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Times are stressful, dude—and too often, our stress is exacerbated by our own doom-scrolling through influencer wellness tips, hot takes on nuclear weapons from some bro in a basement, and that guy who makes gourmet dog meals on TikTok. Marshall McLuhan is absolutely rolling in his grave (even though we think he’d dig Love Is Blind), because we’re pretty sure humans weren’t meant to consume information like this, and sure doesn’t feel like it’s helping us feel any better.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.
Sometimes, the best cure for anxiety is a weighted blanket and some chamomile tea. Other times, the healing isn’t found through smart gadgets, but analog tricks such as closing your eyes, meditating, or cracking open a self-help book. We know, we know: The term “self-help book” alone makes us feel like an IRL Cathy Comic [rolls off cliff], but when we look past the unfair, snarky treatment so many self-help books get in movies and TV, we actually realize that self-help books are… just books. Do you remember the craze of The Secret, which basically tried to tell poor people that they couldn’t afford a Lexus because they didn’t “manifest” hard enough or some shit? Well, please rest assured—that’s not our jam. No, we prefer books and memoirs that aren’t afraid to impart wisdom that hits the perfect note between support and tough love; we would like a kiss on the forehead, and our very own Cher saying, “Snap out of it!” as she tucks us into bed. The following may not all be self-help books in the most traditional sense, but they’ve helped us work through relationship issues, deal with anxiety, address financial woes, and find healthier ways to communicate with our boomer parents over the holidays about financial planning.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal FreedomIf you see this on your sneaky link’s nightstand, they just might be a keeper. Don Miguel Ruiz’s best-selling book The Four Agreements has been a classic ever since it came out in the 1990s, and proposed a code of living based upon ancient Toltec beliefs that can help folks dismantle their self-limiting habits. “It offers succinct and approachable advice about how to behave in life,” said Drew Barrymore (yes!!) about the book. “I found [it] at a very hard time in my life, and it rescued me.” It’s also a best-seller on Amazon with over 74,000 reviews, where fans are saying, “Once I began the chapter on the First Agreement, I found myself resting my eyes on phrases, sentences, and truths that just stood out from the page with child-like simplicity and tremendous depth.”
The Best Self-Help Books for Motivation and Personal Growth
More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)Elaine Welteroth has been busy, man. The American journalist, former Project Runway judge, and Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue has seen it all in the inspiring but fickle fashion industry, and her book about “claiming space for you are” won the 2020 NAACP award for Outstanding Literary Award, and has a 4.8-star rating on Amazon for its honest, heartwarming advice about how to carve out a place for your own identity, no matter what field you aspire to work in. “I had so many emotions while reading this book,” writes one reviewer. “It’s written like a big sister sharing her story and life lessons.” Cynicism and Magic: Intelligence and Intuition on the Buddhist PathStraight from our own VICE editor’s picks, Cynicism and Magic isn’t a self-help book in the most traditional sense, but it is one of the most digestible introductory books about Buddhism by one of the religion’s most iconic 1970s leaders, the late Chögyam Trungpa. It’s a light and inspiring read for anyone looking to restructure their sense of meaning, discipline, and values while deepening their own spirituality. “To read this work is to experience its title, not as words but as experience,” writes one Amazon reviewer, “Trungpa exposes the spiritual materialism that plagues us [...] We need a healthy cynicism to detect the subtle ways charlatans seek to betray our trust for self-aggrandizement, power, and money.” That’s the message at the heart of the book, which also walks readers through basic Buddhist concepts such as karma, the structure of ego, the paramitas, and the bodhisattva. Buy a hard copy for annotating, and a book-on-tape, because it’s narrated by Devendra Banhart.
The Feeling Good Handbook[Clears throat in As-Seen-on-TV.] Do you experience anxiety, panic attacks, or have any phobias? Do you tend to have a self-defeating attitude, and want to learn how to communicate better with others? The Feeling Good Handbook is Dr. David D. Burns’ guide—and we cannot stress the word “guide” enough—to help overcome some of those obstacles with real life tips and practices from a professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. If you’re not one for sappy first-person memoirs/are a Virgo, you’ll dig his approach to self-help, which critics and therapists like Dr. Albert Ellis have called “clear, systematic, [and] forceful," and which Amazon readers praise for its comprehensive, step-by-step chapters. “The program begins by explaining the different ways we distort our thinking,” writes one reviewer. “For example, ‘mind-reading’ is one of our distorted thinking patterns which is when we presume to know what others think of us, our actions, etc. [...] The book describes 10 [of those] cognitive distortions [and introduces] exercises to identify negative thoughts, understand the distortion at play, and reframing the thought in a positive way.”
