Self-Help Books that Don’t Suck

A couple of years ago, if you would have told me that I’d be recommending inspirational and/or self-help type books, I would have laughed. I used to think these were unbearably cheesy or just for pathetic, middle-aged losers.

(I’m working on the judgmental thing, I swear.)

Then I discovered inspirational and or self-help type books that are not cheesy or spiritual or lame at all, and I’m a total convert. Really.

Self Help Books That Don't Suck


It started with The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight.

the life changing magic of not giving a fuck

Everyone was raving about Tidying Up, but I was already on the path to minimalism (the real battle was getting my husband on board, but that’s another story). I needed to Marie Kondo my life.

I was stressed out and overwhelmed. I’d been struggling with balancing family and work, and building up resentment towards demanding people who I didn’t feel were giving the same level of commitment as I was. I was trying to do all the things, without even really thinking of if they were things I actually wanted.

What I needed was to give less fucks.

This book is for “people who are exhausted by presenting a façade of interest, enthusiasm, and conformity to the rest of the world.”

The central technique is simple: “I call it the NotSorry Method. It has two steps: 1.  Deciding what you don’t give a fuck about 2.  Not giving a fuck about those things.”

A few simple ways I instituted it in my life include accepting that I do not have to give a fuck about every single family dinner at my in-laws.

Why do my brother-in-laws not have to show up for Easter dinner, but I somehow feel obligated to? I also do not have to give a fuck about my partner’s creepy uncle or ever give his smelly ass a hug. I can take the good from that side of the family—really! I like them! I am happy to help clean grandma’s house once a month! it’s a nice, helpful thing to do!— but if I can’t make it to someone’s birthday party because I’ve got a deadline or I’d just rather watch Netflix, that’s okay too!

I used to get super pissed about the way Mister BS would just take off his socks and through them on the floor. In the bedroom, bathroom, living room, etc. There were fucking socks everywhere. I was always picking them up and putting them in the hamper and then being a total bitch about him being a slob.

I realized I was being a total bitch for no reason. Who gets so upset about socks? I decided I don’t give a fuck, and when he starts running out of clean socks because the cats hide them and none of them make it into the washer, maybe he’ll start giving a fuck about his own socks.

Figuring out what you give a fuck and what you do not give a fuck about is an ongoing process. But now, when I start to get stressed or asked to take on too much, I reevaluate and most importantly, let go of my guilt.

Up next, I checked out Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.

year of yes

This one was EVEN BETTER. It was like Shonda Rhimes was just your best friend, telling you how it is. She was so conversational and really allowed herself to be honest and vulnerable, which was so refreshing.

And I really liked what she said about being happy.

“Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”

I could completely relate to Shonda Rhimes on so many levels. I loved what she had to say about her struggle with anxiety about being in the spotlight. Even Shonda Rhimes gets nervous! Even she feels like an imposter! But she conquered it. And I can too! Own your accomplishments and don’t diminish the praise you receive is something I’ve been told before, but the way Rhimes frames it just makes it so much easier to accept, believe, and put into process.

She was also really candid about her struggle with weight and the way she used food as a coping mechanism. Um, yes. You know who else had toxic friends who resented her success and were bringing her down? SHONDA RHIMES.

Seriously, check this book out. It was inspiring— I want to be as amazing as Shonda Rhimes!— but also comforting— Shonda Rhimes rules Thursday night TV but still struggles with like real life stuff!

So I read those books in the beginning of the year, and they got me over my fear of self-help and/or inspirational nonfiction. Enough to check out this audiobook from Hoopla. Because, I want to be a badass. I mean, sometimes I feel like a badass, but I want to own it 100% (or maybe 95% of the time).

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero was a great audiobook.

you are a badass

The thing about this one, is it is TOTALLY a self-help book. Not a parody (like Life-Changing Magic) and not a memoir, exactly (Year of Yes). It’s not religious, but it does have a slightly spiritual message about the universe and shit. BUT Jen Sincero’s very droll, matter-of-fact narration and dry sense of humor and completely non-cheesy approach to these ideas makes it work for me.

“If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.”

That was my biggest takeaway, but there’s a lot of wisdom and good affirmations packed in here, so much that I might even buy myself a copy in print so I can pull it out occasionally. But I did really enjoy the audiobook, and would recommend it.

I’ve made a LOT of life changes so far this year. These aren’t the books that made it happen, but they definitely helped me figure out what I wanted and convince myself that I not only could do it, that I deserve it.

[Tweet “Here’s to giving less fucks, saying yes, and being a badass. “]

Do you have any favorite self-help books? I’d love your suggestions. 

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  • I just started Year of Yes on audio and I can’t wait to get into it. I kept hearing it recommended and as fate would have it, it was available for checkout. Score! I think I NEED to read the first book. I know for a fact that I am way more uptight than I need to be about a lot of things that really don’t matter, and with kid #2 on the horizon now is the time to just stop it already.

  • Kelly Jensen

    Brene Brown!
    I loved Daring Greatly, but I think I liked Rising Strong even more.

    • I’ll definitely check that out! I know that was popular at the library but I was wary of the corny title…need to get over it!

  • Yes, yes, yes! I love this. I 100% need to read the fist book. Legitimately struggle with this one an HOURLY basis. It is a big contributor to my anxiety. I know it gets easier as you get older to “do what you want and not feel bad about it”… but both KC and I struggle with this intensely. I have had Shonda’s book on my list for a while, and I would definitely like to check it out. The last one I’m not sure about. I’ve defintely been judgy about it. Very popular and seems like it’s “trying to be edgy” … but it’s good to know that you liked it. It helps me to be a little less so.. ha! In general I like self help books. I enjoy lifestyle books more… I appreciate the ideas in them and am able to glean out the info from the fluff. 🙂 XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  • Katrina Dillon

    I’m definitely going to have to check out the first one. I absolutely loved the audio version of “The Year of Yes.” I listened to it a month ago, and still find myself thinking about some of it. I also second the Brene Brown suggestions. I really liked the audio version of “Rising Strong” because Brown reads it herself. Not sure if they count as self-help, but I’m really enjoying “Quiet” by Susan Cain. I also liked “Lean In” way more than I expected and it seemed to function as a self-help book, at least for me.

  • Year of Yes is my jaaaaam! I loved it so much in hardback, I bought the audiobook so I could listen to it on my commute too. I have read it twice now and I also feel like Shonda is such a relatable person. I recommend this to everyone I know. I also have been told I would like You are a Badass but have yet to pick it up. Maybe I’ll grab it with my Audible credit this month!

    • It’s so good! I read it, but have been thinking of revisiting it in audio. Does your library have Hoopla or Overdrive? You can probably get it for free (although I do use Audible too, it’s very convenient).