The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
I realize it’s a bit unfair to write-off an entire category of books, but let’s be real for a moment: self-help books are, generally speaking, the worst. Often so saccharine you can’t get through them or so harsh they do more harm than good; it’s hard to find a self-help book that can actually help you through the particular obstacle you’re facing.
However, over here in librarianland, I find I have a strange fascination with the genre. There’s something about the trendy “insights” that almost always give me a laugh. Some very fancy person with very fancy knowledge who wants to teach the masses all they know and fix their lives.
Though, a strange thing has been happening lately. I pick up a book with the intention to mock and scorn like the know-it-all I pretend to be but instead find the message surprisingly relevant and insightful. Recently, these have been more and more frequent, leading me to believe that the industry has realized that for self-help to be – well, helpful - the author has to be relatable and also has to have a stake in what they’re writing about. In other words, life experience is key to understanding how to better ourselves, especially if you want to share what you’ve learned to help others.
So I’ve gathered up what I consider to be the best of the best self-help out there for you to judge for yourselves. Be it de-cluttering your home, dealing with anxiety or developing your leadership skills, here are my picks for what I consider to be some truly helpful self-help.
Ahhhh anxiety, the constant companion of nearly every person I’ve ever met. How would we ever live without our most steadfast life partner? ESPECIALLY AT THE MOMENT. Answer: maybe we don’t have to.
In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful (the title is a Chinese proverb) author Sarah Wilson presents a
novel idea: What if, instead of trying to beat anxiety into nonexistence, we use it to better understand what really matters in our lives?
Don’t cope with anxiety, embrace it. Wilson “meanders” through what anxiety has been to her life in a way that presents fact with research with advice and she does it all in the most relatable way possible, that of an anxious person looking for practical solutions.
Ok, ladies – this one goes out to you.
Ever look at your partner and think, man, I love you, but you need to go away right now. Well then, this book is for you.
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward is all about the mental load women in relationships carry and how it leads to unequal partnerships, frustration, and resentment of the people we love most. When the author, Gemma Hartley, noticed that these unconscious tendencies she had in her marriage were being mirrored in her young daughter’s behavior, she decided to take action.
What resulted was a very popular essay on the topic and this book, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
What happens when a therapist needs a therapist?
Lori Gottlieb had her life FIGURED OUT. It was set. She had her dream job, she had her dude, she had her kid. Then, everything went sideways and she found herself in a strange life that seemed foreign in all the ways that used to seem rote. Sound familiar?
Though Gottlieb’s situation was far removed from our collective present circumstance, her journey to understanding through the world of therapy is one that even the most skeptical of people will find insightful.
Ok, ok, I know. It’s cheesy. “Spark joy!” “Thank your possessions for their time!” This book seems like quite the joke, BUT, Marie Kondo really does have some amazing advice on how to approach our extremely materialistic world with an eye to de-clutter, organize and take control.
I listened to this book while on maternity leave and ended up successfully purging my entire home of the unnecessary – all during daily nap time. Four years later, her method is still holding strong. And yes, I take serious issue with her suggestions on only keeping a few books (lol, yeah right), but overall her advice is practical and helpful.
PLUS, you’re likely currently stuck in your house, staring at the same desk/dresser/tv cabinet that has needed cleaning for as long as you can remember. No time like the present, right?
Where my managers at?
Ever find yourself in the workplace just trying to do your job and you can’t shake the robot voice in your head shouting “Must repress all millennial tendencies to be taken seriously”? Well no more my friends!
May I present to you Radical Candor, in which author Kim Scott (of Google and Apple) shares her magical mix of truth and experience that says *gasp* it’s ok to not be an emotionless automaton as you manage in the workplace. I swear with each page read of this book I felt the tension stored in my back and shoulders release a little more.
It’s ok to care. It’s ok to challenge. One does not negate the other.
And there you have it. A tidy list of self-help that may actually help and doesn’t make you want to toss the book onto a bonfire of emotion. If nothing else, reading has always helped me stress less, so really, what do you have to lose?