Self-help books have been around for a long time. Readers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will remember Mr. Collins reading aloud from Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women. It was a late 18th and early 19th century book that advises women on how to conduct their lives.
Since then the self-help book industry has grown exponentially. When someone asks me to recommend a self-help book, I try to consider what they are really looking for? Inspiration, healing, self-improvement or general guidance of personal conduct? Here is the way I think about self-help books. First, by the background of the author and second by the focus of the book.
Spiritual or Secular Authorship
Spiritual authorship titles are usually written by clergy of organized religions or devout practitioners of spiritual movements. The secular titles are written by professionals (doctors, psychologists) or by an individual whose life experience conveys some expertise.
Specific or General Focus
A book with a specific focus proposes to help the reader with a specific problem: addictions, overcoming obstacles like intense fears, changing your career or finding a mate. General focus books try to help the reader with a more holistic approach.
By Harold S. Kushner
Rabbi Kushner writes about suffering and loss.
By Joan Chittister
A Benedictine sister writes about growing older.
By Miquel Ruiz
Shamanic teacher and healer presents a code of personal conduct.
By Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual teacher Tolle shares his philosophy for living.
By Dale Carnegie
Salesman's 1936 longlasting bestseller improves communication skills.
By Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill
Businessman Covey and team write about time management.
By Stephen Grosz
Psychoanalyst Grosz discusses techniques to apply to everyday lives.
By M. Scott Peak
Psychiatrist Peck explains principles that lead to a lifetime of sustained growth.