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liminal's avatar

What makes a self-help book worth your time and attention?

Asked by liminal (7766points) March 23rd, 2010

The self-help industry is booming. It is not hard to find an author willing to tell the public their solutions and opinions. The topics are endless: self-esteem, fitness, healthy eating, writing, spirituality…

Inspired by this question, I am pondering the self-help books I have read. Most of them have left me grateful for libraries a few challenged me enough that I purchased them.

I appreciate authors that don’t offer a cookie cutter approach to life and acknowledge the limitations of what they have to offer.

Which books do you find helpful and worth your time? Why?

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18 Answers

liminal's avatar

I will go first:

Intimacy and Solitude: Balance, Closeness, and Independence

I appreciate this author’s view of person and respect for process. She avoids the quick fix and invites me to find depths, but reminds me not to get lost in my belly button and to stay aware of others.

It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys: The Seven-Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized

Okay she employs a cheesy “seven step” method, but it helped me more than books that suggest I get a file cabinet. The author actually helps me dive into the reasons I get stuck in disorganization.

FutureMemory's avatar

Way of the Peaceful Warrior had a pretty big impact on me when I first read it. I can’t say the same for any other self-help book though.

ninjacolin's avatar

almost all of them are worth your time. the difference between an answer on fluther and a read through a self-help book is that you get a full immersion into the metaphors and concepts that make their opinions make sense. they allow you to become close to the author and understand how their opinions were formed.

gives you a chance to escape your own mind and habits of thought and enter someone elses’ before you return to your own. when you do come back to your own thoughts, you have all of their thoughts to consider as well. which makes your decisions more transparent than if you only had your own thoughts to consider.

that said, some are shittier than others. but you would be better off to read any of them than none of them if you have a pressing concern on your mind.

thriftymaid's avatar

One that you feel was written for you. Read the table of contents for an idea.

meagan's avatar

Sometimes I find biographies of people with the problems that you need help with are the best “self help” books.

SABOTEUR's avatar

As A Man Thinketh by James Allen

At the Feet of the Master by Alcyone

Taming Your Gremlin by Richard Carson

The first two books…pamphlets actually…were given to me when I first began studying spirituality. These books, more than any, have grounded my perspective since.

After years of studying, I concluded that study itself was a crutch. There comes a time when one must stop analyzing and pontificating and start actualizing what one studies. And everything I’ve read of any substance says the same thing…

Be still and Know.

The last book on my list offers a fun and very practical method of doing just that.

usaloveorleaveit's avatar

When I was a teenager, I was constantly getting into trouble, so, my dad started waking me up earlier to listen to Zig Ziglar. At the time, I thought it was retarded. I later joined the Navy and continued to spiral downward. A girl I worked with shared Jesus Christ with me and it had such impact, that I accepted Him also. My life has never been the same. Years later I googled Zig Ziglar and actually listened to one of his presentations. Extremely good for thinking positive, setting goals, having a good attitude, etc.. However, none of those can get down to the core problem which is sin. Only Jesus can forgive. You can truly be a new creation.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Almost forgot!

I’ve always took note of how Jesus taught. He understood the necessity of people taking the essential step to move past belief to actually experience truth, so he’d tell stories to explain what Truth is like , so I have a fondness for parables or short stories that teach lessons or share wisdom.

Once such story is The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson.

Anyone who “gets” such a present is truly blessed.

SABOTEUR's avatar

(My apology for the run on sentence above.)

liminal's avatar

@SABOTEUR no apologies necessary, thank you for sharing.)

SABOTEUR's avatar

(smiling) My pleasure!

usaloveorleaveit's avatar

Here is a clip from “The Precious Present” that grabbed my attention:

“When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And I am unhappy.

“My past was the present. And my future will be the present. The present moment is the only reality I ever experience.

“As long as I continue to stay in the present, I am happy forever, because forever is always the present.

“The present is simply who I am, just the way I am, right now. And it is precious. I am precious. I am the Precious Present.”

The reason for the guilt and shame is because we’ve sinned against God. When we break His laws, our conscience lets us know, thus we feel bad. To try & ignore this is not wise because the crimes (sins) have been committed and we are still guilty. Trying to forget about it doesn’t take it away, rather, it just suppresses it for the time being. To truly be at peace, you need the Judge to forgive you of your crime. The bible says Jesus paid the penalty for our crimes by dying on the cross. If you put your faith in Him and what He did on the cross, you will be forgiven (John 3:16). You can also have peace for your future knowing that He will always be with you.

ninjacolin's avatar

my opinion is also that the bible books are simply among the first of the self-help books. these days, self-help information is passed through music (how to behave in relationships, how to have a good time, how to deal with sadness, things like that) as well as tv shows and movies like friends and stuff like that.. sharing ideas about how people should interact with eachother and the kinds of behaviors that cause issues.

usaloveorleaveit's avatar

It’s only self help if you’re reading the bible but not putting your faith in Jesus. Just trying to learn some new truths and be a better person is self help (Prov. 14:12). Having a relationship with Jesus leads to forgiveness and peace. Spiritual transformation begins to take place only after he makes us born again (John 3:1–8). Apart from this, we are just trying to be good, which cannot take away our sins.

ninjacolin's avatar

Having a relationship with Jesus leads to forgiveness and peace. Spiritual transformation begins to take place only after he makes us born again

i think you’re wrong, just so you know.

meagan's avatar

@ninjacolin I think youre wrong. Just so you know.
But this could go on all day ;P

ninjacolin's avatar

haha, i’m just sayin!

prolificus's avatar

I’ve had self-help books recommended to me by a therapist. I usually don’t read those books because they seem like a sugar-pill prescriptions.

The books I have found helpful, are the ones that speak straight-to-the-point, address specific needs/concerns without throwing in a bunch of tangential thoughts or fluffy feelings, are based on proven experience and/or research (don’t like unfounded theories), are not promoted on Oprah’s book list, haven’t made the talk show rounds, don’t come in pretty packages, aren’t associated with some brand or group-think philosophy, and aren’t so popular (don’t want to read an author whose fame outweighs their product). Does this rule out most self-help books?

I do find first-hand accounts depicting someone overcoming a certain situation—I love the idea of process, not quick fixes. So, I’m more drawn to autobiographies and historical non-fiction.

The best self-help books I’ve encountered teach me something new about the things I’ve already learned. Those books tend to put a new spin on topics related to education, psychology, and spirituality.

Here are two specific ones I’ve found helpful (which probably contradicts above ideals and are not necessarily self-help books):

The Way They Learn – this helped me to see how my learning style affects how I perceive others, and how I can best work with others who process differently than me.
Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation – this helped me to appreciate the many facets of experiencing spirituality, and it allowed me to accept my approach and not judge one superior to another.

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