Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

DW Self-Help Book Recommendations

booksA few weeks ago someone started a topic in the forums asking for self-help book recommendations. Specifically, she wondered if anyone had read any that had “literally changed their lives or their perception of themselves.” I also posed the question on my Facebook page, and here are some of the books that came up, including a few of my own recommendations:



810IASGMUYLHow to Win Friends and Influence People
Amazon Description: “For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. Learn: three fundamental techniques in handling people; the six ways to make people like you; the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking; the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.”


Unknown-1Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Amazon Description: “Internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors–over 130 in all–that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She teaches you how to eliminate these unconscious mistakes that could be holding you back and offers invaluable coaching tips that can easily be incorporated into your social and business skills. The results for hundreds of thousands of women have been career opportunities they never thought possible–at every stage of their career, from entry-level to the corner office!”

Unknown-4What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
DW reader description: Really good workbook for figuring out career stuff.
Amazon description: The world’s most popular job-hunting guide with more than ten million copies sold. This 2015 edition includes up-to-date research and tips about writing impressive resumes and cover letters, doing effective networking and confident interviewing, and negotiating the best salary possible. But it goes beyond that, in helping you to better know who you are, with its classic self-inventory—called “The Flower Exercise”—because the best answer to What shall I do? flows from knowing Who you are.


Unknown-2Calling in The One
This is one of my recommendations and I’ve written about it in more detail here. It’s totally woo-woo and all that, but it worked for me and maybe it will work for you, too!


41ASy0R0sjLAttached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep–Love
I have also seen others on this site recommend this one as well. It’s a good book for daters who are anxious in intimate relationships and are trying to understand themselves and potential partners better.


41wYZDkw5QLIs He Mr. Right?: Everything You Need to Know Before You Commit
DW reader description: This was life-changing for me in terms of relationships. I read it and re-read it while I was single and dating, and it helped me know when to move on and how to recognize the right thing when it came along.


Unknown-1Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs
DW reader description: My (now) husband and I attended a 10-week small group based on this book and, by the end of it, we got married. It teaches how men and women think differently and how to decode each other and how to avoid “the crazy cycle” that so many of us get into.


Unknown-2The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work
DW reader description: reading right now and it’s super helpful. I love that it’s based on a proper study, rather than on just one person’s opinion/theory, and that it’s full of really sensible advice that has managed to be helpful without being too complicated.


Unknown-5Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can–and Should–be Saved
Amazon Description: In this supportive and straightforward guide, the authors offer a way for women to practically take stock of their relationships and move forward – with or without their partners. Women involved in chronically frustrating or unfulfilling relationships will learn to: tell the difference between a healthy-yet-difficult relationship and one that is really not working; recognize the signs that their partner has a serious problem; stop waiting to see what happens-and make their own growth the top priority; prepare for life without their partner-even as they keep trying to make the relationship work.


Amazon Description: Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to tough questions about boundaries, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.



UnknownMaybe He’s Just an Asshole: Ditch Denial, Embrace Your Worth, and Find True Love
Amazon Description: “Maybe He’s Just an Asshole” is the insightful, inspirational, and HILARIOUS dating guide women have been waiting for. In a world where most of the dating rules seem to have been written from the perspective of the penis, Halle Kaye and Sophie Stone show women how to approach dating from a position of strength and leverage, not from a place of desperation and weakness. Do you wish you had more power/control when it comes to men and dating? Read the book today! (Oh, and the best part: no rules, games, or bitchiness required).”

Unknown-2The Five Love Languages
A book that has been recommended again and again by DW readers (and me!), this New York Times bestseller “guides couples in identifying, understanding, and speaking their spouse’s primary love language–quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. By learning the five love languages, you and your spouse will discover your unique love languages and learn practical steps in truly loving each other. Chapters are categorized by love language for easy reference, and each one ends with specific, simple steps to express a specific language to your spouse and guide your marriage in the right direction.”

Unknown-1It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy
Amazon Description: The ultimate survival guide to getting over Mr. Wrong and reclaiming your inner Superfox. From how to put yourself through “he-tox,” to how to throw yourself a kick-ass pity party, here’s a hilarious and helpful roadmap for getting past the heartache and back into the game. You will learn: why you shouldn’t call him—and what he’s thinking when you do; jow to keep your friends and not lose your job; how to avoid IMing, stalking, having sex with your ex; reframing reality—seeing the relationship for what it was; how to transform yourself into a hot, happening Superfox and get a jump on the better, brighter future that awaits.