The Best Self-Help Books for Managing Anxiety
How to Stop Worrying and Start LivingAh, good old Dale Carnegie—this guy was one of the 20th century's biggest media personalities when it came to self-help books, and specifically those on building better sales and interpersonal skills. Charles Manson infamously devoured his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People while in prison, but that’s another story. The fact is, Carnagie is good. He’s clear and concrete in what his anti-anxiety tips can help bring to your life (ex. An extra hour every day) and reviewers on Amazon say it has helped them minimize stress over financial situations, politics, work, and more. “This book has changed my thoughts and perspective about life,” says one fan. “It's surprising that a book written decades ago is still relevant to us in the 21st century.”Unfuck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and TriggersSome peeps need an extra helping of humor/F-bombs to dive into the looming topic of anxiety, and Unfuck Your Brain is definitely one of the more boisterous, successul self-help hits out there. “The author/doctor writes how I talk in everyday life, with gritty analogies” writes one reviewer of the 4.6-star rated book, which was written by Dr. Faith G. Harper, a licensed professional counselor, certified sexologist, certified clinical hypnotherapist, and certified applied clinical nutritionist (amongst other impressive credentials). “She does a wonderful job providing a crash course on what someone is going through when they are having panic attacks and then supplements facts with resources in case you wanted to learn more
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—LoveThey say the heart has a mind of its own (they do… right?), but the neuroscientist and sociologist authors of Attached want to help you actually understand the science behind romantic attachment, so that you can use that understanding to have better relationships and dismantle some of your own toxic dating patterns. It’s got the coveted “#1 best-seller” sticker on Amazon, where it has a 4.7-star rating and over 10,000 reviews. “I have been in therapy on and off,” writes one reviewer, “and been in many failed relationships. Yet not one therapist ever mentioned the words ‘adult attachment theory’ to me [...] this book opened my eyes to what really happens in relationships.”Just Send the Text: An Expert's Guide to Letting Go of the Stress and Anxiety of Modern DatingWe know, we know—every generation has had its unique woes and hoops to jump through when it comes to dating, from the days of filling out dance cards to the era when horny Victorians would exchange locks of hair. Today’s dating world—both analog and old school—can be just as confusing, and the author of Just Send the Text wants readers to navigate it with less stress. “[It’s] everything I needed to traverse dating in my twenties,” writes one reviewer of the book, which was penned by Elite Daily senior sex and dating writer Candice Jalili, “[it’s] such a valuable, hilarious and relevant read!”
The Best Self-Help Books for Dating
Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to DreamgirlSherry Argov’s iconic, spicy Y2K dating manual is having a renaissance thanks in part to the Bimbofication movement, and the book’s many viral TikToks (there are millions of videos under #whymenlovebitches) that explore just how well the advice holds up today. While some of the tips are admittedly dated, so many of them still ring true, and the tone of the book as a whole will make you feel like you have a 24/7 personal cheerleader teaching you how to prioritize your needs in a relationship, undo internalized misogyny, and make sure that “if he breaks your heart, you marry rich and invite him to the wedding.”
Broke Millennial Takes On Investing: A Beginner's Guide to Leveling Up Your MoneyAs millennials, we're admittedly anxious about saving money for old age—but we also can’t take one more lecture from our beloved boomer parents/friends about cutting back on avocado toast to buy a house in a cul-de-sac. “The conversational tone was a real strength of the book,” writes a reviewer of Broke Millennial Takes On Investing, which was written by fellow millennial Erin Lowry and aimed at providing concrete steps for building wealth and diversifying investments, “I think Erin knows her audience and does a good job reaching us.”
The Best Self-Help Books for Personal Finance
Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole“Tiffany ‘The Budgetnista’ Aliche was born to teach,” writes one reviewer about Get Good with Money, which has over 3,000 reviews and 4.9-star rating on Amazon; “This book is a lovely balance of a roadmap to ‘financial wholeness’ and a relatable memoir about her journey to rebuild her life after the 2008 recession [...] Nothing preachy or condescending about it. Being a preschool teacher, this is an engaging, accessible, and actionable guide to help folks at all stages of their careers.” Music to our ears, given that boring and haughty advice is one of the things we fear most about seeking help for our finances. Money: A Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really WantUnderstanding how to build wealth is one thing, but finding a way out of debt is a whole other can of worms. Money: A Love Story is author Kate Northrup’s guide to not only building a game plan out of debt, but to being honest with yourself about where and why you spend money. How does spending affect you, emotionally? What’s at the root of purchasing habits you try to ignore? “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like I have been,” writes one reviewer, “Kate’s book is so understanding. She empathizes with you. I felt like I could open up to WHY I have avoided money for so long. She addresses the emotions behind it, first, and that was really necessary for me.” Cheers to helping yourself. The next round of Mellow Corn is on us!
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.