Self-help books are undergoing somewhat of a renaissance lately. They’ve evolved from patronising mulch into acerbic guides filled with life hacks that really work.
When you think of “self-help” you probably conjure images of cheesy motivational manuals for yuppies keen to harness their entrepreneurial power. Or, books aimed at lonely, cat-loving spinsters seeking guidance on finally – finally! – bagging that husband. You might even want to hypnotise yourself thin, rich, likeable, confident or otherwise.
I looked into the bestselling self-help books of all time and the results confirmed the stereotype. There were the spiritual titles (You Can Heal Your Life, The Seat of the Soul ), the brain trainers (Thinking Fast and Slow, The Magic of Thinking Big), the alpha male-authored guides (Awaken the Giant Within, As a Man Thinketh), and, possibly my favourite, the stating-the-bloody-obvious manuals (There Is Nothing Wrong With You).
Yup, all real titles. And, all depressingly narrow prescriptions for what should make your life complete.
Now, thankfully, we are moving away from this patronising tradition into a much more accessible collection of self-help books. In fact, the term “self-help book” is probably redundant as the genre has moved gently into the realms of honest memoir with a hint of advice.
Here are five self-help books with sass that will give you a dose of life advice with a load of laughs (and some cries) on the side:
How to be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan
This is a wonderful book that has had me howling with laughter since I got it. Daisy talks candidly about her early years, struggles to become a journalist and the things she’s learned while navigating the perilous roads through friendship, confidence, sex and relationships. She covers everything from wanking to how to get dressed, with advice on mental health and loving your body in-between.
It’s an engaging, witty read that I’ll guarantee will resonate with you. (And, who doesn’t want that jumper from the cover?)
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
These two books are an illuminating tutorial on how to prioritise the things that really matter in your life. Sarah Knight talks you through the process of identifying those things and then categorising them so that you can better manage the chaos of your life.
Both books are filled with practical advice that will make you honestly reassess the things you currently think are important. After reading them, you’ll have streamlined your to-do list, identified your priorities and have a plan for focusing on them. Plus, some foul language to throw at those who stand in your way!
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
Bryony’s autobiographical book is about achieving a “happy life with a mixed-up mind”. She writes openly about a life-long struggle with OCD and how it led to depression, eating disorders and drug use.
The book is brutally honest about the impact – and cumulative effect – of mental illness, and provides practical strategies for coping. It’s raw and emotional but unrelentingly positive in its belief in what we can achieve in the face of our internal and external challenges.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
This is not strictly a self-help book but its life-affirming message will help put the issues you’re dealing with into perspective.
Marian Keegan was a 22-year-old student who tragically died in a car crash just after graduating from Yale. The book is a collection of her writing, pulled together by her friends and parents after her death, that sets out universal struggles to find self-fulfillment. It considers “how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world” and will leave you feeling grateful, and focused on what you can do next.
These five books certainly don’t fit the traditional self-help books mould but they’ll give you the food for thought you might need to make positive changes in your life. If not, they’ll just make you laugh (and, maybe, cry a little bit).