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All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory. – Dale Carnegie
Now that may sound a little overdramatic, but when I first read those words in Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic, it got me thinking.
Why should I be afraid of going forward and bettering myself?
I was reading his incredibly popular and feeling a little ashamed about it. I guess it’s because there’s a certain stigma attached to the idea of a man admitting he’s not perfect and that he could use a little help.
Damn our easily bruised male egos.
I’ve now realised that this way of thinking is completely flawed.
Self-help books should be celebrated.
If a couple hundred pages of the right book can improve your life, it’s well worth the small investment.
But do they really work?
It’d be foolish to pretend that self-help manuals can fix your life and solve all your problems.
As with most things, sometimes they’re useful, sometimes they’re not. I’ve read a few in my time that were lazily-written, patronizing and even downright insulting.
But I’ve also read some that have genuinely changed my life.
No two people are the same. Different books will affect different people in different ways.
But a quality book cannot be ignored.
I know for sure that some of these books helped me to improve as a person (even if only by a little).
Maybe they’ll do the same for you…
1 You Are a Badass… by Jen Sincero
We start with the book that has the coolest name.
This book is useful, no doubt. But, above all, it’s hilarious.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s fully aware how embarrassing some dudes find this whole self-help thing.
The exercises, suggestions and stories are all as interesting and thought-provoking as they are funny.
2 Eat That Frog! … by Brian Tracy
Another book with a title that really stands out.
It comes from the old Mark Twain quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Which kind of makes sense when you think about it.
The core message is one that’s worth remembering. Do the things you normally put off first. Get them out of the way and enjoy the rest of your schedule.
It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a quick and concise read. Perfect if you’re in need of a productivity boost.
3 The Antidote… by Oliver Burkeman
If you’re still pretty sceptical about the whole self-help thing, this is the guide for you.
The author argues that trying to make yourself happy often has the reverse effect. And if you’re not the most positive person, actually embracing negativity can be good for you.
This is required reading for all you cynics out there (but probably one to skip if you’re naturally quite positive).
4 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Now it may seem strange to see a book on this list that’s about cleaning up at home, but bear with us.
Kondo explains if you de-clutter your home, you can so much easier de-clutter your brain. Once you do that, your path to self-improvement will be free from obstacles as well.
Added energy, confidence and motivation will be yours. And if it isn’t, at least your apartment will be nice and tidy.
5 Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…”
Said to you by a friend or therapist, you may nod your head a little. But when it’s written by a Holocaust survivor who oozes amazing advice with every word, you can’t help but sit up and take notice.
Viktor Frankl knows suffering. And he says it’s an inescapable fact of life.
We just need to get on with it.
6 The Game by Neil Strauss
Dismissed by some as a creepy book about harassing women, former Rolling Stone journo Neil Strauss’s guide to the ‘Pick-Up Artist’ scene of LA is actually a fascinating insight and expose of the world of male insecurity.
Its ultimate message? Confidence breeds confidence. You’ve gotta fake it ’til you make it.
Oh, and don’t be a creep.
7 Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
Heights, planes, public speaking, spiders.
We’re all scared of something. And that fear can be debilitating.
In this book, Susan Jeffers—a PhD in Philosophy—argues that accepting and normalizing fear is the only way to overcome it and stop it holding you back in life.
While some parts are a little simplistic, we found it to be an excellent read overall. It goes beyond just fear, and touches on a whole range of ‘ineffectual behaviours’ and how best to overcome them.
It’s a great book to pick up again if you ever get that feeling that something internal is holding you back.
8 The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem… by Nathaniel Branden
So many male issues are borne of problems with self-esteem.
If you don’t believe that you’re a worthy and capable man, it’s almost impossible to convince others of it.
It may be over two decades old now, but if you suffer from self-confidence issues, this self-help guide from practicing psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden is a must-read.
9 The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz
Based on the teachings of the ‘Toltec’ tribe from the Aztec-era central Mexico, this philosophical tome might not be the most straightforward book you’ll read this year.
Ruiz’ book is an insight into some of the self-limiting beliefs that hold us back.
Those four agreements of the title?
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- And always do your best.
10 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman
It all gets a bit meta here for our final pick.
In 59 Seconds, Richard Wiseman argues that self-help books often don’t work. They’re attractive to us because they offer quick fixes to deep-rooted problems.
What’s needed to really fix us is a true examination of one’s self and lots of time and effort spent working at things.
But who has time for all that, right? So Wiseman just peppers the reader with a series of fast but proven ways to help improve themselves just a tiny bit.
And, hey, it all helps.
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- The Prince
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
- Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite
Will buying one or more of these self-help books for guys revolutionize your life?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Will they intrigue you and set you on a path to self-improvement? Almost certainly.
I’ve been positively influenced by some of the books in this list. I think you just might be too.
Think we’ve missed a classic self-help book? Let us know in the comments.
Keen on some more book recommendations? Then take a look at our complete run-down of 75 books every man should read.