TL;DR: Potentially Useful Recaps of Popular Self-Help Books of the Last Decade

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Tracy Shapley Towley

Staff Writer

Tracy is a freelance copywriter, all-around ne’er do well, very-adult graduate of the University of Iowa, and occasional waterer of plants. Her hobbies include writing fiction, reading fiction, mixing together various flavors of soup, and typing letters to her friends on an old red typewriter that doesn't have a working period so all sentences must end in questions marks or exclamation points? She has read every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and has a lot of thoughts on them. Her old Iowa farmhouse is shared by her husband Sean, a pair of cats, a pair of dogs, and the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut.

I would like to help myself (especially to your sweets, thanks) but sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right stuff in my headbox to actually help myself. And that’s where self-help comes into play. You just read instructions from strangers, follow those instructions, and get all fixed up — score!

Self-help might seem like a strange thing to call a category that requires you by definition to seek help from a book that is your non-self, but the idea is that if you just follow these smart/wise people’s advice, you’ll be able to help yourself.
Sounds great! I have read a whole heck of a lot of these. Have they helped me help myself? Sure, in some ways. And of course, in some cases they have aggravated me and some have made me laugh in an out-loud style.

If you’re interested in the idea of self-helping yourself but you don’t want to spend hours and hours reading before you get started, hopefully, these tl;dr descriptions will help you get the gist of it, and hopefully, if you find any of it useful, you will go read the actual books by the actual authors because I promise you they made their points a lot better than I am.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson book cover

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

According to Manson, when a person finds themselves uninspired and lacking meaning in life, it is not necessarily because they have not found the thing that will bring meaning to their life. Instead, we’re all just focusing too much on the things that don’t matter. Those are the things we need to stop giving a fuck about.

Key takeaways:

  • Visualizing what you want your life to be (a la The Secret) doesn’t work because it reinforces the idea that you don’t already have all you need to self-help yourself.
  • Give a fuck only about what is truly important.
  • Humans are not facing material crisis — there are plenty of goods to go around for everyone (remember that this is his point, not mine, no need to @ me about the inaccuracy of this statement, I’m very aware) so there’s no need to waste time or energy seeking out material things.
  • Desiring a better life is a negative experience.
  • The acceptance of negative experiences is a positive experience.

Year of Yes cover

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I feel like it might be illegal not to have read this book. I liked a lot of it. I did not like one of the most commonly quoted sections in which she explains why she does not like being called lucky.

“I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

Shodna Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

I get her point but the rub is that there are a lot of people who work equally hard and take advantage of opportunities who do not end up building media empires. It is a combination of all the things with a heavy, heavy dose of luck.

Key takeaways:

  • Sometimes you need people to push you to achieve your greatest potential.
  • Saying yes to things you’re afraid of, don’t know that much about, or are not instantly excited about can bring about many opportunities for growth.
  • Accept compliments without playing down your accomplishments.
  • Saying yes sometimes involves saying no. For example, Shonda says yes to loving herself by saying no to a marriage proposal.
clever girl finance bola sokunbi book cover

Clever Girl Finance: Ditch Debt, Save Money and Build Real Wealth by Bola Sokunbi

I don’t know about you, but I’m a clever girl and I have finances. Let’s ditch some debt, save some pennies, and build real wealth! Hopefully by magic!

No, not by magic. In fact, the advice here is not earth-shattering but it is simple and written in a lighthearted and accessible style. I would rate this an excellent introduction to the world of finances.

Key takeaways:

  • Build a budget and stick with it.
  • Clean up your credit.
  • Find a side hustle.
  • Be accountable for the financial decisions you make.
Cover of Do What Feels Good

Do What Feels Good: Recipes, Remedies, and Routines to Treat Your Body Right by Hannah Bronfman

One thing that’s unique about me is that I like feeling good. You should try it! In fact, that is exactly what Hannah is here to tell you. Her focus is on the whole body and mind, which makes the included recipes pretty dang handy.

Key takeaways:

  • Stop taking advice or criticism from people you don’t even like.
  • Take care of your guts, both literal and metaphorical.
  • Eat foods your body loves.
  • Create routines and stick to them.
Good Vibes Book Cover

Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King

According to King, it’s very easy to love yourself and improve your life. All you have to do is:

“Change the way you think, feel, speak and act.”

by Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness

Is that all?!?

Key takeaways:

  • Your thoughts dictate your reality, so be sure to think really good thoughts.
  • It’s not selfish to surround yourself with the people you like and cut out those you don’t like.
  • You can have total control of your “vibrational frequency.”
  • Love yourself.
  • Choose happiness.

If these all sound pretty generic then I have done an excellent job of summing up what it is like to read this book.

There you have it! Five summaries of five self-help books. Hopefully, you’ll be able to help yourself to whatever it is you’d like in life and help yourself out of whatever you don’t like in life.

If you need more self-help inspiration, check out 10+ New Self-Help Books and How to Find More!, review 20 Self-Care Books for Anxious Times, or 5 Non-Spiritual Self-Help Books to Help Sail Through Trying Times.