The 11 Best Self-Help Books of 2020

Better your life with these must-reads

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When you think of self-help books, do you think of smiling self-professed gurus proclaiming that the power of positive thinking (and $19.99 for their book) can change your life? You’ll find none of that here. In order to truly change your life, you don’t need positive thinking – you need to understand how change happens, the kinds of behaviors that help us create lasting change and the best methods for sticking to habits and breaking out of ruts. We put together a list of the best self-help books that'll have you well on your way to bettering yourself and your outlook on life, both professionally and personally.

Best Essential: How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Courtesy of Amazon

Improving your social skills and being open to personal growth is essential to bettering the course of your entire life. Excellent social skills can improve your work life, social life, and marriage. Author Dale Carnegie is a self-help guru whose writing can transform an awkward person into a confident person. Learn how to listen deeper, make connections, and make others feel important — all essential tools for making friends. Whether you are looking to grow a personal brand, excel at work, or improve your social life, this book has excellent takeaways that will help you on your journey. Human relationships will always remain at the forefront of a life well lived. Challenging yourself to be a better person and reminding yourself of the characteristics of a being a good friend often will leave you feeling fulfilled.

Best for Challenging Yourself: Year of Yes

Want to try something new? How about saying “yes” instead of “no” for an entire year? The brilliant Shonda Rhimes tried it out, and it turned out to be one of her best and most transformative years ever. You probably know Shonda as the rock star writer behind Grey's Anatomy and Scandal but did you know she is a self-professed introvert? She put herself out there and said yes to a Dartmouth commencement speech and yes to an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live among many other things over the course of a year. It was scary and uncomfortable at times, but that is how you grow. This book is written as a memoir and is very relatable. It turns out Shonda is like most of us, full of insecurities and self-sabotaging behaviors, totally common human emotions right? Hearing about her experiences and how facing her fears made her grow as a person is very inspiring. If you want to change your life, your way of living, and your attitude, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person is bound to spark something inside you.

Best for Data-Minded People: The Calculus of Happiness

A mathematical equation that will help you live your best life? Sign us up! Unfortunately, such an all-encompassing algorithm doesn’t exist (quite yet), but this book does harness the power of data and math to teach you how to make the best (or better) decisions about how to eat, how to spend and save and even how to date. You don’t have to be a math-whiz to understand this book, but even the super geniuses will have something to learn from this book. This is a great choice for those who are tired of words without substance, as each suggestion author Oscar E. Fernandez makes has a simple equation to go with it. 

Best for Understanding Modern Relationships: The State Of Affairs

For many people, the fastest way to end a relationship is to get caught or catch their partner cheating. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? In this sobering read, acclaimed psychologist Esther Perel will make you laugh, make you cry and give you invaluable insight into how relationships survive or fail – and oftentimes, it has nothing to do with cheating or not cheating, but with how well partners can help each other weather emotional, financial, psychological and personal storms. Even if you’ve never cheated or been cheated on, this book provides an in-depth look at how relationships are evolving, from understanding the newest takes on monogamy or not (anyone ever hear of a thruple?), to figuring out what we need out of our partners and understanding the things we must turn to others for.

Best Humorous: You Are a Badass

Learn how to love yourself and get in some good laughs along the way with Jen Sincero. After reading You Are a Badass, it will really feel like you've gotten to personally know Jen, her personality, and sense of humor. She shares easy exercises to help you overcome self-doubt and succeed in building your dream business. Learn to stop procrastinating and stop worrying about how you are going to get it all done and start moving forward. Do the work, use the tools, and use the conscious mind to create healthy habits within your unconscious mind. Jen's smart writing skills will have you reading this book at a breakneck pace. With 27 concise chapters and amusing titles like "How to Get Over Your Own B.S." and "Get Out There and Kick-Ass," you will love her straightforward and humorous writing style. She pinpoints so many self-sabotaging common behaviors that you may just suspect she's been spying on you. Find out how she views tough obstacles and overcomes them with brilliance and mental strength.

Best Big Impact: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

When we first heard about the claims of this book, we rolled my eyes so far back into my head that it hurt. “Tidying up your home and getting rid of stuff can change your entire life? Yeah, right,” we thought. But then by happy accident, we read the book, and it truly did work. Marie Kondo, an organizer turned make-people-throw-stuff-away-er, has a simple premise: You should keep only the things that make you truly happy when you pick them up, you should throw away all the rest, and you should organize things in one fell swoop so that you never have to do it again. While we can’t say that this last bit has proven true, you really will feel lighter and more able to take on the world if you rid your space of the physical clutter. You might find, just maybe, that your brain feels a little less cluttered as a result.

Best Self-Help Parable: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

You might not think that a long and winding semi-fiction book could have anything to teach you about improving your life, but you would be wrong. This book’s 540 pages are intimidating from the outside, but we promise you’ll zip through the inside of what is arguably the most important book written in the last 25 years. In it, Robert M. Pirsig teaches you how to live better by exploring all the ways in which we live, well, wrong. The book chronicles a trip that he took across the Pacific Northwest with his son, and explores some of the most timeless themes – love, loss, fear, and discovery – along the way. You’ll be exhilarated by the memories Pirsig explores and creates with his son, and find yourself craving some of your own, too.

Best From an Expert: What I Know For Sure

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful women in the world, hands-down. She built an empire for herself and overcame a childhood of poverty, and will undoubtedly leave a mark through her media empire for generations to come. In this book, she tells us, quite simply, the things she is sure of in life. For decades, she shared these bits of life advice in her monthly O Magazine column, but this book binds them all together in an updated collection. It’s organized by themes of attributes we can all stand to gain more of: joy, connection, gratitude and resilience among them. Where else but this book can the world’s most inspiring woman lead you on a personal journey towards living your best life?

Best for Not Living a Lazy Lifestyle: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Contrary to what the title of this book might make you imagine, this is not a book about saying “screw you” to all of the bosses in your life. We think this book should actually be titled “Life Sucks: Here’s How To Get Over It,” because that’s basically what Mark Manson’s book teaches you. His extremely anti-power of positive thinking, which is incredibly refreshing and honest, shows how the participation medal generation has been ruined by being coddled. Not quite convinced? Well, let us tell you this: The book will teach you how to identify your limits and use your weaknesses to propel you forward. This book will help you prioritize. This book might even teach you how to truly face your fears and love yourself. What do you really have to lose but your inhibitions?

Best for Interpersonal Skills: The Code of Trust

Gaining the trust of others is probably one of the most difficult things you can do. But contrary to popular belief, you should never try to accomplish this by “tricking” them into doing so or convincing them of your merits, only to go behind their backs. No, genuine trust building requires you to sincerely inspire trust. So just how do you do that, exactly? You’ve probably heard The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. But former Senior FBI Agent Robin Dreeke says that line of thinking is wrong, and offers up speaker Tony Alessandra’s alternative, The Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would like to be treated. To build trust, you have to put your ego and your judgments aside, trust logic and be kind and generous. This book will go a long way towards showing you how.

Best for Learning How To “Just Do”: Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

Are you great at making plans and the next big great idea, but terrible at finishing them? You’re not alone. The overwhelming majority of resolutions fail, and learning why that is the case is one of the most important things you can do. One first hint? It’s not that you’re not trying hard enough. No amount of caffeine, diet pills, exercise, yelling at yourself or self-help mentoring can force you to #liveyourbestlife. No, the best way to actually start effecting change is not to work harder, but smarter. It sounds simple, but the best way to convince yourself to do things is to do things you love rather than things you hate. By incorporating this strategy into your everyday life, you’ll realize that change isn’t hard – it’s fun.