My criteria for a good self-help book are:
1. No hype – just honest information without false promises and fantasy.
2. Intelligent insight into real life – not phony or shallow “steps to success.”
3. The author is genuine – not setting himself or herself up as God’s gift to humanity.
4. You grow just be reading it! It leads to real behavior change. This requires that the information be deep and revealing.
With this in mind, here is my list of the top five self-help books. These should be considered required reading for anyone interested in personal growth.
If psychiatrists in general were as committed to real mental health as M. Scott Peck was, the mental health industry would be a different place. Dr. Peck’s classic, The Road Less Traveled should be considered a standard for anyone remotely interested in personal development.
Dr. Peck pulls no punches, yet is compassionate and thoughtful as he explains that life is difficult. He offer his ideas on the use of two basic tools, love and discipline. He concludes with and honest inquiry into the mysteries of grace.
Why We Suffer is a lesser known, yet should still be considered a standard in personal development reading. Why We Suffer reveals the pervasive nature of self-sabotage, which is perhaps the single most important and universal mental health issue. Self-sabotage is what prevents everyone from applying the tools in Dr. Peck’s The Road Less Traveled.
Unless you learn how to get out of your own way, you will never reach your potential. Peter Michaelson is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on self-sabotage, inner passivity and how these evil twins ruin our lives.
If you like smart books about sorely overlooked topics, then look no further than Dr. Jeanne Safer’s collection. Cain’s Legacy is her book about sibling strife – one of the most important psychological issues in our lives. Yet, so few have written about it!
If you even think that some of your stress in life is due to unresolved issues with a sibling, then do not hesitate to get Cain’s Legacy. What’s nice about this book is that Dr. Safer combines her vast knowledge of psychology and rigorous research with her personal experience as a sibling. It’s a tour de force!
Every self-help library should contain strategic information – information on the “how-to” side of the growth equation. This is where NLP – Neurolinguistic Programming – shines like no other personal growth model. With NLP, you get how-to details that you never considered because NLP understands how the unconscious mind processes information.
For years, the field of NLP has lacked a well-formed and comprehensive guide. That trend is officially over with NLP: The Essential Guide.
Boundaries is one of my favorite books because it was so hard for me to get through. Boundaries is all about relationships and how to keep them safe and respectful. The principles in Boundaries apply so thoroughly that you may have to put it down several times, take a break for a few days and work things out before you pick it up again.
In other words, understanding the words in this book requires you to grow and make changes in your life. In Boundaries, you will discover how you’ve been creating stress in your life by taking on unnecessary suffering and pain. This opens the door to changes you never considered.
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Last reviewed: 22 Apr 2013