Here’s the thing, self-help books have a bad rap. While previous rut-ending books have been packed out with hundreds upon hundreds of pages of incomprehensible life advice (like waking up at 5am every morning—no thank you) and vague quotes like “life is like a river”, the good news is that there’s a new and improved generation of humans making self-help books well, cool again.
In this economy, self-help can look like a lot of things and the epic books we’ve found span everything from helping you evaluate what your own personal success looks like to just helping you “un-cook” yourself from the fireballs that life can peg your way.
Read on for the most useful self-help books around.
The Best Self-Help Books Of 2022
Time Wise: Powerful Habits More Time Greater Joy
By Amantha Imber
This brand spanking new paperback has just been released to plenty of rave reviews in a time when people feel more overwhelmed and time poor than ever. Author Amantha Imber is an organisational psychologist and How I Work podcast creator has interviewed 150+ influential people about their habits and routines that have helped them excel in their chosen field. Using this wealth of information, she’s created Time Wise bringing all of these golden pockets of knowledge together to give you a clear, concise and informative rundown of how to spark productivity whilst still having fun in the process. Buy it here.
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?
By Dr. Julie Smith
These days thanks to technology, we know that people aren’t always so great at focusing for big chunks at a time. Fortunately clinical psychologist turned viral Tiktoker Dr Julie Smith has created helpful bite size practical tool kits perfect for those needing to improve their mental wellbeing but have little time to sit down and read. Broken into simple and easy categories, we love the way Smith creates a relaxed informal tone as if you were speaking to a friend and offers plenty of amazing hints, tips, exercises and powerful coping mechanisms that promise results in no time. Released in January, the book has already become a Sunday Times #1 Bestseller, so grab a copy now to see what all the fuss is about for yourself. Buy it here.
Atlas Of The Heart
By Brené Brown
Obviously Brené has to make the list as the queen of self-help and self-actualisation. Her newest work was released at the very end of last year, and examines eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. Brown says that she wants this particular text to be ‘an atlas for all of us, because…with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves’. Great for those who struggle with verbalising their emotions and feelings, Atlas of the Heart is an important piece reminding us that we all share the same thoughts and struggles. Buy it here.
Big Panda And Tiny Dragon
By James Norbury
Norbury has juxtaposed the traditional structure of self-help books, choosing instead to create the most charming illustrated story of two unlikely friends who travel through the seasons sharing lessons they discover on their way. A perfect gift for any loved ones going through times of challenge or challenge, Big Panda and Tiny Dragon is incredibly heartwarming, simple but moving in its messages and is bound to instill a sense of optimism and hope for those most needing it. We know you’ll love it. Buy it here.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time And How To Use It
By Oliver Burkeman
An average person lives for four thousand weeks, so Burkeman asks the question - how can we best use them while we’re still here? Although it seems morbid to calculate the exact span of our time on Earth, this book is actually incredibly uplifting and perspective-changing in the way it helps readers re-evaluate what really matters and what doesn’t. What we love about this one is that it rejects the current hustle mentality of having to constantly be ‘busy’ in order to be successful, and challenges us instead to consider how we can really make our lives sparkle with all the good stuff. Buy it here.
Breath: The New Science Of A Lost Art
By James Nestor
We had absolutely no idea that something as simple as the way we breathe could influence our health more than anything we eat or exercise, so Breath instantly gained our attention. Journalist James Nestor began his hunt around the world to find out more about ancient breathing techniques and the ways these small adaptations to our own unconscious processes could shape our days for the better. From Pranayama, Sudarshan and Kriya practices just to name a few, Nestor gives some easy tips and hints incorporating all facets of modern science that we can follow along with without having to be a professional yogi. Buy it here.
