30 of the best self-help books for self-improvement and personal development

The best self-help books can help you address sticking points in your life and help you to work out what it is you really want for a more positive future

a collage image featuring eight of the books in woman and home's best self-help books round-up
(Image credit: Future/Amazon)

Self-improvement is a trend that’s here to stay and reading the best self-help books has never been more important. With all the unexpected twists and turns that life can bring, taking care of ourselves is more vital than ever. There’s never been a better time to dive into non-fiction that helps you feel grounded and supported. 

The New Year is a great time to press reset and reevaluate our lives—whether you want to explore meditation, achieve your goals, build self-compassion, create more time for things you love, or understand your personal style of attachment. And the best self-help books will help to put you on the path towards a brighter, more self-aware year. Sure, getting into self-help books can feel like a switch of gear for readers more attuned to fiction, such as the best thrillers or the best romance books. But taking the time to read something that can really benefit your mental wellbeing is a self-care act your future self will thank you for. 

Filled with the latest research and compelling first-person accounts, these gripping reads expertly chosen by Books Editors represent some of the best books of 2021 and can help you achieve your goals and become a better version of yourself.

The best self-help books to read in 2022

Whether you prefer to read on one of the best eReaders or pick up a paper copy, there's a book for every qualm in our round-up.

There are options from notable self-help authors including Mel Robbins and Oliver Burkeman, as well as choices from lesser-known writers, ranging from an exploration of the relationship between mind and body, to the key to being more productive. 

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1. The High-Five Habit by Mel Robbins

If you struggle with self-doubt, have found yourself becoming a glass-half-empty person over the years, or often feel jealous of other people’s success, then this could be the book for you. When its author, Mel Robbins, found herself struggling to feel good about much in her life, she decided to take back control and began high fiving herself in the mirror every morning. It sounds simple, but there is a science behind the habit—more of which is explained in detail throughout the book—promising to teach you how to improve your self-belief, productivity, happiness, and confidence levels.


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2. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Staying in the theme of developing positive new habits, this globally bestselling self-help book nudges things up a gear, offering readers practical tips on how to improve all areas of their lives. Rather than expecting radical changes to be made overnight, the advice instead is to aim for a one percent step-up per day, as you’re helped to break the bad habits that are holding you back from achieving your full potential and replacing them with new ones. What marks this personal improvement manual out from the others is its deceptively simple and easy-to-follow style, which works well precisely because it doesn’t try to overburden the reader.


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3. When The Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté

How often have you heard someone refer to a person ‘dying of a broken heart’ and thought it must be nothing more than a manner of speech? Because that’d be impossible, wouldn’t it? In this fascinating self-help guide, Dr. Gabor Maté explores the link between the mind and body, bringing to light his clinical research into the role that stress and emotions play in diseases such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and irritable bowel syndrome. He also looks at famous case studies, such as Ronald Reagan (who had Alzheimer’s) and Betty Ford (breast cancer), as well as revealing his ‘Seven A’s Of Healing’, to help those who may be suffering. An utterly fascinating and insightful read.


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4. The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

If you’re feeling at sea, this is the book for you. Gabrielle Bernstein is a New York Times best-selling author and spiritual guru, who speaks internationally about transforming fear into faith and overcoming addiction problems. The Universe Has Your Back is a comforting read for anyone finding life a little tough right now—the book focuses on how to create safety in the face of uncertainty and trust in the power of the universe, with special techniques, guided visualizations, and meditation exercises to try at home. 


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5. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

The average person will spend approximately four thousand weeks on the planet, which feels like a ludicrously short amount of time—especially when you consider how many of those precious moments we essentially end up wasting. The problem, argues Oliver Burkeman, is that we have become obsessed with our ever-lengthening to-do lists and message inboxes, and are cracking under the pressure of our depleted attention spans. Drawing on insights from philosophers both ancient and modern as well as psychologists and spiritual guides, the author makes a convincing case for letting go of what we think is important and instead choosing a path towards a more balanced life through the realignment of our relationship with time.


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6. The 5am Club by Robin Sharma

Hailed as life-changing by many a critic, The 5am Club’s central message feels like a deceptively simple one—i.e., get out of bed earlier—but there is a whole philosophy behind it that deserves to be heard. Waking up before much of the rest of the world can provide you with a much-needed time out from all the noise, distraction, and pressure of modern life, and as you learn through reading, it’s a practice adopted by many business titans and talents worldwide. The great thing about this book is that leadership expert Robin Sharma doesn’t stop at encouraging an earlier alarm, he also provides a formula for waking up inspired and energized and a step-by-step method to making the most of this quietest part of the day.


