Ah, self-help books. Is it just me, or has the genre gotten a bad rap? Despite the criticism, I’m always a firm believer that when we seek out and surround ourselves with inspiring content, it’s that intention itself that can have a transformative effect. Of course, growth also happens when we take in concrete tips that can help us gradually and consistently move in the direction of positive change.

But as we all know, getting started is usually the hardest part. When I’m stuck, deciding to move forward can take all my energy. We worry about doing the wrong thing and obsess over inconsequential details because we’re afraid to just do something. 

So what’s the solution to this super-glued feeling all of us experience at different times in our lives? Enter: “the bicycle principle.” According to this source, “the bicycle principle means that it’s easier to make changes in life once you’re moving. Just as with riding a bike, you can steer more easily once you’ve picked up the pace. And if you try to steer while not moving, you’ll probably fall down. So just start pedaling and see where you end up. Remember that it’s not about the final destination; it’s about the direction.”

We’ve gathered a list of our favorite self-help books that’ll inspire you to get your bicycle pedals going. These motivational books are perfect reading for any time there’s an area of your life where you’re feeling a little stuck.

Feature image by Riley Reed.

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner

If you were fascinated and enthralled by Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, I can’t recommend this book enough. Therapist and author Catherine Gildiner reflects on her work with five patients—a group she calls the “most heroic and memorable.” Their stories couldn’t be any different, and they cover a large swatch of the innumerable challenges people face throughout their lives. The book touches upon everything from narcissism to abandonment to unpacking the deeply-rooted trauma of childhood experiences.

Being present for the journeys of these five people is eye-opening and illuminating. While we often believe quick fixes can solve any problem (and are sold that idea everywhere we look), Gildiner’s book proves that the long journey toward healing our wounds is worth it.

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner, $16.39

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

When it came out in 2015, Emily Nagoski’s breakthrough bestseller Come As You Are was a favorite and much-discussed topic among me and my college friends. Nagoski, a sex educator and researcher, channels that same expressive and explosive energy into her latest book, Burnout. Inspired by the recommendation of a friend who was part of my Come As You Are book club, I picked this up four years later. Having just entered the professional world, I was confused, stressed, and overwhelmed navigating this new stage of my life. And while your experience may be different, this book boasts universal takeaways bound to transform anyone’s life.

Written with her sister, Amelia Nagoski, DMA, Burnout dives deep into the reasons why the phenomenon impacts women more than men and provides readers with actionable steps for decreasing stress and stepping into each day with more ease and joy. Lauded by everyone from Brené Brown to Gwyneth Paltrow, this book defines the must-read genre.

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, $9.72

The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary L. McBride

A Vancouver-based therapist, researcher, speaker, and feminist writer, Hillary McBride is revolutionizing the way we think and speak about body image and empowerment. I first discovered McBride’s work when I read her second book, Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image. Like many women, learning to make peace with my body (a part of myself I’ve been taught to vilify since I was born) has been a journey fraught with complexity. But through McBride’s writing, research, and compassionate approach, I’ve learned to create a healthier relationship with my body, my appearance, and myself.

Her latest book, The Wisdom of Your Body, tracks the ways society has persuaded us to develop harmful views of our own physical selves. McBride’s research presents a holistic perspective on embracing embodiment—helping guide readers to a place of empowerment and to reclaiming the inherent inner wisdom of our bodies.

The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary L. McBride, $14.60

Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is a poetic force. You’ve likely seen her work take social media by storm over the past several years. Grounded by the unique, but often universal, challenges and traumas countless people face, Kaur’s words are vulnerable, illuminating, and awe-inspiring. With home body now in my collection,I make sure to keep all three of her books within arm’s reach at all times. The lines provide a nearly-tangible comfort and inspire a strong sense of self-acceptance. While the concepts of self-love and forgiveness can feel elusive at times, Kaur gives definition to what it means to connect with and embrace all parts of ourselves. You’ll be beautifully shocked by the ways this book encourages you to grow.

“everything i need / already exists in me / there’s no need / to look anywhere else” – home

Home Body by Rupi Kaur, $16.71

Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker

The desire to explore a sober-curious lifestyle has grown significantly over the past few years. As the pandemic made some of us reflect on and reconsider our relationship to alcohol, we’ve become more aware of its ubiquity. In Quit Like a Woman, Whitaker unpacks our world’s obsession with drinking—pointing out its presence at just about every social gathering and function we attend. She shares her own personal journey toward sobriety while tracking the larger ways alcohol companies target women. 

