Top 20 Self-Help Books for Beginners

books

Therapist Recommended Reading List

In the world of self-improvement and personal growth, few tools are as relevant as a good book. When it comes to nurturing our mental health, the right words on a page can be a source of solace, inspiration, and profound transformation. Whether you’re seeking guidance, looking to gain insights into your own mind, or simply hoping to find comfort in relatable stories, the realm of mental health literature is rich and diverse.

In this blog, I’m starting with the basics. For everything from relationships to grief and loss, these books offer invaluable perspectives, strategies, and narratives that can guide you on your path to well-being and empower you to navigate the complexities of life.¬†

The 20 Best Therapy Books For Beginners

brene brown gifts of imperfection
By Brene Brown

BEST FOR: Everyone. 

WHY: While all of Brene’s books could be on this list, this is the one you should start with. There are very few things in life as relatable as feeling imperfect, and she is the master of helping us understand that we don’t need to hide in the shame of this emotion. In her (now famous) relatable style, this book walks us through vulnerability, and what to do with it. Easily equivalent to a year’s worth of therapy.¬†

john gottman 7 principles for making marriage work
By John Gottman

BEST FOR: Marriage, Relationships

WHY: The Gottmans are the ‘guru’s’ of the couples counseling world. When it comes to the basics of what makes relationships work or fail, they have the evidence-based facts.¬†

john gottman 10 lessons to transform your marriage
By John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman

BEST FOR: Marriage, Relationships

WHY: The Gottmans are the ‘guru’s’ of the couples counseling world. When it comes to the basics of what makes relationships work or fail, they have the evidence-based facts.¬†

Mark Manson The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck
By Mark Manson

BEST FOR: e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e

WHY: My love for Mark runs deep. I read this blog before it was turned in to a book, and immediately thought, “Everyone needs to read this, and this is the root of why we all suffer so much.” To be fair, he is giving similar advice that has been passed down for ages, but he is straghtforward and modern, and uses the word “fuck” a lot, which currently appeals to us more than trying to read Nietzsche.¬†

Amir Levine attached
By Amir Levine

BEST FOR: Anyone who has ever attempted to have any kind of relationship

WHY: If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you sabotage relationships, this is the book for you to start with. Even if you aren’t currently in a romantic relationship, we should all understand how we were shaped by our childhoods and upbringing. More specifically, Attached is the book on learning how we relate to others in relationships, and what to do about it if your style is anything other than secure.¬†¬†

Sue Johnson hold me tight
By Sue Johnson

BEST FOR: Marriage, Relationships 

WHY: This book, despite it’s unfortunate title, is one of the best relationship books out there. Sue Johnson actually identifies the most deep-rooted issues at the core of every fight that any couple has ever had.¬† *Hint – read Amir Levine’s book first ūüôā¬† ¬†After this book, you will fight better, differently, or not at all.¬†¬†

10% Happier Dan Harris
By Dan Harris

BEST FOR: Meditation skeptics, Anyone who wants to be a little bit happier

WHY: Maybe there is a little bit of a skeptic in all of us. Can I really feel better? Can talking to someone actually help? Am I just destined to be the way I am forever? One of the reasons we feel disappointed with things like therapy, meditation, and cognitive behavioral techniques is because it’s not “enough, fast enough.” This book not only helps manage those expectations, but also lays out a how-to guide.¬†¬†

Miguel ruiz the four agreements
By Miguel Ruiz

BEST FOR: Every human.

WHY: We spend a lot of time looking outward for the source of our suffering. The finger-pointing and blame is at an all-time high. This classic by Miguel Ruiz is a reminder to go back inward and be accountable for four life-changing mindsets that we actually have control of.  

James Clear Atomic Habits
By James Clear

BEST FOR: Anyone who has ever wanted to change a habit 

WHY: If you’ve ever said (or thought) “I know what I need to do to reach xxx goal, but why don’t I follow through and actually do it?” This is the book for you. I’ve read countless others on the topic, and James Clear gets it right.¬†

Love Warrior Glennon Doyle
By Glennon Doyle

BEST FOR: Addicts, new moms, those new to therapy, anyone who wants to learn more about emotions, anyone who has ever felt different or that they didn’t belong, anyone trying to “fake it” just to get by.¬†

WHY: Glennon’s personal memoir is for anyone who has ever used any kind of coping mechanism to help manage painful emotions. From the time she was very young, she found ways to numb or to try to fit in. When her world is broken open and she is forced to stop all her addictions and actually feel for the first time, she approaches the experience with the relatable shock and humor that only Glennon can. If you love this, you’ll love her follow up: Untamed.

