Books

10 Self Help Books Whose Titles Healed Me Without Having to Actually Read Them

I have a confession to make: I have never read more than one full chapter of a self-help book. Listen: I know they’re wildly popular. Self-Help is a many-billion dollar industry, and I’m sure many people are helped by the books they’ve read. Queer people are famous for helping ourselves, and we love to read! What could be better than doing both at once?

But when I try to read a self-help book, I get just about through the introduction before I remember: they’re long! They’re repetitive! And they’re often dry as toast! Is reading nonfiction case histories of women who love too much really what I want to do with my one wild and precious life?

Luckily, I have a hack for that. I was complaining to a friend once, and she laughed. “The best self-help books can help you just with their titles,” she said. “I never need to read any more than that.” She’s a genius! She TL:DR’d the industry!

And so, without endorsement of these books, or even admission to having read a single word, may I present: the top ten most useful self-help books that may help you without ever having to crack their spines!


This famous little gem (just barely) made the list because it teaches us what Autostraddle’s Straight People Watch so helpfully pointed out to us back in the day: The Straights are NOT okay. The guy who wrote this really took the idea of ​​“irreconcilable differences” and flew with it, didn’t he?

When I think of “empaths,” I think of Deanna Troi on the USS Enterprise, using her Betazoid powers to inform the captain that the alien who is yelling at them “feels great anger.” The thing I learned from this title is to feel slightly wary of anyone I see reading it.

Not trying to stir the pot on this one, but it seems like this concept — that parents can, indeed, be emotionally immature — is helpful to many people I know. Parents! They’re messy! Just like us!

Seems good! Vague, but good! This book is the self-help equivalent of a morning at the beach. Waves are lapping at the shore, someone’s playing a ukelele, you just got handed a beverage of choice from a bright blue cooler…can’t argue with this one.

Ok! I will!

It’s amazing how often this is the whole answer to a problem.

Whoever wrote this one has clearly seen my Google search history late at night. It’ll start with something innocuous like “can dogs have bananas” and pretty soon we’ll be into “canine defibrillator — home use?” territory. Someone should really take away my phone after 11 pm! Since I’m an adult, the person who should do that is, well, me. But I would gladly download an app that pops up every thirty minutes when my screen is on after dark to yell STOP! OVER! THINKING! in a very authoritative voice. Definitely someone with a British accent. Gillian Anderson? Jodie Comer? Help me out here, app developers!

Because fuck imposter syndrome! You’re hot and smart and you work hard at the things you do! You’re a good friend and your art is worth making and you are enough! Until those things feel true, you can just pretend they do, and do the damn thing anyway.

PS There is a typo in this book’s subtitle, which is “Fake It Until You Make It, Look and Act Confidence.” I feel like the author REALLY lives this particular message!

I live fewer than ten miles away from most of my extended family. I should print this on a bumper sticker and slap it on my Honda.

I love boundaries. I’ve always loved boundaries. Years ago, before I came out, I walled myself off and called those walls boundaries — even close friends knew so very little about me. But with a lot of work, I dismantled the walls! Then I had to learn what healthy boundaries really looked like when I was letting people in, seeing the real me. It’s a process, always. Boundaries, generally: I’m their #1 fan!

This book was recommended to me by the psychiatrist who gave me my ADHD diagnosis. Before I met with him, I’d felt crazy, stupid, and lazy for approximately twenty-nine years, ever since I stopped being able to turn in finished homework assignment in the second grade. I’d been called lazy a few times over, too. But surprise! Turns out I’m just neurospicy! Congratulations to me!

Fabulous advice, and advice I really wish I’d been able to metabolize in my early twenties. Coworker sighing loudly? You are not the target. Somebody acting irrationally angry? You are not the target. That old saying about how “everybody is fighting battles you don’t know about” is true, but no one ever says the next part, where those battles mean that a lot of people are going to act like assholes in your direction. Which sucks! And they shouldn’t do it! But whatever they’re going through? It’s probably not about you, and it’s probably not your job (or in your capacity) to fix it.


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