In Defense of Self-Help Books

This is a guest post by Alicia Hope Wagner. She is a novelist, devotional writer, and poet. She blogs at Faith Imagined and is active on Twitter.

I once heard a person say in a disdainful tone, “I don’t read ‘self-help’ books.” With this seemingly innocuous verdict, he slammed the door on a multitude of voices eager to push him to God’s best for his life.

A Young Woman Reading Alone - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #12887821

Photo courtesy of ©

He severely limited his exposure to wise counselors and leaders available to him. And he drew a curtain across a world of extraordinary and supernatural influence.

I wanted to argue the point, but the task was too daunting for a moment in passing. The sad truth, though, is that many people share this man’s opinion: They don’t need to read books written by people whose sole focus is to edify, encourage and motivate them. In effect, what these people are suggesting is that they don’t need mentors.

Mentors are the editors of our lives. Without many of them, we will never have a polished vision that is able to change the world. Our visions will grow beyond our immediate circumstances. If we whole-heartily run our visions toward the end-zone, we will exhaust our own experience, knowledge and abilities. Therefore, we must surround ourselves with mentors to help us successfully, efficiently, and confidently bring our visions to fruition.

I can honestly say that I have a very influential circle of friends. I have their knowledge, life experiences and passions bundled up nicely in books stacked throughout my home. I’ve had insightful pillow-talk with Max Lucado. I’ve chatted with Donald Miller at my local café. I’ve had life-changing discourse with T.D. Jakes on my back porch. I’ve laughed with Shelia Walsh while relaxing at the beach. And I’ve stayed up late while Ben Carson told me his life story. I have an amazing group of mentors, and I get excited whenever I bring a new one home.

Although my ultimate mentor is Christ and my sole resource is the Bible, I know that God also provides me with “many advisers” for my success (see Proverbs 15:22). Leaders don’t write books for fame, money or fun; they write books because they have a passion to influence lives.

If you are about to abandon your vision or on the verge of settling for a lesser one, I encourage you to go buy a book. Find an author who is living out his dreams, and you will obtain valuable knowledge that can be applied to your own situation.

Books are your mentors. The more you read, the more prepared you will be to cultivate and achieve your vision. Make time to read. Seek wise counselors. Gain new perspectives. Glean deep insights. Surround yourself with people who have achieved the impossible, and they will direct you to your own victory.

You become who you hang out with, so hang out with life-changers, and your life will be changed. Read. You will never be the same.

Question: Who are some of your favorite mentors?
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  • Rhett Smith

    Awesome post Michael…so glad you wrote this. As a pastor and marriage and family therapist I am always recommending books to people that would probably fall in the "self-help" genre. Those that take the advice always seem to grow from the wisdom of the authors….those who turn their nose up at them often seem to think they can go through life without the support or help of others, and they often end up not thriving very well.

    I count a lot of author's writings as mentors to me, but here are some of my favorite…these are the ones I re-read at least every year.

    Henri Nouwen (especially In the Name of Jesus)
    Parker Palmer: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (amazing book)
    Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)
    Anything by Eugene Peterson

    • Michael Hyatt

      Rhett, Thanks for your encouragement. Just one note: I didn't write this post. It was written by Alisa Hope Wagner as a guest post. Thanks.!

    • @alisahope

      I'm glad you enjoyed the article, Rhett! I will check out your list of books (mentors).

  • BenofBenandJacq

    Very well said. Thanks for the encouragement! As I embark on a "roller coaster" of living my dream (and quitting my dream job)I need to be reminded of the truth to be gleaned from the lives of others.


    • @alisahope

      I pray that your dream is filled with the glory and the spirit of God!

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  • Bob Kellemen

    Wouldn't we need to have a deeper conversation with your friend to know what he meant by "self-help" books? If he meant, "writers who are mentor by encouraging and edifying us by helping us to apply Christ's truth to our lives" then we might need to challenge him. However, if he meant, "I don't like 'self-help' books that are more of self and less of Christ, that are more of human thinking than biblical wisdom about life" then perhaps we should cheer him on rather than critisize him.

