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Self-Help / Relationships

  • Plot/Idea: As the internet becomes more accessible, the amount of false narratives, fake news, misinformation, and generally biased media that is circulating has increased immensely; therefore, Bean's manual could not have come at a more opportune time. Written with clarity, honesty, and transparency, his book is a must-read for all people who consume media, regardless of profession, age, or background. Every person holds their own biases, and every person can learn the tools to dismantle not only their own, but the biases of others.

    Prose: Bean writes clearly and conversationally. His writing style is easy to understand without over-simplifying, and he provides resources and tools to assist the reader in further analyzing media for biases.

    Originality: This book, although written about a pressing and necessary topic, remains quite unique, possibly because it presents the reader with a concrete formula for dissecting biases. Bean has presented it in such a manner that is simple to comprehend as well, so that it can be useful for all types of people from all walks of lives.

    Character Development/Execution: Written in a clear manner, with an easy-to-follow format, and accompanied by interesting pictures that relate to the text and keep the reader engaged, this book has been put together purposefully and expertly.

  • Idea: Burton, who is an expert in working with supporting those with mental illness, has graced readers with an informative, spirited, and overall uplifting book regarding depression, both in its pain and its gifts. This book is likely a little heady for some, as he does not shy away from eloquent, erudite verbiage that would be comfortable in journal articles, but for many readers this writing style may be a breath of fresh air.  Burton speaks matter-of-factly without being cold, and offers up ample suggestions and data to assist those who are depressed, or even those who merely want to learn more about the affliction. It is a lovely, fascinating, and introspective read!

    Prose: Those well-versed in psychology or who are experienced in analyzing scholarly journal articles will be right at home with Burton's writing style. For more casual readers, Burton's writing may prove daunting.

    Originality: Although depression self-help books abound, it is rarer to see one that speaks of growing through depression, rather than conquering it. Readers who have struggled with depression will find this book comforting; depression can be a useful tool in one's life, allowing a person the time necessary to slow down, take stock in their life, and make needed changes to be more comfortable in their existence. Burton offers up countless strategies for improving one's situation, and gives honest, thoughtful feedback about the efficacy of these interventions.

    Character/Execution: The book is organized well, with relatively brief chapters, which Burton states was intentional, as he did not want his book to be overwhelming for those in the throes of depression. It is pleasant to look at, and the reader can easily pick up the book and turn to any page they like and find valuable insights.

  • Plot/Idea: Cohen's book will speak to a specific group of people who are open-minded and willing to try alternative therapy methods. It is beautifully and clearly written with vivid metaphors, examples, anecdotes, and imagery. However, it may not appeal to some readers, just as the 12-Step Program does not, because it heavily relies on giving into a greater power—in the author’s words, a Source. That said, this book is very helpful in giving clearly laid out plans for deconstructing one's negative thought processes and self-reflection.

    Prose: Cohen is well-read and eloquent; her prose flows easily, and the brief, anecdotal stories presented to the reader are vibrant and drop the reader momentarily into that world. Often books that refer to God or other higher powers can be very flowery and difficult to follow, but Cohen has managed to avoid that common pitfall.

    Originality: Although the number of self-help books present in the world seems to be never-ending, Cohen's book is uniquely informed through her personal experiences and education. It also employs lovely imagery and actual pictures that can assist in guiding the reader's understanding. Many self-help books can ramble and be without a clear process to follow, but hers is built upon clear and simple scaffolding.

    Character Development/Execution:  The book is pleasant to look at, and as a whole product is very well put together. The fonts are appealing to the eyes, as are the pictures; Cohen has broken up the paragraphs with bullet pointed lists, stories, and pictures, which make the book easier to comprehend. Her headers for paragraphs and sections are also nicely laid out and provide a clear map for the reader.

  • Raising Kids Who Care

    by Susy Lee

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot: This highly practical parenting resource offers unique tools for the whole family to take part in​​. Susy Lee’s overall goal is to “grow a family culture of open communication and purpose” in order to raise kids that will create a better society. She focuses on familial relationships, culture and tradition, inner selves, and helping the world by discovering purpose.

    Prose/Style: Lee’s writing is direct and to-the-point, backing her opinions with research. Along with noted works, readers will find natural pauses for discussion and space for writing. The guide is formatted in an orderly manner with similar structure to each chapter.

    Originality: Lee focuses her parenting education and skills on things she cares about, including social justice and environmental impact reduction. The questions and conversations Lee offers are poignant points of reflection for all family members to make, young and old. She advises that children direct some of the work.

    Character Development/Execution: Lee displays her expertise in the fields of education, peace and conflict studies, and community development. She uses her research and anecdotes from her own family to present how the content of her parenting program works. There are Christian influences throughout, and Lee has conducted a lot of her work in churches.


    by Leeanne R. Hay

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Hay has written a necessary book to help those who have discovered through DNA tests that their biological father is not the person they considered to be their father. This is a shocking discovery that can break apart families, cause internal angst, and lead to depression, fear, confusion, and a whole other slew of difficult emotions.

