Gone are the days when self-help books for women were cheesy, impersonal, and boring. Now, if you know where to look, you'll find empowering, genuinely useful self-help books designed to make you feel good—like you're receiving advice from a trusted friend or an inspiring mentor. Self-help books are also handy for anyone interested in growing in terms of their creativity, career, emotional maturity, or spiritual life. No matter what you're going through in life—or even if you're just looking to grow and learn—we can all use a little self-help and learning from time to time. Ahead, check out some of the self-help books for women that made our required reading list.
'Own It: Make Your Anxiety Work for You' by Caroline Foran
Author Caroline Foran describes dealing with debilitating anxiety in spite of the fact that, on paper, her life seemed to be going well. In Own It, she shares how she not only muscled through the worst of her mental health struggles, but also how she learned to live with her anxiety disorder and how she successfully manages it on a day-to-day basis.
'Communion: The Female Search for Love' by bell hooks
At first glance, it may seem like this book is purely about looking for romantic love, but guess again: Written by renowned intersectional feminist bell hooks, Communion is the third in a series about living through love as a woman of color. Although it does discuss romantic love at length and compellingly dismisses the notion that romance and feminism are mutually exclusive, it also teaches readers how to foster self-love, friendship, and psychological peace.
'The Body Keeps the Score' by Bessel van der Kolk
This book has gained incredible popularity recently and with good reason: Not only does it delve into the many ways that trauma and psychological distress wreak havoc on the body (something that the New Age community has contended for years), but it also details science-backed methods of moving past trauma and taking ownership of one's life.
'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success' by Carol S. Dweck
I was required to read this book in college, and I soon understood why: Its message is truly life changing. In Mindset, Dweck uses meticulously researched studies to prove that you really can do anything you set your mind to, and that everything you think you're "bad" at is, in reality, something you can work toward and succeed in, if you so choose. You'll walk away from this book with far more self-compassion, along with a greater appreciation for your own abilities.
'Women Who Run with the Wolves' by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
'How to Relax' by Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the eight books in renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's Mindfulness Essentials collection, How to Relax calls out our fast-paced society for its seeming inability to stop and smell the flowers. Through his easily digestible instruction and no-nonsense delivery, Hanh teaches us how to incorporate mindfulness and gratitude, and teaches us that we can center ourselves and even meditate anywhere—in front of the television, in our seats at work, or even on a crowded train.
'Find Your Unicorn Space' by Eve Rodsky
Raise your hand if your creativity has been put on the back burner during the pandemic?! *Slowly raises hand.* Eve Rodsky's 'Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World' couldn't be more relevant as the 'Fair Play' author helps readers channel their most creative selves while living within a seemingly endless hustle culture—even during a pandemic.
'Body Talk' by Katie Sturino
If you're not following Katie Sturino on Instagram, please do so immediately. The Megababe founder and host of the "Boob Sweat" podcast has built a loyal following discussing everything women are typically afraid to talk about. In her book, 'Body Talk,' Sturino reminds us how much time we're wasting talking sh*t about our bodies, as well as how to unlearn everything we've been taught about toxic beauty standards.
'More Than Enough' by Elaine Welteroth
Elaine Welteroth is here to tell you that you're more than enough. In this memoir-slash-manifesto, the 'Project Runway' judge and former 'Teen Vogue' Editor in Chief takes readers inside her own barrier-breaking life and career while providing lessons on race, identity, and success.
'You Are Your Best Thing' by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown
While not explicitly labeled a "self-help book," Tarana Burke and Brené Brown's 'You Are Your Best Thing' is a therapeutic anthology that basically doubles as one. Here, a range of Black writers, organizers, artists, academics, and cultural figures share their perspectives on the Black experience, including topics of shame, vulnerability, and the trauma of white supremacy.
'Wintering' by Katherine May
In 'Wintering,' Katherine May opens up about how she got through a difficult period of her life (her husband got sick, her son stopped attending school, and she left a demanding job), and beautifully illustrates how others can do the same. Through her personal story, readers learn to embrace the new seasons of their lives along with the power of rest and retreat.
'Full Out' by Monica Aldama
Where are my 'Cheer' fans at?! As season two of the hit Netflix docuseries approaches, find inspiring life and leadership lessons from Navarro College cheer coach Monica Aldama as she reveals how she built one of the most successful cheerleading programs in the country.
'Untamed' by Glennon Doyle
If you haven't read Glennon Doyle's 'Untamed' by now, do yourself a favor and order a copy immediately. In the book, Doyle takes readers through her journey to living a truly authentic life that will inspire you to do the same. And, remember, "We can do hard things."
'Professional Troublemaker' by Luvvie Ajayi Jones
Imposter syndrome? Never heard of her. Luvvie Ajayi Jones is here to help you tackle fear both in your professional and personal life through her signature humor and refreshing honesty.