    • @alisahope

      My main concern here is the dismissal of the entire genre.

    • davidbmc

      I understand what you are saying but I think we can also throw the baby out with the bath water. I know people who will not read the 7 Habits of Highky Effective People because Stephen Covey is a Mormon. Well, they are missing out because that book is incredible and has some of the best principles you will find anywhere. A book does not have to be "Christian" to be helpful.

    • brooke

      My thoughts exactly as I read the post.

  • Victoria

    Awesome points, Alisa!

    • @alisahope

      Thanks, Victoria! You are always such a blessing!

  • Mats Jonsson

    Great post by Alisa Hope Wagner . Enjoy reading it….

    • @alisahope

      Thank you, Mats!

  • Tiffany Locke

    I have a whole collection of mentors on my bookshelf. Everything from raising children to marriage to perusing your passion to knowing God more and of course the bible.
    With out those mentors talking to me on a sunny day by the water or in a airport waiting for an airplane or as I was about to go to bed, I don't think I would be where I am today. I have to agree if you are struggling in an area of knowing more about something or how to take the next step then find an book ,… a mentor and listen to what they have to say. You might be surprised at the results and the encouragement that you receive from them.

    • @alisahope

      Wonderful insight! I have to agree. We have to humble ourselves and admit that we need insight gleaned from others. I believe we gain a fuller view of God.

  • Anna

    I used to say the same thing. I don't read self-help books! Then somehow, I finally read one. And guess what? It was life-changing. And since then, I read them often. I hadn't really thought of them as mentors, but in fact that is what they are. I honestly feel it has helped my marriage and my opinion of myself as a wife, mom, employee, student, and all the other hats we women wear. Great article Alisa!

    • @alisahope

      I went through a season where I read one a week. God used each Christian voice to grow me. It is interesting how God corresponded each book with my Bible reading and with the insights I was gaining from my friends and spiritual mentors locally. It was a beautiful timing of renewing for me.

  • Audra Krell

    Very nice post Alisa. I think a lot of people will be helped and encouraged by your mentoring in this article. It's a great idea to go and get a book when you're thinking of giving up.

    • @alisahope

      Thank you, Audrey! God gives us dreams that are so large and giving up is always around the corner. However, each time I read a book, I was strengthened because I realized that I wasn't alone. I had to get off my spiritual island.

  • Jeffrey Holton

    Oh the frustrations I could have spared myself and my family if I'd read this three or four years ago.

    Thank you SO MUCH Alicia for writing this. I'll be sharing it with all sorts of folks.

    • @alisahope

      I wished I would have read several marriage books before getting marriage at 22. I have an amazing marriage and an awesome husband, but how stellar could our marriage have been those first few years with spiritual guidance?

      Many times we jump into things without seeking knowledge. I don't want to barely make it; I want to rock at it!

  • reflectionsbypj

    First, thank you Michael for allowing Alicia to post this blog. Alicia, I love that you wrote about this topic. Two sentences caught my attention: 1) "I have an amazing group of mentors, and I get excited whenever I bring a new one home." and 2) "Leaders don’t write books for fame, money or fun; they write books because they have a passion to influence lives." I could not have said it better! You have encouraged me to respond, not timidly but confidently, the next time I'm asked, "What type of book are you writing?" Thank you! I'm looking forward to reading more of your post at Faith Imagined.

    • @alisahope

      Yes! Let us start a trend of gaining insight and sharing wisdom! God knows we need more Christians to influence lives in this world. No more timidity!!!

  • KristineMac

    Great post Alisa, and thank you Michael for posting it. I believe God uses many resources to speak truth into our lives which encourage our faith walk in Christ. Perhaps the gentleman in question was confusing what most people consider to be "self help" with something more clinical in nature. In either case, I believe we can glean valuable insights from leaders and other Christians through their life experiences. This is the very essence of a mentor and those who are willing to be teachable have much to learn from them.

