Self-help books. Are they a load of rubbish? Or do they actually work? Which ones are worth following and which ones are just nuts? Journalist Marianne Power tried out twelve of the most popular self-help books to see if they could help turn her life around and make her a happier person. The result is a heartfelt, fascinating and funny read.
This book is both a memoir and a self-help book in its own right, I feel. I’ve never been one for self-help books but I know what a successful genre it is and that authors can make an awful lot of money from selling a dream to vulnerable readers, if we’re looking at this cynically. What Marianne discovered is that every self-help book has some element of wisdom but that while some are more useful than others, it’s really connecting with people that helps the most. During the crazy year and a bit that she spent trying all these different methods, she fell out with her friends and family, got further into debt and suffered from depression. It’s not a great endorsement for self-help books but the result is that she was finally in a better mindset by the end of her painful yet liberating journey.
I was hooked from the beginning, in which Marianne is modelling for a life-drawing class (one of a list of ‘fears’ she is tackling while reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway) and wondering just what she’s getting into. There are plenty of cringeworthy Bridget Jones-esque moments ahead. The mixture of awkward confessional moments and sober reflections on her wellbeing, along with observations on things that many of us can relate to, is a winning formula I think. My conclusion about self-help books from this is that no one needs them, but they might be effective in conjunction with positive action, supported by people who love you unconditionally. We also need to be realistic about our aspirations, be thankful for what we do have and appreciate the details in life.
First published in 2018.