Who has written the self-help guide on the self-help book to buy for 2018? Greg Bruce, that's who.
Towards the end of his best-selling book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, Neil Pasricha produces a great table showing how popular self-helpy sayings are frequently negated by other popular self-helpy sayings.
For example: "Birds of a feather flock together / Opposites attract."
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained / Better safe than sorry."
"Good things come to those who wait / The early bird gets the worm."
From this, he extrapolated: "So what's the single best piece of advice you'll ever take? Don't take advice."
I waited for him to acknowledge the irony, or to negate it, but nope, nothing.
The book ends as follows:
"The answers are all inside you.
"Think deep and decide what's best.
"Go forth and be happy.
"And don't take advice."
And with that in mind, here are some of the other leading self-help books of the year.
SORT OUT YOUR MESS
Unf*** Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess, by Rachel Hoffman, is one of a large sub-genre of self-help books that shames you about the shambles of your life. It's a pretty standard entry in the genre, with lots of advice about how to clean up your house, but its real point of difference is its use of "f***" in the title.
The book's thesis is, basically, "There is nothing that can't be unf***ed with a little bit of effort and motivation." Hoffman advocates being flexible and adaptable with your unf***ing schedule, suggesting something she calls 20 / 10s, which is 20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break.
She writes that mental health and housekeeping are often more closely linked than we realise. She writes that we need to let go of "perfect" and embrace "good enough" and that we can't change everything all at once and shouldn't try to.
The use of "f***" throughout the book isn't as prevalent as the title suggests.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter, is written by a Swedish woman who is aged between 80 and 100 and who writes unemotionally about the practice of getting your house in order for your death. There's some light and unsentimental memoir mixed with a lot of practical advice: Don't start with photos or letters, for instance, because you'll get stuck down memory lane. Instead, start with something easy, like clothes.
The Longevity List, by Professor Merlin Thomas, is separated into 17 chapters, all beginning with the question: "Do I really have to ... " There's "#2 Cut down on the booze?", "#5 Get off the couch?", "#13 Get more sunshine?" and so forth.
It's ferociously detailed."#1 Cut out the chocolate?" goes on for pages about the history of chocolate production and consumption, when really all you want is to know how much you can eat before it will kill you.
In A Life Less Stressed: The Five Pillars of Health and Wellness, Australian holistic dentist Dr Ron Ehrlich outlines how to strengthen the aforementioned pillars, which are sleep, breathing, nutrition, movement and thought.
It's a big book and will presumably be quite overwhelming to readers already so overwhelmed by stress that they have been driven to buy it, but there's a great two-and-a-half-page summary towards the end, which will save you some effort.
The importance of choice is explored in three of our books, including once in a title.
The Choice, by Edith Eger, is not a self-help book, at least not a conventional one. It's psychologist Eger's own story of surviving Auschwitz, what her experiences have taught her and what they can teach us.
She writes that suffering is universal but victimhood is optional, and that we can live a better life if we relinquish past regret and unresolved grief.
"Each moment is a choice," she writes. "No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond."
Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck, which was first published in 2012 has sold more than 1 million copies. Its key idea has changed the way smart people everywhere think about intelligence. Either you believe intelligence is fixed (fixed mindset) or that it can be developed (growth mindset), and if you have the growth mindset, you're more likely to do better in life.
Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, writes, "The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
The second edition, released late last year includes some extra chapters, including a handy step-by-step guide to developing the growth mindset.
The Two Most Important Days, by Harvard professor of medicine Sanjiv Chopra and Harvard Medical School associate dean Gina Vild takes its title from the Mark Twain quote, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
In the introduction, Chopra and Vild write: "This is all you need to know: happiness is a choice. By finding your life's purpose, you are choosing a happy life."
GET A JOB
In When to Jump: If The Job You Have Isn't The Life You Want, Mike Lewis presents a four-point plan for leaving your job — "listen to the little voice, make a plan, let yourself be lucky, don't look back".
Lewis himself left his job at international private equity giant Bain Capital to pursue his dream of becoming a professional squash player, then founded a website and "global community of people who have left one path to pursue a very different one."
The book intersperses Lewis' own story with the stories of 44 people who have jumped, and collects their lessons. The ultimate lesson is that, if you're not happy with your job, or you think you could be more happy doing something else, you should find a way to do it.
Work, Passion, Power, by New Zealand career consultants Max and Frances Harre focuses on helping readers achieve what they call a fifth-generation career: high-engagement, meaning-rich work. They write, "If you think, 'There's got to be more to life than this', this book will help you create a compelling, meaningful, clear direction and start to make it happen now."
CHANGE FOR GOOD
How to Resist: Turn Protest To Power, by Matthew Bolton, is a step-by-step guide to generating change in the world. It outlines how to use the methods of successful community organisers (Barack Obama was one) to build power through relationships, use that power to get a reaction from decision-makers and use that reaction to make real change.
You could argue it's not really self-help, at least not in the classical fashion, focusing as it does on changing the world rather than oneself, but maybe that's the best self-help