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7. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

This is about as iconic as self-help books get. Louise Hay was an American motivational author and speaker, who founded Hay House publishing house. Her impact has been so large that she is considered by many to be the founder of the self-help movement in the States. You Can Heal Your Life, first published in 1984, is a multi- million-copy bestselling book on self-healing, which guides readers on how to change their negative thought processes to bring about positive change in their lives. The book—one of the best self-help books around—includes daily affirmations to incorporate into your life, and goes into depth on the relationship between the mind and body, showing the impact of thoughts on our health and wellbeing. 


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8. Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King

A popular book club book, this number #1 Sunday Times bestseller by influencer and self-help guru Vex King has sold over 500k copies. And it's a must-read for anyone who needs a boost of positivity and self-love in their lives. King believes that self-love is the key to unlocking your greatness—the book highlights how to practice self-care, overcome toxic energy and make your wellbeing a priority. King describes the incredible challenges he has overcome in the book and gives personal insights into how you can overcome fear and ‘flow’ with the Universe. Not one if you’re not a fan of Instagram-worthy quotes and sound bites though. 


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9. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

If you’re looking for no-nonsense advice on how to change your life, then look no further than Jen Sincero’s iconic self-help book. Full of bitesize advice and anecdotes, the book is designed to inspire and motivate you to live your best life, without feeling overwhelmed. It’s a refreshing reading for anyone that’s bored of the conventional self-help book, as Jen Sincero is not your traditional success coach— expect hilarious stories, surprising wisdom and the occasional swear word. You’ll come away from this book with a greater sense of purpose, clarity of what you want from your life, and better boundaries in place. 


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10. Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

Entrepreneur and internet personality Jay Shetty draws on his time as a monk in the Vedic tradition in this uplifting book about success and potential. Taking inspiration from ancient wisdom and his learnings in the ashram, Shetty shows how ancient traditions can be used today to overcome negative thoughts and lead a more fulfilled life. Packed full of advice and practical exercises you can try, the book is designed to reduce stress, improve your relationships, and increase self-discipline. Shetty believes there’s a real place for living (a bit) like a monk in all our lives—and this book will show you how.


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11. Attached by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

One of 2021's best self-help books, Attached is described as ‘a groundbreaking book that redefines what it means to be in a relationship’ by John Gray PhD—and we tend to agree. Attached is an insightful look into the science behind love, and explores how attachment theory, the most advanced relationship science that exists, can show up differently in people’s lives. Through the book, you’ll come to understand your own personal attachment style (anxious, avoidant, or secure), which can, in turn, help you to become a better, more self-aware individual in relationships. This one will really help you to understand what you personally need from a romantic partner—or what your partner needs from you.


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12. The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters

If you’re someone that finds you’re often sabotaging your own happiness, then this book is for you. The Chimp Paradox is a mind management model, which claims to help you become a more happy, confident, and successful person. Its author, Professor Steve Peters, will walk you through how your mind works, how to manage your thought patterns and emotional state, and, ultimately, become the best version of yourself. It’s a big claim—but with easy-to-follow exercises and powerful insights, this book is a multi-million copy bestseller for a reason.


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13. Self Love and Spiritual Alchemy by Dani Watson

Dani Watson is a self-love and law of attraction coach, who helps individuals get clear on what they really want, ditch limiting beliefs, and stop self-sabotage to live a life that is full of purpose and fulfilment. In her book, Self Love and Spiritual Alchemy, she explains how to raise your 'vibration' to bring in more joy, abundance, and prosperity into your life, and how to overcome negative thought patterns or limiting beliefs. Drawing on her own personal experience of overcoming debt, heartbreak, and anxiety, Dani shares how she changed her life for the better—and how you can too. 


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14. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

A spiritual teacher and author admired by Oprah Winfrey, Tolle suggests that we shouldn't even believe in problems. He says, "Problems are mind-made. Ultimately, it's about realizing there are no problems. Only situations - to be dealt with now, or left alone and accepted as part of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with. Ask yourself what "problem" you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. You might be carrying in your mind the insane burden of 100 things you will or may have to do in the future, instead of focusing your attention on the one thing you can do now. Make the decision to create no more problems.


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15. Self Care for the Real World by Nadia Narain

A top #10 bestseller, Self Care for the Real World is a self-help book for people who don’t really ‘do’ self-help. It’s a highly practical, easy-to-read, and accessible book on how to incorporate self-care into our everyday lives with small, achievable daily actions. The book focuses on how to understand what self-care looks like to you (as it’s different for everyone!) and how you can incorporate it into your routine, even when you don’t feel like you have the time. The perfect self-care book for busy people! One of the best health books out there right now.


