When it comes to our personal wellness, no one person has all the answers. Life programs us in individual ways based on our experiences (including our traumas), leaving us with inherent blind spots and areas we need to develop. Cue self-help books. In 2020 and 2021 especially, we could all use a little advice from experts whose work focuses on personal growth, love and relationships, burnout and more. Here is our self-help reading list to help guide us to our best selves.
Self help books to boost your self-love & understanding
Radically unapologetic, Sonya Renee Taylor’s account explores and celebrates the variety and diversity of the human body. This work breaks down the systems of oppression, and how they’ve been used to injure our relationships with our own bodies. The Body Is Not an Apology offers self-love as the balm to heal these wounds.
The idea of saying no, and effectively setting personal boundaries (even with your mom) may not be intuitive to many, but it is vital to enabling us to live a life that we’re happy with, on our own terms. Author Nedra Glover Tawwab provides tools for how to best do that while remaining authentic to who you are.
If Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Carrie Brandshaw taught us anything, it’s that ultimately it’s the relationship with ourselves that matters most. Writer Lisa Marie Rankin serves as a practical spiritual guide, offering age-old wisdom to present-day scenarios like dating, sex, careers, divorce, conflict and more.
Canadian OB/GYN and women’s health advocate (as well as New York Time columnist) Jen Gunter demystifies female sexual health, shedding light on an oft-tucked away topic: the vagina and vulva. Here’s everything you need to know but were too shy to ask.
Self help books for mental & emotional wellness
We’ve heard of IQ, but did you know that Emotional Intelligence is a better indicator of a person’s success? Daniel Goleman’s critical work is not new, but it is absolutely essential in understanding how your rational and emotional mind combine to either serve you or hinder you (and those around you). A must-read.
Not new, this classic is an important read at any time but especially during periods of hardship. While we cannot control every aspect of our lives, and bad things can (and do) happen, so how can we tap into our best life despite that? Dr. van der Kolk, one of the world’s most recognized experts on trauma, unpacks what happens to both body and brain following traumatic events, and how these experiences compromise sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control and trust.
Bestselling author, journalist and entrepreneur dives into her experiences struggling and managing chronic anxiety. She puts her investigative skills to examine this “lifetime companion,” looking at triggers and treatments, interviewing mental health experts, philosophers and fellow sufferers.
“You can travel the world looking for yourself, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how can you find it?” asks this more philosophical ode to knowing yourself. Jedidiah Jenkins explores eight subjects that give life meaning and help define us as individuals: ego, family, home, friendship, love, work, death, the soul.
There are so many benefits to incorporating a mindfulness practice in your day, but knowing where to start can feel daunting. Patricia Collard offers easy 5- and 10-minute practices to help you better navigate the day’s stresses and ultimately build more peace into your life.
Self help books for your love life
Those familiar with vagabond and writer of Wild (since reworked into a film starring Reese Witherspoon) know the author also penned a once-anonymous regular love advice column for The Rumpus. Here are the lessons learned through those letters. Witty and wild, here is all her best love advice.
Self help books to improve your habits & manage burnout
Want to live your best life, but not sure where to start? Marina Khidekel and team offer a place a good starting point by showing readers how to incorporate healthy new habits to unlock fullest potential; by recognizing that you don’t have to sacrifice your well-being, you are actually much better equipped to thrive.
And if you’re looking for more small-scale habits and tweaks you can work into your life on the daily, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones is another great read to add to your personal library with.
From the writer who brought you the Plant Paradox follows a book about chronic fatigue. Yes, ours is a burnout generation, and this book offers up a plan for how we can boost our energy and revitalize our mental and physical stamina in a healthy way.
Self Help books to supercharge your career
Smashing ceilings, Elaine Walteroth shares her journey from a media and fashion journalist to finding herself at the helm of a movement leading the next generation of change-makers. She talks lessons learned on race, identity, and making your own success.
Author Luvvie Ajayi is know for her wit, warmth and truth bombs. Facing that ever-present inner-monster, Fear, Jones shows us how to get out of our own way and lead boldly to our more realized future by sharing her own experiences of dealing with the Imposter Syndrome (she once nearly bailed on doing a career-defining TED talk). We’re willing to bet, she’s not alone.
Self Help books to boost your brain
The idea that our brain is a fixed entity is long gone. There are steps each of us can take to help our brains flourish today and years to come. Neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta breaks these down into applicable practice.
Related: Reading Recs: The 10 best books of 2020.