Self-help books are unquestionably one of the greatest literary phenomena of recent history. As a matter of fact, we often find the in the best-selling lists. They discuss a myriad problems, from all kinds of angles and disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, philosophy, mysticism or even plain common sense.

Each day, more people use books for personal improvement to guide them in life an deal with their day-to-day problems. Self-help books, for instance, tackles issues such as quitting smoking, facing the loss of a loved one, increasing self-esteem, becoming more efficient at work or knowing how to handle a loving relationship.

Key Facts

  • Nowadays, we can find a self-help book for every single problem we encounter in life. These works try and guide us in our daily work, generally written by experts in the matter.
  • The offer is incredible, and there are self-help books for everyone: children, teenagers, parents or women, and more. Some of these books are written in the form of novels, trying to transmit the same messages and teachings to us.
  • Choosing a self-help book isn’t a walk in the park. For this reason, we encourage you to follow a series of specific aspects that will help you make the right decision. For example, you should pay attention to readers’ comments and do some research on the author.

Ranking: The best self-help books on the Australian market

In the following section, you will discover our selection of five self-help books placed amongst the best sellers of 2019. We’ve tried to pick each one focusing on a different topic, as well as presenting a unique approach. We’re confident that one of these self-help books will bring you the answers you’ve been looking for and hadn’t found until now.

No. 1: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

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Jordan Bernt Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychiatrist and professor of psychology, which means that he’s pretty well equipped to give you some powerful insights into life in general. His end message is one that you may not hear very often, and that’s why we like it: he argues that we must search for meaning in life, happiness being a pointless objective.

And we’re not the only ones to appreciate his message, since 12 Rules for Life is an Amazon Best Seller. Readers have said that it was particularly inspiring and insightful. Peterson discusses 12 small yet profound principles that can influence your life, such as standing up straight, keeping your house tidy or… petting cats you encounter on the street. Yes, it comes with a very welcomed hint of humour, too.

No. 2: The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert

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British psychologist Paul Gilbert is the author of The Compassionate Mind and founder of the Compassionate Focused Therapy (CFT), a psychotherapy method. He is recognised in his field and takes from a wide array of concepts and philosophies in his works. This self-help book discusses the impact of compassion on your well-being and overall mental health.

By exploring how we’ve developed survival techniques when facing dangerous situations, Gilbert argues – and backs it up with scientific evidence – that compassion can help us tackle life’s challenge in a more efficient way. This work also includes basic mind training exercises to help you develop your ability to be compassionate, towards others as well as towards yourself.

No. 3: How to Live in the Present Moment by Matt Morris

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Matt Morris isn’t a renowned scientist like the two previous authors, but he’s a best-selling writer who’s learnt a lot of lessons the hard way and seeks to help others through his personal experiences. The subtitle of his book – Let Go of the Past and Stop Worrying about the Future – basically says it all about the main focus of the work: clearing your mind and enjoying every moment.

This book will give you a wide range of tools and tips to deal with everyday challenges. Reader comments say that this self-help book is an easy read, making its messages simple to assimilate and a great way to get into mindfulness. It will help you learn to meditate, increase your productivity at work and leave the past where it belongs.

No. 4: Never Binge Again by Glenn Livingston

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Dr. Glenn Livingston is a veteran psychologist and a former obese person, which adds weight – dare we say – to his self-help work on how to reprogram yourself to think like a permanently thin person. This last part also happens to be the subtitle of the book, and Dr. Livingston takes the lessons learnt from his experiences to help you finally achieve your goals.

The great thing about this book is that it doesn’t sell you a specific diet as the miracle cure you’ve been waiting for. Rather, it focuses on providing you with tools to get into the right mindset for your personal diet to be most efficient. Readers have called Never Binge Again a true eye-opener, giving them a new perspective on their eating problems.

No. 5: The Happiness Plan by Elise Bialylew

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Elise Bialylew is an Australian doctor trained in psychiatry and mindfulness, and the founder of the organisation The Mind Life Project. It provides mindfulness-based coaching and training for people to achieve their goals. This self-help book outlines a one-month program to help you find greater balance in your life through different simple practices.

