The Problem with Self-Help Books

The Problem with Self-Help BooksI used to love self-help books. Throughout high school and college, I would go to the bookstore and peruse the self-help section. (I read other genres as well, but self-improvement books were my favorite at the time.) I read a wide variety of books, from thick tomes written by Ivy League psychologists to New Age pamphlets written by people with no qualifications whatsoever. My taste ran mostly in the middle, though. I liked books that had some basis in science, but weren’t as cut and dry as a college textbook. Even then, I realized there were a lot of bad self-help books out there. That’s why I spent so much time at the bookstore.

I stopped reading self-help books sometime in Samoa. There were no bookstores there and perusing books an Amazon just wasn’t (and isn’t) the same. But that’s not why I quit self-help. I quit because I got help. I got professional help for my depression. Then I started working on my life’s goals. I found that taking care of myself and getting shit done counted for way more than anything I had ever read in a self-help book.

I’m not completely against self-help books. But a book can only help you so much. I’m thankful for the support of my friends and family. My life’s not perfect. No one’s is. But nowadays I spend my life worrying about practical issues, rather than existential ones. My love affair with self-help books and pie-in-the-sky advice is over, and I sure as hell hope it never comes back.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs regularly at

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3 Responses

  1. Sunny says:

    This is so true. While I find that it’s helpful to read books because it keeps your goals on your mind, I think just jumping into doing things is the best way to learn.

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