Self-help books are not a new invention. There have long been resources available to those of us who want guidance on some aspect of our lives. However, looking for help within paperbacks hasn’t always come with the most positive connotations. Just think of Charlotte in Sex and the City afraid of being caught in that part of the bookstore, or poor Bridget Jones devouring Women Who Love Too Much.

Things are different nowadays. As the number of people leaving behind a standard career path to set up on their own has been growing, more and more freelancers and entrepreneurs are seeking sound advice to help them improve both in life and in business. Self-help as a genre, which has evolved into “self-improvement” or more simply, “growth”, now touches on everything from personal happiness and entrepreneurship to environmental betterment and social justice.

With this in mind, we’ve selected 8 of our favorite authors in the self-improvement genre to highlight. Not only are these authors doling out great advice, they are each putting a creative and modern spin on the category that we feel makes their work stand out on the bookshelf.

1. Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay
Illustration by stormyfuego

Roxane Gay is pioneering the movement of increased self and social awareness, especially for millennial women. Her writing includes Bad Feminist, a collection of essays on politics, criticism and feminism, and Difficult Women, stories of women challenging the status quo and claiming independence for themselves. These are honest and vulnerable essays and stories that have readers thinking about the world in new and different ways.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Roxaneʼs approach to self-improvement is unique in its combination of memoir and cultural critique, which lends itself to advice and learnings for readers. Her writing is truly intersectional and covers a range of difficult topics including race, gender, body size, xenophobia and so on. Most importantly, her writing is empowering! Roxane truly believes that one person can make a difference. It can be hard to believe that your own story matters—”Who am I to share my story?”—but everyone has a story to tell. If you can combine your personal voice with the wider context in which that experience sits, you can start sharing that with the world and really take a stand on an issue that matters.

Where do you start?

Check out Roxane’s course on Skillshare, ‘Creative Writing for Impact: Looking Inward & Outward in Personal Essays’.

2. Danielle Laporte

Danielle Laporte
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Danielle Laporte puts a unique spin on the self-help genre with a combination of New Age spirituality and religion. She offers “truth bombs”—meditations and sermons to fit the modern world no matter your beliefs—with both “green juice and very loud rock’n’roll; pop culture and eastern mysticism”. Her website gets millions of visitors and her book, The Desire Map, has sparked a movement with thousands of book clubs and facilitators running training sessions as people all around the country (and the world) start to re-think how they´re setting goals.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Danielle argues that you should move away from setting those typical achievement goals and writing long to-do lists about what you want to do and have. You think these things are going to make you feel a certain way but often you achieve them—and then nothing. Instead, you should focus directly on how you want to feel. It may sound soft but getting clarity on how you want to feel, those “core desired feelings”, can be an incredibly powerful way of setting your intentions, making decisions—and, ultimately, feeling how you want to feel!

Where do you start?

Check out The Desire Map Planner for help with living your life in line with how you want to feel.

3. Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson
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Sarah Wilson is an Australian journalist who you may have heard of thanks to her best-selling book, I Quit Sugar, which she wrote after starting out on a personal health journey triggered by a diagnosis of thyroid disease. She has now expanded her approach to merge healthy living and diet with broader life coaching, addressing things like anxiety, autoimmune disease and toxin-free beauty. She closed down IQuitSugar.com in 2018 because she felt the purpose had been lost in the push to scale and make more money and gave all the profits from selling the assets to charity.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Sarah’s latest book is “the first zero food waste cookbook in the world”. With her research showing that Australians chuck 25% of their groceries every week, she says you can save $17k in a year by going zero-waste. You can also save at least 13 days from spending less time cooking and deciding what to cook, as well as saving the ocean by reducing your use of plastic. As she puts it, “If wasted food was a country, it would be the third largest producer of CO2 in the world, after the US and China. We could wait for governments or Big Food to solve things, or we could ‘be the change’, now.” Sarah’s work is a creative approach to improving both ourselves and our environment. We admire how she puts a new spin on what is a very saturated cookbook market as well as a simpler way for us to reduce the negative impact humans have on the world around us.




Since writing my first cookbook, I Quit Sugar, in 2011, I’ve observed the western world get pretty passionate about what goes in our gobs. But there’s a vital memo we seem to have missed: Giving a shit about food means we need to give a shit about how much we’re wasting of said food.





– Sarah Wilson

Where do you start?

Check out Simplicious Flow, where Sarah includes meal plans and shopping lists to help you use up all your leftover ingredients and look after both your own health and the planet at the same time.

4. Gabby Bernstein

Gabrielle Bernstein
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Gabby Bernstein, self-proclaimed “spirit junkie”, wants to help you “become the happiest person you know”. Like Danielle, she puts her own spin on meditation to make it accessible to wider audiences, running online courses to help people stay committed to their spiritual practices. Her book, The Universe Has Your Back, is a New York Times #1 bestseller while her latest book, Judgment Detox, helps you “release the beliefs that hold you back from living a better life”.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Gabby believes that meditation is for everyone and she’s committed to helping people overcome their resistance to the practice. The excuses “I don’t have time”; “I can’t sit still”; “Meditation is for yogis and super-spiritual people” don’t fly for Gabby. Meditation has all sorts of benefits like helping reduce stress and anxiety as well as improving mental clarity and sleep. Gabby’s tips for getting into meditation include setting the intention for why you want to do it, creating a dedicated space that’s peaceful and uncluttered and starting with even just one minute of stillness every day—because everyone has one minute to spare!

