10 of the best self help books to help you keep your resolutions
As many of us resolve to become better versions of ourselves in the new year, Tanya Sweeney looks to self-help books for inspiration - the ones worth coming back to time and time again...
Once upon a time, self-help books were made up of unfeasibly long titles like 'How To Land A Great Guy, Make Millions and Have A Wonderful Life in Every Way, All While You Sleep At Night'.
Their words promised much, but ultimately failed to deliver, and pretty soon, readers looking for a bit of spiritual enlightenment got bored of 'gurus' pontificating at length about how to get a perfect life.
The self-help giants from the Nineties - think The Rules and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus - have fallen out of favour, with only a few classics still holding their own in today's overcrowded market.
In recent times, however, the self-help tome has undergone a bit of a makeover. Fuelled by the successes of Caitlin Moran and Nora Ephron, we now have the memoir/self-help tome. In essence, they are penned by writers saying a variant of, 'Look, I've been through what you're going through. We humans are all prone to failings and low points, and I'm here to show you through hard-won experience that you'll be fine.'
So which ones are worth the hype and worth checking out? And which classics are worth digging out? We've rounded up the cream of the crop of self-help literature.
Tiny Beautiful Things
By Cheryl Strayed
Billed as the self-help book that women give each other, Strayed's book is born out of her 'Dear Sugar' column (on The Rumpus website). Dispensing sage, gentle but no-nonsense advice to readers on everything from relationships to body image, Strayed is peerless in this regard. Reese Witherspoon has been so taken with Strayed's writing that she snapped up the book rights for her memoir Wild (and starred in the Oscar-nominated film). The book has recently been adapted for the New York stage, thanks to actress Nia Vardalos.
Best for: The heart-sick, the spiritually fragile, and those who need the literary equivalent of a good maternal hug.
(Atlantic Books, €12.60 in paperback)
Running Like A Girl
By Alexandra Heminsley
Fitness manuals are often deathly boring: running ones, doubly so. Yet Heminsley went from couch spud to London marathon runner within a matter of months. Jaded with the gym, unhappy with her body and done with yoga, her thoughts turned to running. Yet the road to fitness wasn't a smooth one: on her very first run, she finished after a mile and went home, sore and deflated.
Alexandra recalls the time she met a frosty front at the London Marathon Store in Covent Garden. Tapping into that niggling feeling that marathon running is a sport for elites, the moment jarred Alexandra, albeit momentarily. Predictably, the first time she crossed the marathon line in 2011 (she has run four other marathons since) was as intoxicating an experience as she had anticipated.
Best for: Those looking for fitspo, but can't abide the smug Insta skinnies.
Windmill Books, €12.60 in paperback
By Jenny Lawson
US writer Jenny Lawson has seen her first share of mental health problems, but she has decided on a unique weapon of choice in her battle with her own brain: "You can't experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy," she says.
It's a philosophy that has - quite literally - saved her life.
Best for: Those wanting to know more about mental health difficulties, but would rather be reading Tina Fey or Caitlin Moran.
Picador, €12.59 in paperback
The Artist's Way
By Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way was penned back in 1992 during the boom-time of the self-help trend, but it has been used for years as a creative manual for many an artist, writer and songwriter.
The book teaches readers techniques on how to unlock creativity (among its most enduring one is the 'Morning Pages', or simply writing first thing in the morning) and how to gain self-confidence and harness their creative talents.
The book was eventually put into the "Self-Publishing Hall of Fame" after selling millions of copies worldwide. Little wonder Cameron has been called the 'high priestess of creativity'.
Best for: Anyone who swears that 2017 is the year they'll finally tackle that painting/novel/blog.
Macmillan, €23.80 in paperback
In Your Prime
By India Knight
India's self-help book is ostensibly aimed at women in their 40s or 50s, but is packed with beautiful advice that works for people of any age. Rarely before has a book on ageing been delivered with such wit, style and delicious sharpness. Some of her ideas may rankle (see: her thoughts on Pointlessly Long Hair on middle-aged women), but even then, she is being brilliantly entertaining.
Best for: Anyone planning to grow old gracefully (and a tiny bit disgracefully).
Penguin, €12.59 in paperback
Anxiety for Beginners
By Eleanor Morgan
Morgan has released one of the most concise, comprehensive and gratifyingly engaging books on mental illness in a very long time. While in school, the journalist had her first panic attack; one minute, she was learning biology, the next, she felt as though 'death became a certainty'. The moment left a grim legacy, and Morgan has spent the ensuing years managing her anxiety disorder and dealing with the occasional full-blown depressive episode.
Morgan weaves personal experience with plenty of research, and the result is an authoritative, absorbing read. A cast of dozens - psychologists, OCD specialists, neurologists, nutritionists - helped Morgan to present a thorough and clear-eyed introduction to the condition that has baffled so many.
Best for: Anyone wanting to know about anxiety and panic attacks, or who lets the stresses of everyday life get them down.
Bluebird books, €23.79 in hardback
Year of Yes
By Shonda Rhimes
Rhimes is the creator and producer of some great TV (Grey's Anatomy), but behind the scenes, she was an introvert that suffered panic attacks before interviews. Vowing to kick her fear into touch, Rhimes decides to say 'yes' to everything that scared her in life. Her reason behind saying 'no' to things that scared her is what makes her funny, witty, sometimes heartbreaking memoir incredibly human and relatable, irrespective of your stature in life. She simply didn't know she was worthy of 'yes'.
Best for: Anyone looking for an inspirational, worthy-of-Oprah read.
Simon & Schuster, €12.59 in paperback
Sleeping Your Way To The Top
By Jane Miller
Don't let the title of this book put you off; since its release in 2014, Miller's book has become a word-of-mouth smash. This is a survival guide for every type of workplace blooper, from what to do if your boss invites you into the hot tub to how to survive the office Christmas party with minimal blowback. Think of it as all the stuff that HR should have told you, but never did.
Another similar tome worthy of mention is Jessica Bennett's Feminist Fight Club, which includes a script on how to ask for a pay raise.
Best for: Those who want to climb the corporate ladder (and have fun while doing it).
Sterling Books, €20.99 in hardback
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying
By Marie Kondo
Proof positive that we've reached Peak Marie Kondo: the name of the woman they call the 'Beyoncé of decluttering' has now been upcycled into an actual verb. "I've just KonMari'd my wardrobe," a whole raft of women are suddenly proclaiming.
Her approach is simple: bin everything that doesn't give you pure joy. If you're bereft of material goods and everything in your home has a specific place to call home, you'll be lighter of spirit, and seemingly richer of life. After using Kondo's approach (essentially 'bin it if it doesn't give you pure joy'), they're seemingly bereft of material goods, yet lighter of spirit. 4 million readers can't be wrong.
Best for: Anyone who has forgotten what the real colour of their carpet is.
Vermilion Books, €13.99 in paperback
By Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
Opinion was squarely divided on this how-to dating manual, which suggested that Nineties feminists take a leaf out of the books of genteel Fifties ladies when it came to courtship. The controversial manual was largely dismissed for its suggestions (like, not talking too much), but in 2014, The New Rules was published, with dos and don'ts for dating for the digital generation.
The Rules amassed a celebrity following down the years: Blake Lively was said to heed its advice when dating Leonardo DiCaprio in 2011 (although the relationship lasted a mere five months). Beyoncé, on the other hand, credits The Rules for her marriage to Jay Z, and is quoted on the back of the book: "It has worked for me". Well, if it's good enough for Beyoncé…
Best for: Those who haven't yet tried keeping him keen by treating him mean.
Piaktus, €15.40 in paperback