There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love self-help books — anything from how to carpe diem to being limitless to being a better spouse or parent or boss or any kind of “best version of you”. And there are those die-hard skeptics who sigh resignedly and grumpily at the outsized shelf space given to the Self Help genre at the book store; the sort of person who wouldn’t dream of being seen holding a self-help book on the commute or at the coffee shop. Quel horreur! But there’s a middle ground of self-help books that are not only kind of cool but more importantly blessed by doctors with years of clinical and field experience. They’re not just books that have been hastily published to tap into the current trend and appetite for quick-fix self-improvement. If you stop and read, and maybe even highlight, there is genuinely good advice in here. Also some great cover art. But don’t take our word for it — we didn’t go to medical school. We asked Dr. Samantha Boardman for her self-help book recommendations for the believers, the skeptics and for anyone in between…
The Plentitude of Distraction : A delightful book that challenges our cultural worship of productivity and goal-setting. Van Zuylen convincingly argues that there is grace and pleasure in allowing our minds to wander. Despite what society tells us, she reminds us that there is more to life than checking items off your to do list and getting things done. If you are feeling guilty about taking time off this summer, this book is just what the doctor ordered.
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being: As psychiatrist I used to think of wellness in terms of reducing stress and dialing down symptoms. Reading this book upended this mindset. Using science backed research, Dr. Martin Seligman explores how wellness is above and beyond the absence of problems. He offers actionable advice on how to capitalize on your strengths and make the most out of every day.
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Positive thinking is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, as Dr. Oettingen’s points out in this timely book, it can lead us astray and may even make us depressed. Dreaming about your goals won’t bring you closer to achieving them. What will? Dr. Oettingen outlines exactly what it takes.
The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art: What is happening in our brains when we are captivated by beauty? What is the purpose of pleasure? Neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee will take you on a deep dive into the new science of neuroaesthetics. If you love art, architecture, and design, this is a book for you.
Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts What makes love last? Positive psychology experts and husband-and-wife team Suzann and James Pawelski explore how to find love and cultivate meaningful connections that will stand the test of time.
Samantha Boardman, M.D.
Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Public Health
Assistant Attending Psychiatrist
Weill Cornell Medical College