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Self-help books can be a great way to learn something new or work through a challenge you’re facing.

The self-help genre is expansive. There are self-help books for a wide variety of topics, whether you’re seeking advice on managing anxiety, looking for relationship guidance, or trying to navigate a new season in life.

Even if you don’t have something going on that you’re actively trying to improve or seek guidance on, there are always new strategies and mindsets to learn.

While there are several highly rated and best-selling self-help books, the best self-help book for you is entirely subjective. Different styles resonate with different people. And a self-help book that resonated with you in your early 20s, might not have the same impact when you’re in your 30s or 40s.

If you’re new to the self-help or nonfiction genre, it may take reading a few different books to discover which style you click with. Once you find one that resonates with you, it’s important to do the work if you want to make any changes in your life.

Self-help books can aid in everything from time management to boosting happiness. Here are some subject matters that self-help books often cover:

  • time management
  • productivity and organization
  • motivation
  • self-esteem
  • boundary setting
  • leadership
  • mild depression (please seek help from a therapist for major depressive disorder)
  • anxiety and overthinking
  • general mental wellness
  • self-control and self-discipline
  • mindset and meditation
  • financial matters
  • mood and boosting happiness
  • building healthy habits
  • forgiveness
  • parenting
  • financial planning
  • goal setting
  • navigating relationships

There are also self-help books that cover addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and recovering from trauma, but these books are often used best in conjunction with a licensed therapist or addiction counselor who can help you navigate recovery.

Finding the best self-help book for you depends on the style, tone, and topic that align with your needs and motivation.

We chose these self-help books based on their topic choice, ratings, and thousands of customer reviews.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $18
  • $$ = over $18

Best classic

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Price: $$

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of the best-selling self-help books, with over 40 million copies being sold since it was originally published in 1989. Though it was intended to be a business book, the lessons are applicable to many situations in life, both personal and professional.

The book is based on author Stephen R. Covey’s belief that the way we see the world is based on our own perceptions.

Throughout the book, he uses personal anecdotes to describe seven lessons, or habits, that can be applied to everyday living in order to improve your mindset, relationships, communication, and more — all of which can result in a more successful and effective life.

The book has been updated several times; however, some parts may feel a bit outdated at times. Filled with timeless lessons and relatable anecdotes, this is the type of book that you’ll want to reread or reference from time to time.

Pros

  • timeless advice
  • applicable lessons
  • anecdotal examples make it easy to understand the seven principles

Cons

  • can feel outdated at times
  • professional references might not be relatable
  • text is dense, which makes it hard to read at times

Best for mindfulness

Declutter Your Mind

  • Price: $

Our minds are active enough as it is, but in our busy world, mental stimulation can be even more challenging to control, specifically when it comes to managing negative thoughts. This is especially true for those who experience anxiety.

“Declutter Your Mind” offers a number of techniques and solutions to help stop worrying, relieve anxiety, and eliminate negative or unhelpful thoughts.

The book starts off by calling out a few causes of mental clutter, such as stress, and it explains why mental clutter can be harmful to both mental and physical health.

The book then goes into the mindfulness and decluttering habits you can practice, such as meditation, to get a better handle on your thoughts and turn them into positive ones.

This book is a helpful guide for those seeking mindfulness exercises. Reviewers also note that the tips are actionable and clear. It’s also a great self-help book for those who are new to the genre, as it offers powerful self-improvement tips that anyone can apply in their lives.

Pros

  • engaging exercises make it easier to put the habits into practice
  • clear and actionable tone
  • great for those who want to learn simple mindfulness techniques

Cons

  • might not be as helpful if you already practice mindfulness
  • can read more like a guide at times
  • some parts come across as self-promotional

Best for sparking creativity

Big Magic

  • Price: $

Creativity is something we can all benefit from, whether it’s in work, in our daily lives, or to achieve our dreams. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling self-help book, “Big Magic,” she makes the case that anyone can live a creative life by harnessing the right mindset.

