We have bookshelves in several rooms in our home; behind me in my office – visible when I’m in a video-based meeting – are two bookcases that are pretty well packed with books that feel relevant to my working life and since I’m in the business of personal growth and life change, one could fairly categorize every single one of those books as self-help.
Some certainly fit the bill quite specifically, such as:
- Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
- Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Others, just as impactful, fall into other categories such as:
- How We Die by Sherwin B. Nulang, a fairly literal (and beautifully-written) look at the emotional and physiological aspects of death from the perspective of a physician
- The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau, a book on mindful travel
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – the title is pretty self-explanatory on that one
- Children of the Revolution by Jonathan Kozol which details the program Fidel Castro put in place that led to a greater than 90% literacy rate in Cuba
- My Stroke of Insight, neurophysiologist Jull Bolte Taylor’s wonderful recounting of her experience of a rare stroke in the right side of her brain
And several shelves of business books that range from brand development to leadership to group dynamics to communication to productivity practices. (Novels, graphic novels, memoirs, and other categories live on shelves in other rooms.)
Self-Help as a literary category has gotten a bad rap over time, I suppose in part because of the hope that simply reading a book will be enough to change our lives. As I often say in coaching, the conversations we have are fascinating philosophy… until we add action to them; it’s the action that changes our lives. Same with info we gather anywhere; unless we enact it, we’ll likely not be aware of any benefit of having gained it.
That said, it’s clear that I’m a fan of books. I was a lover of reading before I could even assemble our lines and squiggles into words and concepts. (Really, I recall pretending to read before I had learned how.)
And I do believe that all of that information that we gather works away in the greater part of ourselves that functions without our conscious awareness. I believe that, often, when we’re not noticing the impact of something we’ve learned, it’s because we haven’t added the conscious action and the unconscious bit is working too subtly to register on the gauges of our ham-fisted self-evaluations.
I believe that a diversity of topics and perspectives and ideas stirs our creativity, expands our consciousness, and adds beautiful complexity to the symphony that guides our dance steps as we twirl and sidestep and promenade to our biggest, baddest lives.
So… what are you reading?