These include learning to develop more fulfilling relationships or finding the true meaning of your life. The work consists of small daily exercises as well as access to guided meditation audios, it’s been a fan favourite for all those seeking to live a happier life. In just ten minutes a day, giving it a go sounds like a pretty good option.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about self-help books

Also known as self-development books, these works are often undervalued by their naysayers. That being said, millions of people throughout the world have turned to them for guidance after feeling lost in their lives. In the section below, we answer some of the questions you’ve probably been asking yourself regarding this type of literature.

How should I read self-help books?

This is really quite different from other genres. Unlike novels, for instance, you won’t just lay back on your couch and let the vicissitudes of the protagonists take you away. If you truly want to get the most out of self-help books, you’ll have to immerse yourself in every single sentence, reading them over and over until you fully understand them.

We encourage you to have a notebook with you, where you can write down the key concepts and ideas. You might then want to search the Internet to deepen your understanding. Feel free to underline passages and take notes in the book itself; this is a great sign that you are assimilating its message.

Self-help books often rely on fiction to convey their message.
(Source: Viktoriia Hnatiuk: 96481211/

Remember that being critical is particularly important when you’re reading your self-help book. You must always ask yourself the following question: Am I connecting with the message that the author is trying to convey? If you’re flipping pages without feeling that the book’s advice can be applied to your life, you’ll know that it isn’t right for you.

If you finish the book very quickly, read it over again. You’ve probably skipped many valuable lessons. Reading a this type of literature is an experience far removed from any other genre out there. For this reason, take it slow and delve into its contents rather than devouring through the book.

How can I make the most of my self-help book?

Now that you know exactly how to go about reading these books, we’ll tell you how to get the most out of them. Start by choosing books recommended by reliable sources and that focus on topics you think might bring you something new. You may also want to learn more about the author and what pushed him or her to write the work. This will give you a broader perspective on the book itself.

Be receptive and open to the ideas presented in the book. Otherwise, you’ll quickly feel that what you’re reading doesn’t connect to you and that you cannot apply it to your life. That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a book aside if the message it conveys isn’t for you. You’ll find thousands of personal growth books out there, and there will always be one for you.

Napoleon HillAmerican Author

“Strength and growth only come through continuous effort and struggle.”

Take the time to reflect on the book once you’re done reading it. Dedicate time and let the ideas that the author wants to transmit through the work sink in. A good way to apply what you’ve learnt is to try a different teaching of the book every day. Advice shouldn’t simply be theoretically good: it also needs to work.

Are there self-help books for teenagers?

Adolescence is an essential stage of life, filled with continuous changes and transformations. This is why these books are the perfect complement for teenagers to learn to deal with their own problems. These works discuss topics such as self-esteem, studies, friendships or feelings and emotions.

One of the most popular self-help books for young people is You Don’t Have to Learn Everything the Hard Way. Written by Laya Saul, an author of children’s books, it discusses a variety of topics that are important during that stage of life. These include learning ways to face challenges, insights on sexuality or how to achieve your goals.

Are there self-help books that aren’t typical self-help books?

Not everyone is into this type of book. While best-selling lists often feature them, there are still people who hold prejudices against them. This is why you will find certain self-development books in the form of comic or novel, for instance.

Some very famous comics are actually self-help books in hiding, such as Charles Schulz’s Peanuts or world-famous Mafalda by Argentine author Quino. Other biography works like Groucho Marx’s hilarious Groucho and Me, or literary classics like The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, also have incredible personal improvement potential.

It’s always useful to learn more about the author and what pushed him or her to write the work.
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What are the best self-help books written by women?

Many women have written books on personal growth, such as Rhonda Byrne and her best seller The Secret, or Marie Kondo. This Japanese woman’s work The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. In it, she reveals the mysterious connection between the physical order of our home and our emotional well-being.

Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote another interesting self-help book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In this, Gilbert teaches us to empower our most creative selves. Women entrepreneurs the likes of Sheryl Sandberg have poured their knowledge into books such as Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. The Facebook COO uses it to reveal techniques to awaken the leader that every woman is within.

Are there self-help books for children?

Tales are an essential tool of children’s learning. They are useful to help overcome certain problems they face during the first years of their lives. These books are there ideal to boost their self-esteem and self-confidence. Children can also learn to manage the emotions and frustration that they generally externalise in the form of tantrums.

Self-help books for kids have replaced classic tales. When they come in the form of fables or parables, stories can reach children and parents alike, the latter being ultimately responsible for their education. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, or Stick Up for Yourself! by Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael are two great options.

