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Why You Should Read These 3 Self-Improvement Books

Why You Should Read These 3 Self-Improvement Books

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A few years ago, burnt out and anxious, I knew I needed to make some changes in my life.  I set about building a ‘toolkit’ to help me.  Having been an avid reader since I was a child, I naturally turned to self-improvement books.
Now, I’ve read some absolute tripe along the way I must admit, but I have also found some gems.  These are the ones that I have found to be full of practical advice that I can use in everyday life.
So without further ado, here are 3 of my favourite self-improvement books.

How To Win Friends And Influence People In The Digital Age (Dale Carnegie)

If you are looking for easy to apply, practical advice then this book is for you!   First written in 1936, the book has been updated to show how the principles can be applied in today’s world of technology.  Don’t let the publication date of the original put you off, it really is an easy read!
I first listened to this on audiobook and loved it so much that I also bought the Kindle version!
The book is brimming with good old-fashioned common sense.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

Bury Your Boomerangs

boomerang throw
Carnegie’s first piece of advice in this chapter is “don’t criticise, condemn or complain”.   Not always easy to apply in practice, particularly in these days of celebrity gossip and internet trolls but still, very wise advice.
The book says
At times, one can wonder whether criticism has become more prevalent than compassion and judgement more prevalent than grace in our communication media.  There is no disputing that snark is chic.
The authors remind us that any complaint or criticism can quite easily reach the ears and eyes of millions of people in an instant, even if this was not our intention.
Consider the example of Mel Gibson who left a racially charged message on his ex-girlfriend’s voicemail.  According to the book, his global influence took a huge tumble as a result.
The book tells us
The degree to which you can be heard today is best thought of not as a burden or blessing but as a responsibility.  Those who accept this responsibility with humility, compassion and a trustworthy zeal are much quicker to rise because others remain willing to listen.
The book is packed full of advice, but there were a few sections that particularly resonated with me.

Affirm what’s good

The book gives the story of Abraham Lincoln who used this idea to good effect to keep the nation together.  Seven states had seceded from the union.  Lincoln was clear about the consequences of this, but in a famous speech he said
We are not enemies but friends.  We must not be enemies.
Lincoln could have got frustrated, he could have shown anger towards the seven states.  Instead, he showed compassion and forgiveness and extended the hand of friendship.
The book asks whether you can remember a time when someone surprised you with “underserved grace or unconditional forgiveness”
It could have happened many years ago, but it is likely that you still remember it, along with the accompanying emotions.  

Take interest in others’ interests

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
One of the things I particularly love about this book is that it’s full of stories which are easy to relate to.  There are a couple which stand out in the section entitled ‘Take Interest In Others’ Interests’.
The first is a story about Andrew Sullivan, a top political blogger.  He decided that he wanted his blog, “The Daily Dish” to be about more than politics.
So he came up with an idea – he asked his readers to send him photos of the world outside their windows.   The site’s traffic increased by over thirty per cent.
The second story is about a business owner called Steve Beecham.   Beecham had a couple of failed businesses under his belt when he attempted to set up a mortgage company. 
He realised that his problem had been his tendency to focus on business rather than on building relationships.
Following a chance encounter in a car park with a celebrity who asked him lots of questions about himself and his life, he started to apply this same approach to his business dealings.
He says that he “decided to become a problem solver with no strings attached”.  In a matter of months, he had turned his company around.
Many of the calls to his office are nothing to do with mortgages.  People ask him questions on all manner of topics.  For example, where to go for dinner and who to call about life insurance.  He has become a trusted source of advice in his local community.
At the time the book was written, the majority of his business referrals were coming via word of mouth.

Listen Longer

Have you ever tried to address an issue with a company only to have your complaint ignored?
Dave Carroll, the lead singer of a little-known band encountered exactly this during a trip with United Airlines  He had boarded the flight when suddenly someone shouted, “they are tossing guitars out there”.  Dave looked out of the window and saw, to his horror, the band’s guitars being thrown about.
He spoke to the cabin steward who told him to speak to the staff outside.
This he did only to be told “but hun that’s why we make you sign the waiver”.
He hadn’t signed any waiver…
When he retrieved his guitar when the flight landed he wasn’t surprised to find it had been badly damaged.
electric guitar
He then spent over a year trying to get someone from United Airlines to listen to his complaint.  Eventually, he paid to get the guitar repaired himself.
He wrote a little tune entitled ‘United Breaks Guitars’ which he then uploaded to YouTube.
Within days, the Times reported
the gathering thunderclouds of bad PR caused United Airline’s stock price to suffer a mid-flight stall and it plunged by 10% costing shareholders $180 million, which incidentally would have bought Caroll more than 51,000 replacement guitars.
There’s a lot of advice in the book relevant for bloggers too.  For example, the authors talk about asking lots of questions.
They specifically say about your ‘digital space’  
Read others’ posts and messages closely; comment or reply with questions and do it for at least five different people a day.   In addition to that, use your posts and updates to ask more questions of your friends and followers.  You may be surprised at how many people respond.
how to win friends and influence people


