The Most Helpful Self-Helps: Booking it to a better life

Humans inevitably run into conflict. Such hardships are essential to our lives. The point is to persevere. To overcome. To change and grow. But more often than not, besting such trials is easier said than done. We need help. We need direction and advice. We need books.


The obstacles in our lives are not always readily apparent and may start as only a vague feeling that something is wrong. Quickly, this can manifest into more drastic and harmful mental states like depression, anxiety, confusion, and hopelessness.

Such conditions cause problems in one’s life. But often, disorders like depression and anxiety exist because of the problems in one’s life. A low level of anxiety and discontent can be an indicator that some aspect of your life needs change. It’s a prod in the side. And it’s those that belong to this second group – those who are looking for a change – that self-help books can so positively affect.

All this is to say, the first hurdle in helping yourself is realizing you have a problem. The second challenge is identifying said problem, a much more difficult task.

For this, I suggest Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In fact, if I could encourage you to read any single book from my list, it would be this one. The book, written by two Stanford professors, both of whom led successful design careers for Apple, Electronic Arts, and numerous startups, is a template on how to approach questions and solve problems. Using their experience as designers and educators, Burnett and Evans teach readers how to figure out where their personal problems are coming from. Readers are asked to self-reflect on four areas of their lives: health, work, play, and love. In addition to identifying problems, Designing Your Life offers simple, well-explained advice and solutions, making it a well-rounded introductory self-help book.

After sources of discontent are identified, it’s time to seek out books pertaining to specific topics. Many books discuss how to find purpose, obtain a new career, start a new hobby, eat healthier, work out, make money, relieve stress, think positively, and so on. Though there seems to be an overwhelming amount of possible problems, there is an equal measure of books to help.

Now, I present my simplified list of suggested self-help books, all of which have had profound impacts on my life and whose lessons I continue to implement in my daily life. These books have changed me for the better.

For financial advice: The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason, and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechte.

For overall self-improvement: Atomic Habits by James Clear and 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson.

For mindfulness, positive thinking, and relieving stress: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, The Power Of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

For business and interpersonal communication: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

For relationships: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

And, again, for the best introduction to self-help: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

All of these books are free to read or listen to on the Libby app or can be borrowed from your local library.

Though I hope this list can help some of you, authors with different experiences will speak more to some readers than others. No matter what you decide to read, you are making a step in the right direction by acknowledging a problem and committing to change – you are taking a step towards betterment. Whether you watch videos, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or cozy up with a book to read, you are starting to grow into a healthier, happier person.

Good for you. And good luck.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Motif.

Brydon Conti is a graduate of Rhode Island College. He lives and works in Burrillville, RI.