    Prose: Occasionally there are some awkward sentences, and sometimes Hay has exchanged the intended name for another, which could be clarified in a proofread. Nonetheless, this book is wonderfully written – a balanced blend of storytelling, advice, and resources. Hay writes honestly and with deep emotion.

    Originality: This book is highly original in its focus. Hay presents difficult themes kindly, with the necessary empathy that people in this position would demand. Countless readers will be assisted in their life journeys of self-discovery by reading Hay's lovely book.

    Character Development/Execution: The book reads smoothly and clearly, and is divided between stories, resources, advice, and other aspects so that the reader stays focused and interested.

  • The Happy Clam

    by Rosemary A. Schmidt

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The Happy Clam presents the reader with a lifetime's worth of wisdom regarding happiness, changing one's perspective, and generally how to achieve a more content and comfortable existence. Schmidt is honest and vulnerable with the reader regarding her own struggles, and provides advice backed up both by scientific studies and anecdotal evidence. During a time when the whole world is feeling quite down and lost, a book such as this is welcomed with open arms.

    Prose: Schmidt has a way of meandering through her thoughts cohesively and eloquently. Although her ideas blend together to a degree, they do so in an intentional fashion, stitched together with facts, citations, quotes, poetry, and recipes.

    Originality: The Happy Clam is a self-help book about finding one's inner happiness and contentment – a topic that has been well traveled. However, Schmidt has the ability to tread these waters with a unique perspective, and successfully manages to take a tired subject and breathe new life into it.

    Character Development/Execution: The typography of the book is pleasant to look at, with the poetry, recipes, and other non-prose elements formatted thoughtfully and in an organized manner.


    by Ned Sahin

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Neil Sahin is a busy man who wears a lot of hats—software engineer, actor, author, to name just a few. In these 29 chapters he presents a series of life hacks that will help people achieve their goals, such as: taking action to make one's dreams come true; creating to-do lists to provide a sense of accomplishment; getting seven hours of sleep a night; taking responsibility for one's actions and their consequences; and getting out of one's comfort zone. These hacks place a very strong emphasis on productivity, money, and time management.

    Prose: The prose is clear, to-the-point, and easy to scan, as if the author did in fact write this book while keeping his time management hacks in mind for both himself and the reader.

    Originality: This book’s originality comes in the way Sahin presents his ideas—directly and succinctly. There are no long explanations or analyses of the academic literature, although the author does cite numerous books on related topics written for a lay audience. It’s a quick and easy read that presents the reader with a lot of very good, if oft-repeated in the lay literature, ideas to improve their lives.

    Character Development/Execution: While this book has many useful ideas with broad appeal, it might benefit from exploring hacks and advice for audience members of more diverse socio-economic backgrounds. 

  • Plot: Sanders frees the flow of creativity through a variety of exercises, including  making lists, drawing, and careful consideration of ideas. Breaking down the process of creativity, Sanders provides a blueprint for meaningful exploration and fulfillment.

    Prose/Style: Sanders’s writing is supercharged with energy and enthusiasm.

    Originality: Breaking down the process with a variety of exercises allows the reader to approach the ideas from his/her learning style whether the reader likes to draw, make lists, or create diagrams.

    Character Development/Execution: Divided into sections and chapters, the writer personalizes the topic for the reader. Including a table of contents is key to the success of the book, as the reader can quickly see the progression of the topic that the author is attempting to convey. The end of the book allows the reader to join social media platforms to continue the journey.

  • Plot: This illustrated self-help book from Miller is simple and sweet. The messages are clear and concise, which fulfils its purpose, since it is intended to appeal to the inner-child of trauma and abuse survivors. Miller has taken her own experiences of overcoming trauma and has developed a series of books to support others like herself, and this is the most recent in the series. The reader, if familiar with childhood trauma, will likely find this quick read helpful, calming, and empowering.

    Prose/Style: The book has intentionally straightforward verbiage. Occasionally the reader may feel that it is overly pandering to an audience that self-identifies (at least partially) as children, but this is also the intended readership. This will also likely give solace to readers who have strong attachments to their inner children.

    Originality: The uncomplicated, childlike tone, accompanied with the reassuring illustrations make for a unique book that addresses an often overlooked phenomenon. Miller has presented a specific audience with a helpful tool that will likely calm worries in distraught minds.

    Character Development/Execution: Miller has put together an effective book that can be used in specific circumstances to heal painful minds. The pictures are pleasant, and the text is clear and comforting.

