Monday, October 15The Voice of London

Do self-help books actually work? We asked the question to save you the money

Self-help books are like McDonalds, meant to make you feel great about life but ends up feeling regrettable when the food just doesn’t stick with you.

Reporter: Lateefa Farah   Sub-Editor: Gabby Espinet

In cliché terms, we are all trying to figure out who we are in this harsh society. What do and don’t we like? Who do we need to please, and what people do we need to stay away from.

The basic skills that you’ll learn along your journey of something called life — without a book. According to the BBC, the self-help industry racks in $13 billion a year (Roughly 10 trillion). Voice of London went under investigation to find out whether self-help books actually help.

You see I’m a self-help book fan myself, but sometimes I come across ‘rules of life’ statements that my own friends and family would continuously reiterate to me — it was free too. I wanted to figure out, if these self-help books did what they set out to accomplish.

I spoke with a few people who felt the books were helpful with two or three facts stated, but the rest of the information flew right over their heads.

Yasin, 23, engineer graduate said, “My mind has changed by one or two aspects from Outliers by Malcom Gladwell but I mostly use it as food for thought. I personally don’t think they work but maybe I’ve not read a good enough one yet.”

Good enough? How many books does it take to realize how useful these books are?

Aisha, 20, Journalism student in New York expresses, “When it comes to self-help, The Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, just puts things into perspective. I’m a really weird person in the sense that I overthink small things. It’s a realistic and doesn’t sugar coat all that ‘positivity’ and ‘good vibe’ notion.”

Majority of the time, self-help books tend to be writers that have experienced life and want to share it with others who might relate — to a psychologist that wants to share their academic, psychological concept with their readers. The unfortunate thing is, you can’t connect with your author, as much as you would with your friend, family, and even therapist. Self-help books just become a book telling you about an experience, as any fictional novel would.

Herbert Humblerberg, Psychology lecturer at Goldsmiths university believes that self-help books can sometimes have the same effect as a song, ‘how to” YouTube videos, or even an online lecture:

In no doubt one can come upon relevant healing and/or useful information about healing from a variety of sources, not just books. A relevant online lecture?  Relevant how-to video on YouTube? Or maybe even a song? Avril Lavigne has noted that people report finding many of her songs empowering albeit with a different meaning or interpretation for each person.”

Humblerberg also felt that as positive as some self-help books may come across, it can create  harm when it’s based on superficiality and exaggeration, like a fictional novel would be written. Majority of the time, the authors of these self-help book are in the field psychology and often have a ghost writer that can breakdown their academic criteria.

If YouTube, songs, online lectures, and better yet your parents can provide the same framework as a book — all of which comes at a cheap price, then how much is the self-help industry really about helping and not about making money?

In our next series, we’ll be diving into the topic of whether or not self-help books can advice with Mental Health. Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.