10 Most Popular Self-Help Books (Ranked From Worst to Best)

10 Most Popular Self-Help Books (Ranked From Worst to Best)
Photo by Abby Chung

Which books should you read and which ones to give a miss?

I’ll be honest: most self-help books exhaust me.

Some feel like they should have been a single blog post, while others tire me with their endless stream of aggressive motivation.

But there are some true gems in the vast sea of self-help books, and these are the ones I’ll help you discover through this article.

Here, I’ve listed ten popular self-help books ranked from the worst to the best. Read on for some controversial takes, and don’t forget to share your insights in the comments.

10. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra

Image: Goodreads

Do you believe natural and universal laws can help you transform your life?

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra explains the natural principles that can help you achieve your goals (along with the hard work you put in).

Why is it not effective?

While I agree with the principles suggested in this book, the author could have conveyed a straightforward message without the need for excessive psychobabble.

For example, it’d be more effective to say that staying still and connecting with our inner selves can help us break free from the distractions of the material world and the rat race. Instead, the author chose to go on and on about our mystical connections to the universe and how they manifest themselves in aiding self-improvement.

My favorite quotes from The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

“The past is history, the future is a mystery, and this moment is a gift. That is why this moment is called ‘the present’.”
“Attachment to money will always create insecurity no matter how much money you have in the bank.”

9. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Image: Goodreads

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is a bestselling book that tells you how to apply the law of attraction in all aspects of life, be it relationships, money, health, and mental peace.

This book claims to help you realize your hidden potential and can inspire you through compelling stories.

But I found it overrated with no theme or voice.

Why is it not effective?

I found the book delusional and lacking credibility in the facts stated. You might also get annoyed due to numerous quotes from other books and authors.

My favorite quotes from The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

“You become what you think about most.. But you also attract what you think about most. (John Assaraf)”
“Your power is in your thoughts, so stay awake. In other words, remember to remember.”

8. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Image: Goodreads

Everyone wants to live a fulfilling and peaceful life but doesn’t know how to achieve that.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale discusses some practical ways to achieve what you want through positive thinking.

The book teaches you to believe in your potential and be kind to yourself if you want to achieve satisfaction.

Why is it not effective?

Despite the compelling title, the book deviates from its actual theme and emphasizes a particular religion. It is more like a Christianity-based self-help book with repetitive mantras and barely any practical tips.

My favorite quotes from The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism”
“Let nothing trouble you let nothing worry you everything passes away expect God God alone is sufficient”
“When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of attraction tends to bring the best to you.”

7. The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone

Image: Goodreads

Great success comes with greater risks and massive actions.

The current mediocre steps you’re taking won’t help you achieve bigger goals.

Grant Cardone has tried to demonstrate this through his famous book The 10x Rule. The book inspires readers to take Massive Actions with the 10x rule (whenever you feel like you’re failing, put in 10 times as much effort, and see your destiny change) to succeed in whatever they do.

Why is it not effective?

Grant Cardone emphasizes two points in this book: setting massive goals and taking massive actions.

I felt this could have been summarized in a blog post.

The book feels repetitive and unnecessarily lengthy. I wouldn’t recommend it for those who want to succeed by following practical methods, not by shallow motivation.

My favorite quotes from The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone

“Never take the position that things just happen to you; rather, they happen because of something you did or did not do.”
“Success tends to bless those who are most committed to giving it the most attention.”

6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Image: Goodreads

If you are not into non-fiction but want to discover the meaning of your life, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho can be a good choice to start with.

This masterpiece got wide recognition as the story of Santiago, a young shepherd on the hunt for the ultimate treasure, is inspiring and keeps the reader hooked till the end.

The book is a beautiful combination of life lessons and mysticism and claims to help you discover your calling in life.

Why is it not effective or not effective?

The author has beautifully explained Santiago’s journey, his quest for worldly treasures, and the lessons he learns on the way.

The book’s core message stresses the power of not giving up on your dreams, regardless of the adversities.

While the core message is valuable, I found this book preachy and dealing with overly idealized situations. Nevertheless, it is a fine book, especially if you want to finish it in a day or two.

My favorite quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

5. The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

Image: Goodreads

It is impossible to avoid adversities. But those who transform their obstacles into opportunities are the ultimate winners.

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday is a beautiful book that will teach you the art of turning adverse situations in your favor through the inspiring stories of legends like Amelia Earhart, Steve Jobs, and others.

These exceptional talents were not gifted but achieved greatness through their experiences to turn failure into triumph.

Why is it effective?

The author has wonderfully depicted the ancient philosophy of Stoicism that teaches how to be mentally ready to face an obstacle and turn it to your advantage.

The anecdotes mentioned in the book take up the most page time. It feels more like a compilation of success stories of famous personalities rather than a practical guide to Stoicism.

Nevertheless, it’s an excellent book to start with if you’re new to self-improvement and want to pick a handy guide to improve your life.

My favorite quotes from The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

“We forget: In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.”
“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.”

4. The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

Image: Goodreads

Everyone wants to have a powerful presence to succeed in their lives. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a detailed case study of the laws of gaining power governing our society, some going back thousands of years.

Robert Greene has discussed how one can attain power in all aspects of life.

Why is it effective?

The laws of power demonstrated in this book show the reality of human nature and how to apply these learnings in real-life situations.

The book contains historical examples and practices of each law; a long read but entertaining and worth your time.

You might find it hard to understand initially, but the interest is developed as you get deeper into the chapters. This book made me feel I was smarter after reading it.

Though I’m afraid I have to disagree with all the 48 laws mentioned here, it’s still a book I recommend whenever someone asks me for “Actionable self-help books.”

My favorite quotes from 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

“Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies.”
“Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument.”

3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Image: Goodreads

Sometimes, your inner fear stops you from living your dreams.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is a life-changing book that encourages us to be daring, embrace our imperfections, and live open-heartedly.

We all face situations when we feel emotional, vulnerable, or uncertain. This book teaches us how to be courageous and make the right decisions in such situations. The book covers all aspects of life, be it relationships, interviews, difficult conversations, or anything.

Why is it effective?

Dr. Brown has poured all her twelve years of research into this book to teach that vulnerability is not a weakness but a path to courage.

I recommend everyone to read this book at least once to understand their vulnerable side and be emotionally fulfilled.

My favorite quotes from Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

2. The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga

The Courage To Be Disliked is a groundbreaking book for those who want to overcome their people-pleasing tendencies and liberate themselves from unnecessary emotional baggage.

The authors explain the Japanese teachings to attain freedom from others’ expectations and live happily.

This book will compel you to break the limitations that you put on yourself and have the courage to change.

Why is it effective?

If you are into personal development, this book is a must-read, as it completely changes your perspective of happiness. So gather your courage to be disliked and make decisions that make you happy.

My favorite quotes from The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga

“Do Not Live to Satisfy the Expectations of Others”
“It’s that you are disliked by someone, it is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.”

1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search For Meaning is one of the most influential books that inspired me to seek the quests that fulfill me and make me happy. It helped me choose my battles and design a life I’m proud of.

The author is a psychiatrist who’s also a holocaust survivor. In this book, he shares his experiences of the concentration camp and how his connection with his life’s purpose kept him alive in the toughest of situations.

Frankl is credited with developing logotherapy, a great discovery in psychotherapy, which suggests that humans want to pursue what they find meaningful, not necessarily pleasurable.

Why is it effective?

You might get goosebumps and rethink your life after you read this book.

You’ll learn that suffering is inevitable, but you can choose how to cope and move forward. Give it a read to understand the deeper meaning of your life.

My favorite quotes from Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

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