By some measures, self-help and self-improvement books are the world’s best-selling genre. Indeed, they date back to around 1000 B.C. when ancient Egyptians called them sebayt (“teaching”). Then, during the 1600s and 1700s, many writers churned out books about how polite men should behave in Italian, French and English society, including how to blow your nose, trim your beard and style your hair. Since the 1800s, readers have devoured books about weight loss, marriage, time management, self-control and other themes that still resonate with today’s self-help fans. Even Sun Tzu’s ancient military treatise “The Art of War” is considered a self-help book by the countless businesspeople who still turn to its pages for insight.
Local book stores are brimming with self-help titles for those hoping to keep New Year’s resolutions or for those who might just be looking for a little inspiration. Jean Butler and Lori Muller Zaim, owners of Fireside Book Shop in Chagrin Falls, are seeing new books on self-care, self-acceptance and being kind to yourself, with weight loss and healthy cookbooks remaining popular choices in the new year, too.
Lynn Quintrell, owner of Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights says, “Trends of self-help books that will most likely be popular are those titles that deal with navigating difficult times and trying to be the best person possible under difficult and challenging circumstances.”
Lynn also explains the tremendous impact of Covid on the self-help genre, as people try to navigate quarantine, restricted activities, and more. “In our store,” she says, “smaller format titles with charming illustrations tend to sell far better than the ‘weighty’ tomes.  I think this is due to readers tending to dip into these books frequently as opposed to reading them from front to back.  They tend to read certain sections, put the book aside and then come back and revisit the sections they haven’t read.”
Jean and Lori said that books by social worker and professor Brené Brown are extremely popular, including one released just before Christmas entitled “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience.” The author’s website says this book explores 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human and walks through a new framework for cultivating meaningful connection. Lynn said this book is very popular with her customers.
Brown’s other best-selling self-help books include “Dare to Lead: Brave Work,” “Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts,” and “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.”
Lori and Jean point out other self-help books that remain on the best-seller list, such as “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, and “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones” by James Clear. Also after 70 years, the classic, “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Lindbergh is still popular for its reflections on youth and age, love and relationships and more.
Lynn said popular self-help titles in the last quarter of 2021 included two by Domonique Bertolucci: “Less is More: 101 Ways to Simplify Your Life” and “You’ve Got This: 101 Ways to Boost Your Confidence, Nurture Your Spirit and Remind Yourself That Everything is Going to be OK.”
Lynn also cited “Saving Grace: Speak Your Truth, Stay Centered and Learn to Co-Exist with People who Drive You Nuts” by Kirsten Powers, “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May, and the “Mindfulness Essentials” series by world-renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh “How to Connect,”“How to Love,”“How to See,”and “How to Relax.”
Among Fireside’s new self-help titles, Lori and Jean point to “Already Enough: A Path to Self-Acceptance” by Lisa Olivera, and “From Burnout to Balance: 60+ Healing Recipes and Simple Strategies to Boost Mood, Immunity, Focus and Sleep” by Patricia Bannan.
Lynn from Appletree books suggests these: “The How: Notes on the Great Work of Meeting Yourself” by Yrsa Daley-Ward, “Life, Part Two: Seven Keys to Awakening with Purpose and Joy as You Age” by David Chernikoff, “The Self-Care Year: Reflect and Recharge with Simple Seasonal Rituals” by Alison Davies, “If It’s Not Right Go Left: Practical and Inspirational Lessons to Move You in a Positive Direction” by Kristen Glosserman, “Self-Care Inspiration Card deck and Guidebook” by Caitlin Scholl, and in the not-quite-a-book category: Self-Care Truth or Dare Pick-a-Stick activity by Caitlin Scholl.
Overall, Lori says the new crop of self-help books reflects “a lot more talk about mental health and illness. And there are more books for kids about helping with anxiety and using yoga and mindful daily practices.”
Specifically, some books for teens include “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey, “Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold and Brilliant” by Mayim Bialik, “Empowered: A Journal for Teen Girls: Reflective Prompts to Inspire a Confident You” by Charmaine Chamant” and “You Don’t Have to be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves” by Diana Whitney.
And, for college students, Lori and Jean point to “Self-Care for College Students: From Orientation to Graduation, 150+ Easy Ways to Stay Happy, Healthy and Stress-Free” by Julia Dellitt.
The Fireside owners also recommend a couple titles written for women, including “Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness: by Vex King, and “Self Love Poetry: For Thinkers and Feelers” by Melody Godfred. And for men, there’s “Hard Times Create Strong Men” by Stefan Aarnio. Older adults might try “Keys to a Successful Retirement” by Fritz Gilbert, and “Retirement Survival Guide” by Julie Jason.
No one knows what 2022 will bring, but with books like these, you’re sure to be inspired as you read your way toward creating an improved version of already terrific you!