An Introduction to Self-Help Books

An Introduction to Self-Help Books

Photo Credit: Maria Kotob, Photo Editor

3 non-fiction picks to guide you through the self-help genre

Yusra Shafi, The Mike Contributor

Aren’t all self-help books the same? What is the point of reading a ‘one-size-fits-all’ book, when it clearly cannot offer you personalized advice? If I wanted advice, I’d ask friends or family, so why would I read a book by an author who doesn’t even know me?

These are just a few of the questions that I, like many others, ask myself whenever someone suggests I read a self-help book. Even as an avid reader from childhood who spends at least 1-2 hours a day engaging in reading for pleasure, I have still somehow managed to successfully avoid the entire self-help genre. For the purpose of this article, this week I decided to read three well-known self-help books, commonly recommended to me by friends, YouTubers and Goodreads! 

  1. Atomic Habits : An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear 

GoodReads Rating : 4.36/5

My Rating: 3/5

I’m going to start off by saying that I thought this book was actually decent – and according to Goodreads and The New York Times, most readers thought so as well! While I personally did not think any of the habits were truly groundbreaking or life-changing, I did enjoy how well-written and simple this book was to read. James Clear has compiled the most commonly given motivational advice and arranged it all in an accessible and convenient manner. This definitely helped in alleviating the stress that comes with that kind of advice, and the reader can truly understand how to implement and pursue habits such as ‘habit stacking’ and the ‘goldilocks’ rule.

For readers of a Psychology background, there are some great explanations of classic psychology experiments and how they have influenced our understanding of motivation. These explanations are complemented with anecdotal evidence of successful and well-known celebrities, which might be particularly intriguing for people fascinated with Pop culture icons. Each chapter is also summed up with a handy-dandy point-style summary!

  1. Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty 

GoodReads Rating : 4.26/5

My Rating: 3/5

I was excited about Think Like a Monk – really, I truly was! The amount of times I’ve seen this particular self-help book recommended is absolutely insane, especially if you consider it was published very recently (September 2020). However, while I thought that Shetty was engaging in his writing style, and had some extremely rich experiences to share, there was just some information that I considered to be thoroughly repetitive. Despite the fact that I felt the content lacked some ‘motivational oomph,’ I very much enjoyed the fact that Shetty gives readers a lot of important information about Monks. He definitely describes how they think and how sincere their quests are in an interesting and respectful manner. 

  1. Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink 

GoodReads Rating : 3.94/5

My Rating: 4/5

This is the book that encapsulates my personal definition of the self-help genre! Interesting, short and to the point,  Pink draws on the works of renowned motivational research Psychologist, Edward L. Deci. He describes Deci’s experiments and findings in such a gripping way, and, unlike most self-help authors, focuses more on internal and intrinsic motivations, rather than external or extrinsic factors. Pink talks about how our lives are spent propelled by external motivations, rather than a true and genuine motivation that stems from within. It explains the principles of Self-Determination Theory (SDT), and how to employ them in a business or corporate setting, and does so in an interesting way, and backed up with the appropriate scientific evidence. Having said that, I do think that this book contains a lot of jargon at times, and uses too many words to describe very few things, which may be annoying for some readers. 

And that’s a wrap! Although I started this self-help book journey with some serious doubts about their impact, I can truly say that each of these books provided me with various insights into the inner workings of motivations and drives. While I haven’t exactly become a fan of self-help books yet, I’ve definitely become more open to the genre, and can’t wait to find my next read!