What Makes a Good Self-Help Book?

What makes a good self-help book?

by Phoebe Geary

Whether you want to restructure your lifestyle, maximise your true potential, or simply boost productivity, self-help books can be an invaluable tool for achieving self-fulfilment and happiness. Getting the right book can lead to real life improvement, personal and social change, and increased emotional wellbeing.

But what separates the good from the bad, and how can you ensure that the book you’re reading makes a lasting impact on your life?  At The Book Shelf we specialise in nonfiction and self-improvement, so we’d like to think we know a thing or two about what makes a great self-help book. Here are our top five tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your reads.

#1: A self-help book is only as good as your efforts

Self-help books can be inspiring, but they’re only as useful as you make them. Some people assume that their life will magically change after reading one, and that’s rarely the case. You can read the world’s most amazing self-help book, but if you don’t put in the effort afterwards and work to make changes, nothing will happen. It’s not enough to just sit back and read—make sure you’re actively applying these teachings to real life situations and implementing new habits into your routine.

#2: Not all self-help books are made equal

There are some very famous self-help books out there, but they’re not necessarily the right ones for you personally. Browse before you buy. Read some reviews before committing and ask your friends whether they have any recommendations. They might even have an annotated copy you can borrow with extra notes! Don’t just look at the bestsellers, either—some of the best ones we’ve read aren’t well-known at all. 

#3: Find your niche

Not every self-help book you come across is going to be relevant to you. If you’re looking to improve your mental and spiritual wellbeing, then a book on boosting your work productivity probably isn’t for you. Be realistic and specific about your aims—we usually find the narrower the better. Brainstorm a few ideas, pick one particular aspect of your life you want to develop, and stick with it until you find the right book!

#4: Pretend you’re at school

Remember when you studied English at school and spent hours annotating an old paperback copy of Of Mice and Men? It sounds strange, but it really helps to go back to your school days and make notes on your self-help book as you read. That way, you pick up the information that’s most useful to you, so you can personalise what you’re taking in and maximise your learning. Refer back to these notes later, plan how to move forward with the information, and work on applying it to your life. 

#5: Read, and re-read, and re-read!

So you’ve finally finished reading your self-help book, now what? It might seem a little futile, but re-reading the book again after a short break can help you absorb the information and develop a deeper understanding of what it is really teaching you. You could pick up on something you missed before, or a quote could hold greater importance upon a second read. Re-reading also makes you more likely to apply these lessons in your everyday life, transforming individual actions into healthy habits.

So, what are you waiting for? Head out to your nearest bookshop (we suggest an indie!) or order online to take that first step towards reinventing your life. And remember to always keep your self-help book on hand, so you can flick through it whenever you need to—you never know what’s around the corner!