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16. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret is perhaps one of the first—and most famous—self-help books and for good reason. With wisdom and insight from modern-day teachers, The Secret essentially examines the power of manifestation—the benefits, how to do it, and how it has changed some people's lives. You'll hear from people from all walks of life about how the practice has brought them health, wealth, and happiness. So why not give it a go? There's a reason it's one of the best self-help books of all time.


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17. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Released in 2015, Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic has become a cult success story within the self-help books arena, helping readers across the world to embrace their creativity. In it, the author shares stories from her own life as well as wisdom from friends and people who have inspired her, to challenge the reader to embrace the unknown during the creative process. But never fear—it's not just a book for artists. It's there for you if you're struggling at work or simply desperate for a creative outlet too. Use this book to help you unleash your true self without fear of judgment or fear of anything else.


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18. The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Also one of our best psychology book picks, Duhigg argues that good intentions only take us so far when it comes to breaking bad habits.  So rather than providing guidelines for how to overcome our bad habits, Duhigg investigates suggestions for how we can reprogramme our minds towards better habits. Looking at the environmental cues that encourage our worst tendencies, Duhigg gives a compelling insight into the world of subconscious behavior. This is no homespun remedy, Duhigg's observations have real, scientific gravitas, and could really help you finally achieve that goal.


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19. 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B Peterson

Eschewing the many self-help books that strive to make the path through life and all its many bumps and turns less arduous, this multimillion-copy bestseller challenges convention by encouraging us to not only face our darkest moments and experiences but to step inside them, pick them apart and analyze them. It is only by having the courage to embrace the bad alongside the good, the grief alongside the love, and the failure alongside the success, that we can truly learn how to grow as individuals, and therefore take the path towards a more fulfilling life. Author Jordan B Peterson doesn’t just want to heal the world, he wants us to be equipped with the tools we need to make it a better place for ourselves and others.


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20. Dopamine Nation by Dr. Anna Lembke

Can you really have too much of a good thing? According to psychiatrist and author Dr. Anna Lembke, the answer is a very definite yes. With personal technology being as it is and those in Western society living with ready access to all manner of high-dopamine pursuits, such as eating and drinking to excess, gambling, shopping, texting, sexting, scrolling, and Netflix-ing, it has never been easier to compulsively overdose the mind and body. However, as this book argues, there is neuroscientific evidence that suggests this relentless craving for perceived pleasure can lead directly to pain. Cutting through the science to deliver her learned wisdom in nuggets of metaphor and anecdote, Dr. Lembke makes a strong case for why putting down our phones could make us happier, and how we can make the joy we feel more potent.


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21. Peak Mind by Dr. Amishi Ja

Concentration as a life skill is often overlooked. Most of us nowadays are multitasking heroes, listening to a podcast whilst doing the ironing, watching the news at the same time as scrolling through Facebook or emailing one person while on a call to another. But the inevitable side-effect of this is a perpetual feeling that you are not doing anything as thoroughly as you perhaps should—how can you be if you’re never present in one moment? As neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Ja explains, our brains, although built to be distractible, are also hugely powerful when attention is fully harnessed. By teaching exercises that require just 12 minutes of your day, she pledges to help us find focus, declutter our minds, and experience a more rewarding life.


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22. Your One Wild And Precious Life by Dr. Maureen Gaffney

Subtitled: ‘an inspiring guide to becoming your best self at any age’, this deeply insightful and profound book examines how to make every age your best age. By going through the life stages, from infancy right through to retirement and beyond, leading psychologist Dr. Maureen Gaffney unpicks the myths around so-called ‘best’ eras and explains why neither time nor choices must come with a limit. Precious moments can just as easily be created as looked back upon with fondness, and just because you ‘didn’t get around’ to exploring the world, learning a new language, or training in a new skill in your middle life, does not mean you can’t do so now. Empowering and meaningful, this is one self-help book that is guaranteed to open doorways into a richer and more exciting future.


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23. Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

There is a big gap between what it’s really like to be a woman and what women are expected to be—and it is this that leads most often to burnout. Because we exhaust both our mental and physical selves trying to bridge that very gap. How can we be expected to love our bodies when we’re assaulted by messages telling us to shape, tone, and reduce it? How can we strive to smash through the glass ceiling when we’re trying to give 110 percent not just at work, but with our families and relationships as well? Breaking the cycle is a vital place to start, and this book contains steps as to how, including advice on returning the body to a ‘relaxed’ state, how to love your body (for real), and why it’s beneficial to befriend your inner critic. Astute and infinitely wise.