Stephen RichardsAuthor of the Cosmic Ordering Guide series

“The good thing about a self-help book is that if you misunderstand something then it won’t mock you.”

Have self-help books been adapted into movies?

This genre has actually been quite a source of inspiration for the cinema industry. Many films originate from self-development books. These include Sex and the Single Girl (1964), inspired by Helen Gurley Brown’s book of the same name, and Think Like a Man (2012), based on Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s bestseller He’s Just Not That into You is another self-help book brought to the big screen, setting the stage for the 2009 comedy of the same name. Another cinematographic success inspired by a work of personal development is What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012), based on the eponymous book.

Are there self-help books in the form of novels?

Self-help works often rely on fiction to convey their messages. Novels are fantastic for this because they entertain us while allowing us to easily assimilate their teachings and advice. Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has written a novel of personal development entitled The Alchemist (1988).

Canadian author Yann Martel wrote another title commonly found in the self-help book section, Life of Pi. This book is a novel and has also been adapted to the big screen in 2012. Other novels that you can use as self-help books include The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, or Turtles All the Way Down byJohn Green.

Self-help books cover a wide range of different topics, from relationships to self-esteem or even career decisions.
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What are the funniest self-help books?

We often times see self-help books as serious works. However, you can find many that address different themes in a more humanistic way, without ceasing to be self-help books. If you want to have a good time, we recommend you to opt for Tear Up this Book! by Keri Smith, an original book that will awaken your most creative side.

Here’s another fan favourite from American author Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The title is truly irreverent, and you’ll have a genuinely great time reading while learning valuable life lessons. In his work, Manson challenges you to take your problems face on, and even choose which problems are worth giving a…

Another great self-help book that draws on humour to teach you some useful things about life is You are a Badass, by best-selling author Jen Sincero. The coach and motivational speaker has now released three books in the Badass series, each focusing on specific topics. From boosting your self-confidence to boosting your bank account, there’s lots of lesson to take from her funny works.

Shopping Criteria

Every year, an overwhelming number of self-help books are published. This genre is amongst the most popular, and authors now write on just about every topic you can possibly think of. This is why we want to discuss some key aspects that you should consider if you want to pick the book that will most help you in your daily life.

  • Author
  • Style
  • Opinions
  • Best Sellers
  • Title


It’s always useful to find out a little bit more about the author of the work you’re interested in. You might sometimes realise that those who write self-help books aren’t actually specialists. Try and avoid these, and focus on renowned authors. Don’t forget that these books are designed to give you tips on various problems you may have, not dig you a bigger hole to fall into.


This is naturally a key criterion to consider when choosing your next self-help book. Privilege authors who use a clear and friendly tone, avoiding too many technicalities. You should also check the index if you can. It will give you a good overview of its content, so you can know if the book discusses too many topics that don’t interest you.

Roy T. BennettAuthor of The Light in the Heart

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make, makes you. Choose wisely.”


Nowadays, one great tool that Internet offers is the access to the opinions and ratings of people who have already read a specific book. Head to websites of literary recommendations and check the comments on online bookshops to learn more about self-help books. That being said, you should always take comments with a grain of salt as they may be biased.

Best Sellers

Books that top the sales charts are rarely there for no reason: people love them. So why not just opt for trendy works if you simply can’t choose which self-help book you’ll most enjoy? That being said, you shouldn’t fear going for lesser-known works if you feel that they offer more lessons useful to you.


We’re ready to bet that you’ve already been attracted to a self-help book because of its title only. Some authors like to add a touch of humour to their title, while others opt for sensationalism. This is why we encourage you to avoid books that convey bias or any form of discrimination in their title.


In the first section of our article, you discovered five five self-help books that can truly make your life easier. From Glenn Livingston’s weight loss tips to the transformative happiness secrets revealed by meditation teacher and psychiatrist Elise Bialylew, we’re sure there’s lot for you take from in our selection.

This literary genre covers wide array of topics. This is why it is important for you to answer a series of questions in order to pick the book that suits you best. The criteria we discussed earlier will be of great help for you to know if the book you’re interested in is really for you.

If you found our shopping guide interesting, feel free to share this article on your social media. You can also leave a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Roman Motizov: 50803253/

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