Top 10 Self Help Books
Do your bookshelves heave with self-help books or are you overwhelmed by the choice? Susan Quilliam chooses her ten favourite books on the market.
Every year there are 2,000 self-help books published worldwide. Some are fabulous, some are indifferent and some are positively harmful. So how do you pick your way through what's on offer? Susan Quilliam chooses her ten favourites of all time - covering every aspect of personal development from self-esteem, through love, sex and family, to supporting other people.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
This book is known as one of the great self-help classics of our time. It tackles the issue of fear, particularly for women, and how fear can hold us back. The book not only focuses on fear, but also on building confidence, positive thinking and overcoming low self-esteem.
Jeffers has produced a number of follow-ups that build on the concept, but Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is the ideal book for newcomers to the self-help book scene or to remind yourself of what you may have forgotten about personal growth if you are an old timer.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway , by Susan Jeffers (Rider Books, £8).
The Little Book of Calm
While many self-help books bury their messages under layers of text, The Little Book of Calm is short on words but long on meaning. I like it because it's rich in both emotional wisdom - 'the relaxation that follows love-making works on many different levels' - and practical suggestions, such as 'remove your watch from time-to-time to remove yourself from time pressures'.
In today's world, we not only suffer from the physical impact of tension and stress, but from the emotional impact too. The Little Book of Calm was the first and still one of the best books aimed at counteracting stress.
The Little Book of Calm , by Paul Wilson (Penguin, £2.50)
The Real Rules
One of the self-help books I hate most is The Rules, a nasty little volume that tries to convince you that manipulating a potential partner will help you live happily ever after. The author of The Real Rules - self-help guru Barbara de Angelis - agrees with my assessment of the original book and proposes an alternative scenario: deal honestly and openly with a potential partner and speedily dump any potential partner who doesn't deal honestly and openly with you.
De Angelis is a great writer, who talks common sense - and my only objection to the book is that she uses about 15 different typefaces on each page, so the overall impression is that she is shouting at you the whole time.
The Real Rules , by Barbara de Angelis (HarperCollins, price £6.99)
Guide to Getting It On
This is one of the best sex books on the market. It's not for the fainthearted, dealing with the nuts and bolts of down and dirty sex. It's clear, accurate, funny and above all helpful, telling what you never dared to ask about sex, in full detail.
Do you want to know exactly how to give a really good blow job, how to make love when you're on your period and precisely what it feels like when you have intercourse? Undoubtedly aimed at the youth market, Guide to Getting It On is an excellent read for anyone of any age wanting to be truly informed about sex.
Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides (Vermilion, £14.99)
When it comes to sex, I get more letters about women's orgasms than any other subject. Women ask how to have them, men ask how to give them - and everyone wants to know how to get more of them. Women's Pleasure is the best book on the subject: a step-by-step guide to how to make yourself more orgasmic.
It's well written, with none of the technical detail that often stops me recommending sex manuals, and above all it helps you get places. An added recommendation is that the author herself didn't have an orgasm until she was in her mid-30s and then sorted her problem out all by herself!
Women's Pleasure by Rachel Swift (Pan, £8.99)
The Break-up Survival Kit
There are lots of 'how to get over a failed relationship' books on the market, many of which take the philosophical approach. To be honest, being told that it's 'all for the best' and 'live and let live' never really cut it with me.
The Break-up Survival Kit is a refreshing book, tackling upfront issues such as emotional desperation and revenge, as well as the more traditional topics of when to start dating again and how to handle rebound relationships. It's full of lists, tips and quizzes and is just what you need when you're in the middle of that sanity bypass that usually accompanies a break-up.
The Break-up Survival Kit by Pam Spurr (Robson Books, £6.99)
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
This book was published decades ago but is still the best-ever book written for parents. It helps you understand what it's like to be a child and why they never seem to listen to you. And then, it tells you how to communicate with kids so they 'can and do' listen. It's energetically written, it really makes you think about your own situation and your children, and the cartoons are fabulous. It should be required reading for all parents, including those who've just found out they are pregnant.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk , by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Piccadilly Press, £8.99)
Networking - The Art of Making Friends
Carole Stone is a legend in her own time - and a very nice woman too. Her book explains how to network - for friendship, business and profit. She also tells you how to cope with problems - when you're snubbed, when you get networking wrong, when you need to let friends go gracefully.
The text is bouncily written, full of pointed anecdotes from Carole's own experience. And her approach works - her Christmas parties, held in the huge Queen Elizabeth Hall in Central London, always consist of well over 1,000 of Carole's closest friends.
Networking - The Art of Making Friends by Carole Stone (Vermilion, £7.99)
If We're So In Love, Why Aren't We Happy?
This is a new book that is sure to stir up a storm. It follows the basic principle that if you have a problem in your relationship, then all the self-help exercises in the world won't help until you start being nice to your partner. And you have to start being nice to your partner whether or not your partner is being nice to you.
I've included this book not because I think everything in it makes sense - the author's terminology is far too spiritual for me - but because it addresses a very real issue: that all too often we try to use self-help methods as a weapon with which to nag and blame our partners and our partnerships into submission.
If We're So In Love, Why Aren't We Happy? by Susan Page (Piatkus, £10.99)
What To Do When You Really Want To Help But Don't Know How
I debated long and hard about whether to include one of my own books in a personal top ten but then if I don't like my own books, I shouldn't be writing them, should I? This is among my favourites, not least because it was written with The Samaritans for those people helping family, friends or relatives, or working in the caring professions.
The book's short, with lots of illustrations showing you how to support another person, what to say, what not to say, what to do and what not to do. If you really want to help, this book will show you how.
What To Do When You Really Want To Help But Don't Know How by Susan Quilliam (Transformation Press, £5.99).