    • @alisahope

      Kristine! I love your final sentence, "This is the very essence of a mentor and those who are willing to be teachable have much to learn from them." I wish reprimands didn't hurt so much, but I always learn wisdom when my pride takes a blow.


    Self-help books are powerful and life changing when read and applied. One of my favorites is "Self Help" by Samuel Smiles

    I read and write self-help material every chance I get. Here is my latest from my blog for The Tennessean:

  • Daphne Fine

    I too am very thankful for the wisdom, encouragement, equipping and unique perspective that I receive from authors/mentors. I especially value a biography – the way a life speaks is most powerful. Thanks, Alisa!

    • Christina Ketchum

      Awesome article Alisa! You have me motivated to read more self-help books. I'll stop at Amazon next and pick up a few of them for my Kindle!

  • matthewdbenson

    Great post – Seth Godin raises similar points in his brilliant book, Linchpin:

    "… we turn our noses up at the entire genre of self-help. We cynically ridicule the brownnosers who set out to better themselves. … It's a brilliant plan by the resistance, and it usually works. … It's not an accident that successful people read more books."

    I'm comfortable with self-help books, but their reputation is sometimes tarnished by what seems to be a greater proportion of weaker (or perhaps just more noticeably less relevant) books. That aside – there are some that can cause epiphany moments.

    • @alisahope

      Seth, thanks for the quote. I will have to check out Godin's book. I know the "tarnished" reputation prevented me from reading self-help books for years. I'm glad I finally picked one up!

  • Jan Cline

    Joyce Meyer, Swindoll, Lucado, and a host of other great self help book authors. I have always been partial to this genre and have written some myself with hopes of publishing someday. I have a hard time understanding people who wont take advantage of the wealth of God given information and encouragement out there. I certainly need all the help I can get, and these people are anointed to speak hope into our lives.

  • Janis

    Great post, Alisa. Some of my favorite self-help authors have been Beth Moore, Catherine Marshall, and Dr. James Dobson. I have a new stack of books and authors on a new subject~writing!


    • @alisahope

      I love me some Beth Moore! God's blessing on your writing, Janis!!!

      • Women Living Well

        Oh ya – me too!!! I LOVE Beth Moore – she is definately a mentor of mine!!!

  • @alisahope

    It is also interesting that when you read an array of Christian authors, you gain a glimpse of the fullness of God. Yes, Christian leaders are different in their anointing, but they all can speak the great breadth of God's heart.

  • Women Living Well

    Great post! I love my books and this is exactly how I see them – as my mentors! I remember Elizabeth George saying that if she sat across the dinner table from her readers and chatted she would say the same things she has written in her books. They are truly an overflow of her heart and life – and her wisdom has helped me through certain seasons of life – as other books have also.

    Many authors have been my mentors. Reading has opened me up to great minds, deep thinkers and rich wisdom that I don't come across everday in my world! They have challenged, stretched and grown me. I'm so thankful for them!

    • @alisahope

      Exactly! It's like having a best-of conversation with a Christian mentor!

  • MTJ

    Hi Alisa,

    I enjoyed reading this informative post. I'm reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch, who when asked by Philip "Do you understandwhat you are reading?" replied, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" Each of us needs clarity in life, reading books can assist in instructing, mentoring, encouraging and educating those of us looking for a little illumination.

    Blessings and peace.

    • @alisahope

      What an amazing example!!! I will definitely use it in the future!

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a great application of that verse. Excellent.

    • Timothy Fish

      I suppose it depends on how you look at that. If the well educated Ethiopian eunuch couldn't understand a book written by God himself without someone there to help him, how can most of us expect to get much help just by reading a book written by a flawed individual?

  • Brandon

    Great post! Something for everyone to think about! I would say my mentors would be my parents. Next would come my pastors… It is important to have someone in your life to encourage you and keep you accountable.

    • @alisahope

      Brandon, parents and pastors should be a HUGE source of widsom! What a responsibility that is for all of us!

  • johncatkinson

    Awesome article Alisa, and thanks Michael for posting it! Alisa and her husband Daniel have been a part of our Bay Area Fellowship Family for a long time, and their love for God and His church has had a huge impact on many peoples lives! I love the things she writes, but more importantly, I love the way she lives out the things she writes!