The Success Experiment
By Lillian Ahenkan
We’re not the type of people to take advice from just anyone but hey, if it’s Lillian Ahenkan (also known as Flex Mami), we’ll take out our Airpods and tune in to what she has to say. The Success Experiment been described as a “no-bullshit guide to life” and it may or may not be the only book you seriously need to pay attention to throughout your 20s. As one of the best self help books of 2021, this read is basically a blueprint, a basic formula, in which you can use to actually create your own personal success and it tackles the idea that your life can really change should you shift your goals to align with what would actually make you light up inside rather than feel just easy or achievable. This one doesn’t actually drop until 1 June 2021 (you’re welcome for the heads up) but you can pre-order a signed copy right here.
By Nats What I Reckon
We’re calling it the tastiest self-help book of this generation. If you haven’t heard of Nats What I Reckon, get off your high horse and into his hilarious videos which are simultaneously reducing us from using packet sauces and taking life too seriously. The whole read is basically packed with nine no-nonsense rules of life which can be applied to every facet of your very own life, be it work, family, relationships or your own self-development. Regardless of what you take away from Un-Cook Yourself, you’ll definitely be laughing.
Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle
By Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Those of you who are out on the edge of burnout or potentially deep within it—this book is the gold-standard for life. Mixed with science, wit and actual coping strategies you can apply on the daily. While obviously anyone can experience burnout, this particular read delves into why women experience burnout differently from men and shares ways in which females can minimise stress and manage emotions. There’s some super solid insight into biological stress cycles, how to monitor the parts in your brain that regulate emotion and frustration and why rest and befriending your inner critic is the key to preventing burnout.
A Drag Queen’s Guide To Life
By Bimini Bon Boulash
Tell us you’ve watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race without telling us you’ve watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race—because if this self-help book isn’t already under your crown, you’re missing out. Bimini is a complete sweetheart wearing her heart on her sleeve and always working on the “positive attitude”. Telling the story of how drag took her from the brink of self-destruction to the mainstage, as well as life lessons drawing on convention-breaking icons from Kate Moss to Katie Price, in this book Bimini uses all her wit, charm and kindness to show us how to lead the lives we wish we could, through the life-changing magic of dragging up. This one is dropping 2 November 2021 but you can preorder A Drag Queen’s Guide To Life right here.
Leap To Wholeness
By Sky Nelson-Isaccs
Brace yourself for the question on which Leap To Wholeness is bound by—how do you get something out of nothing? While it may seem out of place for a physics educator like Sky Nelson-Isaacs to be whipping out one of the best self-help books of all time, it’s actually just the read that could help you find your bigger purpose in life (big call, we know). This book has been dubbed a “survival manual for humans” and checks you, yep little ol’ you, on how you might be filtering out many other parts of life. The basic idea is that this self-help book will help you create something out of nothing with your life, by the very things you’re not doing and not seeing.
Working Hard, Hardly Working
By Grace Beverley
Enter the bible to achieving more, stressing less and feeling more fulfilled. We all know the pressure of feeling like we should be grinding 24/7 while simultaneously being told that we should “just relax” and take care of ourselves like we somehow have to decide between success and sanity. In Working Hard, Hardly Working, the self-proclaimed “lazy workaholic” Grace Beverley challenges this unrealistic and unnecessary split, and offers a fresh take on how to create your own balance and be more productive. We love this one because it actually gives you ways to identify how you can work smarter and do more of what you love, create your own productivity method, make your routine actually work for you and engage in your own self-care.
Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is The Key To Unlocking Your Greatness
By Vex King
Think of this beauty as your daily handbook to get out of low motivation slumps and overwhelming times. Full of inspiring quotes, Good Vibes, Good Life is easily another one that's up there with the best self-help books of all time, aimed at transforming negative emotions into positive ones, developing self-love, mind mastery, goal setting, and finding a deeper purpose in your own life, so you can do way more of what you actually want to be doing. While this book edges on the fringes of a spirituality self-help book, it’s super easy to read and provides practical solutions you can kick off right away.
You Are A Badass
By Jen Sincero
In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-travelling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters (ready to fill your morning commute with a dose of inspiration) full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. In turn, it’s all laid out to help you identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviours that stop you from getting what you want.
