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What are the best self-help book summaries you've read?

by willbradshaw1 min read3rd Jan 202010 comments



There is an adage: "Every book should be a blog post."

I disagree with this adage as a general rule, but one specific context where it does seem fairly true is self-help books. Books in or close to the self-help domain seem reliably to be horribly padded, excessively anecdote-laden, and generally somewhat mawkish.

But they're so damn attractive, though. They promise so much, and some seem to have the capacity to be generally transformative to those best-suited to hearing their advice. There's a decent list of 10 or so self-help-ish books whose insights I'd genuinely like to have (in expectation), if I didn't have to wade through a self-help book to get them.

This combination of traits makes self-help books prime candidates for blogification. But any old summary post won't do; a lot of blog-post summaries of books manage to be just as badly written and excessively hype-y as the original while also being too short, vague or unconvincing to be helpful.

What we ideally want is some resource accumulating longer-form, high-quality (think Slate-Star-Codex-level) summaries of self-help books, from trustworthy authors who we can expect to apply some basic due-diligence to the claims being made.

Some day I may get around to co-ordinating a project like this (with enough interested parties we could cover a lot of books in a fairly short space of time) but in the meantime: what are some particularly good summaries of self-help (or self-help-adjacent) books you think more LessWrong readers should read?

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6 Answers

Speaking of SlateStarCodex, Scott Alexander's review of 12 Rules for Life is a really good summary of the main points of the book.

Here's (short) summary of Mini Habits that I wrote a while back. I wouldn't say this changed my life or anything, but the technique basically works. YMMV.

The summaries in the back of Olivia Fox Cabane's books and Superforecasting.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. You can find most of the useful ideas in it online, although compared to the average self-help book this one is merifully terse.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Basically just what it says: lean into doing things that feel scary. Most of the book is junk and you shouldn't read it. I did write a blog post about this advice, though.

Have a look at www.blinkist.com, it sounds like what you're looking for, there's a website and a phone app. "Founded in 2012 by four friends, Blinkist now connects 6-million readers worldwide to the biggest ideas from bestselling nonfiction via 15-minute audio and text."

Also, this Atlantic article had a good comparison of Blinkist vs Wikipedia vs Reading The Book: www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/please-be-brief/417894/