Eight years ago, I loved self-help books so much I actually maintained a book blog called selfhelpme.
Eight years later, I am the type of person who wears yoga leggings all day, burps in front of her husband, eschews diets in favor of s’mores, never balances her checkbook, and who rolls her eyes at all of the questionable advice filling up the self-help section of the bookstore. Unsurprisingly, I am also the type of person who refuses to make new year’s resolutions.
My former gurus would weep.
Still, there are self-help books out there I can’t help but find delightful, even though I will make only the most half-assed of attempts to follow the advice between their covers. Here are my 7 favorites:
1. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
When I read Kondo’s description of how she thanks her possessions for their service, I thought she was off her rocker. When I read her policy on books, I decided she was a full-on heretic. But after finishing this slim volume, I immediately put her suggestions into practice. I spent hours cleaning out drawers and closets, throwing things into garbage bags and dragging them to the curb. It was downright exhilarating! I mean, it didn’t stick… but I still love Kondo’s no-holds-barred ability to throw shit out.
2. Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah’s Moregasm
I spent the entirety of my 20s convinced I was suffering from female sexual dysfunction, thanks to an unhealthy relationship marked by coercive sex and mind games. In order to “fix” myself, I became a sex writer. As you do. In my early days as a sex writer, I acquired this absolute gem of a book, a guide to having satisfying sex. These days, I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I listen to my body more than any book. But I still think this book should be required reading in all sexuality education course.
3. James Beckerman’s The Flex Diet
Less of a diet than a lifestyle change, this book contains a slew of suggestions for losing weight and living a healthier life. Fun fact: I actually read it while acting as a guinea pig for another writer’s New York Post story about up-and-coming diet books. There were before-and-after photos and everything! (How horrifying is that!?) These days, I’m quicker to eat an entire batch of cupcakes singlehandedly than I am to follow a goddamn diet, but I still sometimes dip into this one for tips on incorporating healthier eating habits and activities into my life.
4. Dan Harris’s 10% Happier
I came to this book having already taken—and taught—multiple meditation classes, and having already read eleventy billion other books on meditation. I’d also used multiple meditation apps by this point, and even owned my own meditation cushion. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this memoir by a news anchor who suffered panic attacks and then discovered the powers of mindfulness. But I ended up enjoying the viewpoint of someone who came to meditation without already being steeped in the yoga world. These days, I can’t find time to meditate during the day and, if I meditate at night, I just plain pass out. But someday, I’ll get back on that wagon…
I only clean my bathroom when we’re having company. But for some reason, I love this book. I’ll leave it at that.
6. Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
I don’t know if I can really classify this as self-help (it’s more of a memoir in essays) but, as an awkward introvert, Issa Rae’s life is—for me—aspirational. Will I ever follow her example and live my awkwardness out loud, on the public stage? Some might say that, as a writer, I already do. But I do it while tucked away in a home office with poor overhead lighting and three cats so, really, she’s winning.
7. Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help
Just kidding. Though there are stories on “How to Talk to Your Mother” and “How to Become a Writer.” I’m doing decently with the latter, but the former is always an adventure.