One area of publishing that never ceases to flourish is the self-help genre. Have you ever turned to one of these books in a time of crisis, hoping to find answers, advice, guidance and reassurance? Perhaps you’ve felt the need for a complete personality overhaul for any number of reasons – romantic failures, work stresses, mental health, emotional disturbances. Almost anything can drive us into the arms of these authors and some people swear by their favourites, having experienced real growth and change as a result of following a particular set of tips. Of course, sometimes we need a hands-on approach to healing – for example, gay massage can lead people towards a better relationship with themselves. But there are occasions when only a book – which has the advantage of being something we can turn to several times a day at will – will do. Over the years, some of these tomes have achieved worldwide fame and we’ll have seen the dust-jackets several times on the Tube and become familiar with the authors’ names. While gay massage in London is something we’d heartily recommend, in hard times it’s also worth finding a self-help author with whom you click.

Among the most widely noted self-help works are the following:

“The Road Less Travelled” – M. Scott Peck. Published in 1978, this well-known self-help classic has frequently been snapped in the hands of celebrities like Geri Horner (The Spice Girls). It’s an attempt to establish all the character attributes required for a happy and fulfilled life. Written in four sections, it covers matters including discipline and spiritual, emotional and psychological health. It outlines ideas such as taking responsibility for oneself and learning to opt for delayed rather than instant gratification. The author also examines the dangers of our fixation with “being in love” and the destructiveness to which this can lead. It’s a good place to start if you’re a self-help first-timer and there are other works by the same writer if you end up liking it.

“Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” – David D. Burns. These self-help authors do appear to love their initials, but that’s just a side-note. This came out in 1980 and has, at points in its history, been recommended by counsellors and therapists aplenty. It is something of a landmark publication because it was instrumental in bringing CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to the mass-market. The author had grown unimpressed by other therapeutic approaches (e.g. Freudian psychoanalysis) and was taken with the idea – dating back to Ancient Greece – that our anguish is not so much caused by what happens to us as by the way we think about it. This classic manual can help you step back from your thinking, examine it, discover the self-defeating flaws within it and make the change. It has since sold four million copies.

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