If you're searching the Internet for the best self-help books UK, you might feel a little overwhelmed. There are 597,000,000 results on Google alone - so where do you start? And which ones won't be a waste of time?
Good question - which is why we've rounded up the books team Marie Claire UK have genuinely loved in this handy edit for you. Wondering how to be happy? There's a book for that. On the hunt for expert tips for how to switch off? There's a book for that, too.
Picking up a self help book is one of of our favourite self-care ideas - but how do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find the best self-help book for you? You've probably heard of Atomic Habit, The Secret, and The Power Of Positive Thinking - but below, we'll share the other must-reads to have on your list. Because yes, there are books that can genuinely empower you, break bad habits and even change your life.
Read on for our complete roundup of the books that are actually worth reading, from new releases to timeless classics. All you have to do is pick up a copy and get stuck in.
Make sure to check out our guide to the best self care gifts and the best self care apps, while you're here.
16 best self-help books UK to boost mood and mental health
Best self-help books UK: Editor's pick
Over five million copies of Atomic Habits have sold globally since the book was first released. In a nutshell, it's a simplistic explainer about how our daily habits shape our lifestyles and ultimately make us who we are. Have a pattern you've been trying to kick? This book is a practical guide to help you break bad habits and build new ones.
Health Editor Ally Head says: "I'd read rave reviews about Atomic Habit and I now understand why. I couldn't put it down - it's easy to follow, enjoyable, and breaks down simple concepts to help you form positive habits. Things like giving yourself visual queues (having your vitamins on your chest of drawers instead of in your drawer) have really changed my health and wellbeing this year."
Best self help book for manifestation sceptics
"I'm someone who needs to see the science behind something to believe in it—I'm a Beauty Editor, after all," shares Shannon Lawlor, Acting Beauty Editor at MC UK. "So when I heard that Dr Tara Swart's book, The Source, sits somewhere between The Secret and scientific thesis, I was in. It explains the neuroscience behind manifestation and the ways in which it can work. If you're a realist, add this to your reading list."
Best self help book for confidence and anxiety
Another bestseller, this book is basically an inside look at a therapist's tool kit. Dr Julie Smith draws upon her years of experience as a clinical psychologist to provide you with the skills you need to get through life's ups and downs and optimise your mental health. She covers loads of important topics, from tips for managing anxiety, battling low mood, building self-confidence and learning to forgive yourself, too - it's no wonder she's become an online sensation.
Best self help book for the perfectionist
Think about every time you haven't done something because you didn't feel good enough to. Didn't apply for that job you wanted because you didn't think you were qualified? Gave up writing that novel because you convinced yourself your ideas weren't up to scratch? Or found yourself re-writing emails so that it's worded just right (and people don't think you're too pushy)? Yep - you're probably a perfectionist. But it's time to unlearn everything you thought you knew about how to be brave with the help of Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani. The book focuses on ways in which women are primed to be perfect (and therefore feel inadequate when they don't achieve what they set out to) before offering up tips and tricks to ensure you're making courageous decisions in everyday life, whether that's standing up for yourself in a meeting or quitting your job entirely and moving to a remote island. Saujani is like your fearless friend throughout, encouraging you to take a leap of faith - even if it means potentially landing on anything but your feet.
Best positive thinking book
Whether it's a hard day at work, an irritating boss, or a train delay, it's not always easy to keep thinking positively. That's where Jay Shetty comes in. He spent three years as a monk and now shares his wisdom in his New York Times best-seller, Think Like a Monk. Freelance writer Dionne Brighton says: "This book helped me recognise where I needed to remove negativity from my life and stop overthinking. The best part was the Venn diagram on how to find your true purpose. Not to be dramatic, but it completely changed how I think about work and what I am passionate about. It encouraged me to go after my dream role and not live for other people's acceptance. It's hard not to think positively after reading Shetty's words."
Best self help book for anxiety
Bella Mackie’s book begins at rock bottom. The journalist and writer starts her story looking back over the days following her divorce, in which she realised she had never learnt any real coping mechanisms, including how to deal with her GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) symptoms she’d had since childhood. She takes the reader back with her over her life during her hardest moments, explaining in detail how her mental health has impacted everything from school to her first marriage. As the title suggests, the ongoing thread in the book is how Bella used running to self-medicate and get her life back on track. So often those of us suffering with our mental health are made to feel as though there are only two lines of treatment: therapy and/or medication. And while these are of course front and centre when it comes to treating mental health, Bella’s book makes a brilliant case for also taking up exercise. Not only will this book encourage you to take up running - or simply to find something you are passionate about to improve your mindset - it also reminds you that you are absolutely not alone. From beginning to end, Bella’s book is highly relatable (she can only manage two minutes on her first run), realistic and will have anyone who suffers from the terror of an anxiety disorder joyously celebrating that somebody finally knows exactly how they feel.
Best self help book for career progression
Founder of global beauty brand Rodial, Maria Hatzistefanis has written a book about her own experiences, failures and fortunes. After realising that her life needed a new focus, Maria takes you on a journey and shares her own clear, concise and intuitive strategies to help you tackle your own challenges, master your mindset and be in control of your own destiny.