Where do you start?

Have a look at Gabby’s card decks with affirmations and bite-size spiritual guidance to help you improve your life in different ways.

5. Brené Brown

Brene Brown
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Brené Brown’s talk on ‘The power of vulnerability’ is one of the top five most popular TED talks of all time, with more than 37 million views. She’s a research professor who has spent her career studying the concepts of courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Having first self-published her book on Women and Shame in 2004 when she couldn’t find a publisher, she has now authored not one but five #1 New York Times best-sellers, including The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. Brené is an incredible storyteller with an ability to bring her love of statistics and quantitative research to a wide audience in an engaging way.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Brené’s work has really paved the way for a lot of the authors in this article—her books are some of the first self-improvement books that have been so broadly consumed. That’s because her advice isn’t just advice—it’s truly a movement. In her own words, Brené is leading “a movement fueled by the freedom that comes when we stop pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t”. She wants us to embrace our imperfections and be “wholehearted” in the way we live our lives. As she said in that famous TED talk, we all experience shame—it’s just that we don’t talk about it. In her research, she found that the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging have one thing in common and that is the courage to be imperfect, to be kind to themselves and to others and to let go of who they think they should be.

Where do you start?

You can get a couple of chapters as a free audio download on Brené’s website.

6. Jessica Honegger

Jessica Honegger
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Jessica Honegger is the author of Imperfect Courage and host of the Going Scared podcast. Not unlike Brené Brown, she wants people “to recognize their own worth, embrace vulnerability, connect with community and find the courage to achieve their full potential”. In addition to being an author Jessica is an entrepreneur and founder of the socially conscious fashion brand Noonday Collection. The jewelry and accessory brand forms fair-trade partnerships with artisan businesses around the world to create opportunities, empower women and support adoption.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Jessica tracks her journey back to a trip to Kenya in her teenage years, where she came face to face with the reality of poverty. This experience inspired her to volunteer in Bolivia and Guatemala after college. In 2010, she and her husband were trying to raise funds so they could adopt a child from Rwanda and they did it by staging a Trunk Show selling jewelry from two Ugandan designers; this in turn inspired her business, Noonday Collection. Sharing an honest account of her own personal background and experiences makes Jessica’s message of living a life of courage and impact so much more powerful.

Where do you start?

Have a go at Jessicaʼs quiz to find out if youʼre living courageously.

7. Abbi Jacobson

Abbi Jacobson
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She may be best known as a comedian, but Broad City co-creator and star Abbi Jacobson’s new book I Might Regret This is a serious collection of essays on “vulnerabilities and other stuff” that earns her a well-deserved spot on this list. The book, which is already a New York Times bestseller, was inspired by a trip Abbi took by herself in search for a sense of stability as she dealt with a tough break-up and anxiety around status and success.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

When Abbi decided to head off on a solo road trip, others questioned why she was going alone, didn’t she have any friends to go with, wouldn’t she get really lonely? Abbi felt she needed space and solitude and used the trip to reflect on what she really wanted. Again, the themes of courage and vulnerability are strong, including a chapter on falling in love (and with a woman) for the first time, balancing work with personal life and then dealing with the eventual devastation of that relationship ending. She shares her story via personal anecdotes alongside her own drawings and doodles, a lighthearted and creative spin on the typical self-improvement memoir.

Where do you start?

Grab Abbi’s book, I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, And Other Stuff.

8. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes
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Shonda Rhimes is the creative genius behind shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Private Practice’ and ‘Scandal’ and recently took her talents to Netflix. While Shonda is known to create lovable characters on TV, she’s also turned the focus to her own experiences and advice for others in her New York Times bestseller, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, as well as in her TED talk of the same theme.

What makes her approach to self-improvement unique?

Shonda’s “Year of Yes” started when her sister called her out: “You never say ‘yes’ to anything.” Despite her massive professional success, Shonda struggled with anxiety and insecurities about her weight and that led her to say “no” to anything that was outside of her comfort zone. In committing to a whole year of saying “yes” to everything, she learned to use her own voice to stand up for what was right; to look after herself and prioritize health but also to feel beautiful at any weight; and, ironically, to say “no” to things and people that were toxic in her life. Like Abbi, Shonda is using her pop culture platform for good, sharing many valuable and hard-learned lessons that can help you improve both your life and your career.

Where do you start?

Check out Shonda’s book for inspiration on how to overcome your fears, get out of your comfort zone and give yourself a big dose of love and compassion.

Put your best self forward

So that’s our round-up of our 8 favorite self-improvement authors of this new era. Who are you going to follow—and what changes are you going to make?

Self-improvement is an endless process and there are always new things to learn. We hope you’ll be inspired by these authors and, who knows, maybe we’ll see you on this list in the future?