How To Have A Good Day (Caroline Webb)

This book is primarily about how to have a good day at work.  The principles within are equally applicable across life in its entirety!
Again I initially listened to the book on audiobook and then went and bought a paperback copy so that I could refer to it and make notes on its pages!
A bit like Dale Carnegie’s book, the main focus is on building effective relationships with others.
The book is split into easily digestible chapters with practical ‘how to’ sections contained within
There are some great chapters on setting goals, prioritising and how to be more productive.
My favourite chapter, the one I have returned to the most,  is the chapter on relationships.  Here, for example, is a simple step by step approach you can use if you sense someone is upset or irritated.
  1. Notice.  Be factual and tell the person what you’ve noticed.  Then ask them for their perspective.  Caroline gives the example “I noticed that you frowned when I made that suggestion.  Can I ask what was on your mind?”
  2. Acknowledge.  Once they have shared their thoughts with you, acknowledge that you have understood.  You could say something such as “I’m sorry, that must be annoying, concerning, irritating”.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t think they should be feeling the way they are.  Making them feel heard helps to reduce the defensive stance that they are likely taking.
  3. Offer.  Ask whether there is anything you can do to help improve the situation.
The chapter also offers some excellent practical ways to raise difficult issues with skill and to resolve tensions.  Great advice for dealing with difficult situations and toxic people!
All in all, this is definitely a book to keep close at hand for reference!  Click on the book image below to get it for yourself.
how to have a good day

Decluttering At The Speed Of Life (Dana White)

messy room
If you are ready to declutter then this book is for you!   Dana White’s system is so simple that it’s sheer genius!
I had read and enjoyed Marie Kondo’s famous book ‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up’  and had purged my house of quite a lot of stuff I no longer needed.  I found it less easy to keep on top of all the stuff and soon got tired of folding and stashing things vertically…
Dana is clear that her book is not about cleaning (she has another book which covers this, also excellent).  Instead, the focus is on ‘getting stuff out of your house’.
One of the best tips in the book is what Dana calls ‘The Visibility Rule’.
This simply means starting with the most visible areas first. 
Using Dana’s simple steps (which will be drummed into you throughout the book) you can declutter a visible space in about ten minutes.
I’ve done it and I can tell you the result is so satisfying! 
Very often it will spur you on to do a bit more decluttering as it so lovely having all that extra space after a small amount of effort.
The most useful chapter in the book is entitled ‘Steps for Working Through an Overwhelming Mess’
In just nine pages, Dana goes through everything you need to declutter your home.  The rest of the book then goes through applying this room by room.
My favourite steps are:

1.  Ask the two decluttering questions

  • “If I needed this item where would I look for it first?”  Take it there now.  If the answer to this isn’t immediately obvious then ask
  • “If I needed this item, would it ever occur to me that I already had one?”  No?  Then keep a ‘donate box’ to hand and put it straight into that.  (If the answer is yes then ask yourself the first question again…)

2.  Make it fit

This has been a game changer for me!
It’s based on a very simple idea called the ‘container concept’.  A container is anything which holds ‘stuff’.  All containers have limits, you can only fit so much stuff in them.  You can see a personal example of how I got on with this in my more detailed review of this particular book.
If you go to put something on the bookshelf, in the drawer etc. and it won’t fit then you need to remove something else to make it fit The thing you remove either needs to go in a different place (ask yourself the questions in the first step) or into the donate box.
This simple principle has helped me declutter spaces on an ongoing basis!  This is one of the things I most like about the book.  You don’t have to set a whole weekend aside to ‘declutter’ – you can do ten minutes here and there as you feel like it and when you have time.
I still have a few spaces I would like to work on, but it has definitely made an impact on the amount of clutter in my life!  Check the book out now.
decluttering at the speed of life
I would love to hear if you have you read any of these self-improvement books?  Or if you are going to read them now?!  Do you have any similar books you would recommend?
Other posts you may like

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  1. Latisha

    Awesome blog post! I love the decluttering book and tips. I will have to look for that one and give it a good read. Here are some books that have helped me along the way:

    1. Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook written by Louise Hay / The book is about self-love and positive thinking related to various topics that affect us all on a daily basis. For example, health, fears, friendship, sex, self-esteem, money, work, intimacy and addictive behaviors.

    2. The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety written by Tanya J. Peterson / The book offers a 8-week solution to help you manage anxiety, worry and stress. You can work at your own pace, but the workbook offers some great tips, examples and suggestions.

    3. Put Your Words to Work written by Gloria Copeland / The book offers a 31-day faith project to help you speak the right words for any given situation.

    Here’s to happy reading and happy blogging!