'Where to Begin' by Cleo Wade
Fans of Cleo Wade's 'Heart Talk' will appreciate the poet and activist's 'Where to Begin'—a collection of poems, ideas, and mantras on how to make the world a better place...starting with ourselves.
'Own It' by Diane von Furstenberg
Keep this pocket-sized A-Z guide to life from the one and only Diane von Furstenberg on your desk for whenever you're in need of a pick-me-up.
'Yoke' by Jessamyn Stanley
Jessamyn Stanley wants readers to find the "yoga of the everyday" in 'Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance,' urging us to confront our toughest moments with the same energy and acceptance we would channel in our favorite yoga class.
'Am I There Yet?' by Mari Andrew
For all of my visual learners out there, grab a copy of Mari Andrew's 'Am I There Yet?,' which navigates adulthood and all of the growth, vulnerability, and heartbreak that comes with it.
'First & Only' by Jennifer R. Farmer
For every Black woman who has experienced microaggressions in the workplace and had to work twice as hard as their white colleague to get that raise, Jennifer R. Farmer's 'First & Only: A Black Woman's Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life,' is essential reading.
'Keep Moving' by Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith's 'Keep Moving' helps readers navigate grief, loss, transformation, and more through her collection of heartwarming poems.
'Your Time to Thrive' by Marina Khidekel & the Editors of Thrive Global
Anybody who's familiar with Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global and feels the exhausting effects of the pandemic will appreciate 'Your Time to Thrive,' a guide to preventing burnout and improving overall well-being through a shift in mindset, curated by Marina Khidekel and the editors of Thrive Global.
'Believe It' by Jamie Kern Lima
Jamie Kern Lima, founder of IT Cosmetics and the first female CEO of a L'Oréal brand, shares her empowering story of navigating the beauty industry's impossible standards while helping you overcome any feelings of self-doubt that may be holding you back in your own life.
'Maybe You Should Talk to Someone' by Lori Gottlieb
What happens when you're a therapist who needs therapy? Lori Gottlieb shares her deeply personal experience when she makes the switch from clinician to patient, and what we can all learn when we decide to break down the walls we've built around ourselves—consciously or not.
'Why Not Me?' by Mindy Kaling
Multiple friends of mine are obsessed with Mindy Kaling's 'Why Not Me?,' which documents the actress' weird and hilarious journey on how to find excitement in all aspects of her life. You can also read Kaling's collection of essays here.
'Little Weirds' by Jenny Slate
While it's not exactly a self-help book, Jenny Slate's collection of essays will certainly make you feel less alone while she navigates universal themes like love, anxiety, heartbreak, and the little things in life that matter the most.
'Year of Yes' by Shonda Rhimes
I still remember exactly how I felt when I read the last page of Shonda Rhimes' 'Year of Yes:' fearless. As she details her own inspiring journey of learning how to say yes (not in the overwork yourself way, more in the get out of your comfort zone way), the 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Scandal' creator encourages you to let your own guard down and give yourself the opportunity to experience the life moments—big and small—you never imagined you would.
'You Are a Badass' by Jen Sincero
Success coach Jen Sincero's 'You Are a Badass' is as hilarious as it is helpful: a refreshing, 27-chapter, no-bullshit guide to creating a life you truly love. It's also a perfect gift for that close friend who struggles to see their own self-worth sometimes.
'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo
Read Marie Kondo's best-selling 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' before queuing up her Netflix series, 'Tidying up with Marie Kondo.' Anybody who considers their home a sacred space (especially these days) will learn how freeing and uplifting decluttering can be from Kondo's genius tips using her KonMari method.
'Big Magic' by Elizabeth Gilbert
'Big Magic' is a must-read for anybody struggling to fuel the artist inside them while dabbling with society's expectations to work in the Big, Bad Corporate World. In the book, Elizabeth Gilbert—the best-selling author of 'Eat, Pray, Love'—shows it's always possible to live a creative life when you decide to put some faith in yourself...and the universe.
'Cringeworthy' by Melissa Dahl
Accidentally liking your ex's new girlfriend's picture on Instagram? Been there. Watching a stranger trip in front of a bunch of people? Done that. In Melissa Dahl's 'Cringeworthy,' she explores a "lifetime of cringing" and what our most awkward moments can teach us about ourselves.
'Tiny Beautiful Things' by Cheryl Strayed
You probably know Cheryl Strayed as the best-selling author of 'Wild,' but before Reese Witherspoon made her a household name, she was a secret columnist who used the pen name "Sugar" at 'The Rumpus,' an online literary magazine that launched in 2009. After Strayed revealed her identity, she released 'Tiny Beautiful Things,' a compilation of the advice given and received on love and loss and everything in between. In the words of one 'Marie Claire' editor: "This book changed my life."
'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz
My very wise college professor handed me a copy of 'The Four Agreements' a few years ago, and I've considered it a personal bible (or, in my case, torah) ever since. In the best-selling book, Don Miguel Ruiz uses ancient Toltec wisdom to teach us how to transform our lives using the four agreements: Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions. Always do your best.
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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