Turned to a self-help book for guidance this year? You’re one of a growing number: British people are buying record numbers of self-help books, new figures from Nielsen Book Research reveal. Over the past year, sales have risen by 20 per cent, with three million self-help books sold, the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, the genre has become "one of the fastest-growing genres of publishing." An awful lot of us, it seems, are turning to the written word for help getting it together.
So which self-help books, exactly, are Brits buying? For an entirely unscientific study, let’s take a quick glance at Amazon. The bestselling book in the "Mind, Body and Spirit Self-Help Books" category (at the time of writing) is Professor Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness, described as "an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you become a happy, confident, healthier and more successful person."
Top rated is Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s The Stress Solution: 4 steps to a calmer, happier, healthier you, which Amazon calls "the perfect book for you to kick-start a calmer, happier and healthier 2019." Most wished for, meanwhile, is Cal Newport’s "Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology," a book that promises to help you "take back control from your devices and become a digital minimalist." Digital minimalists, Amazon says, are "calm, happy people" — notice a trend?
Brits buying self-help books, it would seem (again, based on the most fleeting of studies), are looking for respite from worry and unhappiness in turbulent times (been following Brexit lately?) While the method of obtaining peace varies across the most popular titles, from targeting stress to cutting down reliance on technology, the desired end result is distinctly similar. Brits are focusing less on popular self-help topics like career success or relationship advice, it appears; instead, they’re just in pursuit of calm.
On Google, one of the most asked questions about the genre is "do self-help books work?" Given the breadth of the books available, and the difficulty of quantifying their success, it’s a next to impossible one to answer. For some, self-help books can be life-changing; for others, they’re not even worth considering.
Psychology Today, however, offers some advice about getting the most out of the next one you pick up. The first tip is an obvious but vital one: do your research on the author. "Don’t hesitate to do a quick Google search of the author and track down his or her training and background and make sure that it matches the expertise that the author claims to have," the site suggests. Check the copyright date, too, in case scientific thinking on the topic has drastically changed or progressed since the book was first written.
The magazine also advises you consider which book is best suited to you and your reading preferences, explaining, "A book’s format plays an important role in determining whether you’ll take its advice seriously to heart." And no matter how popular the book, don’t assume you’re in the wrong if its advice strikes you as problematic. As Psychology Today puts it: "If a self-help author’s advice doesn’t ring true, this doesn’t mean that you’re the one with the problem."