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How To Know if a Self-Help Book is Good or Bad

Self Help Books: How Can You Tell Which Ones Are Good?

A vodcast from The Psych Files about how to spot a dubious psychology self-help book. Examples include outlandish claims that lack evidence, relying only on testimonials, unfalsifiable statements, oversimplifying (eg. “happiness is a choice”), lack of references & citations, mushy things that are not measurable (eg. the so-called “law of abundance”), blaming the victim, hiding behind quotes from famous people, ordinary advice in flowery language, sales pitches, misrepresenting psychology, and overemphasizing the role of your thoughts as though they’re the whole cause and cure of a problem. These are typical tools of biased writing and good signs that a book is unscientific. “There are some serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia… suggesting that having a more positive outlook is going to cure these kind of illnesses is naïve at best.”

PsychCentral regularly publishes book reviews, by our staff of experts, which can help guide your choices.

How To Know if a Self-Help Book is Good or Bad

Sandra Kiume

Sandra Kiume is a mental health advocate from Vancouver, Canada, and the founder of @unsuicide. Along with maintaining Channel N, she contributes to World of Psychology.

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APA Reference
Kiume, S. (2012). How To Know if a Self-Help Book is Good or Bad. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 24 Feb 2012
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.