Counting myself among the people who have spent more time reflecting on my consumption of alcohol and what drives it, I can’t say I’ve found a book more life-changing than this.

Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker, $11.99

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight “offers a rare and revealing look at the notoriously media-shy man behind the swoosh”, illuminating his company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands. Bill Gates named Shoe Dog one of his five favorite books and called it, “an amazing tale, a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.”

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, $9.08

The Clarity Cleanse by Habib Sadeghi, DO

Dr. Sadeghi’s Clarity Cleanse is a journey of self-discovery to unlock the unresolved emotional issues hurting your health and success, and how to live with greater self-awareness. An advisor to Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily Blunt, Tim Robbins, Stella McCartney, and others, Dr. Sadeghi shows you how to turn obstacles into healing and energizing opportunities through a liberating 12-step guide to recognizing the emotional issues that hold you back. Following the steps in this self-help book will help you achieve a sense of peace and control, raise your self-esteem, and assert yourself in new ways to achieve positive and lasting change.

The Clarity Cleanse by Habib Sadeghi, $16.99

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull, President and Co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Animation, brings you centerstage to the world of creativity in business and provides the tools necessary to help guide you and those around you to reach their full potential. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their company and its employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation. It dives into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. This is a terrific self-help book about how to build a successful, empowering creative culture, but it is also, as Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, $29.65

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabriele Bernstein

New York Times best-selling author, international speaker, and spirit junkie, Gaby Bernstein teaches you how to transform fear into faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in The Universe Has Your Back guides you to release the blocks that are holding you back from what you long for: happiness, security, and clear direction. When the tragedies of the world seem overwhelming, this book will help guide you back to your true inner power. Gaby gives you the tools to find strength when you’re down, synchronicity, and support when you’re lost, safety in the face of uncertainty, and joy when you’re otherwise in pain. Follow her secrets to unleash the presence of your power, and know that the universe always has your back.

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabriele Bernstein, $10.99

The Stuck Book by Chris McAlister

This is a short book you can pick up when you have a question and get an answer for what needs to be done. Seize the day? Wait and ponder? Whether it’s your job or a relationship, there are four simple answers to your millions of questions. The Stuck Book is full of easily digestible wisdom. I loved how Chris walks you through each season of change (applicable to work, personal growth, and life in general). For each season, he offers transformative reflections that help you to understand where you are, calls out common pitfalls, and ultimately offers real-life action steps you can take to move forward. This self-help book is for the person who feels stuck and is ready to make a real change.

The Stuck Book by Chris McAlister, $26.99

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

“As you look back over the last ten years, were there times when a different decision would have made your life radically different from today, either for better or for worse?” Tony Robbins, the nation’s leader in the science of peak performance, shows you his most effective strategies and techniques for mastering your emotions, your body, your relationships, your finances, and your life. Tony provides a step-by-step program that teaches the fundamental lessons of self-discovery that will enable you to seek out your true purpose, take control of your life, and harness the forces that shape your destiny. Key takeaway: “know that it’s your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny.”

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, $13.89

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s most famous lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

“The decision to pursue what sparks joy extends far beyond its first application in home tidying: it often opens the door for greater self-discovery and fulfillment. After a thorough tidying session, one of Marie’s clients quit her job and started a new business. Another client shared that she felt comfortable inviting friends to her home for the first time. Another client declared she had moved on from a destructive relationship that no longer sparked joy – and that it transformed her entire life.” This book is about way more than decluttering your home… it’s about decluttering your mind, your environment, and anything distracting you from reaching your goals and finding inner peace.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, $8.58

Originals by Adam Grant

Originals re-defines what being creative means by using specific examples of how persistence, transparency, critical thinking, and perspective can be brought together to change the world. What you’ll get is a self-help book that feels like sitting down with a really smart older friend, who tells you countless stories of how creative people tackled seemingly impossible problems and solved them. From Picasso to Beethoven and from bloggers to moviemakers, no industry or field is left aside—further proof that creativity matters everywhere.