You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich
By Emilie Bellet
If you ask us, this read still stands as one of the best self-help books of 2021 (even though it dropped a while back). Sink your mitts into this modern-day money manifesto stat. You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich is the handy little life hack that will absolutely annihilate your brain cells (in a good way) on all things to do with renting, buying a home, getting a better salary, managing a credit card, understanding your net worth, saving more money, living within your budget, building a pension, investing and paying off any accumulated debt (we’re looking at you HECS). This gem is easy to read, even while you’re working your sweet time through Netflix.
The Best Self-Help Books Of All Time
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living
By Glennon Doyle
A few years ago, Glennon left the safety of a middle-class conventionally happy marriage and family when she realised that she had spent her entire life silencing herself and what it was she truly desired, and has been paving the way for women ever since. Untamed is a vivacious celebration of what it is to divert from the pre-carved path of what a woman is meant to be, instead galvanising our subconscious minds to be curious about what our truest, wildest instincts, dreams and fears are. You’ll finish this one feeling feverish and ready to shake things up. Buy it here.
The Body Keeps The Score: Mind, Brain And Body In The Transformation Of Trauma
By Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk
Definitely not an easy read, but an important one from Van Der Kolk that delves into the deepest exploration of the causes of trauma and the reasons why it has such a lasting momentous effect in our lives. Full of plenty of psychological and biological research, facts and evidence from the experts of the field, this book gives tangible routes out of traumatic patterns through regulation and syncing of body and mind. Buy it here.
Any Ordinary Day
By Leigh Sales
For those suffering grief, loss and the expected, Any Ordinary Day is a wise exploration of people dealing with unexpected and unimaginable events that changed their lives in a matter of minutes or days. This wildly acclaimed self-help release written by renowned ABC journalist Sales interviews a wide array of people from all walks of life who have experienced natural disaster, sudden loss and terrorism trying to discover how they built the resilience to keep waking up each day after such trauma entered their lives. A reminder that humans can overcome any obstacle, this warm and empathetic read will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Buy it here.
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life
By Héctor García and Francesc Miralles
Ikigai translates to ‘a reason to jump out of bed in the morning’, something which we can definitely all use a little more of, particularly in those dreary Winter months. We love how the book manages to explain such complex ancient theories and beliefs in such simple and user-friendly ways ideal for those of us who struggle to really focus when we’re overwhelmed. With its beautiful words and details, this one is ideal to keep by the bed or purchase for a loved one who needs a little bit of sparkle in their days. Buy it here.
How To Win Friends And Influence People And How To Stop Worrying And Start Living
By Dale Carnage
The world was a very different place when this book was written but great advice always stands the test of time. How To Win Friends… etc. is a core memory for most people who have been inducted into leadership teams across the world. Breaking down 12 main concepts for life, you’ll be taken through how to not criticise, be generous with praise, how remembering people’s names is one of the best things you can do and even how to acknowledge your own mistakes. Buy it here.
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
By Stephen R. Covey
Hats off to this epic self-help book because its wisdom will absolutely change your life. While a bit theory heavy at times, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People will give you the tools to maximising your own value as well as the value of others, a double-edged sword packed into one neat little read.
By James Clear
As one of the more recent classic reads (having been published back in 2018 and not the early 1900s…), Atomic Habits is a world favourite for a reason. If you’re on your sweet self-help journey, this guy packs all the punch and a myriad of actionable little things (hence: ‘Atomic Habits) that will build the blocks to changing your life in the direction you wish it to go. There’s cutting-edge psychology, inspiring stories of Olympic gold medallists, leading CEOs and distinguished scientists who have all used the science of tiny habits to keep productive and happy.
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a Fuck
By Mark Manson
For decades, we've been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says, "let's be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it”. And to that we raise a glass in solidarity. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. In other words, know your limitations and accept them. Buy it here.
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Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchase.