Self Help Books

Self Help Books, not a topic that I've been aware that we've spoken about here.

New Year is a time when resolutions are made and cynically on my part, quickly broken. Although that comment could be unkind on my part. (I made a resolution to be kinder and more polite to people. So far kept; though I've yet to meet this guy who really raises my hackles high!)

Here's three books from yesterdays Mail on Sunday Femail Magazine.

1. The secrets of happiness by Ben Renshaw (Vermillion, £4.99)

If January has left you feeling down in the dumps, then discover the secrets of true happiness by dipping into this handy, handbag-sized book of tips from world famous happiness guru Ben Renshaw.

What it offers: Ben Renshaw, who runs The Happiness Project, an organisation offering courses on happiness and success, presents 100 practical and psychological tips to ever-lasting happiness.

This paperback explores the concept of happiness by uncovering the blocks that may have prevented you from experiencing it in the past. From embracing the past to learning how to think yourself happy, true fulfilment is never far away.

2. Diet Trials by Lyndel Costain (BBC, £6.99)

Did you know that making your bed can eat up 575 calories and carrying your shopping home can burn up four times that many? With obesity set to become our biggest health problem, state dietician Lyndel Costain explores the causes of weight gain and offers simple strategies to a healthier way of eating.

What it offers: Six steps to changing your food habits designed to keep weight off, protect you from disease and give you a sharper mind. Unlike many fashionable diet books, this paperback offers sound advice based on scientific research on how to improve your weight loss goals in a safe way. Complete with fact boxes, nutritional information, exercise advice, it teaches you indispensable survival skills to keeping weight off for good!

3. Boost your self-esteem by Pete Cohen (Thorsons, £4.99)

If you think you're in need of some confidence building, then Pete Cohen's your man. He's a trained sports psychologist and life coach and with qualifications in business consultancy, he claims to boost your self-esteem, however low it is.

What it offers: Twelve easy steps on how to believe in yourself. According to Cohen, low self-esteem is learned, rather than inherited, behaviour. Simply deciding to change all this is the first step to improving your self image, he says. The next eleven steps show you how to put this into practise by setting goals, breaking bad habits and fulfilling your self worth. Jam packed with advice, exercises and questions to ask yourself, you'll soon be glowing with confidence.

Any opinion about these titles?

Veronique certainly has .... she already told us that! :-)

The OED defines self help as "the theory that individuals should provide for their own support and improvement in society" It doesn't say - without any guidance!!

I think we are all agreed that anybody who imagines that buying the book is a miracle cure is doomed to disappointment!!


To maybe take something positive from this thread; are there any self help books that members have found to be beneficial?

Just like self-help books in many cases!

Now we're getting silly! :)

Perhaps somebody might write something like a 'Consumer's Guide to Shoplifting', a useful help yourself book for kleptomaniacs ;-)

Got it now.

If people want to 'help themselves' then a book is not a fix-it-all. To help oneself does not mean going to seek help, which is what buying a book does. I wonder how many people ever read, use, believe or anything else what is in them. Do they get past chapter (if not merely page) one? Before having a look at responses here I had a look at Amazon and a couple of other lists. Errrr... For every possible topic there are so many that they either totally confuse between the mish-mash of methods or a random purchase sets the reader up for something ill suited to them, thus is bound to fail. So I guess they are there for recycling at the paper factory, to be rendered into pulp then reproduced as packing cases to send out the next consignment of useless D.I.Y self-no-help-really books. In fact, I think the expression self-help is oxymoronic when it means books are required to help oneself. There is one I like though, The Oxford English Dictionary Third Edition, or OED3, which I have on a set of CDs that I won in a kind of lottery. That helps me a lot!

I hadn't considered that Alexander! - Strange - I wrote quite a long reply which disappeared when I added it!

I think for a lot of people asking for help can be a very difficult thing to do - even when asking a professional! Combine that with the seductive idea that anything can be solved in 6 or 10 easy steps, and it could make things worse rather than better!

As an example - which I hadn't considered as I was focusing on the "diet" area rather than "self esteem" or "happiness" - a member of my family suffers from manic depression. (They don't call it that any more though it actually describes the situation very well!) The prospect of them or us dealing with either the "manic" phase or the "depressed" phase without help is quite scary to be honest!