    • @alisahope

      Thanks, Pastor John! You have always been such an encouragement to us! We are blessed to have you and Pastor Bil in our lives!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Obviously, judging by the number of comments here, her writing resonates with my readers. Thanks, Alisa.

  • Terry Rayburn

    Very true article.

    I’ve heard several people say, “I only read the Bible, never a book.”

    Sounds good, except the Bible itself says that God has given the Church teachers, and sometimes those teachers teach with books.

    By the way, the stats on how many people have never read a single complete book after leaving school is amazing.

    Realistically, some people just are not book readers. Let’s not deny that, but give them other forms of input, such as this blog, or even audio books.

  • Jennifer Smith

    Wonderfully said, Alisa! Thank you for your words and encouragement! Couldn't agree more! I am so thankful for all God has taught me using the wisdom & experience of my mentors via their books and in person. We are so blessed to have this option!

    • @alisahope

      Jennifer, you have always been a wonderful friend/mentor to me! Through watching your life, I realized that a Christian can indeed be cool! You rock!!!

      • Jennifer Smith

        Wow! Thanks. Ditto on the friend/mentor part! I love to watch God shine through your life!

  • janetober

    Great post … I've always enjoyed and learned so much from biographies, memoirs and self-help books. But after having people look at me with that 'disdainful tone' I was almost embarrassed to say that I read (and enjoy) those types books. Thanks for saying it's okay :)

    • @alisahope

      Just refer anyone to this post the next time you have to explain yourself ;o)

  • Amy Bayliss

    Some of my mentors include Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Lisa Bevere.

    I am also blessed to be able to consider some of my "book" mentors as real life mentors as well: Lysa TerKeurst, Shelly Ballestero, and my pastor, Dino Rizzo. They are the real deal. No sugar coating going on there and their book are simply an extension of them.

    First and foremost we need the bible but we also need other people in our lives. :)

    • @alisahope

      I just discovered John Bevere! I've read three of his books. Thanks, Amy, for your list of mentors. I'll check out their books!

  • Talky Pillow

    Great points on mentorship through writing. You might clarify w/the husband the part about pillow talk with a guy named Max..! :)

    • @alisahope

      That's okay. My hubby was having pillow talk with some military men next to me. They were talking strategy ;o)

  • David & Lisa Frisbie

    After years of rejections ("Our bookstore doesn't carry remarriage titles" or "The church shouldn't worry about divorce; it should save marriage!") God opened the door to publishing our life's work and ministry through Harvest House, Group Publishing, Strang Communications and Beacon Hill. Twelve books later, we are literally "living our dreams" as Alisa suggests in this wise post.

    What we aren't: Billionaires, neighbors of Bill Gates, celebrities, or artistes. What we are: God-called writers and family counselors living out our dream of helping people we will never meet (in this life).

    Our mentors have included Woodie Wirt, Jim & Elizabeth George, Larry Osborne and others. Meanwhile it's our turn, in our own small way, to mentors others. We are doing our best to pay it forward.

    Thanks, Alisa —- for this spirited defense of the 'self-help' genre. Much appreciated!

    • @alisahope

      I love it when Christian find their dreams in God and live them out! Thank you for never giving up — you are an inspiration to me! I will check out your books!!!

  • Cynthia

    What an awesome and inspirational message! As the mother of the author, I can attest to Alisa's use of mentors as she continues to be a witness of Christ's love and compassion. Thank you, Michael, for publishing this article. – Cynthia Faulkner, Ph.D.

  • Kim

    I agree with this article, on so many points. We all need to be helping each other, along this journey. Self-help books are a wonderful tool. Alisa is one of the best, for me!

    • @alisahope

      Kim, you are such a blessing! I also believe that blogs can mentor others, as well. And you do an amazing job with yours!!!

  • @alisahope

    I believe you're bias, Mom, but thank you!!!