The author of “Eat Pray Love” uses her personal experience as a writer to demonstrate how she’s overcome common challenges that creative people encounter — finding inspiration, experiencing the pressure to make a living from your creative work, and reframing the idea of success — all by adjusting her mindset toward creativity.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist or creative type, “Big Magic” is a relatable guide to harnessing the power of creativity by implementing new habits that open yourself up to freely create.

Aside from her own experience, Gilbert also uses anecdotes from others to demonstrate how creativity plays a role in so many aspects of life.

Pros

  • great for inspiring creativity in those who consider themselves creative or want to pursue creative dreams
  • conversational and honest tone
  • great if you’re looking for an anecdotal, inspirational discussion on creativity

Cons

  • no exercises or interactive elements
  • can read like a memoir at times
  • isn’t for you if you’re looking for an academic or instructional self-help book

Best for personal finance

You Are a Badass at Making Money

  • Price: $

From the author of the best-selling self-help book “You Are a Badass,” Jen Sincero’s second book is an extension of the confidence-building message she wrote about in her first. However, this one is focused on money.

For many of us, money plays a significant role in stress, anxiety, and tension within interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.

In “You Are a Badass at Making Money,” Sincero argues that, by identifying your beliefs around money and changing your mindset, you can open yourself up to more abundance and reach whatever money goals you have — no matter if that’s achieving a certain income, paying off debt, or saving up for a house.

Sincero demonstrates this through personal anecdotes and sharing stories of others who have overcome financial roadblocks by changing the way they think and feel about money.

If you’re interested in shifting your perspective around money, this book offers various mantras, affirmations, and mindset techniques that can guide you to a more positive relationship with it. However, for those who are seeking a more in-depth solution to managing finances, you may want to opt for a more traditional personal finance read.

Pros

  • conversational and funny tone
  • positive and upbeat read
  • offers exercises at the end of each chapter

Cons

  • geared toward money mindset rather than financial advice
  • spiritual references might not always be relatable
  • explicit language can be a turn-off for some

Best for inspiring courage

Daring Greatly

  • Price: $

In “Daring Greatly,” social research professor Brené Brown discusses the power of vulnerability, something many of us have had a hard time with at one point or another.

Though vulnerability is uncomfortable and has even traditionally been viewed as a weakness, Brown has found through research that vulnerability is the key to achieving great things in life: courage, engagement, and connection.

At the root of vulnerability is shame, and throughout the book, Brown suggests how we can address shame, work through vulnerability, and come out of the other side more courageous.

“Daring Greatly” is a powerful tool to inspire courage in many aspects of life, whether that’s by improving relationships, being more courageous at work, or having the courage to pursue dreams.

Though some reviewers say the overall takeaway around shame and vulnerability can be too general at times, most reviewers suggest the explanations and research presented make a lot of sense.

Readers also admire how dedicated Brown is to this topic and how much of her career she’s spent researching it. “Daring Greatly” is just one of Brown’s five best-selling self-help books.

Pros

  • balance of research and anecdotal explanations
  • conversational and honest tone
  • great for inspiring courage and vulnerability

Cons

  • message can be general at times
  • no exercises in the book
  • can sometimes come across as self-promotional

Best for work

Thinking, Fast and Slow

  • Price: $$

Highly rated since its first publication in 2013, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is an in-depth examination of how we think and the way it impacts our decisions.

Kahneman, a famous psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explains the two systems of thinking: one fast and intuitive, and the other slow and logical.

He then delves deeper into the benefits of slow thinking, both in business and in life, and he offers pragmatic techniques to help put it into practice.

Kahneman also provides real-life examples of the two systems of thinking in the corporate world, and he shares insights through the lens of business, making it an essential read for anyone wanting to improve their decision-making skills at work.

Readers praise “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for its intellectual approach and thorough explanations. However, some also note that it can be tedious at times.

If you’re looking for a well-researched and expertly written book on the topic of behavioral economics, this is one of the best.

