Many people cringe at the thought of reading “self-help” books, as many titles seem to focus on what’s wrong with you and how you need to fix it.
Sometimes the glib, attention-grabbing approaches of these books offer little in the way of deep exploration of self or tangible tools for positive change.
Yet, when you read a book that matches your intelligence and helps you connect with yourself and others in more meaningful ways, it can be an empowering experience. Here are just a few selections—many recommended by top professionals—that may help you experience life in a better way.
Books to Help You Understand Empowerment
One step toward understanding yourself and certain emotions is to read books that demonstrate the shared human experience. At any time, every one of us can feel alone, afraid, misunderstood, hurt, vulnerable, and confused, among other things. Once you recognize you’re not the only one who has these thoughts and emotions, then learn how to deal with them, it makes your life easier.
The Five Longings: What We’ve Always Wanted—And Already Have by David Richo
In this book, Richo examines what many people consider they want most in life: freedom, meaning (or purpose), love, growth, and happiness. Richo, a psychotherapist, ponders the question of what life would be like for someone who has peace in these particular areas the majority of the time. The book also outlines the similarities and differences between wants, desires, addictions, and longings, extending an explanation as to how we often take “the path of least resistance to meet our challenges,” and why this may be one of the reasons why longings are rarely fulfilled.
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
Singer had an awakening in 1971 that forced him into seclusion. He emerged with this book, a guide to help people understand why certain emotions replay and to learn the importance of staying in the present moment and using mindfulness to deal with emotions in real time, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Singer examines the habitual thoughts and actions that often limit someone’s potential and sheds light on how these patterns can be released.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
Professor, researcher, and therapist Brown astounded millions during a TED talk regarding her unique perspective on vulnerability: instead of considering it a weakness, embrace it as a form of strength, of bravery, because it’s representative of your true self. Another important aspect she asks readers to consider is releasing shame and engaging with others in the world from a place of worthiness—which is often a vital message for many, but particularly for someone in recovery. Brown explains the need to acknowledge the “dark emotions that get in the way of leading a fuller life” in order to reach a point of “courage, compassion, and connection.”
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
This classic is often recommended reading by various health experts because it’s less “self help” and more philosophical. In this book, Hesse, a poet, painter, and novelist, allows a reader to consider aspects of purpose with emotional distance and understand authentic identity without ego. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.
Empowering Books of Action
Some people appreciate having a roadmap of action for manifesting effective change. This roadmap may be a series of exercises, a workshop book, or a simple series of steps.
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
Some people may have naturally sunny dispositions and uncomplicated brain chemistry. Other people have to make a concerted effort to not let worry impede their progress. Peale, believed the practical exercises in this book enable an individual to recognize his or her inner power and use it to cultivate a more positive thought process.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
After Ruiz nearly died in an accident, he studied with a shaman and healer to learn how not to live a life of fear and to attain happiness. In this book, he details how many of our “agreements” in life are formed in our early lives, and that we may live them out, even though they may be wrong for us. So he outlines four simple agreements to help readers transform their belief systems and make room for more serenity, positive control, and freedom.
Learn more about The Four Agreements.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
More than 25 years ago, Cameron burst on the scene with this interactive exploration of self and creativity, and it’s been a sensation ever since. This is the type of book that works, whether or not you consider yourself an artist. Through specific weekly exercises, detailed journaling, and hands-on projects, Cameron nurtures readers along a path of self-discovery while they release old hurts, blocks, and baggage along the way.
The Reading Prescription
Many health professionals believe in the power of reading for wellness. For example, the British National Health Service (NHS) coined the term “bibliotherapy” to describe how people can use certain books to safely explore topics they may not be ready to talk about yet, or simply want to use as tools for a better life. The NHS even started “Reading Well: Books on Prescription” to feature non-fiction of this nature.
Book clubs are also a wonderful way to discuss particular topics in a treatment setting or with friends. When discussing these concepts for better living, you also foster a community, which can be empowering.
PsychCentral: Book Review: The Five Longings.
Psychology Today: Self Help Books that Work.
Best Counseling Schools.org: The 50 Best Self-Help Books of All-Time.
Nobel Prize.org: Hermann Hesse – Biographical.