Self-Help: Selecting the Best Books

The appetite for self-help books has led to the publication of over 2000 new self-help books every year. As a society, we have become more focused on self improvement than at any other time in history. Advances in the scientific study of human behaviour has brought extensive informa­tion on better ways to raise your children, to loose weight, to improve relationships, to become a leader in the workplace, and to improve your per­sonal effectiveness and happiness.

But Does Reading Self-Help Books Really Help?
This is a very good question. And the answer is not so absolute. The help one can get from self help books depends on the severity of the concern and the quality of the book. For some issues, especially mild concerns, reading a book is the ideal way to learn about what to do. For other, more compli­cated or severe problems, talk­ing to a counsellor, a doctor, a teacher, or a specialist who can understand completely the complexity of your particular concern first and then with expertise and encouragement will you help to address it.

Because so many self-help books are published every year, it is hard to know which book is the best on a certain topic. Asking a trusted professional is a good way to help you sift through the many choices. Many coun­sellors will suggest self-help material to increase the effectiveness of the counselling. It is probably no surprise that studies show, practice through self-help exercises between sessions usu­ally leads to quicker results in counselling (Burns, 1994).

How Can One Know Which Self-Help Books Are Worth Reading?
As with any purchase “buyer beware” is a good attitude to have when trying to determine if the book’s information is reli­able and of high quality. Studies have found that of the thousands of new self-help books published each year only 5% have research to document their effectiveness (Rosen 1993). Isn’t that an astounding figure! Imagine what would happen if 95% of the Do-It-Yourself books on installing electrical wiring in your house were not critiqued by a certified electrician to en­sure proper, safe advice on wiring!!

The promotion of self-help books by celebrities like Oprah or books written by high profile people like Dr. Phil do not guarantee they are effective or well researched either. The authors of The Authoritative Guide to Self-Help Resources in Mental Health (Norcross 2003) suggest the following strategies for selecting a good self-help book:

  • Don’t judge a book by its glitzy cover, catchy title or advertisements.
  • Avoid books which make grandiose claims. If its sounds to good to be true it likely is.
  • Examine if there is research evidence re­ported in the book.
  • Books that focus on one problem tend to be better than those that claim to help all problems.
  • Avoid psychobabble and slick writing.
  • Check out the author’s professional edu­cation and credentials.
  • Distinguish between balanced information and subtle marketing.

You will currently find many self-help books on our website at which we have read and endorse. Soon, we will be adding a Self-Help Audio Books section to the website so you can download high quality audio self-help books to your computer. You will then be able to import them to your Ipod, MP3 player or burn on a CD to listen when to them and where and when you want.