Most of the previous comments were dealing with those who produce "self help" books with the aim of lining their pockets rather than actually providing any help! I suggested that lots of self help books work as long as the instructions are followed! Well - I can only imagine the "train wreck" that would occur in our family if no professional help was involved!

Alexander, I don’t understand your comment. Can you explain?

I am not 100% sure that the self help books are the problem! Surely lots of people buy them for the wrong reasons (ie thinking it will be a quick-fix miracle-cure) and then don't follow the often good advice that is found within!!

I am not saying that all self help books are actually helpful - what I am trying to say is that we shouldn't write them all off. Some are genuine and useful and the reason they don't work is often that the "instructions" aren't followed!!

Sounds as though I am not quite as cycnical as some other SFNers on this subject!! Or maybe I am more gullible ..... I don't know! But I think sometimes they can be really helpful (see Veronique's comment above!)

Thanks for your reply, Veronique. I am genuinely pleased to hear that you found a book that helped you so much.
In reality we all have help we turn to. For me if I’m angry it would be listening to Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, another crutch would be TS Eliot’s Prufrock, or I take a lot of comfort from the Gospel of Luke.
Self help books are a necessary part of our lives but aren’t always found on the shelves in WH Smiths.

Help the author - Day by day, I'm getting richer...'

I suspect that self help books largely help the author. "Day by day in every way I am getting better and better" wasn't that the formula in the early 20th Century? Snake oil solutions as far as I can see.

I think it is the "Magic Fix" element that makes them so appealing!! Just taking the "diet" example - I KNOW I need to eat less and move more - but somehow still succumb to temptation and eat more than I should and move less than I ought to! But - the seductive thing is thinking that if I buy THIS book then perhaps it will help me to actually DO IT! Though why this one should be any more helpful than any of the gazillion others that I have considered is a mystery!!

However, I do think that this particular book is perhaps "better" than some others in that it isn't (or doesn't seem to be) pedalling a diet fad of it's own - but it does seem to suggest that it will help to work out why you eat too much and find alternatives! Also - it mentions 6 easy steps, which is quite appealing!

I suspect that Publishers may feel that almost any Self Help Book is likely to be a mooney-spinner as there are so many people who think there will be a "quick fix" to all life's little problems! Realistically we all know that there isn't - but somehow (going back to the diet again) - any "trick" that will stop me falling back into my old habits and eating too much is worth a try .... (See - that is how they suck you in!!!)

I will investigate further - as there are a number of diet books like this one - which come with DIY psycho-analysis - and perhaps finding out WHY we eat too much is the clue to change ....

When I worked in WH Smith, there were a ridiculous amount of Self Help books, and I'm sure there are still. I feel that people buy them hoping that they will find a magic fix in the pages.

You've said it for dieting: simple, I started running and gave up starches, chocolate and cake. I lost over a stone and a half.

I believe a healthy diet also means a healthy mind. Balanced, fruit and veg. Cut back on the alcohol and no illegal drugs. Look at the type of people you get on Jeremy Kyle (go on admit you watch it!) they just look unhealthy, which I think is some of the reason why they can't sort their own problems out.

This doesn't suit everyone I know, but out their are many religions that can give people stability in their lives.

For me there are better ways to spend money.


Interesting that on the BBC Home Page today there was a link entitled "Self Help books "treat depression". So I wondered if your discussion was going to follow that line!

I own, but haven't entirely read "The Happiness Project" book - which does have some interesting ideas! I guess that almost everyone will feel some empathy with one or more of the subject areas of the three Self Help Books that you mention! I know I am tempted to find out more about certainly two, and maybe all three of them!!

It would be interesting to hear from anybody who has had success with Self Help books - though I do think (gut feeling rather than scientific opinion) that often we know what we need to do already - it is actually DOING it that is challenging! If following a pre-ordained pathway helps achieve the goal then I am happy with that!!

For example - we all know that in order to lose weight we need to eat less/better and exercise more! However, how many of us actually achieve that?? Something (anything) that is helpful has to be worth a try ... I think!