“Isn’t the very term ‘self-help’ a little old-fashioned? Doesn’t self-help really refer to any book right now that serves the very natural drive of all human beings to find happiness and to be the best that they can be?”
This observation by Susan Bolotin, Workman Publishing’s editor-in-chief, highlights the current state of the self-help category. A variety of titles—even a humor book—“at heart could really be self-help,” Bolotin says. “If I see any kind of trend, it’s that the notion of self-help has leaked into every section of the book store.”
And she does mean every section. Notes Judith Curr, executive vice president and publisher at Atria Books, “The biggest trend for us is the movement to self-help fiction with an author like Amy Hatvany, who has dealt with issues like alcoholism, mental illness, and the beauty of sisterhood in her novels.” Her next novel, Heart Like Mine (Mar. 2013), focuses on family secrets and the challenges of family life.
Self-help has also skipped into the children’s market: “Bookstores have shelves filled with self-help books for adults. But why should kids have to wait until they’re grown to find the help they need?” asks Judy Galbraith, founder and president of Free Spirit Publishing. (See feature, p. 22.)
Among Workman’s upcoming titles are The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life by Marci Alboher (Jan.) which aims to help millions of boomers and retirees find “passion, purpose, and a paycheck” and The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams—on Your Terms by Sara Horowitz with Toni Sciarra Poynter (Oct.). Also scheduled are Thinner This Year: A Diet and Exercise Program for Living Strong, Fit, and Sexy by Chris Crowley and Jen Sacheck (Dec.) and Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido by acupuncturist Jill Blakeway (Dec.), who will help readers jump-start their sex lives and unblock their qi.
Atria also has a healthy list of nonfiction self-help books, including Skinny Meals in Heels by Jennifer Joyce (Nov.), The Let It Go Workbook by popular preacher T. D. Jakes (Oct.), and Secrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich (Feb.). “When looking at self-help authors,” adds Curr, “we are drawn to authors and projects that are inspirational, spiritual, and practical, with a singular voice of authority.”
Healing the Spirit, Living Authentically
Indeed, the need for spiritual self-improvement seems eternal. Inner Traditions/Bear & Company is offering Seed Sounds for Tuning the Chakras (Destiny Books, Sept.) by James D’Angelo, a U.K. authority on sound healing therapies (a 66-minute CD is included). Jack Angelo, healer and teacher of subtle energy medicine, will author Self-Healing with Breathwork (Healing Arts Press, Dec.).
Among the trends that Lauren Marino, v-p, editorial director for Gotham Books, sees are authenticity and being honest with yourself about who you are: “Self-help now isn’t so much wishful thinking, like The Secret, but more about digging deep inside yourself to deal honestly with who you are, to get at your essence and create a life that is authentic.”
Reflecting that outlook, Gotham will publish Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser by Lewis Richmond (Dec.). The book, says Marino, “is about being honest about the aging process, not being in denial, and facing it head-on despite the struggles and fear it can create.” The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by psychologist Kelly McGonigal (Avery, Dec.) addresses “not letting bad habits take over your life and eliminating them so you can be your best and truest self without crutches.” My Life Map by Kate and David Marshall (Gotham, Nov.) addresses “reflecting on your past honestly, making the necessary adjustments, and envisioning and planning what you want your future to look like.” The Wow Factor by style expert Jacqui Safford (Gotham, Feb.) tackles putting your best foot forward no matter what your size, shape, or budget.
In Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred by Mark Nepo (Free Press, Oct.), the cancer survivor, poet, and philosopher explores both the spiritual and physical challenges of life. The Wisdom and Teachings of Stephen R. Covey (Nov.) is a compilation of the recently deceased author’s most profound teachings on leadership, love, and family. The As If Principle: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life by renowned psychologist Richard Wiseman helps readers make changes via action rather than thought. Award-winning advertising creative director Barbara Sophia Tammes offers A Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds (Conari Press, Feb.), a fun, illustrated guide that transports readers to their own imaginary, interior retreats.
In the Driver’s Seat
“The best self-help books show you how to take control of your life,” says John Radziewicz, publisher of Da Capo Press. “All three of the self-help titles we’re publishing this winter show you how to do just that—whether it’s taking control of your habits, your appearance, or your love life.”
That lineup includes Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean, psychologist and creator of the hit Web site PsyBlog. This January book, which explores the science of habit, will be one of the publisher’s lead titles—“just in time for readers’ New Year’s resolutions.” Also on Da Capo’s list is The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde, chronicling the author’s yearlong vow to give up makeup, haircuts, new clothes, and jewelry in a quest to rediscover her authentic self-worth (Jan.), and How to Create Chemistry with Anyone by Leil Lowndes, out in February in sync with Valentine’s Day.