  • Daniel Decker

    Great post. Couldn't agree more. The concept of "self-help" certainly seems to turn some off but to me it shows a sense of humility. By the very nature of "self-help" we're admitting our need to learn, to become better and to enlist the wisdom of others. It's being honest and saying I don't have all the answers but I want to be be better tomorrow than I was today. Here's to being a life long learner! : )

    • @alisahope

      Humility is the key to wisdom! May we all be life long learners! Thank you, Daniel!

  • Danise Jurado

    Wonderful post! Mentors are so important in our lives, whether the mentorship is in person or through reading books. God can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes in ways we never expected… pre-judging people or books written by people can sometimes prevent us from receiving a precious gift of God. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • @alisahope

      I've learned that assuming things causes me to miss out on many God-designed moments. Thank you, Danise, for this beautiful insight!

  • Carolyn

    My books are a link to world for me- we live on a little farm in a rural town and just love sitting down with a coffee with Beth Moore, Emile Barnes, Elizabeth George & Karen Scalf Linamen (she has been a favourite since”Sometimes I wake up grumpy….sometimes I let him sleep!”)
    These ladies have such wisdom and practical teachings that have deeply enriched my life,

  • Karen

    Alisa, you are right on the mark, as always…books are mentors…and lifelines…to enrich and enhance our lives…I love many of the fine authors mentioned in the comments…and I was blessed to inherit several old books from my granddaddy….a "preacher-man"…the teachings and admonitions of these aged pages…are just as relevant today as when they were written…sometimes more so…

    • @alisahope

      Karen, I totally agree! I really enjoy Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis. Both these writers "enrich" my life!

  • Elvia Wagner

    Congratulations Alisa well done.

    • @alisahope

      Thank you, Elvia!!!

  • Keith Wagner


    Great article! Very insightful.

  • Wanda

    As a avid reader, I agree that self-help books are valuable. Most of us would not have the opportunity to actually sit down with these great leaders but picking up their book is the next best thing. I've gleaned so much from the many books I've read. I really like your statement that mentors are the editors of our lives.

    • @alisahope

      How true! For a nominal price I can sit down for hours with these leaders who honestly wouldn't have time to sit with everyone they are destined to influence!

  • Chris Poe

    Is it possible that what the man in the first paragraph had in mind with regard to self-help books is the genre that includes the likes of Napoleon Hill, The Secret and similar books that are usually written from an unbiblical perspective?

    Some of the authors listed in this discussion are more helpful than others, but none will likely be found in the "self-help" section of any bookstore. Most would be classified under "Christian Living."

    • alisa hope

      The term "self-help" is being reinvented to help with the horrible stigma the genre has gotten. But these books are still acquired by individuals who are seeking guidance through the voices of others. Are we willing to seek that help is the basis of this article.

      • Chris Poe

        The self help genre has rightly gotten a horrible stigma. I have to admit to being somewhat mystified as to why there would be a burden to reinvent or rescue the term. Think of the implications of the term itself for a moment. The whole idea of self-help, that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, is inimical to Christianity. If we can ultimately help ourselves, then we have no need of Christ.

        Now, if someone were to state that they need no teacher or mentor and that we have no need for helpful books on any number of issues, then you would have a valid point, as Bob Kellemen notes above. Biblically sound books are in a whole different genre entirely than like "Think and Grow Rich" and "The Power of Positive Thinking.

        • Michael Hyatt

          I think we have to be careful about over-arguing the point. There is a legitimate place for self. After all God created it. Our actions matter. In fact, self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit.

          Again, I am not arguing in favor of boot-strapping our way to success. What I am arguing is that sanctification is a “dance” (perichoresis in the Greek) where God initiates and we respond. BOTH are important. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:12, 13:

          Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [our work]; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure [God’s work].

  • Shelly

    Great post, Alisa! I, too, have a very influential circle of mentors! Never thought of it that way, but so true!! Hmmm…wonder who I will visit with tonight? :)

    • @alisahope

      Happy reading, Shelly!

  • Ron Lane

    Alicia, I really enjoyed this blog. I thank you for writing this article and thank you Michael for publishing it on your website for me to read.