Originals by Adam Grant, $13.79

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is ridiculously hilarious and takes on a no-nonsense attitude to provide you with direct instructions for how to change your perspective on life to reach your dreams and convince yourself that not only do you deserve it, but you will get it if you try hard enough. Jen takes you on a wild joy ride to your own transformation, helping you create the money, relationships, career, and general all-around awesomeness you so desire. If you’re one of those people who needs some advice and inspiration but would rather take a bullet than get busted with a self-help book in your hands, this one is for you. You Are a Badass delivers insightful, motivating goodness, minus the New-Age woo-woo cheese.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, $8.45

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now has sold over two million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 30 foreign languages. “Much more than simple principles and platitudes, the book takes you on an inspiring spiritual journey to find your true and deepest self. In the first chapter, Tolle introduces you to enlightenment and its natural enemy: the mind. He awakens you to your role as a creator of your pain, and shows you how to have a pain-free life by living fully in the present.” The Power of Now uses simple language and an easy question-and-answer format to guide you. It’s one of those rare books with the power to create a transformational experience within you, one that can radically change your life for the better.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, $7.51

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Everyone I’ve talked to has either recommended The Body Keeps the Score to me or entered into a (sometimes) hours-long discussion about how truly life-changing this book was. Historically, our culture has had a limited understanding of trauma. Thankfully, the past decade has seen a shift in trauma becoming more widely discussed and less stigmatized. But there’s still so much we have to learn on a personal and community level about how trauma affects us. 

Trauma isn’t just something that exists in the abstract—it impacts both our body and brain in significant ways. It influences how we experience everything from trust to pleasure, and shapes how we relate to the world. This book is impressively researched and draws upon the latest scientific data to provide readers with a renewed sense of hope and a path to healing.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, $11.40

How to Change by Katy Milkman

PSA: Change isn’t inherently a bad thing. Sure, if external influences (family, trends, people on social media) are causing us to change in a way that’s not in alignment with our inner truths, it’s time to pull back and reassess. But when change means you’re working toward something that’s on the path to where you want to find yourself, that’s a healthy sign of growth. How to Change does an effective job of pointing out what’s standing in the way of reaching your goals. The stories are extremely relatable and perfectly illustrate just how challenging it can be to adopt new patterns and behaviors. But with a shift in mindset, positive and meaningful change is possible. It’s truly a must-read if you’re looking to jump into new habits and establish healthy routines for the year to come (and beyond!).

How to Change by Katy Milkman, $19.99

Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer

As someone who experiences occasional anxiety myself, I can say that no other book has influenced the way I look at and understand anxiety quite like this. And while I’d take incremental growth over quick fixes any day, Dr. Brewer maps out the life-changing “hacks” that are not only easy to adopt but possible to sustain. If you’ve ever believed that things like procrastination, phone addiction, or less-than-healthy eating patterns are a result of a lack of willpower, read this book. If overwhelm has been your new normal, read this book. If you’ve experienced an increase in anxious thoughts and feelings over the past two years (who hasn’t?), read this book. Whatever your relationship to anxiety looks like, I would highly recommend picking this up and diving in immediately.

Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer, $30.10

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover

Raise your hand if you could set better boundaries. Historically, our culture has had the idea that setting boundaries are a bad thing. But in reality, learning to communicate your feelings and express your limits with others is an incredibly powerful tool. With friends and family a DM or phone call away and the idea of work-life balance being seemingly impossible to achieve, it’s more important now than ever to be able to say “no” and unapologetically express what you need. After reading this, I’ve recovered from chronic burnout and find myself able to show up with greater presence and authenticity for all the relationships in my life (including the one I have with myself).

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover, $17.27

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster

I read this book when my confidence was at an all-time low. A friend had just finished it and passed along her copy, sharing how much it had changed her life. While I’m admittedly skeptical about buzzy reads and wellness trends that are supposed to fix all of my problems, this was one of the most transformative books I’ve ever cracked open. Schuster doesn’t mince words. Her tone is brutally honest throughout, but she pairs her direct and honest language with kindness, compassion, and empathy. Maybe you’re looking to redefine your relationship with yourself or break free of self-limiting patterns and beliefs. Whatever the inspiration is you’re looking for, this book has you covered.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster, $15.99

The New Normal by Dr. Jennifer Ashton

While the concept of normalcy has always been up for debate, the past two years have completely shifted our idea of what it means to experience a normal life. And just when you thought that you’d heard the expression enough, this book comes and provides an insightful take on how our lives and the world have changed around us. More than that though, The New Normal offers perspective and support for not only surviving but truly thriving in a constantly changing landscape. Like most everyone else, I’ve been looking for answers to all the many questions the pandemic era has brought. This book gives us a roadmap and the guidance we could all use.

