I used to have a Goodreads shelf I titled “eww-kinda-self-help.” I thought long and hard about whether I would even record new self-help books at all if I was embarrassed that I had looked for guidance on a particular topic, and my conclusion was that this way I’d always be able to fall back on a sort of “yeah, I read it, but IRONICALLY” eye-roll excuse if I needed to.
That shelf is no more. Self-help books are books. I read them, I catalog them on goodreads, and I go about my life, hopefully with a new skillset or understanding of something. I think we have this idea that self-help is some mushy gushy thing that are only for A Certain Type of Person and that to read them is to admit that you—gasp!—need help on something. I don’t think somebody would be embarrassed to admit they needed to watch a YouTube video to make sure they were putting on their spare tire correctly, or to call a financial manager before making a choice about their IRA, so why is it that as soon as we call it self-help or bind it in a book instead of a blog that we feel squicky about it?
Self-help is, ironically, associated with failure. Reading a self-help book means you weren’t able to…help yourself before? Means you needed help? But that seeking out that help in the form of a book makes you…weak? Better to keep a stiff upper lip and hope for the best, I guess.
In a society where working overtime at your white collar job is a badge of success, admitting you’re unhappy at your job or that you want to pivot your career elsewhere can be scary. If you can’t talk to your boss about it without worrying about losing your job, pick up a book on how to begin to make steps to change your career. If you don’t fit in a socially acceptable aesthetic—whether that’s your weight, your hair, your wardrobe, or something else—you might feel the impulse to get guidance on how to get closer to that ideal, and there are books for all of that. If you’re making a big life change, such as graduation, marriage, travel, or having children, it can be pretty overwhelming to undertake it on your own, but asking friends and family for advice may be an invitation you’re not willing to extend (what does great aunt Sally know about student loans? College was a dollar when she was young). When you live in a country that views healthcare as a privilege, not a right, sometimes the closest you can get to mental or physical health support is a well researched book.
Snobbery about self-help books really doesn’t hold up to scrutiny when you think about it. Can’t get more bootstrap-y than helping yourself, right? And sure, some of them might be cheesy, or preachy, or out of date, but just…don’t read those ones. Not every book is for every person.
How to Find the Best New Self-Help Books
Get ready to say goodbye to 2020, the year that lasted a century, by putting these new self-help books on reserve at your library or in your digital shopping cart. Then stick around for my best tips for finding more new self-help books all year long. Protest all you like, but not one of us got through 2020 fully unscathed, so I’m certain there is something you could use help with.
Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ayaji Jones
The blogger and author of I’m Judging You will release her second book on March 2, 2021. Expect more wry social commentary, but this time Jones also focuses on imposter syndrome and demanding space when you deserve it. It already has a great driving message: “The point is not to be fearless. It is to know we are afraid and to charge forward regardless.”
While you wait, pick up the already published The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard by Ollivier Pourriol; The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed As You Are by Alicia Menendez; or What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly by Arianna Davis. Bonus tip: check Dewey 158 in your local library for more books in this genre, or check out our list on self-care books.
Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano by Jean Wei
“Friend” has been a verb for a decade or more at this point, and even our IRL friends are mostly virtual these days, but someday we’ll leave our COVID bubbles and venture back out into the world, and you may have forgotten how to forge relationships with people. Or, like the authors of this book argue, you may actually have kind of forgotten how to forge new friendships since you left school and playgroups behind. Adulting is weird, after all.
While you’re reading, make sure to click PREORDER NOW or REQUEST HOLD for these other titles: Making Space: How to Live Happier by Setting Boundaries That Work for You by Jayne Hardy (January 5); Better Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency by Andrew Reiner (December 1); or Spite: The Upside of Your Dark Side by Simon McCarthy-Jones (April 13). Browsing the library? Dewey 305 and 306.
Productivity and Organization
Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price
Honestly, the title of this book alone gives me so much relief that I almost don’t need the rest of the book at all! But in this January 5 book, science journalism and social history conspire together, and that’s my catnip. It’s all to convince us that we were not born to be worker bees every second of every day. I just hope I don’t end up so busy that I don’t even get around to reading it until 2022, the way I kept not reading that book about time management because I never had the free time.
Relaxing sounds great, but sometimes you still need some help staying organized so you remember to do your taxes and do the dishes. Try Rethink the Bins: Your Guide to Smart Recycling and Less Household Waste by Julia L F Goldstein; The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments by Courtney E. Ackerman (December 22); or Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement by Ayodeji Awosika. Also take a walk through the 600 section of the library.
Style and Beauty
The Invisible Corset: Break Free from Beauty Culture and Embrace Your Radiant Self by Lauren Geertsen
The corset here is a metaphor for all the ways that cis women are constrained by not just your run-of-the-mill Eurocentric beauty standards and excessive photo retouching, but also the dark side of the body positivity movement and the psychological abuse the patriarchy inflicts on us all. Part social history, part manifesto, this book arriving on January 19 is a good choice for people who have been tied up in that corset or for people who want to have a better understanding of how the corset restrains the cis women in their life.
There’s a lot to unpack in this area. You might also take a look at You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar; The Breakup Hair Handbook by Jenna Luecke (January 26); or How to Date Your Wardrobe: And Other Ways to Revive, Revitalize, and Reinvigorate Your Style by Heather Newberger (February 9). Also take a look at Dewey Decimal 391, 613, and 646.
Writing, Journaling, and Creativity
Keeping a Nature Journal: Deepen Your Connection with the Natural World All around You by Clare Walker Leslie
There is a reason I teach spin classes instead of riding my bicycle outside—I’m not really an outdoors kind of girl. But 2020 was, well, 2020 AF, so I started venturing out a little bit, because the cabin fever was reeeeeal. And I really do mean a little bit, like sitting in the hammock and looking at the trees. Maybe this guided journal will help me go a little further than my own backyard. I have until March 30 to work my way up to it.
While you wait for the mail carrier to drop that book off in March, you can already get your hands on one of these: Nobody Knows What They’re Doing: The 10 Secrets All Artists Should Know by Lee Crutchley (February 9); What’s Your Story? A Journal for Everyday Evolution by Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond (December 8); or Find Your Voice: A Guided Poetry Journal for Your Heart and Your Art by Noor Unnahar.
Business and Finance
Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself by Jessica Zweig
Influencer or not, we all have a personal brand: it’s what we present on our resumes, in our college applications, in our mortgage applications…You could hire Zweig through her agency and pay her a consulting fee, or you could read the marketing expert’s book at a significantly lower price point. It arrives February 16.
I think of all categories, this genre of self-help comes up with the catchiest or most bananas titles. Take a look at How to Build a Goddamn Empire: Advice on Creating Your Brand with High-Tech Smarts, Elbow Grease, Infinite Hustle, and a Whole Lotta Heart by Ali Kriegsman (April 6); Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business by Andi Simon (January 5); Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers by Raja Rajamannar (February 9); or Blowing My Way to the Top: How to Break the Rules, Find Your Purpose, and Create the Life and Career You Deserve by Jen Atkin. Cruising the library? Hit up the stacks around 332 and 658.
Keep Up With All the New Self-Help Books
TBR not full enough yet? More books are released every day, and we’re here for you at Book Riot Insiders. When you’re a member of this Cool Kids Club, one of the perks is access to our New Releases Index. That means you have nearly up-to-the-minute news on the latest books to hit shelves and websites. What could be more useful than that? Insiders access to that index starts at $5 a month, and that’s just one of many incredible perks.