  • The Life You're Made For

    by Heather Penny, PhD

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: The author’s uplifting guide is finely organized, and allows the reader to interact with the topics easily and organically, while the storytelling elements tie into each chapter smoothly.

    Prose: Penny's voice is clear and helpful in terms of conveying each chapter’s purpose and meaning. The topics are easily accessible to a wide audience.

    Originality: The author’s approach to living a more positive and fulfilling lifestyle is helpful and reassuring, but the work doesn't stand out significantly from other guides of a similar nature.

    Character Development/Execution: This guide is not only relatable, it is also well written and informative. The author smoothly integrates personal stories and anecdotes into each chapter to provide a useful and inspiring blueprint for reclaiming joy and purpose.

  • Burnout in Healthcare

    by Rajeev Kurapati

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot: Kurapati’s guide is well-organized, with clearly arranged constructs that support the central theme. Some of the information comes across as fairly basic for professional readers, although its simplicity reinforces the work’s structure.

    Prose/Style: Kurapati’s prose is clear and concise, mirroring the guide’s methodical layout. The writing is dynamic in all the right places, elevating some of the more fundamental ideas.

    Originality: Burnout in Healthcare covers the expected bases but does not expand enough on the essentials to cultivate added knowledge.

    Character Development/Execution: Burnout in Healthcare is persuasive, with plenty of straightforward material and collateral information to shore up its advice. Kurapati successfully accomplishes the work’s overarching goal with minimal distraction.

  • Self-Help Sucks

    by Tony Blankenship

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Blankenship resolved to write Self-Help Sucks after suffering through other unproductive self-help texts. The book is based on the first six-step version of the twelve-step program and focuses on stopping harmful addictive behaviors. It highlights the importance of trusting a Higher Power and asking others for help. 

    Prose: Blankenship expresses frustration with rambling self-help books, and Self-Help Sucks definitely lives up to this promise to be more concise. The prose is clear-cut and easily graspable, especially when it comes to explaining exercises. While overall the writing style may not leave a significant impression on readers, the author effectively conveys his perspectives and ideas.

    Originality: Self-Help Sucks is novel in its use of the original six steps, as opposed to the more commonly known twelve, but there are certainly similar books that use a version of the twelve steps as a jumping-off point. Ultimately, this work doesn't stray quite far enough from the traditional self-help manuals it critiques. 

    Character Development/Execution: Blankenship presents himself as a reliable author by honestly depicting his own struggles with traditional self-help guides, as well as including the stories and testimonials of others. The book's combination of linearly proceeding through the six steps alongside well-explained exercises makes for a well-executed text.

  • The Winning Habits of Steve Jobs

    by Robert Toguchi

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Toguchi presents a solid core concept, offering a structured overview on how to achieve his stated goals. He routinely revisits his idea and works to keep readers’ focus centralized.

    Prose: Toguchi’s prose is a mixed bag. At times he writes in a crisply professional manner, while at others he uses repetitive and awkward phrasing that distracts from the reading experience.

    Originality: The author delivers some simplified proposals that add ingenuity to his overall theme. However, much of his material repeats well-known guidance in the field.

    Character Development/Execution: Toguchi clearly organizes his actionable steps into a format that will be easily recognizable by readers. His recommendations are in direct line with his work’s concepts, and he sticks to straightforward and concrete guidance.

  • Idea: Lane proposes an interesting theme, although much of the guide’s purpose is fairly conventional. Readers will find that the concepts mature as the material progresses, with a more sound paradigm emerging towards the end.

    Prose/Style: Lane’s informal prose supports the work’s vision. She writes conversationally to her readers, with some awkward text that fortunately does not detract significantly overall.

    Originality: The Change Journey promotes well-known self-help ideology in a distinctive way. Lane’s consistent use of metaphors increases this work’s creativity levels considerably.

    Character Development/Execution: Lane accomplishes her stated goals but goes beyond these in much of the writing. Readers may find it difficult to focus at times, given the abundance of information, but the bulk of the guide follows Lane’s overarching premise.

  • Life Engineering

    by Kenny Anderson

    Rating: 5.50

    Plot/Idea: Anderson has written a book that is intended to help people "live the good life," but instead of presenting the material through a vague self-help lens, he instead employs a more mathematical approach. The book offers a novel concept, but the execution can be very confusing at times. The layout of the book can make it unclear for the reader where one section and/or idea ends and another begins.

    Prose: The prose is somewhat verbose and can feel circular and confusing at times. 

    Originality: Anderson's idea to develop a self-help book based on more engineering and mathematical principles than New Age ones is novel and interesting, but the result is uneven in its execution.

    Character Development/Execution: This book can be difficult to navigate, causing the reader to lose the often rich lessons imbedded in the text. The substance of the book is valuable and intriguing; a degree of restructuring and editing of content, would allow this work to be substantially more accessible to readers.