When we find ourselves in unsettled times, we turn to books for insight and guidance. And we aren’t the only ones: more people than ever are looking to books about wellness, self-improvement, and self-care, in search of advice on how to tackle stress and self-defeating behaviors head on. The best of these books have a fierce new attitude: today’s self-help isn’t about taking baby steps, it’s about grabbing life by the lapels and shaking it until happiness falls out of its pockets. Here are ten of the best books knocking us out of our rut and helping us make the move toward true growth.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
This just might be the bible of the new self-help generation. Where the old-school approach treated happiness as a prize everyone deserves, Manson argues—forcibly and with a lot of sharp wit—that it’s better to be honest about your own limitations, and seek to adjust how you approach life instead of deciding life should be adjusted to suit your needs. Bracing and sometimes alarming, this book is a dash of cold water to the face that so many of us need. You will be happier for having read it, because the best way to start changing your life for the better is to start seeing it with clear eyes.
Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis
Hollis, founder of TheChicSite.com, writes a funny and warmhearted book imploring women to stop comparing themselves to each other and feeling like no amount of achievement will ever be enough. Hollis is up front about her own failings, relating a childhood in which she learned that accomplishments got praise, leading to a life spent living in a pressure cooker. These tendencies spilled into her love life, and Hollis, now a happily married mother of four, is brutally honest about her own missteps with her future husband. The end result is a book that will get women to take a step back, take a breath, and think hard about what they want instead of what’s expected of them.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero
Sincero’s bracing book offers an honest and personal system for achieving your goals, in which the focus is on getting over yourself. We all have dreams, and we all have limitations. Getting past the latter to achieve the former is often a matter of seeing reality and charting a path. Sincero offers advice drawn from her own often hilarious fails to help you put together a vision of the future you want and to get past the many, many ways you will try to self-sabotage. Sincero’s fun and edgy guidebook is essential reading for everyone fighting their own worst enemy—themselves.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
The greatest threat to happiness is lack of control, the sense that the world is swirling around you and things are happening without your permission. That chaotic energy can wear you down and make you want to give up, but renowned psychologist Peterson offers an off-center way of looking at the world that tames those wild currents and shows you how to bring order to the chaos. What’s new and great about his approach is how he lets his wide-ranging curiosity and broad knowledge inform the discussion, offering a series of fascinating lectures that go from ancient Egypt to skate parks around the world—because the new approach to self-help isn’t about boring theory, it’s about real knowledge applied to real problems with energy and intelligence.
Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Mindfulness”: it’s a term you hear all the time, an omnipresent buzzwords with vaguely New Age connotations. But mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools, and Kabat-Zinn’s book not only explains what, exactly, meditation is and how to go about it, it also explains why it’s worth pursuing. For anyone uncertain how meditation can help them take control of their lives and be happier, the answer is simple—it’s all about paying attention, shedding the distractions, and getting to the core of everything. In plain, honest language, Kabat-Zinn walks you through why it’s worth it.
Zen as F*ck: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, by Monica Sweeney
Today’s happiness seekers aren’t the quiet spiritualists of the past—they’re warriors. Sweeney offers the ideal mindfulness book for folks who have to balance their rage and sarcasm with their sincere desire for centeredness and happiness. Putting aside all frippery and spacey proclamations, this book channels your butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners attitude and funnels it into a mindful and hopeful guide that’s as funny and fierce as you are. For anyone who has rejected meditation or yoga as not for them, this is the book that will get you to zen.
The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu, by Katja Pantzar
Today’s self-helpers aren’t content to sit around waiting for knowledge to be delivered—they go out and get it for themselves. After reading that the Finns are the happiest people in the world, Pantzar moved to Finland to find out why. Her discoveries about the “Finnish Way” are remarkable in their power. Insights including the way that exercise outside the gym is powerful medicine, or how nature is healing and energizing, or how personal courage and grit can be a sustaining force within ourselves will offer solace to her fellow happiness seekers.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer
Singer asks a powerful question that gets straight to the point: who are we? What makes us us? The answer is obvious once you think about it: it’s out consciousness, our thinking, observing, intuitive self. Singer goes on to discuss how developing our consciousness and our sense of self—our control over ourselves—can help us to heal from anything, get over anything, achieve anything. Singer takes the reader on a journey into themselves to identify and tap into the incredible power we all carry within ourselves, then takes us back outside to show us how to use it once we have it in our hands. Forget exterior forces—you already have everything you need to be better.
Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life, by Monica Sweeney
Everyone knows the combination of sweet and sour that comes with holding a grudge, or picking at a scab, emotional or physical. Sweeney knows how debilitating holding onto negativity can be, and has some profane and irreverent—but powerful—ideas on how you can let go of all that drags you down through journaling and related exercises. This journal will encourage you to rage onto the page, and experience the power of exorcising your own demons your own damn self.
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Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life, by Gary John Bishop
Many people know that feeling of weight, of unhappiness, of being so twisted up you can’t even figure out what the first step toward fixing everything should be. The difference today is, people aren’t willing to accept it any more. Bishop has a refreshingly simple reason that we feel this way: we’re in our own way, and all we have to do is stop talking down to and insulting ourselves. For anyone who has called themselves names and experienced self-hate, Bishop has seven powerful assertions that will help untwist your thoughts and offer true clarity so you can begin being the better version of yourself.