Top 10 literary lifehackers
What better way to spend your Christmas vouchers than on the promise of a shiny, productive, happy, love-filled new year? A glut of self-help books - both new and old - promise just that. So which are the best? Marianne Power, self-help enthusiast and author of Weekend's Mindful Moment column, picks her top 10…
For high achievers
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
If you are the kind of person who already runs marathons, drinks green smoothies and gets up at 6am - here's a book for you. Ten years ago, productivity powerhouse Tim Ferriss published The 4-Hour Workweek, a guide to quitting the nine-to-five that became an international bestseller. He followed that with a book on how to shortcut your way to health and fitness, The 4-Hour Body, and how to learn just about anything, including how to cook, in The 4-Hour-Chef. His latest book, a 600-page tome called Tribe of Mentors, features advice from 100 high achievers, from tech entrepreneurs to actors, authors and sports stars. From meditation to mushrooms - it covers just about every conceivable hack for happiness and achievement.
For people who hate their job
F**K It, Do What You Love by John C. Parkin
We all know somebody who is miserable in their job. Every year they promise to find something else and every year they don't. Maybe you are that person. Well, this might be the book that kick-starts a change. Author John C. Parkin starts the book by listing all the excuses people make for not finding something they love doing - it's not realistic, it's selfish, I could never make money doing something I like - and then systematically challenges them, reminding us that we have never lived in a time when it was so easy to do part-time work or set up your own business online. He also argues that doing what you love - in your personal life as well as in work - makes us physically healthier, happier and more successful, and that is far from selfish, as it benefits everyone.
€15.40, Hay House
For addicts (and that's all of us)
Recovery by Russell Brand
Famous for being a womaniser, alcoholic and drug addict, Russell Brand's problems might seem very far away from our own, but not so. In this new book, the comedian makes a strong case that actually we are all addicted to something, whether it's television, shopping, food, phones, Facebook or work. We all turn to something to distract us, numb us and comfort us but which, in the end, only makes us more unhappy. Brand's book takes us through his version of the 12-step programme, which has helped him stay sober for 14 years. Underneath all the humour, verbosity and therapy-speak, there is so much wisdom in this book. Brand writes: "I believe we live in an age of addiction…This book is not just about extremists like me. No, this is a book about you." And I agree.
You Do You by Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight claims to put the 'selfish' into 'self-help'. Her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F***, became an instant bestseller. Its subtitle, How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do, was a siren call for people- pleasers around the world. The sequel, Get Your S*** Together (a manual on how to obtain success and happiness using small, manageable steps), also sold millions. Now Knight has published a third book, You Do You, which tells us that although we may have been told there's something wrong with us, there really isn't. A guide to self-acceptance and learning to appreciate your flaws, it is full of gems such as: "Buckle up, Buttercup! If you have a physical imperfection you can't do much about - such as fat ankles - then accept it, or amputate."
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Brené Brown became famous for her 2010 TED talk, which has been viewed over 31 million times. The topic was on shame and vulnerability, and the book based on those tricky topics, Daring Greatly, was a number-one bestseller. Since then, she's written two more books, the latest being Braving the Wilderness, which is a manual on how to stay true to yourself and to speak honestly in a world that seems increasingly divided. Brown argues that what we are suffering from now is a "crisis of disconnection", where we all stay in our camps and judge each other without ever really learning to question our beliefs and listen to others. We are afraid to speak our mind because we want to fit in, but Brown says the only way to fit is not by changing who you are but by being who you really are. And that takes courage in today's world.
For practical sorts
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
In the woo-woo world of self-development, Rubin is a practical sort. A former lawyer and mother-of-two, her book The Happiness Project, written in 2009 - for which she spent a year testing different theories about how to live a more fulfilled life - was hugely popular with people who wanted to find happiness by making small changes, such as sorting out their closet and getting more sleep. Her latest book, The Four Tendencies, looks at why some people stick to habits and some of us break them. She reckons we all have one of four different personality types and once we understand which one we are, we have a much better chance of knowing how to stick to the goals we set ourselves.
Two Roads, €21
For someone you are worried about
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
At 24, Matt Haig was living a dream life in Ibiza with his girlfriend but all he wanted to do was walk off a cliff and die. How to Stay Alive is an account of this first bout of depression, the years of anxiety that followed (in which walking to the corner shop felt terrifying) and how he has found a way to manage his depression. With suicide the main cause of death in men under the age of 45, this funny, moving, brave and very human book has been described as life-saving, and rightly so. I read it during my own period of depression and it helped me to remember I'm not alone and that this too would pass. Written in small, bite-sized sections, it's readable - even when your brain feels like dust.
For those looking for love
Get the Guy by Matthew Hussey
This is the book that is fast becoming a bible for single women - all my single girlfriends have read it and watched Hussey's series of YouTube videos. Even Eva Longoria is said to be a fan (but how she has problems finding a man is beyond me). Anyway, this book is good. There's no game playing or makeovers - just down-to-earth, practical advice. Hussey says that we've all bought into this Hollywood myth that the right guy is just going to drop into our lap, but that's not the case. To meet more men you need to… meet more men. Smile at the opposite sex everywhere you go; get talking. Stop obsessing about finding The One - and just interact with everyone. Put yourself out in the world. Sounds obvious, but it's funny how few of us do it.
Bantam Press, €18.20
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The first time I tried to read The Power of Now, I thought it was impenetrable new-age rubbish. I got as far as page eight and put it back on my bookshelf. Then, three years ago, I picked it up again and changed my mind. This time it felt as if Tolle was reporting from the inside of my mind as he described the inner critic that constantly torments us, obsessing over past mistakes and future worries, never letting us enjoy what's happening right now. It is now my favourite self-help book, the one I turn to again and again and again. Its message is simple: live in the now; it's all we have. Stop worrying. Ask yourself: do you have a problem right now? Nine times out of 10, the answer is no. If you can get past the oddly worded sentences, this book really could change your life.
Hodder & Stoughton, €14
For self-help haters
Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze by Svend Brinkmann
If you rolled your eyes at all of the above books, why not buy a self-help title that's all about hating self-help? This book by a Danish psychology professor argues that life is hard and you're not special, so instead of focusing on shallow goals like happiness or success, you should acknowledge your limitations and learn to love your lot.