The Best No Nonsense Self-Help Books

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Everyone wants to better themselves, but few know how to. Many people take to self-help books as guidelines on how to improve productivity and become happier.

Unfortunately, many books in the genre include fluff and intentionally lengthy paragraphs on simple ideas. Coming across real helpful advice is difficult. However, some books in the genre have the power to inspire to lead successful lives at just the right size.

1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Image Credit: Reader's Library Classics.

This book follows the teachings of Stoicism and the further meaning of life. Unlike other titles, this book reads more like a journal of a man's personal thoughts and experiences.

Many consider Marcus the most influential man alive with the greatest military strength. His journal highlights that even he went through mundane problems. Readers often feel as though they invade his privacy by reading about his problems and how he overcame them.

2. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth
Image Credit: Black Bay Books.

Few books inspire with the power that this one does. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth balances exciting space stuff with genuinely helpful life lessons. Readers highly praise the writing and consider several lines publicly quotable. The book tackles general problems everyone experiences and offers help in persevering through them. People who want a light read and a means to improve their day-to-day will love this book.

3. Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Image Credit: Beacon Press.

Man's Search for Meaning teaches readers about human nature and how people survive in the worst conditions. The author suffered cruelty in a concentration camp, and much of the book details his suffering.

Frankl recounts his experience not as a brutal retelling but as a way to persevere. His study of Logotherapy kept him alive and gave his life meaning. The book's second half details the therapeutic approach of Logotherapy and finding meaning in life.

4. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Image Credit: Success Books.

Many readers rate The Slight Edge as superb but underrated. This book reiterates the best of others and assures readers they already know how to succeed. Instead of offering new insight, The Slight Edge steers brains towards the path of progress.

The author reiterates that progress takes time but becomes obvious before people realize it. The power of compounding comes into play, and all small decisions matter.

5. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear
Image Credit: Avery.

Atomic Habits became viral, and the author appeared on several podcasts. James Clear recognized the science of habit-making and wanted readers to understand what it takes to form a habit. The author also uses the same principles to break harmful habits.

Other sections of the book target procrastination and long-term progress. Many readers praise Atomic Habits for its simplistic nature and practicality.

6. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Image Credit: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Some readers may find this book heavy and complex but will still find value. This book explains how humans think and the psychology behind decisions.

Readers will find no successful habits or thinking styles but find worthwhile information instead. Knowing how one thinks and the different types of thinking empowers people and helps in decision-making.

7. Never Split the Difference by Christopher Voss

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Image Credit: Harper Business.

Never Split the Difference prioritizes the importance of negotiation. Christopher Voss emphasizes the power of negotiation in all parts of life. Many of the skills and insights in this book help get what people want with minimal effort. Learning how to negotiate effectively improves sales tactics and general conversations.

8. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Image Credit: Pocket Books.

This book helps individuals become socially confident and secure with themselves. The author outlines what it takes to set up conversations and make them worthwhile.

People who struggle in social situations benefit the most from reading this book. Some of the insight in this book seems obvious yet easy to forget. The book reiterates a simple tip: paying attention to what others say and focusing on their interests.

9. How To Keep House While Drowning by Kc Davis

How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis
Image Credit: S&S/Simon Element.

How To Keep While Drowning provides readers with a simple and caring way to clean up after themselves. The author has carefully laid out each chapter and encourages those with low focus to skip ahead.

Everyone must care for their living spaces, but most forget to look after themselves. This book presents maintenance tasks in a way that makes them appear less as chores and more as self-care.

10. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
Image Credit: New Harbinger Publications.

This book helps readers rationalize unhealthy patterns and tendencies. The author does this by revealing the irrational behavior one's parents might have.

Many readers recall feeling a little uncomfortable but well-informed after reading this book. By knowing and recognizing behavior that harms others, people become better parents and decision-makers.

11. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Image Credit: Hyperion.

The Last Lecture never masters any one topic yet provides valuable insight into the art of living. The author meant for this book to be a guideline for his children to follow throughout their lives. He discovered he had pancreatic cancer and wanted to leave something behind for his kids.

Pausch wrote a book with valuable advice and heartfelt stories to teach his kids a thing or two. As a university professor, he structured the content as a final lecture to his students and children.

12. Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke

Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke
Image Credit: Dutton.

Dopamine Nation caves into the topic of addiction and its lasting neural effects. The content tips more towards the scientific side as opposed to motivational. Instead of assuring people they can achieve anything, the author details why individuals get addicted. The author gives practical tips, such as reducing the triggers of a particular addiction. This book benefits those who value scientific evidence over reassurance.

13. Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Image Credit: Scribner.

Everybody needs to sleep, but not everyone knows how long, when, or why. This book describes the positive effects of sleeping effectively and scares readers with the drawbacks. Failing to sleep sufficiently and with caffeine ingested results in significantly lowered energy levels.

It almost seems like the author scolds those who praise all-nighters and sleep for four hours a day. 

14. How To Take Smart Notes by Soenke Ahrens

How to Take Smart Notes by Soenke Ahrens
Image Credit: Soenke Ahrens.

This book gives readers an understanding of an ideal note-taking system to maximize idea generation and outside-the-box thinking. This book requires readers to practice what they consume instead of simply understanding the content of self-help books. While undoubtedly useful, some readers consider this book a little longer than necessary.

Nevertheless, the book reliably guides users in understanding the Zettelkasten note-taking method.

15. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers
Image Credit: Tarcherferigee.

Barbara Oakley wants readers to improve their studying habits and implement better techniques with A Mind for Numbers. While primarily directed towards mathematical subjects, the methods in this book help almost everyone.

Oakley breaks down ineffective habits such as studying continuously for hours or rereading paragraphs. Instead, she presents science-backed tools such as spaced repetition and the Pomodoro technique.

16. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Image Credit: Harper.

Many people adopt unhealthy patterns and self-destructive thinking, limiting them in their lives. This book helps readers understand and notice their feelings instead of judging them. Having a firm grasp of emotions aids people in comprehending why they feel the way they do.

This book presents the problems and solutions by focusing on Lori as a patient and a therapist.

17. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport
Image Credit: Grand Central Publishing.

Deep Work aims to improve the reader's attention span and lengthen focus time.

Cal Newport believes a distraction-free external environment is crucial for focused work. The ability to diminish internal noise matters just as much in ensuring distraction-free work. The book provides practical tips and tools for readers to maximize their workflow.

18. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done by David Allen
Image Credit: Penguin Books.

This book gives a detailed step-by-step guide on managing day-to-day activities. The author believes people become happier and more relaxed when they write down things they must do on paper. People know what they must do when needed by making a consistent system to organize tasks.

Allen also highlights the importance of planning ahead and ways to do so inside the GTD (Getting Things Done) system.

19. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins

Cant Hurt Me by David Goggins
Image Credit: Lioncrest Publishing.

Can't Hurt Me motivates almost anyone who reads it. The book details the inspiring story of David Goggins and often incites positivity in readers. It teaches readers to take responsibility and overcome a victim-centric mentality–a frequent subject of self-help books.

The book reiterates the power of a solid foundation and taking control of life to unlock people's full potential.

20. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Image Credit: Simon & Schuster.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the perfect starting point for those diving into the self-help genre. This book foregoes technical know-how and focuses more on real-world stories and accounts. The author hopes readers implement any of the seven habits to lead better lives. However, the first few habits present tools to learn and master the others.