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The best of self-help with none of the fluff.

I have a confession to make: I freaking love self-help books.

Not just any self-help book, though.

If it tells me that yoga is the answer to all of my problems, it’s going in the trash (well, recycling). If it insists that a change in attitude is all it takes to change my life, it becomes a door stopper. And if it uses the words “vibrational” or “manifest” more than a couple times? I’m having a bonfire with it.

It’s absolutely true that “self-help” is the kind of genre where you have to weed through a lot of “find your bliss, star child!” to uncover the truly powerful and honest stuff.

But it’s worth it. A writer grappling with some of life’s most pressing questions of meaning, connection, and care? Yes, please. I’ll read that in a heartbeat.

If that’s what you’re in the market for, look no further. This list of seven must-reads are the best of self-help, with all the insights and honesty you’d expect… and none of the fluff.

From the publisher

“A revolutionary guide to strengthening friendships and practicing self-care in a time of social isolation.”

Who it’s for: It’s the Intro to Adulting book we all should’ve been given when we hit our 20s! Anyone who struggles to find that magical balance of caring for yourself and showing up for others will benefit from reading this.

Why it rules: Miller isn’t only an exceptional writer, but the advice in this book is so thorough that I had to buy a journal specifically for taking notes while I read it. She’s also excellent at helping readers maintain self-compassion throughout. By the end, I wasn’t just energized, either — I felt prepared to make some meaningful shifts in my life without going overboard.

What you’ll get out of it: How do we create a balanced, supportive life for ourselves while strengthening our relationships with our people? This book explores this question thoroughly. You’ll get your priorities straightened out within 10 pages or so.

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“Too many of us believe that the search for meaning is an esoteric pursuit — that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to discover life’s secrets. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us — right here, right now.”

Who it’s for: If you’re the kind of person who has felt like something is just missing — something deeper, something more — this is your book. This is for the “what is the meaning of life/what am I even doing here” crowd who want a smart and empowering answer, without the cliches.

Why it rules: Smith includes a masterful blend of personal stories and psychological research to make this book compelling and evidence-based. It’s not just personal anecdotes — it’s backed by Science™.

What you’ll get out of it: A deeper sense of self-awareness to guide you toward a more meaningful life. Tall order? Sure. But if you’re not convinced, you should check out her TED Talk for a taste of what’s to come.

Content note: This book is not totally free of diet culture, sadly, and discusses suicide at some length in the beginning of the book. So be aware if this may be a trigger for you!

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“In a revolutionary departure from the corporate self-help and body-positivity movement, Taylor forges the inextricable bond between radical self-love and social justice.”

Who it’s for: Anyone who was made to feel ashamed. Anyone who wants to dig deeper into the systemic roots of body shame and oppression. Anyone who’s been looking for self-love in all the wrong places.

Why it rules: A self-help manifesto written by a poet? Yes. This book introduces the gospel of radical self-love, and does so in a compelling, fiery way. It’s as much a journey of personal healing as it is a rally cry. This book belongs on your shelf, permanently.

What you’ll get out of it: Guaranteed to reduce self-hatred by 50 to 85 percent! OK, that’s not a real statistic, but you’ll be a better person having engaged with Taylor’s words. Trust me.

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“‘The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care’ is here to help you exist in the world. Borges gathers over 200 tips, activities, and stories (from experts and everyday people alike) into an A-to-Z list… make any day a little more OK with new skills in your self-care toolkit — and energy to show up for yourself.”

Who it’s for: Everyone. Literally everyone. I don’t know of a single person who couldn’t use a little self-care inspo.

Why it rules: This is a glossary of self-care strategies. And while this sounds a little basic for some, Borges’ book takes great care to offer information, therapeutic skills, and expert guidance on how to determine what type of self-care will support you best in any given moment.

What you’ll get out of it: A much better idea of how to look after yourself in a sustainable, consistent way. Also, the perfect book to leave out on your coffee table to remind you to take care of yourself once in a while.

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“For anyone tired of feeling the pressure to be better, do more, and work faster to find happiness — to self-optimize, shut up, and fit in — ‘Find Your F*ckyeah’ offers the tools to finally take our lives off autopilot and find joy where we’re at, right now.”

Who it’s for: Are you disillusioned with your job? Are you feeling aimless — without a mission, a passion, or a reason to get out of bed in the morning? This book can help you unlock your “f*ckyeah” and get you fired up again.

Why it rules: Rockley is smart as heck. This isn’t your generic self-help “believe in your dreams” book. This is an epic analysis as to why capitalism has divorced us from our passions, a millennial’s manifesto for reclaiming our authentic selves, and a takedown of status quo thinking that holds us back.

What you’ll get out of it: You’ll finish this book fired up for the next chapter of your life, and with greater clarity around what you might want that chapter to look like.

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“Modern life requires a lot of our brains. We need to stay organized, manage our time wisely, and make important decisions. These essential skills ― known as executive functioning ― affect every aspect of our lives, from how we function at work and home to how we manage stress.”

Who it’s for: Anyone who’s overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. If you’re looking to improve how you function at work and at home, this book offers you a skill set to work smarter, focus better, and meet your goals with ease.

Why it rules: Honos-Webb is a clinical psychologist, so she has the savvy to help people’s brains work more efficiently. She has a lot of expertise with ADHD, so she can support even the most unfocused and unruly among us. The nice thing is that this book is a short read, too! The book is organized in different sections based on what your day-to-day challenges are, so you don’t need to read it in order, either.

What you’ll get out of it: Finally, a book that tells us what the heck to do when we can’t seem to get sh*t done! This book will help you be a more effective human in the world, and as Honos-Webb puts it, how to “be the boss of your brain.” Nice.

Content note: This book makes some diet culture-y claims. So be aware if this may be a trigger for you!

Buy it here.

From the publisher

“From comedian and ex-diet junkie Caroline Dooner, an inspirational guide that will help you stop dieting, reboot your relationship with food, and regain your personal power.”

Who it’s for: Anyone who has been affected by diet culture, which is everyone, so…

Why it rules: Caroline Dooner is a gift. Her writing is equal parts witty and brilliant, helping us unpack our shame around food and bodies. Dooner gives us a road map to a more intuitive relationship to eating, free of constraints of chronic dieting and contradictory nutrition advice. In a world that makes food so freaking complicated, Dooner’s no-nonsense approach helps us simplify and enjoy eating again.

What you’ll get out of it: Permission to never diet ever again, thanks to some excellent research and science, with a sense of humor to boot.

Buy it here.

Sam Dylan Finch is a writer, positive psychology practitioner, and media strategist in Portland, Oregon. He’s the lead editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline, and co-founder of Queer Resilience Collective, a wellness coaching cooperative for LGBTQ+ people. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.