41-gkNC8JTLFull Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
DW reader description: This is a VERY long read, but it has some great techniques for stress-reduction.
Amazon says: “Based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, this classic, groundbreaking work-—which gave rise to a whole new field in medicine and psychology—-shows you how to use medically-proven mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga to counteract stress, establish greater balance of body and mind, and stimulate well-being and healing.”

51StUBlb0rLHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living
DW reader description: “This book changed my life! I was brought up in a very negative/worrying household and that, combined with my perfectionist nature, meant I needed some significant mental reprogramming to get over my then very serious anxiety. This book + continual reflection/noticing when I slip into old habits + a little counseling + a lot of healthy habits (healthy eating but especially exercise) have almost eradicated my anxiety completely. Now I just wish my parents would read the book and take it to heart.”

812cWvvrqGLFeeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
DW reader description: “This was a game-changer for me. It’s basically cognitive behavioral therapy in book form, geared towards treating depression but also extremely useful for debunking unhealthy and negative thought patterns in general. The Kindle edition is only like 5 bucks, too.”
Another reader said: “I haven’t read it, but my husband read”Feeling Good” several months ago, and I think it definitely has had a positive impact on our relationship!”

Unknown-2Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
DW reader description: This is not a “self-help” book in the traditional sense, but it is, in reality. It is utterly brilliant and did change my life. After reading it, I passed it along to all my friends, who all had a similar reaction: There is something so incredibly powerful about it.


UnknownYou Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought
DW reader description: My mom has always had a copy (or several) of “You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought” on her bookshelf. I’ve seen her loan and give away many copies of it over the years, a few of my best friends have gotten copies from her, and I have a copy from her on my bookshelf too. A lot of these book recipients gave really positive feedback on the book. It’s been years since I read anything from it, but I recall liking some of the things it said when I did read it.

UnknownWishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want
DW reader description: It’s all about how to make your dreams actually happen, through planning and getting help and taking concrete action.



Unknown-1Succulent Wild Woman
This is one of my personal recommendations. An ex-boyfriend got me this book when I was 22 and it was exactly what I needed at the time: colorful, inspirational, and a kick in the pants to live fully, get over myself (my fears, self-doubts, whatever), and just be the woman I was/ am supposed to be.


518HudtSqhLThe Road Less Traveled
Another of my personal recommendations. I’ve been re-reading this book since I was a kid, finding passages as I need them. So much of the advice I give is based on the teachings from this book. As the Amazon description says: “The Road Less Traveled continues to help us explore the very nature of loving relationships and leads us toward a new serenity and fullness of life. It helps us learn how to distinguish dependency from love; how to become a more sensitive parent; and ultimately how to become one’s own true self. Recognizing that, as in the famous opening line of his book, “Life is difficult” and that the journey to spiritual growth is a long one, Dr. Peck never bullies his readers, but rather guides them gently through the hard and often painful process of change toward a higher level of self-understanding.”

26 comments… add one
  • Jennylou August 13, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I’m so glad you included How To Win Friends & Influence People – I forgot to recommend that one. 🙂 My father inscribed a copy with a lovely message about life lessons and gave it to me for my high school graduation. I treasure it.

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  • Coconot August 13, 2014, 3:47 pm

    Thanks for compiling this list! I’ve already put a couple on my Amazon wish list (and will use the DW affiliate link to purchase!). Of course I’m also happy to see my suggestions on the list 😛

    Btw has anyone else read nice girls don’t get the corner office? I had mixed feelings. There was some good advice but I was also frustrated by the fact that it essentially asked women to be less feminine to succeed. For example, suggestions like don’t cross your legs in a meeting, speak in a low pitched voice, and don’t paint your nails any non-neutral color. The idea is these things make you appear less professional, but I think that is only true in a world where professional habits == habits ingrained iby society in men, and do not equal habits ingrained in women. It may well be true that most people associate professionalism with inherent malsculine habits, but we shouldn’t be perpetuating this IMO. My goal is to become successful and ignore this kind of advice, doing everything possible to look feminine to try to start changing these stereotypes.

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      Portia August 13, 2014, 4:42 pm

      I started reading Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office once (on a friend’s recommendation) but didn’t get through very far. But I think part of it was I had checked it out from the library – there’s that one part at the beginning where you have to fill something out, but some of the questions were kinda odd and somebody had already written all their answers in. I don’t know, maybe it is slightly out of date?

