All-time Favorite Self-Help Books

Val’s favorites

BooksHere in review are a few of my all-time favorite self-help books. These authors have written many more brilliant books that I didn’t include and they also have fantastic websites that offer additional information.

But please remember that self-help books don’t magically work just because you read them! I urge you to consider making a commitment to really field test what you read. Also, it can be especially helpful to share what you learn with at least one other person. Taking action and engaging in the process is what transmutes learning in to positive change.


A common challenge for couples is that partners often have surprisingly different agendas, needs, and relational skills. The following books can go a long way towards creating synergy from these conflicts and transform relationships even when only one person is committed to change or has more relational savvy.

John M. Gottman, Ph.D.   – The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Dr. Gottman has spent decades studying the behavior of successful couples. He offers simple guidelines designed to shift a couple’s interactions towards greater harmony and satisfaction. These are great books for partners who prefer action to talk. LINK

Terry Real – The New Rules of Marriage
Terry Real understands that our high divorce rate is related to changing demographics: women’s expectations, roles and needs within marriage have changed a lot more than men’s in the past fifty years. This mismatch fuel conflict and separation. Terry offers great new rules that help to balance and respectfully address the expectations of both men and women. Each chapter offers a fantastic opportunity for couple’s conversation. LINK

Margot Anand  – The Art of Sexual Ecstasy
This is Margot’s groundbreaking classic that addresses the unity between spiritualty and sexuality. Written in 1989, this book has inspired a generation of authors, therapists, and teachers, and very happy couples. This delightful primer is a how-to book that blends practical techniques from meditation, yoga, counseling and couple’s communication, sex education and somatic psychology. Follow these pages and enjoy intimacy that is more heartfelt and grounded, and that expands one’s sensual and spiritual connections within ones’ self and with one’s partner. LINK

Thomas Moore   – Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love
Thomas’s lyrical writing opens ones’ vision to the subtle nuance of sensuality that inhabits everyday life. A must read. LINK

Women and Self

It’s no longer news that women have a unique development and psychological profile that is distinct from mens’. My complaint: bookstores are stuffed with personal growth books for women that keep the reader stuck in an endless mission for “improvement”. This stance repeats a familiar message: strive, achieve and compete to earn an externally imposed reward. In contrast, the dimension of feminine being where action, knowledge and growth arise instinctively and intuitively from within are well expressed in the following books.

Marion Woodman – The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation 
Marion’s career, training seminars, and writings all promoted the rediscovery of embodied feminine strengths and knowing for our time. She is one of those rare authors who wrote from within the very psychological state of being that she is addressing. Pregnant Virgin describes the process of how women can give birth to one’s aliveness and integrity by learning to attend to one’s inner promptings. Timeless. LINK

Clarissa Estes  – Women Who Run with Wolves
Clarissa is another wise woman whose writings make visible the more subtle dimensions and powers within the female psyche. Each chapter of Wolves starts with the telling of a brief traditional myth which is then used to illustrate a pathway of growth for the creative woman. Delicious! LINK

The Body Mind Connection

Scientific findings from the study of epigenetics, brain imaging techniques, the stress response, the placebo effect and more confirm that our physical, mental and emotional states are not just inter- connected, they are one system.

All these aspects of health share underlying molecular, neurochemical, neuro electric and genetic mechanisms that can be modified by various means. Mind body healing is a broad label for such studies. These practices may draw upon exercise, nutrition, breathing skills, yoga, meditation, guided imagery, dreamwork, EMDR, biofeedback, hypnosis, journaling, arts and somatic therapies and much more. The following books offer an intelligent introduction to the field.

Dr. Arnold Mindell – Processmind: A User’s Guide to Connecting with the Mind of God
Processmind is Arnold’s term for a natural state of awareness that is typically ignored and so gets weakened as we grow up. Written in his trademark physicist’s clear rational style, he describes how we can begin to notice our processmind and overcome our conditioned editing of this experience. His methods offer a fresh approach for both the seasoned student as well as a sound explanation for the skeptic . The book showcases decades of his study into the unity between modern physics, medical symptoms, dreams, the principles of conflict resolution, and the global legacy of our spiritual traditions. Practical, subtle, profound. LINK

Dr. Candace Pert – Molecules of Emotion (The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine)
Candace’s stellar medical credentials inform this down to earth description of the biological basis for mind body healing and for intuition. A great fun read. LINK

Dr. Martin L. Rossman – Guided Imagery for Self-Healing
Marty clearly describes a range of visualization skills that tap the body’s healing response. He also gives medical explanations as to why and how guided imagery helps, and discusses the limits of healing. A gem for both the novice and experienced mental health consumer. LINK


My favorite parenting books share several points. In different ways, they describe an approach to parenting that is not what most of us grew up with. These books describe how we as parents can develop new attitudes and habits, and use less energy to raise kids who are more authentic, have plenty of self-discipline, can make sound and independent decisions , remain open to our parental influence, and who we enjoy being with. When parents apply the skills found in these books, the best and brightest within each child can thrive and problem behavior fades. These authors also describe why parental empathy is so important, and teach how to build empathy within the family. It is possible to raise great kids without spanking and rarely yelling; these books show us how.

Dr. John Gottman – The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child
A thoughtful description of emotional coaching, a 5 step skill for parents to learn and practice with kids aged 3 and older. John is a clear humorous writer who cites tantalizing research on the lifelong advantages of cultivating a child’s emotional IQ through coaching. LINK

Dr. Thomas Phelan – 123 Magic
Absolutely essential reading by the time your child is one year old so you will be prepared for what follows. Thomas specializes in teaching the art of the Time Out, as well as how and why it really helps to stay calm. LINK

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
This should be read as a preventative measure years before you think you’ll need it. Listening, problem solving and empathy skills are the authors’ trademarks. LINK

Foster Cline and Jim Fay    – Parenting With Love And Logic
Foster and Jim pioneered Zen parenting. Their message and methods are often whimsical, counterintuitive and simple but extremely effective. I strongly recommend that all parents subscribe to their weekly e-newsletter in order to get free tips on how to enjoy better times with your kids! LINK

Dr. Penelope Leach

  • Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do – and Is Not Doing – for Our Children Today
  • Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five
  • Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence

Penelope’s books are a singular authority for information on what parents need to know about child development. She has researched and promoted best practices for parents and infant and child healthcare for over 50 years and speaks with tremendous clarity and wisdom. Her volumes make wonderful gifts for baby showers and birthdays! LINK


Our attitudes towards finance influence every aspect of our lives. Our self-esteem, education, career, dating and mate selection, health, and quality of life are deeply influenced by our unconscious assumptions and beliefs about money. Because talking about money is a social taboo, the topic remains less examined than other parts of our life. As a result, we tend to have less emotional and psychological insight about money, and our relationship to money can be far more troublesome than is necessary. Whether you are wealthy or struggling, financially astute or not, the following books can help build an improved relationship to money and happiness.

George Kinder  – The Seven Stages of Money Maturity 
George blends his expertise as a financial and psychological consultant to guide the reader through mastering the skills helpful for handling money. Written from his Buddhist perspective, this book addresses both the novice and the financial whiz who want better tools for planning a brighter future. LINK

Susan Bradley   – Sudden Money
It’s true that most lottery winners are less happy or financially secure a year after receiving their windfall. Susan is a financial planner who really understands the challenges faced by lottery winners and others who have no prior experience managing wealth. Her book describes a method for discovering and reframing the underlying emotions and beliefs that can thwart one’s optimal response to sudden money. A must read for anyone who inherited, won, or earned a bundle and wants to create and sustain life-long enjoyment from it. LINK

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