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.