It's OK that you're not ok megan devine
By Megan Devine

BEST FOR: Grief and loss. The sufferers, and those trying to be there for them.

WHY: This topic has been written about countless times. There are (probably) hundreds of books on grief out there that are good. This one is great. There are no magic words, there is no fancy therapeutic intervention that can take your pain away. This is the truth. Honest, raw, and realistic for those who haven’t been able to find comfort in the never-ending wave of “I’m sorry” sentiments.¬† ¬†

set boundaries find peace nedra tawwab
By Nedra Tawwab

BEST FOR: Those who have difficulty setting boundaries, or just want to learn more about it.

WHY: “Setting boundaries” has become a popular therapy buzz-phrase. Like most things, there is a lot of mis-information out there. Nedra gives us the details of what it is, what it isn’t, and how to do it right.¬†

Esther Perel mating in captivity
By Esther Perel

BEST FOR: Marriage, Relationships 

WHY: If you know me, you know that I hang on every word this woman says. She is brilliant and single-handedly redefining how we conceptualize infidelity and desire in long-term relationships. 

Esther Perel the state of affairs
By Esther Perel

BEST FOR: Marriage, Relationships, anyone who has been involved in infidelity

WHY: If you know me, you know that I hang on every word this woman says. She is brilliant and single-handedly redefining how we conceptualize infidelity and desire in long-term relationships. 

maybe you should talk to someone lori gottlieb
By Lori Gottlieb

BEST FOR: Anyone who is in therapy or has ever thought about going to therapy. And, of course, therapists. 

WHY: If you’ve ever wondered if your therapist goes to therapy, or has any issues of her own, this is your very descriptive, honest, raw, and humorous answer. Her interactions with clients are insightful, witty, and helpful. Her interactions with her therapist are vulnerable and powerful. It will leave you Google searching for Wendell…¬†

What My Bones Know Stephanie Foo
By Stephanie Foo

BEST FOR: Trauma, PTSD

WHY: This book needs no “why.” This is, hands down, the best book on trauma I have ever read.¬†

Year Of Yes Shonda Rhimes
By Shonda Rhimes

BEST FOR: Working moms, overachievers, introverts, goal-setters, those working on self-love, or anyone who has ever wanted to challenge themselves

WHY: Shonda’s personal journey is an inspiration. This book should be required reading for any working mom trying to “have it all,” and for anyone who wants to challenge themselves to work on something about themselves they didn’t think they could change.¬†

The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin
By Gretchen Rubin

BEST FOR: Anyone needed a little life reset. Or a general life overhaul. 

WHY: Gretchen was someone who “had all the pieces in place.” Her life looked great on paper. But she still wasn’t happy. So she created a plan to go through 12 different aspects of her life (one per¬† month) and figure out how she could make each one better.¬†

Codependent No More Melody Beattie
By Melody Beattie

BEST FOR: Anyone in a relationship with an addict, raised by an addict, or fears they may just have some co-dependent tendencies. 

WHY: CDNM is the “bible” for anyone who grew up with an addict parent. She details ways in which you were affected and molded that you’ve just taken for granted as “how you are.” ACOA’s – I’m talking to you. This book can save you a year of therapy, minimum.¬†

the dalai lama's cat davie michie
By David Michie

BEST FOR: Cat people who want a dose of ancient wisdom

WHY: While many of us on the journey to find meaning and purpose in life wish we could make the trek to Tibet and have a sit-down with His Holiness, we have to settle for his wisdom second-hand. Michie’s book delivers just that, adding a skosh of humor by delivering said wisdom through the eyes of a cat.¬†

What Do I Say book cover
What Do I Say? How To Support Others In Grief
By Catherine Hodge, LMHC

BEST FOR: Everyone.   

WHY: At some point we will all know someone who is grieving. We can feel helpless and at a loss for words. In this book Catherine gives us the tools  for what to say, while also highlighting what not to say.