Self-help books are a perfect example of why reading is an investment in yourself. There’s an inspirational author ready to guide you, whether you want to improve your health, your happiness, your finances or your professional success. The best ones offer a perfect balance between entertaining stories, intellectual challenge and emotional uplift. Here are 5 that are guaranteed conversation starters in 2018:
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning seems destined for pop-cultural attention – it’s a Scandinavian concept about living well (hygge 2.0?); it’s about decluttering (and shares similar philosophies with Marie “Spark Joy” Kondo); and it grabs our attention with its matter-of-factness about mortality. But more than that, it’s a really good idea! Margareta Magnusson introduces her readers to döstädning – sorting out your stuff before you die, rather than leaving the whole mess to your loved ones. Keep the items you care about, and give away or sell the others. Such decluttering can reduce stress, and is a good opportunity for reminiscing and curating your legacy. Margareta Magnusson’s gentle wit and wisdom makes this a surprisingly funny and thoroughly interesting book.
How to be Human: the Manual by Ruby Wax
A comedian, a neuroscientist and a monk meet up and talk…. this may sound like a joke, but instead is the basis of this manual on how our bodies, minds and brains interact to make us “human”. Ruby Wax is a comedian whose struggle with depression motivated her to gain a Master’s Degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. In How to be Human, she has teamed up with a monk (an expert in our inner lives) and a neuroscientist (an expert on the brain) to explore the tough questions around how to find happiness in the modern world – evolution, thoughts, emotions, relationships, addictions, the future. Ruby’s wit and anecdotes bring it all together into a funny, readable, insightful and uplifting read – you can also look forward to the stage show version in the works!
Make Your Bed: Small Things that can Change your Life … and maybe the World by William H. McRaven
Make Your Bed started off as a speech given by Admiral William McRaven at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, where he reflected on some life lessons he learnt through basic Navy SEAL training. (Making your bed every morning was his first lesson. Even such a small task can motivate you to complete more tasks, and, at the end of a rough day, a made bed will offer you some solace.) The speech went viral, with many people inspired by his down-to-earth, tough-but-kind approach, particularly within the context of his highly distinguished, 37-year naval career. Make your Bed expands on the ideas in that speech to present ten life lessons in greater detail – these lessons will serve you well, whether you want to become a better person, succeed in business, or indeed change the world.
Barking Up The Wrong Tree: the Surprising Science Behind why Everything you Know about Success is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Baker
Barking up the Wrong Tree is a distillation of the enormously entertaining and thought-provoking blog of the same name, by Eric Barker. Here Eric applies the Mythbusters treatment to some age-old advice about success, such as “nice guys finish last” and “winners never quit, and quitters never win”. He argues that these maxims were not based on research, and presents scientific data that disprove or qualify them. With quirky examples ranging from pirates to Albert Einstein to serial killers, Barking up the Wrong Tree encourages us to challenge conventional wisdom, and forge our own paths to awesome lives.
The Happiness Plan by Elise Bialylew
The Happiness Plan is a one-month mindfulness meditation program that aims to help us experience greater happiness, focus and emotional balance. Its collection of exercises shows us how to incorporate mindfulness practice into our daily routine – even ten minutes’ worth each day can create positive changes in our physical and mental wellbeing. Elise Bialylew is a meditation teacher and life coach with a background in medicine and psychiatry, and her understanding of the science behind mindfulness informs her approach. The Happiness Plan also aims to support readers beyond the book itself, by offering access to guided meditations available through Elise’s website.