Best self confidence book
Everyone we know who's read Untamed loves it. Know someone who just oozes self-confidence and wonder how they do it? Author Glennon Doyle reckons they're probably living life untamed. Part memoir, Doyle encourages you to trust your voice deep within: "The braver we are, the luckier we get."
Best self help book for a spiritual awakening
This book has taken social media by storm in the last couple of years, and it's easy to understand why. In this book, life coach Vex King teaches us how self-love is the key to unlocking your greatness, featuring a range of tips for overcoming toxic energy, creating positive lifestyle habits (including mindfulness and meditation), manifesting your goals, and finding a higher purpose in life.
Best self help book that actually helps
After a self-help book that's very science-heavy? Then you'll enjoy Thinking, Fast and Slow, written by qualified psychologist Daniel Kahneman. In it, he breaks down the two different ways our mind works (yep, you guessed it - fast and slow) - plus explains concepts, from knowing when to trust your intuition to how to be more rational in day-to-day life. "This self help book is a little heavy and can be hard to get into at first. But once you start to read into the different ways in which our brains work, it's hard to put back down and think the same again," says Dionne Brighton, freelance writer.
Best self help book for if you're feeling stuck
If you're feeling stuck in a rut, this book will convince you to get creative with your life. It's not just for the poets, painters and performers, but for anyone who feels like they've lost themselves and want to rediscover their passions. The book focuses on finding and appreciating joy in everyday experiences, doing the things you love, and ignoring the judgement and opinions of others. The message is clear: you can live big without selling everything and moving to a remote village, or vowing to commit to a sport so that you can compete in the next Olympics. Whether it's rekindling your childhood love for ice skating or booking a piano lesson after twenty years off the keys, this book will encourage you to forget what others think, focus on what you want, and follow your own interesting and totally unique path.
Best self help book for people who don't like self help books
If you're familiar with Knight's other works, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, Get Your Sh*t Together and You Do You, you'll be familiar with her writing style: punchy, energetic and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Her fourth "anti-guru" book offers readers an easy framework for dealing with the daily ups and downs of anxiety – from someone who knows what it's like to deal with it – all interspersed with diagrams, a good sense of humour and relatable anecdotes. It's a breeze to read and you'll feel much less alone by the end of it.
Best self-help books for people pleasers
"I still remember how empowered I felt after reading this self-help book for the first time. Since then, I've pretty much forced all my friends and family to read it. He says failure is the way forward, and I now have to agree. Not worrying about the outcome or what other people think is liberating. 'F*ck positivity', Manson says. It's not just me who loves it. A few weeks ago, I saw it on Netflix as number one in the UK. So he must be doing something right," says Freelance Writer Dionne Brighton.
Struggle with being honest? Scared to be confrontational? Worried about the consequences of saying what's really on your mind? Then you need to pick up a copy of Alexandra Reinwarth's book because it might just change your life for the better. After going through a BFF breakup, Alexandra decided that she was no longer going to live her life to please other people. Instead, she was going to create her own set of rules and embrace the power of saying "no". She rejects the idea of women having to be 'nice' to get where they need to be in life - whether that's climbing the career ladder, pleasing their peers or having the confidence to do what they really want to do - and instead focuses on ways in which we can ask for (and get) the life that we truly want.
Best self help book for building courage
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards is "enjoying fighting the good fight". Her memoir details her fight for social justice and acts as motivation for anyone who wants to flex their activism muscle. From how her journey started to the valuable lessons she learned along the way, Cecile talks about how she fought and won some of the biggest battles of her career - and doesn't forget about her setbacks, too. She actively encourages being a (hard-working) troublemaker to get where you need to be - even if it all ends in failure. In fact, especially if it ends in failure. Because the most important step following a setback is the ability to pick yourself back up and keep going.
Best self help book for motivation
Need some motivation for 2023? Look no further than Jen Sincero's self-help book. A New York Times bestseller, this book provides 27 bite-sized chapters full of inspiring stories, advice, exercises and more to change behaviours that stop you from getting what you want and creating a life you love.
Best self help book for overcoming fear
Freelance Writer, Dionne Brighton says "If you haven't heard of this 80's classic yet, you'll be glad to be introduced. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway promises to help you recognise that fear is a powerful tool that can help motivate you to finally do the things you've always been too scared to do. It's filled with helpful anecdotes and tools to help us quite literally feel the fear and do it anyway. This book impacted me so much I decided to really put it to the test and try rejection therapy for a month. I'm still scared of big dogs but now I can walk into a meeting and quite literally, feel the fear and do it anyway."
Do self-help books work?
Good question - and this will largely hinge on your personality type, goals from reading the book, and more. It's normal to be sceptical, but it's about finding the right book for you and your current lifestyle.
They won't be for everyone. That said, one 2023 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that “self-help has greatest success with people with high motivation, resourcefulness, and positive attitudes toward self-help treatments.”
In short, if you're already keen to make a change, self-help books can offer new methods of thinking and serve as a valuable resource. If you're not as motivated, they might not be for you.
Team Marie Claire UK are big fans of self-help books - they've helped with everything from goal setting, fostering a positive mindset, and boosting productivity. They can also be pivotal in giving you the motivation you need or reminding you to practice gratitude (aka stop people-pleasing).