5 Brilliant ‘Self-Help’ Books That Don’t Make Me Cringe

pile of books on office shelves

I’m a self-help book cynic these days.

A few years ago, I was more inclined to spend time reading ridiculously-titled tombs that claim to have the secrets to making my dreams come true and the ultimate tips for manifesting a million pounds by the end of the week, for example.

(“All you need is a Pritt Stick and some old copies of Chat magazine” etc….

I’m half-joking here because I really DO want to create a vision board but keep putting it off, which is clearly why I’m not a millionaire yet.)

Anyway, I haven’t got much time for self-help hokum any more. I’ve read approximately five books in their entirety in last two years, thanks to a sleep-averse toddler and a decreasing attention span.

I need to be 100% gripped by a new book if I’m going to make it to the end, or remember any of its contents a week later. Tough crowd, eh?

I was therefore quite chuffed and surprised to find three books last year that I loved, and which really made a difference to my business mindset.

(Honestly, I’d be eye-rolling at myself, probably, if I hadn’t read them – but they really are good. Note also that they’re not new but new to me; finger on the pulse as always, ho ho.)

Anyway, I’ve listed them below, alongside two other self-help classics – sorry for using such a gross term – that are worth picking up if you need a big blast of positivity this January.

small pile of notebooks and books with a pair of glasses on top

Side-note: many people who know me will have heard me spout the virtues of my number 1 self-help tomb, GET THE GUY by Matthew Hussey, which ultimately changed my life overnight. Ridiculous but true story – which you can read all about here!

I’ve not included GTG in today’s post because it’s about love and relationships rather than BIZNESS….However, I still think there’s a lot of wisdom in it about knowing your worth and avoiding a scarcity mindset.

On the other side of that, note that the five books I’ve listed here – while I have used them to help me in business – are NOT heavily practical business guides; they are mostly about changing your thought patterns, with advice that can be applied to different areas of life.

Right, onto the fab five:


  1. Playing Big by Tara Mohr

I first came across this book after hearing a few people reference it on social media, and even with my cynical head on I found myself underlining pages and pages of it.

I’ve since bought it as a gift for a couple of friends and recommended it to many more – it is that good.

Tara Mohr digs deep into how, as women, we’re often conditioned from school (if not before) about how to think and behave, in a way that is very different to how boys are taught, and how these long-held beliefs can often hold us back once we get into the working world.

She explores how girls are usually told to put their heads down and ‘do the work’ and move onto the next, without any emphasis placed on self-promotion and arguing against others’ viewpoints, for example. Indeed, these skills are sometimes actively discouraged in school, yet can be the very things that help us get ahead in the workplace.

She also talks in-depth about feedback, and how IT IS JUST OTHER FOLKS’ OPINIONS WHICH ARE NO BETTER THAN YOURS, which was truly revolutionary for me.

A brilliant book that I now want to go and read again for another little pep talk.


  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is fun and funny and packed with excellent stories; a little treat from start to finish.

Elizabeth is an author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love amongst other things, and it’s essentially her take on how she persevered with writing.

It resonated with me from the writing angle, yet as she points out, the lessons she outlines can be applied to whatever creative pursuit you choose to partake in.

Again, I want to revisit it and pick out more little gems of wisdom from it, but from the top of my head I remember loving the part about being ‘a disciplined half-ass’ – which means don’t strive for perfection, just keep showing up, doing, creating – and the bit about throwing your work out there ‘with a light touch’ and seeing what happens.

In essence then, don’t take your work too seriously, don’t overthink it, just keep DOING.


  1. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Yes, the title is up there in the cringe stakes with Get The Guy but sometimes you’ve got to go with it. This bold-as-brass book is no-nonsense and straight-talking and is a big kick up the bottom for anyone feeling a bit ‘meh’.

There’s a great section in it about how the author started a punk band in her teens with a friend which ended up being a success because they didn’t give two hoots about any of it, they just wanted to see how much they could get away with.

Similar to the advice in Big Magic about having a light touch, I believe there is definitely something in that.


  1. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

One of the classics. I think this was the first self-help book I ever read. I found it in a charity shop in Crouch End in London, where I was living at the time, about 10 years ago.

I’d just quit my job and was about to turn 30 and go to Australia – although I’d actually quit my job about three months too early, because I hated it so much.

I ended up freelancing at a couple of agencies before I went on my travels, and realised that I was very good at my job but that the endless pressures of my previous role had squashed my confidence so much that I’d stopped believing it.

I remember reading this book and having a lightbulb moment about how THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS and about HOW YOU THINK CREATES YOUR REALITY. Honestly, I’d never, ever considered these things before.

(Was I too busy working, drinking wine, copping off with unsavoury men? Maybe.)


  1. How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie

I’ve not read this book for about seven or eight years, yet I’ve just had a nosey at the copy that sits in my office and am quite amazed at the notes I’ve written in the front of it.

Dale Carnegie’s less-famous book (he also wrote How To Win Friends And Influence People) was written in 1953.

66 years ago!

I recall buying this book at an airport when I was going on a little solo trip in Australia, and I remember returning to Sydney feeling more confident and positive.

My notes written in the front say:

Schedule my day the night before

Live in daytight compartments – think of the present not the future

Count your blessings – every morning, think of the good stuff!

Life is too short to be little!

Your reality is what you think – ‘our life is what our thoughts make it’

Think of the worst that could happen


This book IS very old-fashioned; it’s very obvious it was written in a different era.

Yet isn’t it a strange comfort to know that people still had similar anxieties, and could be helped with similar advice, to folks today?!

It’s bonkers really, how we’re all so similar.

Right, I’m off to re-read all of these and then take over the world.

Bye for now X

p.s. I would love to know of any other great books that might pass the self-help book cynic test, please share any top recommendations.

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Hello, I'm Laura. I write about parenting, life, style, building a business and finding success on your own terms.

You'll find plenty here to get your teeth into. (Useless pun very much intended...) X

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