Ernest Hemingway once noted, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self,” and while we appreciate his message, the pursuit of a superior self—which we constantly berate ourselves for not actually being—can be exhausting. Change doesn’t happen overnight—and we should probably work more on accepting ourselves as we are—but sometimes, someone hands you a book out of nowhere that forever changes your perspectives, beliefs or habits for the better. Here are 15 advice-driven books that have done just that for us.
For Long-Term Anxiety Reduction
You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding
If you suffer from anxiety (hello, everyone) we strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. Once you understand what "deceptive brain messages" are and how you can combat them by implementing a system of four simple steps, you will start to feel some semblance of control over your incessantly worried mind.
For Healthier Relationships
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Actually Help You Keep and Find Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
This book, which we binge-read in one sitting, can be helpful in navigating all relationships, be they platonic, romantic, familial or otherwise. It aims to identify your attachment style—secure, anxious, or avoidant—and then help you to either seek out an appropriate partner based on that style or navigate existing relationships by bettering your ability to communicate your attachment-style-specific needs.
To Jumpstart Creative Productivity
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
We've revisited this book every so often over the course of the past 10 years, and we have to admit to being as embarrassed by our affection for it as this New York Magazine writer. Still, if you’re in need of a creative boost, a pep talk with homework and exercises that can help you to form beneficial lifelong habits, this workbook is worth (secretly) ordering on Amazon. Note: If you're not spiritual, don't be deterred—the advice and exercises offered in this book can be followed/executed no matter your beliefs.
For a Bright Light in Troubled Times
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things is one of those books that gets evangelized like crazy by those who read it, which initially made us intensely skeptical; however, it is well worth the hype. Though the book doesn't give advice to its reader, per se, it features the writings of Cheryl Strayed as advice columnist 'Sugar' for The Rumpus. Unless you have the heart of a robot, you will be moved and inspired by the often personal words she writes in response to her readers, many of which you will find applicable to your own life.
For Refining Life Goals
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
Unlike a lot of self-help workbooks, this one is addictive. Author Danielle LaPorte posits that it's not the goal, person or possession we're chasing, but rather the feeling we think we'll get by obtaining it. She encourages us to work backwards by identifying first our "core desired feelings" in various areas of life and then setting "goals with soul." It may sound cheesy, but in practice it makes a lot of sense and can help you gain greater clarity around what you're actually looking for in life.
For Timid Innovative-Thinkers
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
If you feel at all like you may have missed your window for doing something bold in life, we suggest picking up this book from Give and Take author Adam Grant. The book posits that it's not true that all innovators are young and risk-positive, but rather that many are cautious, "strategic procrastinators" who innovate only after a lifelong process of trial and error. The book gives practical advice for taking your bold idea from conception to execution, explores how we can teach our children to be original and gives business leaders advice for creating cultures that encourage dissent (which leads to innovation). Learn from real-life disrupters, including a low-level employee who challenged Steve Jobs, a TV executive who didn't work in comedy but saved Seinfeld and a billionaire who fires employees for not critiquing him.
For Non-Hokey Ways to Build Self-Worth
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
Author Nathaniel Brandon asserts in this book that self-esteem is not a result of who you are but rather what you do, and he breaks the building of self-esteem down into the following six action-based practices: Living Consciously; Self-Acceptance; Self-Responsibility; Self-Assertiveness; Living Purposefully; and Personal Integrity. Even if you have to secretly order this one on Amazon as well, we suggest you do it and follow through with all of the exercises outlined in the book for best results.
For Anyone Suffering from Chronic Jealousy, Victimhood or Low Self-Worth
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
People tend to either love or hate Marianne Williamson, and we fall firmly into the former category. Whenever we need a little mental reset, we revisit this book—after the initial reading, it works best when opened at random—and though the advice has a spiritual bent (it's based on A Course In Miracles) it's possible to take away the core messages of the text without buying into any of its religious elements. Plus, the author uses a lot of relatable anecdotes from her own life, and a lot of the book's passages are things you should repeat to yourself regularly, such as: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
For Building a Personal Brand
Louder Than Words by Todd Henry
Louder Than Words will help you develop your authentic voice, which author Todd Henry asserts is a necessary step towards living a successful and fulfilling life. He proposes that there are five attributes to resonant work: authenticity, uniqueness, consonance, empathy and timing. In the digital age, this book can be a valuable tool for ensuring you're presenting yourself in a real, and in turn, effective, manner online.
For Life-Changing Health Advice
We should all know by now that the old adage 'let thy medicine be thy food' is one of the best pieces of advice we can follow in our lives. This book champions that approach to health, giving actionable ways we can avoid disease. It provides a list of 12 foods we should eat everyday and includes tons of scientific data to back up its advice. Author Dr. Greger founded Nutritionfacts.org, a non-profit we definitely suggest you bookmark.
For Those Who Loved 'The Secret'
The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
Scary-sounding title aside, this is the book credited for inspiring Tony Robbins and other mainstream self-help gurus. It was written in 1960 by Maxwell Malitz, a plastic surgeon who found that his patients were often (perhaps unsurprisingly) not satisfied with the results of their surgeries. So, he began helping them achieve their goals by first visualizing positive outcomes, based on this premise: "A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment." Sounds a lot like The Secret, right? This is an updated version of the original book, released in 2002.
For Anyone Seeking More Power in Work or Relationships
Friend & Foe by Adam Galinsky & Maurice Schweitzer
Our society's work culture prizes competition while "compromise" is a buzzword of modern-day relationships. Friend & Foe author Adam Galinsky argues that the key to success in every aspect of our lives is a combination of both competition and collaboration. It's an empowering book that will help you walk the line between the two to get more of what you want out of life. It includes practical advice on how to gain power, how to repair trust and how to find the comparisons that will make you happier rather than more dissatisfied. It also posits some surprising concepts, including the idea that sometimes, acting less competent in a job will make you more successful.
For Surviving Traumatic Experiences
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
This is another one you'll want to revisit periodically over time; author Pema Chödrön makes Buddhism intensely accessible in this collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994. When Things Fall Apart can be an incredibly helpful read through tough times, as it posits that dark moments in our lives are actually markers of an impending breakthrough.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This might well have been the book of 2015, and it will forever change the way you look at your material possessions. It'll help you rid your home/life of items that don't "spark joy," and while the process might feel a bit painful, the results are impossible to argue against. If you don't have time to pick up the book quite yet, we suggest you watch this video on organizing your closet based on the author's KonMari method.
For Learning How to Not Give a F*ck
This parody of the aforementioned book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a hilarious read we recommend for those of you who find yourselves investing too much energy in things you really shouldn't give a f*ck about. Such things include 'a bikini body,' the opinions of people you don't know, and more. It will help you mentally de-clutter your life and stop spending time with people and on things that don't matter.