I have a confession to make: I’m a reluctant self-help reader. Fiction is typically my preference over nonfiction, and I’ve been especially resistant to self-help books. I thought they weren’t really my thing, and I think I had a vague, unfair assumption that most self-help books would be unscientific psychobabble. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been devouring self-help books, and these favorites have actually improved my quality of life.
WILLPOWER: REDISCOVERING THE GREATEST HUMAN STRENGTH
by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
This book is the one that had me completely rethinking my attitude toward self-help books. You won’t find any pseudoscience or vague personal ideas here. Instead, research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney lay out what scientists have learned about the nature of willpower through decades of research. They offer concrete steps individuals can take to improve their self-control and share fascinating related anecdotes. Best of all, though, they back up every claim by describing the experiments and studies that scientists used to understand how to exercise and build willpower. This was an engrossing read for me, and I have been actively applying its ideas in my life. I also can’t stop sharing interesting details from it with my friends and coworkers.
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP: THE JAPANESE ART OF DECLUTTERING AND ORGANIZING
by Marie Kondo
This book really did change me. I wrote a glowing review of it last summer, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Though The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up isn’t as scientific as some of the others on the list, it is based on the strategies used by the author, a wildly popular professional organizer from Japan. Her basic principle is that you go, category by category, through every item in your home, hold it close and decide whether or not it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, you toss it. As hokey as that might sound, it radically changed the way I look my belongings. I now buy less to begin with, get rid of anything I don’t need and love, and keep my home tidier than ever before.
SWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE THINGS WHEN CHANGE IS HARD
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
As the subtitle suggests, Switch explains how individuals and organizations can motivate and implement change. Even when we want to change something, human nature makes us resistant. The authors dedicate each chapter to a specific strategy for overcoming that resistance. I loved how organized and easy to follow Switch was.
THE POWER OF HABIT: WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO IN LIFE AND BUSINESS
by Charles Duhigg
Even though this book was a bestseller, I didn’t love it nearly as much as the others on the list. The structure was confusing, a lot of the book seemed like filler, and I felt like the authors were defining “habit” as everything and anything. In spite of those frustrations, I’m including The Power of Habit because the first three chapters and especially the appendix were fantastic. If you read just those sections, you’ll come away with a much better understanding of how our habits shape us and how we in turn can shape our habits.
GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERENCE
by Angela Duckworth
I’ve just started reading this book, so I can’t fully recommend it just yet. I think it’s going to be a good read, though. We often assume that those who achieve incredible things must have some kind of native genius; naturally talented, they were born to be Olympic gymnasts, concert pianists, political masterminds, or exceptional writers. Duckworth argues instead that extraordinary achievements result not from unusual intelligence or talent, but from what she calls “grit,” a mix of passion and persistent effort.