate a new set of knowledge is up to you but give them a try and see how you like them. Below is a list, in addition to those cited in the article, of highly reviewed personal development books if you are interested in giving them a try. 

Writer Recommendations:

The Only Skill that Matters: The Proven Methodology to Read Faster, Remember More, and Become a SuperLearner by Jonathan A. Levi

In The Only Skill That Matters, Jonathan Levi unveils a powerful, neuroscience-based approach to reading faster, remembering more, and learning more effectively. You’ll master the ancient techniques being used by world record holders and competitive memory athletes to unlock the incredible capacity of the human brain. You’ll learn to double or triple your reading speed, enhance your focus, and optimize your cognitive performance. Most importantly, you’ll be empowered to confidently approach any subject—from technical skills to names and faces, to foreign languages, and even speeches—and learn it with ease.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.

Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness by S. J. Scott

We all know it's not easy to add multiple new habits to your day. But what you might not realize is it's fairly easy to build a single new routine. The essence of habit stacking is to take a series of small changes and create a ritual that you follow daily. Habit stacking works because you eliminate the stress of trying to change too many things at once. Your goal is to simply focus on a single routine that only takes about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Within this routine is a series of actions (or small changes). All you have to do is create a checklist and follow it every single day.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the 'Extrovert Ideal' throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally importantly, how they see themselves.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits--whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.

The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga 

The Courage to Be Disliked shows you how to unlock the power within yourself to become your best and truest self, change your future and find lasting happiness. Using the theories of Alfred Adler, one of the three giants of 19th-century psychology alongside Freud and Jung, the authors explain how we are all free to determine our own future free of the shackles of past experiences, doubts and the expectations of others. It’s a philosophy that’s profoundly liberating, allowing us to develop the courage to change, and to ignore the limitations that we and those around us can place on ourselves.