    As they say "leaders are readers". I can't help but to laugh and think to myself, this guy is done and will most likely never be successful.

    I also have to wonder if he is a golfer. If he is does, then does he read Golf Magazine or Golf Digest? Because if so, then he would be making a false statement, because those are self help in nature, even though they are not technically a book.

    • alisa hope

      The man at the beginning is actually an attitude personified! He represents a blanket dislike of any book that seeks to offer help! You have a great point, however! We all are being guided by influences, whether we know it or not! I just choose to monitor what I allow to mold me.

      • Ron Lane

        I agree with you about monitoring what molds me. Unfortunately, I find this attitude all too common in people. I just pray that my attitude and encouragement will help change some of them.

  • Elizabeth Mahlou

    Excellent post, Alisa. I am glad I came over to read it.

  • Vicki Beck

    Love, love, love this post! Not only does Alisa shed new perspective on self help books, she opens a new door for those willing to consider a unique but personal opportunity for mentoring. Blessings, Alisa!

  • John Richardson

    Great post, Alisa. I have many mentors. One of my all time favorites is Og Mandino, with his story of a human ragpicker, who changed the lives of most everyone he met. Another is Paulo Coelho with his masterpiece, The Alchemist, who took me on a journey across the desert in search of treasure, only to find it a few miles from home. Then there was Andy Andrews who introduced me to the Noticer, a man who influenced many people to lead better lives. And of course, I could never forget Mark Sanborn, and his mailman friend Fred, who changed his neighborhood for the better, one house at a time.

    When I went to write my first book, I thought of writing a non-fiction personal development book. But my mentors talked me out of it, and instead introduced me to an old man named Tor, who showed me how to climb an impossible hill and find a valley called paradise. Tor changed my life. And even though he is an imaginary figure, his seven talents still resonate in most of my decisions.

    It's great to have mentors, and the wonderful truth is, you can find hundreds of them at your local bookstore. The amazing thing is, you'll never know where they will lead you. Thank you, Alisa, for the defense of my true friends!

  • Bernadine

    Love this post Alisa. I've gained so much over the years by reading the life stories, experiences and insights of different authors. I usually take notes as I read and refer to them often.

  • @jmiles_tms

    Great post Alicia. I have actually been thinking along these lines a lot lately. I have read some books that have rocked me to the core this year and it made me think of some of my friends who just don't read. I think in a lot of cases, people don't read because they are afraid. If they read something that challenges, they might have to change, and they are afraid of that…

  • afriendtoyourself

    loved this. thanks.

  • Sharon Kirby

    What an insightful post. None of us can journey through this life alone. We were made to live in community. Thanks for making that point abundantly clear. I have loved reading since I was a child – my books are my friends; and their authors are the teachers that have helped shape me into the person I am today.

    My two most influential mentors:
    C.S. Lewis – who changed the way I looked at Jesus
    Philip Yancey – who changed the way I looked at faith

    Thanks for sharing…GOD BLESS!

  • Cheryl

    SO true! God has spoken to me countless times through books and articles, especially those that are Christ-centered. Many have been life-changing. Thanks Al! You inspire me!

  • Jessica Cornelius

    Alisa, love what you wrote! You are such a gifted writer. Can't wait for your book to be published!
    Actually I prefer self-help books. I just can't get into fiction books for some reason.

  • Janel Sohl

    This is an encouragement to me, Alisa! Remembering that we can learn from people, regardless of their perceived knowledge level, helps us to keep in mind that we are all flawed children of God. We can push ourselves to move beyond what we "think" God says about something to reading new ideas, and checking those with God's truth statements in His love letter. :) Thank you Alisa for your continual insight!

  • Lynda Young

    Great article, Alisa. It makes a very good point. We need to be more open to mentors. Our faith is a living thing that requires growth and learning. We can't do that on our own.