At Simon & Schuster, Changeology: Five Steps to Realizing Your Goals & Resolutions by behavior change expert/ psychology professor John C. Norcross (Dec.) will help readers prepare to take charge of their lives in the New Year through scientifically proven techniques in a five-step, 90-day program.
Control includes looking at the big picture and guiding the direction of your life. Game Plan: A Man’s Guide to Achieving Emotional Fitness by David J. Powell, Alan Philip Lyme, and Stephen R. Andrew (Nov.) is Central Recovery Press’s self-help/personal growth/recovery title. Written by men for men, the title is “packed with the lessons your dad never taught you about living life to the fullest, free from addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.” The Experiment offers Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar (Sept.), author of the bestseller Happier, sharing life-changing lessons culled from five years of lecturing around the world. The author reveals how everyday choices can have a lifelong impact on happiness.
Readers learn to let go of negative thinking and enter a meditative state, wherein they can command the universe to deliver wealth and abundance, from The One Command by Asara Lovejoy (Berkley Books, Sept.). Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden (Perigee Trade, Dec.) links success to self-discipline. Popular speaker and strategist Vaden claims we live in an “escalator world, “ always looking for quick fixes and short cuts. Taking the stairs, the author claims, is the better path to real success. Also in December, NAL serves up Do Life by Ben Davis, who weighed 360 pounds at the age of 22. “Do Life,” reports NAL, “isn’t just about diet or exercise, depression or addiction—it’s about stepping out of your ordinary life and becoming who you want to be.”
Sleep issues out of control? Avery has Chronotherapy: Resetting Your Inner Clock to Boost Mood, Alertness and Quality Sleep by Michael Terman (Oct.), head of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The author’s drug-free program resets the circadian clock, improving sleep patterns, mood, and energy.
Interestingly, given continued weakness in the economy, there are few titles for gaining control of your financial life. One such is from Bethany House: Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress & Keep More of What You Make by popular personal finance blogger Carrie Rocha (Jan.).
The Health Beat
Medical problems and how to deal with them are always self-help mainstays for both patients and caregivers. Rowman & Littlefield offers Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life by psychotherapist Margalis Fjel-stad (Feb.). The most recent addition to the Summersdale Press Personal Health Guides series is 50 Things You Can Do Today to Manage Stress by Wendy Green (Nov.), which helps readers identify and avoid stress triggers through simple lifestyle, and philosophical and dietary modifications. From Roundtree Press, In Sickness as in Health: Helping Couples Cope with the Complexities of Illness by health writers Barbara Kivowitz and Roanne Weisman (Jan.) addresses both practical and emotional issues.
Speaking of Dating, Love, and More
Dating and love are topics that never, ever go away. At Atria, a new spin on romance arrives with Love@First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating (Jan.) by Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert, an online dating consultancy. Make It Last Forever by recording artist and radio host Keith Sweat (Atria/Strebor; Feb.) focuses on making love last.
Grand Central offers two titles with a “fresh and fun” approach to the self-help category. Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating by Ellen Fein and Sherri Schneider (Jan.) is an updated The Rules, written by the original authors with a little help from their daughters. Says Grand Central editor Amanda Englander, “The Rules is an established brand [and] the contribution of the authors’ daughters lends further credibility to the project.”
Also on Grand Central’s list, is It’s Your Move: How to Play the Game and Win the Man You Want by media powerhouse Nick Savoy (Feb.). Says Englander, “It’s Your Move follows in the footsteps of other popular dating books written by men. It pulls back the curtain on how men see it, and arms the reader with facts, giving her tools to create her own version of happiness.”
Observes Tarcher’s executive editor Sara Carder, “To stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, you simply have to have a great title and concept—and preferably one that can be gotten in an instant. Self-help has to literally scream, I can help you!” At Tarcher, a revised and updated edition of Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash (Jan.) by psychotherapist/couples therapist Nancy Dreyfus, described as a “brilliant, interactive relationship tool that can help couples stop arguing and start healing,” will be published in tandem with Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love: Flash Cards for Real Life card deck.
Christian book publisher Bethany House also weighs in on the dating scene with Dating and the Single Parent by leading stepfamily expert and therapist Ron L. Deal (Oct.). Beyond the dating years, What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You: A Guided Tour of a Man’s Body, Soul, and Spirit by David Murrow, bestselling author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, is set for this month. With a 25,000 first printing, the Bethany title “reveals the secrets men never tell—and is deeply honest about why wives need to know.”
