Yep, I’m one of those suckers who dives head-first into the self-help section every January. Not only because I actually have a few days of leisure to read as long as I wish, but also because the cold, dreary weather makes me want to hit my reset button and make a little sunshine of my own. Here are some of my favorite self-help books that focus on laughs, positive steps, good health, loving yourself, and focusing on the things you can actually control.
No impossible goals, fasting, six-hour workouts, tough love, or house-wide decluttering. Promise.
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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Many of us at Cool Mom Picks is are big fans of this delightful book that follows one mom’s quest to find more happiness in her life. With lots of actionable items that aren’t at all scary, everyone is sure to find a few small moves that will make big waves. For example, make your bed every day. I just make my half of my bed, and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something before breakfast. Let’s just say there’s a reason the subtitle is Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. I enjoyed that it wasn’t all Pollyanna; Gretchen is honest about what did and didn’t work for her, and she backs up her findings with science and copious notes.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Talk about a title that tells you what the book’s all about. Whether you loved Eat Pray Love or turned up your nose at it, you are likely to relate to this book — a staunch reminder that you are a creative spirit and that you can become exactly who you want to be. Any time I feel creatively blocked, I pick it up and flip through it. The main thrust is that fear and perfectionism are holding us back, and that you don’t have to be a naturally talented bestselling author or top-level painter to open yourself up to what a creative life has to offer. Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Shivers, right? Every page is that good.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I waited far too long to read this amazing combination memoir and self-help juggernaut from one of America’s funniest and smartest women. Amy tells the story of her childhood and rise to (hard won) stardom while dropping major wisdom on chasing your dreams, asking for what you want, and figuring out how to be happy when everything goes to heck. I read it on my iPad and wished I’d bought it in paperback so I could underline and dog-ear nearly every page. This would make a fabulous gift for the girlfriend or even grandma who’s in a rut — but maybe not for a teen, as Amy is super honest about her experience using recreational drugs.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Read this one the same week as Big Magic and prepare to feel your mind reborn. Or at least blown. Brené Brown is known for her highly popular TED Talks on the power of vulnerability, and this book expands on that topic. The biggest takeaway for me was the difference between shame and guilt, which has helped me be a better person and a better parent. The book opens with Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote on The Arena, which is one of my own personal guiding lights and distills down to the understanding that you’ve got to show up and do the work, and that critics who don’t do that don’t get a say. If it sounds like the book is about being a soft little creampuff, I assure you it’s the total opposite of that. You’ll stand taller after reading it.
Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons
Blogger Brittany Herself made headlines for her TED Talk in which she stripped on stage to really drive home her thoughts on body acceptance. In her self-love book, Brittany covers tons of human issues, lady issues, and mom issues, in addition to body issues, with grace and a lot of humor. This book had such an impact on my own body image that I pulled up my shirt and took a pic of my least favorite body part, my pudgy-stretchmarked-pokey-outey-shapeless belly, and put it up on Twitter. And it felt good.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight
Full disclosure: I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and took two carloads of junk to charity. Loved that book, still keep my socks and tees folded. But I also love this so-called parody, which is about how to clean up the useless junk taking up room in your head and heart. Toxic people, meaningless chores you hate — it’s all about figuring out how to do less of what you hate and so you can do more things that you love. It would make a great gift for that anxiously multi-tasking mom friend who has forgotten what her own hobbies are because she’s too busy baking 600 cupcakes for the PTA bake sale. But don’t worry — it won’t leave you living in your mom’s basement in last week’s underwear. The book is all about helping you figure out which f*cks to give.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
I’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan. I own all his books and re-read them constantly for inspiration and great recipes. His newest book, Tools of Titans, combines all the most important and poignant advice gleaned from his podcast interviews with some of the most intelligent, interesting, and successful human beings on the planet. Whether you want to live longer, save more money, start a new venture, or find your zen, you can read the book straight through or hunt and peck for people and topics you find interesting. Get a paper copy so you can keep it by the bedside and take notes. I wish there were more women in here, but…I feel that way about pretty much everything right about now.