  • Teresa

    Great post! Although, I must say that I love what Lisa Bevere said, "We don't need any more mentors within the church, we need 'mother's'. Mentors duplicate themselves, however, 'mother's' (and 'fathers' ) want more their children than they ever wanted for themselves. I love your examples of the different people who have spoken into your life; whether it was 'pillow talk' time, cafe time, on the beach, and even on your back porch. There is nothing wrong with going to resources. However, we must be sure we are going the Source of all resources. This article is beautifully written Alisa! Who is my mentor ('father'/'mother')? Jesus Christ, my husband, Lisa Bevere, and you!

  • David Knapp

    Lately, Eugene Peterson and Gordon McDonald. I don't know what kind of person I would be today without the influence of older men who share their wisdom through the books they write.

  • dewittrobinson

    Great post Alicia! Thanks for sharing the insightful thoughts about the variety of mentors.

  • Steve Leigh

    Awesome thoughts. I never considered the fact that that these authors you mention, most of whom I have read, as mentors, but it is the truth isn't it/ Great job. Thanks for the insights.

  • @CalebGriffin

    It's interesting that you should broach this topic. Years ago, Seth Godin, an advice (or self-help) author, told a story about his conversation with the New York Times editor about self-help books.

    True story: When the Times switched from 10 books on the Hardcover list, they created a list of 15 Hardcovers and a list of 5 Advice, How To and Miscellaneous titles. I wrote in and asked the editor why they only had 5 titles on this list and 15 on the others. She wrote back and said,

    "Because we don't want people to read those books."

  • Shay Lee

    very informative article. i am going to check out some of the authors that you mentioned.

  • eleanagarza

    This was an awesome post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anne Marie

    Great, great post! I've read several books on finding God's will for your life and being all you can be and my favorite of that which has really helped me is Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now. My other mentors would be St. Francis de Sales, of course the "Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things" Speaking of books being mentors, I would include also those within books, mine being Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and Aragorn son of Arathorn.

  • Kyle Stowers

    Awesome post Alisa. I never thought of self help books in this way.

  • Cyberquill

    I've read several great self-help books. Without a control clone of myself, it is difficult to ascertain whether I'd have accomplished even less so far had I not read them. But it's certainly possible.

  • Michelle

    I love a good, inspirational read. It can propel me into a whole new place!

  • Dean Spencer


    This is a great post. I admittedly am one of those who shun self-help books. I seek study books that help me to stretch my thinking in Scripture. Perhaps unknowingly I have read a self-help book or two, but they would most likely be Bible related. But even then, I try to know who the author is because I don't trust all who claim to faithful to God's Word.

    I do think mentors are so important, but I personally think in person is the best method. I certainly am not wanting to discourage others who do benefit from mentors in self-help books. God can certainly use different ways to reach a wide variety of peoples. Because one way doesn't work for one doesn't mean it won't work for another. Thank you for sharing this post.

  • bluecottonmemory

    Max Lucado is mentoring one of my sons right now. I think I need to spend time with Shelia Walsh – I need to laugh! Combining the need to listent to wise counsel with books that mentor is a heady combination! I love it!

  • Miriam Kinai

    Joyce Meyer is one of my favorite mentors. My mind was in a bind. I bought Battlefield of the Mind. I read it and the Word of God set me mentally free through her writing.
    Bishop TD Jakes is another of my favorite mentors. My job was very stressful. I bought 10 Commandments of Working in a Hostile Environment. I read it and learned to keep the storm outside my ship.
    Judy Jacobs is another of my favorite mentors. My ministry was besieged. I bought Take it by Force. I read it and learned to fight spiritually and advance forcefully.

  • Jaimee

    I also heard someone say recently that they don't read self-help books. I think they were meaning mainly in the secular realm. Their reasoning was, "Why would I want to search myself or dig deep within myself to set forth change? I can't fix myself. But if I let the Lord search me, then I can be transformed." It sounds good, but I also agree with your perspective. It's all in context I guess. Good post.

  • Amanda Patterson

    Guilty!! I feel like this was about me! Was it? Just kidding. I need to look at books more for purpose rather than for my pure satisfaction. I am guilty of reading novels or fiction for pleasure and turning my nose up at non-fiction or self help books. And I love to read! Thank you for opening my eyes to the mindset of these authors being mentors to me in my spiritual walk. Thanks Alisa! Great Post!