The New Normal by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, $13.89

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Isn’t it a good sign when the title of a book pulls you in immediately? Time management has always been something I’ve struggled with. I’ve bought all the planners, used all the apps, and blocked all of my social media when I need to focus. But truly, I haven’t found anything more effective than the advice shared in this book. Founded on the premise that, if we live to eighty, we have four thousand weeks, this book shows you how to make the best use of your time. Full disclosure: This doesn’t mean that life hacks and ever-expanding to-do lists are the answer to becoming your most productive self. Instead, Oliver Burkeman shows you how to find meaning for yourself by embracing a different idea of time and living your life in a way that creates space for what matters most to you.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman, $18

Your Time to Thrive by Marina Khidekel

In our mile-a-minute world, it can seem like the only way to succeed is by sacrificing our wellbeing for work promotions, praise, and productivity. But to thrive means something completely different. Instead of encouraging you to grind through the unending cycle of stress, Your Time to Thrive draws upon scientific research to help you make lasting, positive changes. The key? It’s all about taking micro steps. If you’ve ever been tempted to completely overhaul your life one day only to find yourself drifting back to old habits a few weeks later, this is the book for you. I’m all for any self-help book that emphasizes the importance of rest and giving yourself the time to recharge. Bonus points if that helps you live your best life (which, spoiler, it definitely does).

Your Time to Thrive by Marina Khidekel, $14

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

I know you know: Sleep is the cornerstone of health. Like many other people, I’ve struggled with sleep on and off throughout my life. There were the college all-nighters and evenings in my early twenties when shut-eye felt like less of a necessity and more of a nice-to-have. The result of many sleepless nights? Exhaustion, of course. In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington points out that, more than that, a chronic lack of sleep negatively impacts everything from our relationships to our emotional wellbeing. Well-researched and truly transformative, this is the wake-up everyone needs to help you fall into restful, restorative sleep.

This book hit me at the exact right time when I was totally drained of energy and subsisted on coffee to get me through the day. While, like most people, there are still nights where I toss and turn, my relationship to sleep has completely changed. Now, I make it a priority to get my 8-9 hours so that I can show up with greater presence and happiness each day.

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, $9.99

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.” Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. She tells us that Rising Strong is about getting to the heart of the most painful and uncomfortable moments we’ve ever experienced, getting honest about the way in which they’ve made us feel, and being bold enough to hold ourselves accountable to get up and grow from the past as we move into the future. This self-help book is a must for anyone looking to create stronger, more wholehearted versions of themselves.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown, $9.71

What is the self-help book that changed your life?

This post was originally published on August 10, 2019, and has since been updated.

Share this Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments (11)
  1. 1
    MEG TRA August 8, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Another recommendation would be “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis – – Seriously changed my life!

    • Katherine Fluor August 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Oh, I’ve never read it! I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion, Meg!

  2. 2
    NaturallyChicandFeminine August 8, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I can’t wait to look into some of these! Thanks for the suggestions.


  3. 3
    Eva August 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    I’m currently reading the 5 Second Rule – it’s super cheesy, but it’s working to help me make some changes to my habits and overall life trajectory. Also, I kind of have soured on that book You Being a Badass (disclaimer, I haven’t read it), but it got into the hands of my impressionable 20-year-old cousin and she subsequently quit university thinking she just has to believe in things to make it happen. A year later she is still floundering, but more obstinate than ever. Of course a book can’t be all to blame for that, but there was certainly a big change. My point is, not everyone should believe blindly in themselves at all cost, a good balance of meaningful perspective also counts for something.

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  4. 4
    Tam P (@tampeezy) August 10, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    This list couldn’t have been compiled and posted at a better time. I’ve been stuck and stagnant for a while now and have been looking for a way to spruce up my life. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • Katherine Fluor August 14, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      So happy to hear this, Tam! They all truly have such great advice that I’ve found have helped me in multiple different areas of my life. Happy Reading 🙂

  5. 5
    Expedition to EuphoriaA August 14, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Needed this. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 6
    Jessica from What To Style August 15, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Such an amazing list! I really like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo” and I got very curious to read Gabrielle Bernstein’s book! ?

    Jessica | New post: whattostyle.blogspot.com |
    Instagram @ what_to_style

  7. 7
    Natalie Redman August 22, 2018 at 3:18 am

    Great book recommendations. Will have to give a few of these a go!

  8. 8
    Miyeko February 27, 2022 at 12:21 am

    I highly recommend How to Do the Work, by Dr. Nicole LePera-The Holistic Psychiatrist- It’s helped so much!!!