Pros

  • provides in-depth insight into how our minds operate
  • content is often business and work-related
  • Kahneman is an expert in his field

Cons

  • length and density might not be for everyone
  • content isn’t as actionable as it is enlightening
  • tone isn’t the most engaging

Best for relationships

Tiny Beautiful Things

  • Price: $

In “Tiny Beautiful Things,” author and former advice columnist Cheryl Strayed reveals her best advice on love and life from the reader questions she answered throughout her time at the Dear Sugar column.

Filled with intimate essays by Strayed, the book addresses the most common questions and challenges people experience in relationships, from love to grief to stress.

Strayed leans on the stories of those who wrote to her anonymous advice column, and she weaves in her personal experiences to share a heartfelt and sometimes “tough love” approach to intimate and relatable topics.

Published in 2012, this self-help book is highly rated among readers. Many reviewers note that this is the type of book where they’d read an essay and let it sink in before moving onto the next one. One reader even says they “pretty much highlighted the whole book.”

Pros

  • range of essays provides insight into all types of relationships
  • authentic and honest tone
  • timeless relationship advice

Cons

  • Strayed’s tough-love tone might not resonate
  • writing doesn’t always feel seamless
  • terms of endearment are overused

Best for finding purpose

Think Like a Monk

  • Price: $$

In “Think Like a Monk,” author Jay Shetty, a former monk and current social media influencer, outlines timeless principles for living a simplified and meaningful life.

Distilling what he learned during his time as a monk, Shetty offers practical lessons on self-discipline, overcoming negative thoughts, unlocking power, and finding purpose.

From meditation techniques to strategies for shifting your mindset, there are mindfulness lessons throughout the book that are beneficial for anyone who’s new to the practice or those who want to find their purpose.

While readers generally praise the engaging exercises and optimistic tone, some reviewers note that this book might not be as beneficial for those who already practice mindfulness or self-exploration.

Pros

  • engaging exercises
  • charts help illustrate the lessons
  • great for those who are beginning to explore their purpose

Cons

  • Shetty’s social media influence can be a distraction
  • some reviews suggest the content isn’t much different from what’s already out there
  • might not be helpful for those who have already explored self-improvement

Given that self-improvement is subjective, it’s hard to state whether self-help books actually work.

With the many types and styles of self-help books available and the low stakes involved, there’s a lot of room to experiment with the genre to see if it’s effective for you.

At the end of the day, what you gain from a self-help book depends on what you put in. It takes more than just reading the book to gain anything. You have to do the work and put what you’ve learned into practice if you want to see results.

How effective are self-help books?

Self-help books can be a useful tool for many different life areas, and studies show that they do help, especially when the book is problem-based. In other words, self-help books that help guide the reader through a specific problem tend to be more effective than books that focus on growth and/or mindset more generally. However, while self-help books can provide you with useful tools and life skills, it’s up to you to practice and implement them.

Are there different types of self-help books?

“Self-help” is a broad term that covers a wide range of categories. There are many types of self-help books. Some cover topics like time management and leadership skills that can help you be more productive in your professional life, while others are more personal and help you work through mental health struggles or things like boundary setting.

Different types of self-help books also approach topics in different ways. Some, called problem-based books, help you conquer specific problems with actionable, often step-by-step, outlines. Others, called growth-oriented books, focus on developing general skills and encouraging mindset shifts that can apply to all areas of life.

What is the number 1 best-selling self-help book?

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, which was originally published in 1989, is one of the best-selling self-help books. It was originally written as a business-focused book, but with over 40 million copies sold, has helped people apply productive habits to every area of their lives.

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert is another best-seller, with 10 million copies sold.

Self-help books can be a useful way to learn more about yourself and how you relate to the world around you.

These books can also be a helpful way to deal with difficulties, whether that’s stress, connecting with others, or figuring out what you want to do in life.

However, self-help books should be seen as a tool for self-work, and not a replacement for mental health care. It’s always a good idea to speak with a health professional if you’re experiencing persistent challenges that interfere with daily life.


Sam Lauron is a freelance lifestyle writer based in Austin, TX. When she’s not writing about wellness, creativity, or personal development, she spends her time reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and soaking up the sunny Austin weather with her partner and their dog. Connect with her on Instagram or Twitter, or by visiting her website.