Historically, certain societal norms have contributed to making men feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness. In reality, it is simply an indication of wanting to better oneself and lead a more fulfilling life. If anything, that is a sign of strength and a willingness to change.
Although asking for help is becoming less taboo for men, that doesn’t make it easy. For anyone who still feels uncomfortable in the self-help aisle of their local bookstore, we’ve compiled a list to pursue from the privacy of your own home.
The following collection of self-help books for men functions as a pathway to self-improvement, and a common theme throughout suggests that, much like putting on your oxygen mask first if the plane is going down, when you help yourself, you help the people around you.
Self-Help Books for Men Who Feel Stuck
1. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field
For many men, personal and professional problems stem from issues with low self-esteem. This definitive guide from psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden combines the knowledge earned from a lifetime of clinical studies, practices, and practical experiences to explain why confidence is the key to happiness, and how to build more.
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem demystifies the concept of self-worthiness and explores self-esteem from every angle — workplace, parenting, education, psychotherapy, and current culture. It shows how self-esteem, when activated, can act as a superpower, helping us achieve our goals, build and maintain meaningful relationships, and value our psychological health.
2. Man’s Search for Meaning
Between 1942 and 1945, Viktor Frankl (the founder of logotherapy) endured endless trauma as he traveled between four different Nazi death camps, including the notorious Aushwitz. Ultimately, he survived the Holocaust, but he lost everyone he loved, as well as the pain-staking psychological research he had compiled before the war. As a man with an intimate perspective on suffering, Frankl makes the case for meaning — creating and keeping it in our minds.
For anyone who feels stuck, Man’s Search for Meaning — which the Library of Congress has called a “book that made a difference” — will motivate you to cope with your unique struggles, whatever they may be, and in the process, find your greater purpose.
3. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
This counterintuitive approach to self-help argues that our constant effort to be happy is the very thing that is holding us back. Countering the ubiquitous ideology of positive-thinking and toxic positivity, author and feature writer for The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman, makes a case for embracing the things we try so hard to avoid like pessimism, failure, insecurity, and the unknown.
The Antidote functions both as a guide to reengaging with life from a new (perhaps more cynical) perspective and an introduction to some of the various philosophies behind happiness. Burkeman shares his own experiences, practical experiments, and interviews with positivity gurus, psychologists, neuroscientists, and academics, painting an enlightening, and sometimes comical, picture of modern-day fulfillment.
4. Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway!
Everyone feels fear, but for some, it can be completely debilitating. Does that sound familiar? Author Dr. Susan Jeffers discusses how fear, indecision, and anger held her back from making positive change in her life, and how she learned to use that fear instead of trying to banish it completely.
Avoiding psychological lingo or jargon, she describes a clear 10-step process to help readers shift their mentality from helpless victim to powerful creator. This is the book for anyone who wants to take back control. Are you afraid to leave a bad relationship? Are you terrified to move? Scared to ask for a raise? Learn to feel the fear… and do it anyway.
5. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?
Before writing this book, Raj Raghunathan, a professor at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, noted a lack of correlation between academic success and career success, and upon closer inspection, between career success and general happiness. Within the group of people he observed, greater success was actually paired with feelings of unfulfillment, distractibility, and in some cases, poor health.
Raghunathan asked himself why his most intelligent friends and acquaintances were sometimes the most unhappy, embarking on a journey of extensive research into the age-old misconception that wealth and success equal joy. What he discovered led him to propose seven habits for reframing your perspective, embracing generosity over personal gain, accepting uncertainty, and reaching out to grab the happiness that’s right in front of you.
6. The Last Lecture
There is a good chance that you’ve heard of The Last Lecture if you haven’t read it. It’s based on the story of Randy Paush, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and asked to give what he knew would be his last lecture.
In this book, he takes inspiration from what made his last lecture great and turns it into a guide on overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, supporting others, and seizing the day. He urges his readers to realize the value of time and use it to build and leave behind a legacy of compassion and courage. In his words, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
7. The Highly Sensitive Man: How Mastering Natural Instincts, Ethics, and Empathy Can Enrich Men’s Lives and the Lives of Those Who Love Them
Highly sensitive people are everywhere, but sensitive men face unique challenges in relationships and societal expectations. Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist Tom Falkenstein looks at those unique challenges and offers equal amounts of insight and validation for men who struggle with not feeling “manly” enough, or who think that they’re too emotional. In the face of toxic masculinity and increasingly difficult conversations on mental health for men, he states that society needs sensitive men more than ever.
8. Nothing’s Wrong: A Man’s Guide to Managing His Feelings
If you know you have difficulty dealing with your emotions and find it hard to talk about them, then this book is for you. Societal stereotypes and expectations make it difficult for some men to express themselves, making it difficult to heal from painful life circumstances.
David Kundtz provides the groundwork for men of all ages—teens, young adults, grandfathers—to identify their emotions, navigate complicated ones, and find the confidence to express them without shame.
9. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
Psychologist Susan David illustrates a concept that has been heralded as groundbreaking: Emotional agility, she says, is the ability to adjust to life’s changes with acceptance and an open mind. It may sound simple, but it’s all too easy to get stuck on what you think your life should look like, rather than identify it for what it is and accept the new paths that may appear in order to reach your goals.
Readers of all genders can appreciate this one, but it could be especially beneficial for men looking to achieve new goals and build better relationships.
10. You Are Not What You Think: The Egoless Path to Self-Esteem and Generous Love
This straightforward book by psychotherapist David Richo jumps right into how you can acknowledge a healthy level of ego while recognizing how too much can be damaging.