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24. Awaken Your Power Within by Gerry Hussey

Ever felt you’re not living your best life but not sure how to make it better? Hussey—AKA The Soul Coach—walks you through ways to reflect on your life and realise your potential. It's a book of two halves. The first half focuses on encouraging you to search your soul and acknowledge what may be limiting you, while the second gently guides you towards opening your mind to new possibilities. Along the way, there are regular Take a  Moment exercises—mediations, affirmations and prompts to help you find the answers to questions you may not even realize you needed to ask yourself. Sometimes, says Hussey, we need to change the record to hear a new song.


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25. I May Be Wrong by Bjorn Natthiko Lindeblad

Every now and then a self-help book comes along that genuinely stays with you—and this is one such book. Written with humility, charm, and wit by a man who spent 17 years as a Buddhist forest monk and who now has an incurable illness, there is not only gentle wisdom in these pages, but it’s a great read, too. Facing death has given him a clarity about what matters in life and he shares this wisdom with his readers. Each chapter describes scenes from his life and valuable lessons he has learned, that will encourage you to let go of the small stuff, accept the things you cannot control and open your heart and mind to a more happy and peaceful life.


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26. The Little Book of Manifestation by Astrid Carvel

There's been a buzz around manifestation for some time now but if you’re late to the party and want to know more about what’s giving this spiritual wellness trend traction, look no further than this book. Based on the law of attraction, the book explores the idea that you can use the power of positive thinking and visualizations to get what you want from life—be that a dream job, a life partner, better finances, or more joy. So if you want to know more about positive affirmations and how to ask the universe to manifest your aspirations, this read is neatly set up with info and practical actions you can take to start realizing your dreams.


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27. You Are Enough by Cheryl Rickman

Here’s a little gem of a book for anyone who’s feeling like they don’t measure up—and we all do sometimes. Positive psychology practitioner Rickman gently and clearly reminds us to take the pressure off our need to meet others and our own expectations and to instead ‘turn up the volume on acceptance, balance and compassion’. With nuggets of research, it’s packed with sensible, easy-to-digest guidance and advice to help you show yourself some love. And we reckon it would make a good gift that keeps on giving for a friend who needs to reframe her worth too.


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28. You’re Not Broken: Break Free from Trauma and Reclaim your Life by Dr. Sarah Woodhouse

You may think of trauma as severe and life-threatening events, but research psychologist Dr. Woodhouse explains that subtler experiences can create traumatic reactions that affect our present, by trapping us in cycles of dysfunctional behaviours, negative thoughts and difficult feelings. Drawing on her own experience of denying trauma, she points out, ‘the greater the resistance, the greater the transformation’. Written in an approachable and, conversational style—with research backed by the Medical Research Council—she carefully explains what trauma is, how it affects various aspects of our lives, and suggests practical ways to break free. 


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29. 52 Ways to Walk by Annabel Streets

It's a little bit of an alternative choice for our best self-help books list—but when you consider the notions that walking calms our minds, lifts our spirits, and strengthens our bodies for free, well… you have to give this book its due. Sometimes the answer to helping lift a low mood or sorting out a problem can be as simple as putting a foot out the door. Annabel Streets has amassed fascinating research on the mental health benefits of walking, and combined it with lots of inspiration that will make walking your new go-to therapy. Did you know for example that walking backwards can help unlock memories? Of course, you didn’t—and that’s why this should be on your bookshelf.


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30. Are You Listening? By Jenny Rogers

If you’re stuck in a work rut and fascinated to know more about how career coaching works, this book will give you a fly-on-the-wall insight. One of the UK’s leading executive coaches, Rogers shares 20 stories drawn from experience that reveal the human dilemmas at the heart of many successful people’s lives. She reveals their limitations, doubts, and fears and shows how their personal lives play out at work. There is candid and authoritative commentary throughout, with reminders such as you are the only one really running your career.


Angelica Malin

Angelica Malin is a journalist, entrepreneur, and founder and Editor-in-Chief of About Time magazine. She has written a book (her first) called She Made It, a toolkit for female founders in the digital age, which was published by Kogan Page in January 2021. Angelica was shortlisted for BSME’s Editors’ Editor of the Year and has featured in campaigns for brands such as NatWest, Asto and Courier Media. She also helps aspiring entrepreneurs through her platform, events and #SheStartedIt podcast.