Ten self-help books I read so you don’t have to

I read ten self-help books and took away various insights, some of which are helpful. I summarise the helpful ones and the others here.

A woman jumping, looking excited.

At their best, self-helps books are amazing because they literally teach you how to help yourself, and inspire you to do so. Want to become a millionaire by sitting on your couch playing video games? There will be a self-help book for that.

However, some self-help books would have been better if they’d remained blog posts, and some should never have been written at all.

I forget most of what I read in most self-help books, maybe because it isn’t relevant to me, or maybe because I’m too busy trying to put Princess on a diet without starving Runs from Jeans.

A year later I might remember one main point, and I’m fine with that. It was probably the most important point.

Today I’m going to share some of these main points.

My methodology for choosing books to talk about? I looked in the self-help category of my kindle for books that I remember reading.

(Yes, my definition of ‘self-help’ may be broader than yours. I’m not a librarian so you’re going to have to deal with it.)

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, by Michelle Segar, Ph.D.

Get your exercise by doing an activity you enjoy. Then you’ll look forward to it and running out of motivation to work out will never be a problem.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, by Brené Brown

The title says it all, and it should because it’s a long title. If you let yourself be vulnerable your life will be better. Also, some people won’t respect you because they’ll consider you a wimp.

Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle, by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

I had trouble with this book, but the main message as I recall it is this: men are the worst and they’re why women get burnout. It’s also possible I misunderstood.

Feeling Good: the new mood therapy, by David D. Burns

Science has proven simply reading this book might cure your depression even if you don’t do any of the exercises.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s another.

Depressed brains lie. If you can’t be bothered doing something that people tell you might make you feel better, because it seems difficult and not enjoyable, try this. Write down how hard you think the activity will be and how much you think you’ll enjoy it. Then do the activity. Afterwards write down how hard the activity was and how much you enjoyed it. Compare your expectations with the reality. Chances are the activity was a lot easier and more fun than your brain warned you, because depressed brains are liars.

Becoming Bullet Proof: Life Lessons From a Secret Service Agent, by Evy Poumpouras

If you want to get a person to confess under interrogation, be nice and make friends with them. They’re probably having a terrible day, and if you show them a sympathetic ear they may tell you everything.

Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell

The science of nutrition is broken and we’re all sicker for it.

Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It, by Garth Davis, M.D. with Howard Jacobson, Ph.D.

A hamburger-based diet is not a healthy diet. A diet of unprocessed plant foods will eliminate most of your risk of getting heart disease or cancer. But you’ll need to learn to cook.*

* The requirement to learn to cook comes from my personal experience. I stand by this point.

Platonic: How Understanding Your Attachment Style Can Help You Make and Keep Friends, by Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D.

Once you’re an adult, friendships don’t magically happen. You have to reach out and risk getting rejected. You likely won’t be rejected because the other person probably hasn’t read this book and was waiting for a friendship to magically materialise.

Fibre Fuelled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Plan to Lose Weight, Restore Health and Optimise Your Microbiome, by Will Bulsiewicz

Your digestive tract has lots of little bugs* of different types living in it that help you digest the food you eat and make by-products that can be helpful or harmful.

* Not the technical term.

If you eat foods you’re not used to, you might not have enough of the right sort of bugs to digest them, which could upset your stomach. So introduce new foods slowly to give the right sort of bugs the chance to colonise your gut. Those foods you thought you were allergic to? You may be fine if you introduce them gradually.

It’s healthiest to eat a wide variety of plant-based foods, and try to eat a good range of them raw.

Built from Broken: A Science-Based Guide to Healing Painful Joints, Preventing Injuries, and Rebuilding Your Body, by Scott H. Hogan

When you restart exercising after being sedentary, you’re most likely to injure your connective tissue. If you do, rest only a few days, then begin rehabilitation exercises. If you leave it alone for too long the injured cartilage will just get weaker.

To prevent such injuries, strengthen your cartilage using low-repetition exercises with heavy weights.


I hope you enjoyed my occasionally-accurate take-aways from these books. Note I’m not saying you shouldn’t read the books themselves. Some of them are great.

Do you have any short take-aways from self-help books that you’d like to share? Are you intrigued to learn more about any of mine?

Did you know you can get my blog posts by email? Some of them contain insight.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

2 thoughts on “Ten self-help books I read so you don’t have to”

  1. I do so appreciate you doing the heavy lifting here, as there are so very many more self-improvement books out there than I have the time or inclination to read myself, although I’m sure I would benefit from at least one tip from each of them.

    1. You’re welcome. It’s a bit of a vice, really. Reading self-help books makes me feel like I’m doing something to make my life better without actually having to do anything to make my life better.

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