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    • Meg Murry August 13, 2014, 4:51 pm

      Ive read NGDGTCO several times, (as well as the new edition) and the big takeaway message for me is to avoid habits and mannerisms that are timid and little girl-ish, instead of being a confident, adult woman. For instance, some of the things I noticed that I do that project the wrong image (and am consciously trying to stop) are: sitting with one for tucked under me, playing/figetting with my hair, and posing suggestions in a wishy washy way (“maybe if we kinda did somethin g like … ” vs ” we should do/try XYZ”).
      I liked the idea of the quiz in it, where you could look at the sections you needed to work on most, and then look at the topics within that section. I don’t think the book is saying “don’t be feminine at all” but rather “if you come off as little girl-ish, watch for mannerisms ABC. If you get treated as the mother of the group or secretary, look out for XYZ”
      There are definitely rules in NGDGTCO I break – but I’m aware that if I’m bending/breaking a lot of them, I should watch out.
      Also, women who already have the corner office (or extra gravitas from years of experience) can definitely get away with breaking a lot more of the “rules” than younger women.

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        Portia August 13, 2014, 5:39 pm

        Maybe I’ll try reading it again…

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    Portia August 13, 2014, 4:55 pm

    Great, already put a couple on hold at the library. Thanks!
    As a sidenote: how does one recommend a self-help book to a friend without it being awkward or coming off as you think they need help? Is it ok to be like, “I read this book and it was really interesting and got me thinking about x/helped me, you should read it”? Can you buy a book (one that you’ve read) for someone or is that presumptuous? I don’t think I have yet to read a self-help book that I would recommend, but if this list changes that fact…

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  • Anonymous August 13, 2014, 7:45 pm

    You might want to consider including “The Gift of Fear”, by Gavin DeBecker. Really important book. Also “Emotional Blackmail”, by Susan Forward, Phd, and a recent favorite “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain.

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      Addie Pray August 13, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Is this Regina Rey?

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      • Anonymous August 14, 2014, 1:30 pm

        No – not Regina Rey. Although I’m flattered! Just a long-time lurker.

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        Addie Pray August 14, 2014, 2:02 pm

        such a longtime lurker that you remember her!
        lurker, tell us more about you. i love lurkers. it’s weird to me, a bit, to think about all the lurkers out there. all the people reading this. and THIS. and T H I S, too.

      • Anonymous August 14, 2014, 2:09 pm

        Yes – I’ve been lurking quite awhile. Whenever I think to comment, well — it’s all been said. I’m an attorney (like you I think), semi-retired now and I live outside NYC. I started out just reading Wendy’s advice. Then I found the comments!! Whoa. But it’s interesting hearing all the different perspectives.

      • lets_be_honest August 14, 2014, 2:12 pm

        Where outside NYC?? Maybe we are neighbors!

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        Addie Pray August 14, 2014, 2:13 pm

        she sounds like you, almost!

      • lets_be_honest August 14, 2014, 2:25 pm

        You too, almost!

      • lets_be_honest August 14, 2014, 2:28 pm

        She needs to talk incessantly about being a single mom a little more.

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        Addie Pray August 14, 2014, 2:13 pm

        it’s OK to say the same thing as someone else especially if it’s something i’ve said. (and with that i’m so glad the down thumbs are gone – haha, can’t dislike this, can’t dislike this!)

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        muchachaenlaventana August 14, 2014, 3:13 pm

        I am glad too!

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    Addie Pray August 13, 2014, 10:02 pm

    I’ve never read a self-help book (unless Lean In qualifies as one?). Is that weird?

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    • snarkymarc August 13, 2014, 10:20 pm

      Well you’re obviously perfect

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        Addie Pray August 13, 2014, 10:27 pm

        Oy! I’m sure I could use them. Instead I just read DW.

      • snarkymarc August 13, 2014, 10:47 pm

        I think I lasted up to my 40’s before I broke down and started reading a few. You probably have a good few years left in you.

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        Addie Pray August 14, 2014, 6:15 am

        Well in my case it’s not that I purposefully don’t read them but growing up my parents never had then and friends never talk about self help books they read and then when I see them at the store their titles sound so hokey so they’ve never lured me… But if people actually read these things and there are good ones, maybe I should cave and read my first one! Though real question: does Lean In count?

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        Dear Wendy August 14, 2014, 8:20 am

        Lean In counts, Addie! It counts!

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        Addie Pray August 14, 2014, 10:54 am

        it’s official – i have read a self help book!!

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        MaterialsGirl August 14, 2014, 11:10 am

        I read lean in! And the boundaries one.. and the should i stay or go one.. and I think the love languages is on my kindle waiting for me.


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        Portia August 14, 2014, 2:03 pm

        I also didn’t read them growing up, but I think a lot of that had to do with the internet and how you can search around for something to help you out without going out and buying a book or getting it at the library. Also, my town’s bookstore was kind of the hangout for everyone I knew in high school and all the school’s librarians knew me (and the public library ones knew my mom), so I had zero anonymity if I wanted to get a self-help book back then…


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