What is the Best Ever Self-Help Book?



I was at a gathering on the weekend and as conversation moved to the topic of books and how powerfully life-changing they are, the question was posed, “So what is the best ever self-help book?”

I was stumped.

One book?

The best ever?

My brain went into overload with the possibilities – and impossibility of an answer – and questions and qualifiers …

Could there be one book so universally helpful that no matter who picked it up – no matter their culture or sex or stage of life – they would come away from reading it feeling their life was now markedly better?

  • Would it be a classic on relationships like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People?
  • Or something that just cut through the BS and helped you function like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?
  • Or would it be a contemporary bestseller that taps into the happiness and mindfulness zeitgeist such as Russ Harris’ The Happiness Trap?
  • Or the grand-daddy of books that help us get to the core of what’s important, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning?
  • Or a classic that helps us with courage in the face of adversity, M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled?
  • Or that other courage uber-bestseller that address the ONE thing that brings us unstuck, Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway?
  • But if it’s all about the ONE thing that universally helps us in life then surely it would be the present-moment awareness classic, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now?
  • But maybe I’m missing the point and the best self-help comes in the form of a fable like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist?
  • Or it is a novel such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird?
  • Or maybe Dr Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go?
  • Heck, maybe it’s The Bible? Or Bhagavad Gita? Or Koran? Or Tao Te Ching?
  • Or … or … or …

That’s a snippet of what was going on in my head in that moment.

The answer I settled on?

“It depends.”

It depends on what kind of story works for you. It depends on the situation you’re in and what you want to change. It depends on your values and beliefs.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of the right book at the right time?

But now I’m not so sure.

Perhaps there is one book to change them all?

And if the “best ever self-help book” doesn’t exist then what would it look like?

  • What topic(s) would it cover?
  • What tone would it have? Would it be warm and gentle or preachy and bootcampy?
  • Would it be a motivational or aspirational or psychological or philosophical or spiritual text?
  • Would it be a contemporary western take on life or written by a solitary goatherd in the Andes?

The search is on …