    • @alisahope

      It's about all of us! I used to say the same thing!

  • Jennifer Keller

    Another great article! Thank you Alisa. What a great perspective on those mentors we wish to meet. Yes, these mentors have changed my life for the greater good. Beth Moore always seemed to do the trick for me. As I read her books, I was always encouraged by her wisdom, thinking to myself, " oh, is that what that verse meant?". It's great I read this article when I did because I just moved from some of my most beloved mentors. Now I can appreciate the ones that are at my bedside.

  • DeeDee

    Love this Alisa! I definitely have grown through the insight and encouragement of others!

  • Dave Cotham

    Alisa, __As always, I am encouraged as I read your post. God has definitely gifted you in the literary arts. I am confident that you will continue to inspire and motivate others through the "self-help" you give, (and get), every time you write a post, article, or book. I understand that many of the things we share with others are taken right off the pages of our lives. Ephesians 3:20

  • James Cohen

    This is a very good post Alicia. Two of my mentors are Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Campbell. Both avid readers for self-development. These mentors help us unearth the hidden potential within us. Campbell said "It takes courage to do what you want….I did. I went into the woods and read for five years." Thoreau of course was another avid reader of self-help books. Your last line is just pure bliss: "You become who you hang out with, so hang out with life-changers, and your life will be changed." I could not agree more and these teachers of truth illuminate our path. Thank you, James

  • Clint Cora, Speaker

    Self help books are also one of the best ways to really get into the minds of experts. And now with the introduction of audio books as well, aborption of important concepts can be enhanced even further.

  • Warren Baldwin

    I've read a lot of your posts, and this is one of your best. I read an article today about the affects of technology on reading. Reading is taking a beating, and the author of the article was making a defense for turning off the technology and reading a good book. Your article is a great follow up read to that first article. I like the statement that books are the editors of our lives and also our mentors. Thanks for the article, and thanks Michael for hosting it.

  • Julie-Ann

    You are absolutely right! Self-help books can open the door on personal and business improvements. Even if you don’t subscribe to every recommendation, these tomes provide you exceptional insight you just might be able to use. In business, self-help articles, such as… can go a long way toward helping companies and create a more successful environment. I applaud your defense of self-help reading!

  • Molly

    Wonderful! As many people have already mentioned, I love the analogy of books as mentors. That is right on the mark! My most recent mentor is "Principle Centered Living" by Rev. Dr. Sheldon E. Williams it focuses on staying true to our values in everyday life – not only the imporance of it, but also how to do it! It covers topics such as principles, faith, family, health, leadership, friends, business, finances and time and provides biblical verses and foundations for the information. It's an enligthening read and a useful tool. Here's the link – I highly recommend it.

  • Robert Harris

    Thanks for defending self help books and clarifying that self help does not mean you do it without God. I just finished my book and am looking for the right publisher and or agent, but have had a hard time with the words self help book when describing it. I was a homeless teenage who called on the Lord, heard from Him and walked in His ways, to be delivered and set on solid ground. My brothers were not so fortunate, though, and I am believing the paths I took out are still relavent today for many who have ever asked the Lord why and how do I rise up out of this?

  • Sherrie Yunker

    Reading through the comments I have nothing to add but my thanks. I am encouraged and enjoy your writing, Alisa. I have respect for Mr. Hyatt and his obvious wisdom asking Alisa to guest on his blog.
    Since we all are alotted one lifetime it seems a shame to forego the wisdom from those who have walked the path before us. I live in Alaska, everyone seems to have their personal preference on who and how to fish, travel, etc.. Why wouldn't we seek seasoned guides on our walk with the Shepherd.
    Thank you both.

  • Michael

    Great article, I was told many moons ago, if you want to be successful and positive, follow(read, learn from) successful, positive people……It changed my life.

    I recently read a book that really impressed me. "Success is in the cards"

    Thanks again for sharing,

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