Some reviews mention this book has spiritual roots, which may be beneficial for some.
Self-Help Books on Habits & Organization
11. Atomic Habits
James Clear’s work on habit-forming and decision-making has appeared in well-known publications like the New York Times, Entrepreneur, and Time. His vast audience is evidence of his ability to simplify complex topics and turn them into actionable methods.
In Atomic Habits, which has been called “the most realistic self-help book ever written,” Clear presents practical strategies to break bad habits, form good ones, design your environment, and reach your goals. He draws on research from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to make a guide for literally anyone who wants to excel in their field or master their craft.
12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, another celebrated self-help guide, was published in 1990 and has maintained its bestseller status ever since, earning the title of #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. Author Stephen Covey breaks down everything you need to know about solving personal and professional problems into seven highly digestible practices, serving up a portable seminar on productivity, time management, and positive thinking.
However, getting the most out of what this book has to offer requires something Covey calls a “paradigm shift” or change in perception, which he walks you through in early pages.
13. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World
This book, written by Navy Seal and 4-star Admiral William H. McRaven, contains lessons learned about discipline, duty, honor, and sacrifice. It was inspired by a speech McRaven gave at a university graduation where he shared the ten principles he learned in training that helped him throughout his entire Naval career and beyond.
McRaven expands on this idea and communicates how small acts of intentionality equal long term personal change. However, he stresses the fact that, when compounded, positive personal change can move the entire world forward.
14. Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior
We can sabotage ourselves without even realizing it. By procrastinating on an important project, avoiding painful topics, and more, we set ourselves up for failure, whether we realize it or not.
Dr. Mark Goulson explains how we learn these habits in childhood and dives into what it takes to move beyond them. He offers a practical guide to navigating life’s challenges without getting in our own way, with anecdotes and insights from his twenty years of psychiatric clinical practice.
Best Self-Help Books for Career & Leadership
15. Dare to Lead
Research professor Brené Brown is perhaps best known for her work on vulnerability, but in this book, she takes a deep dive into what leadership looks like in a culture that is often defined by fear and uncertainty. She draws attention to the irony of our society’s intense fear of being outperformed by artificial intelligence and simultaneous denial of the very skills that make us human — empathy, connection, and courage.
Brown’s goal is to help people lead with confidence by using simple principles and tools at home and in the office. Her work is unique because it doesn’t shy away from what is perhaps the most important element of leadership — our emotional tendencies. True leadership is not about power, but about recognizing potential in others, and having the skills to develop it.
16. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Who Moved My Cheese? is a classic parable about the inevitability of change. It’s been in circulation for quite some time but people return to it again and again because it resonates. Author Spencer Johnson illustrates how change happens no matter how hard we try to avoid it, and how it’s up to the individual whether it happens to them or by them. Readers say this “deceptively simple” story helps you anticipate and accept change, showing that when you change your attitude, you change the world.
17. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
As its title implies, this book presents distilled content from over 200 interviews with highly successful people and celebrities — titans, if you will. Interviewer and author Tim Ferriss talks to people like Jamie Foxx and Arnold Schwarzenegger about their routines, philosophies, and business dealings in a very specific way that leaves readers with a better understanding of their mindset, diet, exercise habits, strategies, and more.
Ferriss goes beyond the typical question set, asking things like: What books do you most often give as gifts? What supplements do you take? What, in your opinion, is the biggest waste of time for novices in your field?
18. The Outliers
Author of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has been included in Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list and cited as one of Foreign Policy’s “Top Global Thinkers.” He’s written five bestsellers, but in this book, he explores the idea of “outliers” — in other words, the world’s best and brightest, high-achievers who stood out as extraordinary.
What makes Gladwell’s approach to this concept different from any other is its focus on where each person is from — their culture, family life, generation, and details about their upbringing — instead of what they are like.
Best Self-Help Books for Men in Relationships
19. The Relationship Cure: A 5-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships
This guide to relationships provides a five-step program based on research from relationship expert Dr. John M. Gottman (founder of the Gottman Method). His aim is to emphasize the importance of emotional connection and show readers exactly how to build it. He also describes how to implement an emotional “bid,” something he considers to be the currency of emotional connection.
The pages of The Relationship Cure are filled with questionnaires and actionable exercises that lead readers to transform their unique relationships and ultimately, their lives.
20. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
When we talk about relationships, it’s not always in reference to romantic relationships, at least not exclusively. Written by professors in the Harvard Negotiation Project, Difficult Conversations focuses on the underused and undervalued power of communication to resolve interpersonal conflict of any kind. It proposes that while it’s natural to disagree, it’s not normal to let those disagreements destroy our connections, and in an attempt to avoid difficult conversations, we do ourselves a great disservice.
Learn to converse without defensiveness, listen for what’s not being said, and decipher underlying meaning.
Best Self-Help Books for Dads
21. The New Dad Dictionary: Everything He Really Needs to Know – from A to Z
This book serves as a practical resource for expectant fathers. Consider it a crash-course in the language you’ll need to become familiar with before your child is born. Each term comes with a standard dictionary definition and what author Chris Illuminati calls a “Dad-finition.” Readers and reviewers consider it a modern version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
If terms like cradle cap and cluster feedings seem like a foreign language, The New Dad Dictionary will help you get up-to-date with everything you need to know, but it goes beyond words and phrases. Illuminati walks his readers through real-life situations and provides a step-by-step explanation of what they can expect.
For Further Reading
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