Self help books are a mixed bunch, and knowing which ones are useful and full of real workable advice and deciding which ones are nothing but useless drivel and potentially destructive ideas can be difficult. All of them promise the same things – increased happiness and wealth, more confidence and probably a hot girlfriend/boyfriend to boot, but how they get to that point is varied to say the least.
Having read a lot of self development books in my time I’m well aware of this dichotomy and I’ve encountered more than my fair share of drivel that I end up feeling embarrassed to have on my bookshelf. Books that claim to tap into ‘quantum physics’ but clearly have completely misunderstood the science, books that hinge entirely on adopting an extreme and suspect new lifestyle whether taking up a cult or starting a raw-vegan diet, and books that offer such glaringly obvious advice as to be completely superfluous.
But that said, I’ve also found some real gems among all this garbage and some of the books I’ve read have given me really useful advice that has brought tangible and concrete results.
In doing so, I’ve fortunately been able to identify the traits that make a great self-help book and those that just don’t. Here is some advice you can use on how to seek out the most useful self help books and avoid those that will do more damage than good.
The first thing to look at is the author and here you need to decide if they’re someone that you think can be trusted to impart good advice. Going with an unknown is sometimes necessary, but if you want a sure thing then look for a book that’s written by someone you look up to and admire. Some of my favorite books were written by Sylvester Stallone, Richard Branson and Lord Alan Sugar – I knew I liked the ways their minds worked so it was a safe bet I’d enjoy their writing and advice.
You can also tell a bit about the author just by their writing style. Are they self congratulating? Or do they seem removed enough from the subject to impart actual advice in an objective manner?
The best self help books should be based on concrete science. A book like ’59’ is great because it draws on scientific journals for its advice. Avoid anything that sounds like pseudoscience (quantum physics does not tell us anything new about the brain), or where the author seems to hold extreme views (I’m sorry but raw food diets aren’t for everyone and they should know that).
No matter how good the advice in a self-help book is it’s not going to be any use to you unless you can actually bear to read it. When you’re in the library, try flicking through a few and see if they’re written in a manner that’s easy to read and entertaining.
Of course if you’re unsure, then reading reviews of the books you’re looking at can give you some guidance – but make sure that you think about the reliability of the review you’re reading too.
Jeff Wright is a social activist and tries to spread awareness about improvement of the society. He says that the Alcohol rehab centres in Ontario are doing a great job in helping people give up their addiction.