From Revell, Battles Men Face: Strategies to Win the War Within by Gregory L. Jantz with Ann McMurray (Nov.) helps men trapped in hidden compulsions and behaviors. The Way of the Wise: Simple Truths for Living Well by psychologist and bestselling author Kevin Leman (Feb.) shares biblical wisdom, humor, and a fresh perspective on living life to the fullest. The Difference You Make: Changing Your World Through the Impact of Your Influence by Pat Williams with Jim Denney (Feb.) shows readers how to influence others and create positive change.
In October, Chosen Books releases a new edition (over 200,000 copies sold) of When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up: Principles for Conversations You Won’t Regret by Michael Sedler, including practical guidelines for better communication at work, church, and home. Also from Chosen: Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead by J. Lee Grady, Father Cry: Healing Your Heart and the Hearts of Those You Love by Billy Wilson (Oct.), 10 Secrets to Life’s Biggest Challenges: How You Can Prepare for a Better Tomorrow by Peter Lord with Kent Crocket (Oct.), and The Secrets of Biblical Wisdom by Kyle Searcy (Sept.), which helps readers tap into the secret wisdom behind King Solomon’s success.
The Test of Time
While we’re on the topic of wisdom from an old pro, Tarcher is offering Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to Wear) from the Great Jane Austen Herself by Rebecca Smith (Oct.), the author’s great-great-great-great-great niece. This “witty reference for modern women” appears on cue to ride the most recent wave of “Austen fever” (the upcoming feature film Austenland and the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice) answering such timely self-help questions as how to tell “the difference between dating a ‘Darcy’ and a dud” and “dealing with awkward family holidays.” One way to stand out “in the overcrowded self-help arena, and in this new marketplace where discoverability is everything, is to be novel—in every sense of the word,” says Carder. “Of all the great novelists that are or ever have been, I’m sure many would agree that no one comes close to Jane Austen in terms of imparting a big dose of self-help in her books—if one is willing to take a close look.” The author “deftly draws on Austen’s novels, letters, and early writing to supply readers with spot-on advice for navigating life’s bumps and hurdles. With Austen’s large and faithful fan base, we think this book—which does something no other Austen-related book has done quite yet in terms of offering concrete self-help advice for the modern reader—is going to be a hit.”
Also from Tarcher, some oldies but goodies: The Million Dollar Secret Hidden in Your Mind by Anthony Norvell (Jan.) was originally published in 1963, and The Power of Awareness by Neville Goddard (Jan.), which made its debut in 1952. New in the Tarcher Masterminds Series is The Art of Selling Yourself: The Simple Step-by-Step Process for Success in Business and Life by Adam Riccoboni and Daniel Callaghan (Oct.) and Superreading for Success: The Groundbreaking, Brain-Based Program to Improve Your Speed, Enhance Your Memory, and Increase Your Success by Ron Cole (Oct.).
“The best ideas are always the ones that have stood the test of time, ideas that are nuanced enough to be relevant in changing times, and yet simple and clear enough for people to really use in their daily lives,” says Jan Johnson, publisher of Red Wheel/Weiser. “Two of Red Wheel/Weiser’s forthcoming lead titles in the self-help category have successfully passed that test: Random Acts of Kindness Then & Now, and The NLP Workbook.”
Random Acts of Kindness Then and Now: The 20th Anniversary of a Simple Idea That Changes Lives from the editors of Conari Press (Jan.) celebrates the book that both launched and chronicled the “kindness” movement with more than one million copies sold. The NLP Workbook: A Practical Guide to Achieving the Results You Want by Joseph O’Connor (Feb.) offers a step-by-step guide to learning Neuro-Linguistic Training methods and techniques from a leading international NLP trainer and coauthor of the bestselling Introducing NLP.
The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick (Berkley, Nov.) shares advice on turning weakness into strength by tapping into “your true nerdtastic self.” The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling (Perigee Trade, Dec.) will examine how introverts can take ownership of their own brand of quiet strength.
Turning weakness to empowerment en route to happiness is a worthy note upon which to end. As Workman editor Bolotin observes, “There’s an underlying natural desire to be happy and that’s good; it doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist or you’re somehow self-centered. It just means that there’s a kind of inalienable right to interior happiness, and that you’re looking for some self improvement in order to find it.”
Whether seeking happiness, success, health, a new diet, or a contemporary Mr. Darcy, readers these days feel empowered to search both inside and outside the traditional self-help box.
Kathryn E. Livingston is a New Jersey-based freelance writer and author who often writes on self-help and parenting topics.