The Best of 2019: Books to Read for Self Improvement, Self Curiosity and Self Reflection

The past few years have seen more and more stressed out, burnt out, and struggling people turn to celebrities and psychologists for direction leading to record sales of self-help books. The cynics amongst us might groan internally at this news, although I suspect that many do not have a true understanding of what ‘self help’ constitutes or what it can offer. I myself prefer the term self curiosity or self reflection, rather than self help. It opens up my mind to possibilities rather than closing it down at the expectation of pop-psychology and quick, but short lived, “fixes”.

What is self help anyway? Is it popular psychology such as Love Factually or Dare to Lead? Or perhaps it is spirituality like that found in The Power of Now or I am Not Your Guru ? Perhaps it is something in between or even a combination of everything? Whatever we agree self help is, or isn’t, as a genre self help is almost as broad as fiction itself, and it is growing rapidly, making it tough to find the must reads amongst the disappointments. My personal nominations this year for those of you who are curious, reflective and generally want to do change but are not sure how are:

  • Remember This When You’re Sad by Maggy van Eijik

  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

  • Presence by Amy Cuddy

  • The Hope Circuit by Martin Seligman

  • Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda

  • Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis


Remember This When You’re Sad: Lessons Learned on the Road from Self-Harm to Self-Care by Maggy van Eijk

A frank, fresh, honest and witty account of the writers own experiences of her struggles with mental health. Remember This When You’re Sad is is a very human account of anxiety and depression, panic attacks, bulimia and disassociation. It is also about growing up with the pressure of having an untrustworthy mind.

Remember This When You're Sad is a brave, beautifully written and important memoir and workbook that lays bare the true reality of mental illness. For me this book is one of the most useful, engaging and accessible books about mental health since Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive.


The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is a book designed to help you simplify and minimise. This book is the foundation of the incredibly popular Konmari Method — purging unnecessary items from your life and organising what remains. At the heart of this method is surrounding yourself only with items that “spark joy” in you. The key to successful tidying, Marie suggests, is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once.  It offers simple tips on how to fold your clothes and use boxes to help you to declutter and access what you need quickly. This book not only helped me to declutter and organise my space, but it also made me reflect on how I think about my environment, what I need, and how I shop!


Presence by Amy Cuddy
How can we be our strongest selves in life's most challenging situations? We all have moments when anxiety and negatively get the better of us. But how can we present our best selves in moments that often cause us to feel powerless?

Amy first came to my attention through the TED stage where she gave a very powerful and inspiring talk on ‘Power Posing’. In this book she builds on this foundation and explains the science underlying the body mind connection and teaches us how to use this science to become self-assured in high-pressure moments. Presence is an impassioned and accessible book that is filled with stories of individuals facing real obstacles and succeeding against the odds


The Hope Circuit: A Psychologist's Journey from Helplessness to Optimism by Martin Seligma

One of the most influential psychologists of our time, Martin Seligman, examines the transformation that has taken place in psychology since the 1960s, as the field moved from eliminating problems to its brighter side; gratitude, resilience, and hope.

Through this book, his memoir, Seligman recalls his own journey into studying optimism and hope, and recounts some of the human stories behind some of his major research findings.

At almost 400 pages this book is an investment but you will walk away feeling not just educated but inspired, enriched and highly aware of the unique importance of your mental health.


Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sometimes you don't need a deep dive into thought changing philosophy, you simply need a little pep talk and positive affirmation to get the day moving in the right direction. If that's the case, you need to buy yourself a copy of GMorning GNight by Lin-Manuel Miranda and put it on your bed side table!

Before he was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspiring his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. He wrote these original sayings, aphorisms, and poetry for himself as much as for others. But as his audience grew, these messages took on a life on their own. Now Miranda has gathered the best of his daily greetings into a beautiful collection illustrated by artist (and fellow Twitter favourite) Jonny Sun. This book may not be life, or mind changing, but it is full of fun, perspective and positivity.


Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

In this New York Times bestseller, Rachel Hollis, identifies 20 lies people tell themselves which hold them back in reaching their full potential and living a happy, fulfilled life.

Using her own life as way of example Hollis encourages the women of the world to embrace the truth and change their lives. Although primarily directed towards women anyone can enjoy Hollis’ easy American style, humour and techniques to work towards a happier, healthier life.

Hollis' follow up, ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing’, has recently been released.