Health

The 2016 Self-Help Books We Found Least Helpful

Published On 12/21/2016 Published On 12/21/2016
self-help bestsellers


Reading is good! Sadly, most books are bad. Especially in the self-help genre, which encourages simplistic ideas dressed up to sound profound, inept writing, plus all sorts of gimmicks trotted out to push titles onto best-seller lists and keep them there as long as possible.

If self-help books work for you, great! More power to you. But if you're on the fence, pick up a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude or Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and ponder life for a few hours instead. You'll get way more out of it. In any case, you certainly shouldn't waste your hard-earned cash on these not-so-classics, almost all of which appeared on The New York Times best-seller list this year.

HarperOne/Faith Words

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Says the guy who wrote a fucking book and put an asterisk in the word "fuck."

Think Better, Live Better: A Victorious Life Begins in Your Mind by Joel Osteen

[Inspirational megachurch voice]: All you gotta do to LIVE better… is THINK better! [Woman collapses on stage, is healed]

Hay House/Knopf

The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein

Oh, well if you're on The Universe's list, step right on in, there's loads of trust fund money and mimosas by the pool on your left.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Life is nice, but the user experience leaves something to be desired. This book is the poor man's version of "learn to code," and is based on a Stanford class, so it must be good.  

CreateSpace Independent Publishing/Simon & Schuster

You are a Badass: A totally inappropriate self-affirming adult coloring book (Volume 2) by Jen Sincero

No, you're an adult who bought a coloring book. For adults. Though "totally inappropriate" is unintentionally accurate.

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

Apparently the secret to persuading someone of something, anything, is the critical moment before you start your pitch. Oh. Who knew? No joke: The Amazon blurb says you can use these techniques for "online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda." Goebbels says, "I love this book!"

Harmony/Little, Brown & Co.

Radical Beauty: How to Transform Yourself from the Inside Out by Deepak Chopra and Kimberly Snyder

Welp, Deepak Chopra's writing about beauty now. Somebody has to stop this guy, he's printing money with all the pseudo-scientific bullshit he puts his name on these days.

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Sooooo this book promises to reveal why terrorists are successful? And also investors? And CEOs and generals? Turns out these people can see and feel "networks." Huh. Spoiler: This book also reveals that Bruce Willis has been alive the whole time.

Rodale/WaterBrook & Multnomah

Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum by Neil Patel, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Jonas Koffler

Self-help and get-rich-quick schemes are inextricably linked. This book was written by three dudes.

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms by Tim Tebow

Technically not self-help, but aren't all Tim Tebow books some kind of self-help? And how are there MULTIPLE Tim Tebow books?

Random House/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up offers an illustrated guide for those readers left confused by the "don't keep so much freaking stuff" message of her revolutionary first title.

Grand Central/Spiegel & Grau

Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way by Nely Galán

"For readers of #GIRLBOSS and viewers of Shark Tank." Yikes. "Rich in every way" mostly means "rich in money," if you couldn't guess.

Greenleaf Book Group Press/Simon & Schuster

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

Fantastic, I look forward to hearing about the resolution to Hilbert's eighth problem. This book was written by three dudes. Excuse me, three PARTNERS AT GOOGLE VENTURES.

Crown Business/Rodale

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Vishen Lakhiani

Praise must be heaped on "personal growth entrepreneur" Vishen Lakhiani for creating the Platonic ideal of a self-help book in 2016. This one has it all: a call-out to "coding," hints at disruption, an appeal to the unconventional in the relentlessly banal, the steadfast belief that someone reading a self-help book truly can make his mind extraordinary, "laws," references to both "evolutionary biology" and "modern spirituality," reliance on "computational thinking," and, of course, success, which means money. This book is a green juice at a sober dance party hosted by Snapchat sponsored by UNIQLO and DJed by Avicii, that's how zeitgeisty it is.

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Anthony Schneck is not the book critic at Thrillist, but he SHOULD be. Follow him @AnthonySchneck.

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