    Latisha xxx

  2. Lavrax

    I’ve heard so much about “How To Win Friends And Influence People” but I never actually knew what it was about. I love that you broke it down! I feel like I gained so much insight already just from reading this.

    1. Alison

      I was surprised at how easy it was to read! The advice seemed so relevant for today and I love all the stories in the book 🙂

  3. Kelly

    Hi honey
    I love that you have given us so much information. I always believe that reading can really help your mind and soul xx

  4. Marie

    I definitely need to make a note of these books. Great review with lots of details. Thanks for joining in with the Friday Favourites.

  5. Lindsey Sea

    What an incredible blog post. I need ALL of these books in my life. I will be buying the kindle versions promptly. Probably starting with the decluttering one. Thanks so much for this post!


  6. Jheelam

    Thank you for sharing these book recommendations. Loved how painstakingly you reviewed the details. 🙂

    Over the years, I’d grown wary of self-help books that only highlight how to make it in Silicon Valley. There are many of us from non-tech backgrounds and different parts of the world and I, as a reader, would want to read a self-help book that I can relate with.

    The first book in your list sounds like just about right for a novice blogger like me. 🙂 Would give it a shot.

    1. Alison

      I would definitely recommend it! I first read it (well listened to it) before I started blogging but as I went back through it researching for this post, I realised there is a lot of content in there for bloggers. Happy reading!

  7. Louise

    They all sound like excellent books – thanks for sharing them. I particularly like the sound of the first book 💕


    1. Alison

      Thanks for stopping by Louise. The Dale Carnegie one is proving popular! I was amazed at how easy it was to relate to given the original was written so long ago.

  8. Natasha

    Great post!! I love how much detail you put into explaining what the books were about. These are definitely on my to-read list!!

  9. Holly Bird

    Great post! I love the books you chose, I have read all 3 of them! They are perfect for self-help books and you did an awesome share on each one!!

  10. Chloe Chats

    I love reading books that can help with self-improvement. I have a few self-care books that I love and they really helped me to learn how to become more positive and just small little changes I can make that’ll help in the long-term. Very inspiring and thought-provoking books. I love the sound of these, especially How To Have a Good Day, seems like something I’d enjoy reading. Reading as well is such a relaxing and therapeutic experience so it’s amazing when they’re books about self-improvement too. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      Thanks Chloe, glad you enjoyed the post. I find reading really therapeutic too, so definitely a bonus when the book is a self improvement one!

  11. Maria [The Southerner Blogs]

    I’ve pondered grabbing a copy of How To Win Friends And Influence People In The Digital Age but put it off because I find self-help books can sometimes be very pseudo-scientific but your review has made me think twice! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Alison

      I know what you mean Maria, I’ve read some along similar lines! I can confirm I didn’t find any of the three books in the article to be like that at all. I’d liken the Dale Carnegie one to listening to a good friend. Happy reading!

  12. Sarah

    Thanks for this list Alison!
    How To Win Friends And Influence People is one of my favourites! I’ve been on a big tidying and minimalism kick lately, so Decluttering at the Speed of Life is now next on my list to read!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Sarah, glad you enjoyed the list! I highly recommend Decluttering at the Speed of Life. I still need to apply it to some of my cupboards, but the principles are helping me keep the visible parts of my house under control!

  13. Baby Boomer Super Saver

    Wow, all of these books sound great! I’ve read Dale Carnegie’s original version of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” several times. I didn’t realize there was a version updated for digital times, I will check that out! I love the “make it fit” tip you highlighted from the third book.

    1. Alison

      I’ve not read the original Dale Carnegie book, I’ll have to do it to compare! I definitely recommend the digital age one. The make it fit tip has transformed my cupboards!!

  14. Kelly cranfield

    Hi lovely

    I need read all these book for me it’s the time I don’t have a lot of it I will try and get it on audio

    Hope you are well

    1. Alison

      I listened to all 3 of them on audio first. Then because I liked them so much, I bought the paperbacks too! It’s easy to fit in ten minutes here and there with audio. Hope you enjoy them if you do get them 🙂

  15. Anonymous

    Brilliant post Alison. Thankyou!! ‘How to win friends and influence people ‘ was the first, best and most influential self help book I have ever read. News to me that there was a ‘for the digital age’ version. I’m keen to read it now that I’ve read your review. In truth, the original hard copy takes pride of place on my coffee table for easy access. It’s also number 2 in the self help book section at Dymocks- the largest book store in Australia (it rates higher than all the Ekhart Tolle books) even though it was written more than a decade ago.

    I’m also keen to read more about having a great day at work 😜.

    Again – Thanks so much for the review and opening me up to some great reads


    1. Alison

      Thanks Shaun. I think Dale Carnegie is timeless, his advice is such common sense and so easy to read! The good day at work one is also excellent, even if you aren’t at work! It covers many different principles and techniques and I refer to it often 🙂

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