Every January a new slew of over-eager self-help books swarm the shelves, vowing to make our lives better, more productive, more fulfilled than ever before. But what if you don’t want to read a book that talks to you like a kindergartener, fills you with aphorisms, and promises (but probably doesn’t deliver) to make you an even better version of yourself? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to find some literary inspiration for 2015 or some books that offer life advice, just packaged to your taste.
To save you from out of touch self-help books full of clichés and irrelevancy, here are the best books that are sort of like self-help books, but totally aren’t self-help books. They’re just books written by people who seem to have figured out how to do life (or at least how to laugh at it); books guaranteed to uplift your mood, inspire you without beating you over the head, and improve your outlook so that you can take on every single one of your New Year’s Resolutions with the gusto they deserve. Get reading, girl.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
This 2012 memoir by Tina Fey is both hilarious and genuine. As Fey tracks her somewhat unorthodox path from nerdy teenager to Saturday Night Live writer to 30 Rock writer and actress, readers learn some tips for life while laughing out loud on every page.
Call-Out Advice: “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”
The Between Boyfriends Book by Cindy Chupak
This “Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays” is a hilarious look at love, dating, and that awkward in between space where nothing is defined. This book holds smart advice and funny quips for those with any relationship status, and will reassure you that being single does not mean you’re alone.
Call-Out Advice: “That’s the key to having it all: stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like.”
With Nora Ephron’s charming and disarming voice, this book is a candid look at what it means to grow older as a woman. The hilarious and moving book is full of truths and laugh out loud moments that will help you put your life in perspective.
Call-Out Advice: “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert wrote this memoir about her search for happiness by leaving her successful American life to travel across Italy, India, and Indonesia. If you’ve always wanted to find yourself traveling but maybe don’t have the time or budget quite yet, this book will take you halfway there on the road to reinventing yourself.
Call-Out Advice: “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
This book lives up to its subtitle, “Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office.” If you want to sort your life out while delving into a fiction book, this is the perfect pick to get some smart-mouthed soul-searching from a woman whose life just changed uncontrollably.
Call-Out Advice: “Despite my best efforts, I’m not quite perfect. Let’s just say I’m like one of those Hopi blankets where they leave a tiny flaw so as to not affront the Lord.”
Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
We all know Lena Dunham from Girls, but what’s more impressive is how a young woman reached incredible success, all while staying true to herself. Told in embarrassing detail and both funny and earnest musings, this book is a must-read for every woman still trying to find out where she fits in the world.
Call-Out Advice: “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done . . . Being treated [awfully] is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve.”
My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart
Hannah Hart is famous for her YouTube series My Drunk Kitchen, and now she’s turned her learnings into a book. Complete with recipes, stories, and comedic musings, Hart shares her not-so-serious recipes for success in this entertaining and fast read.
Call-Out Advice: “There are certain people who will always seek to criticize. This has nothing to do with you. It must be hard inside their head, you know? I mean if they find so much fault in everyone around them . . . then one can only imagine the faults they must see in themselves.”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
Don’t have much time for reading? Dr. Seuss is a classic source of inspiration, and you’ll be surprised what you’ll learn from revisiting this childhood favorite as an adult.
Call-Out Advice: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
These sharp and insightful essays from Roxane Gay will help shape your perspective on politics, feminism, and how to live your life. If you’re trying to find out the best way you can make a difference in the world, this book will help get you there.
Call-Out Advice: “Don’t flirt, have sex, or engage in emotional affairs with your friends’ significant others. This shouldn’t need to be said, but it needs to be said. That significant other is an asshole, and you don’t want to be involved with an asshole who’s used goods. If you want to be with an asshole, get a fresh asshole of your very own. They are abundant.”
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
This funny and scathing series of essays takes on how to deal with being talked to by men who assume they know something you don’t In the process, Solnit also imparts advice on how to embrace life’s mystery and deal with its necessary doubt and ambiguity.
Call-Out Advice: “We know less when we erroneously think we know than when we recognize that we don’t.”
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
There’s no one better (or more funny) gal to take advice from than Amy Poehler. In her memoir, the former SNL writer and current Parks & Recreation actress delivers a smart and inspirational read with mantras and advice that are both funny and applicable. Plus, one of the chapters is titled, “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” so you know you’re in for some words to live by.
Call-Out Advice: “Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that — that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kaling’s memoir offers a tour of her life as a child of immigrants growing up to become a successful writer and actress, all while providing no-nonsense advice to get your life where you want it. From what makes a good friend to the qualities of a great guy, as well as some sarcastic commentary on maintaining a trim figure, you’re sure to walk away armed to create your best year ever.
Call-Out Advice: “I’m only marginally qualified to be giving advice at all. My body mass index is certainly not ideal, I frequently use my debit card to buy things that cost less than three dollars because I never have cash on me, and my bedroom is so untidy it looks like vandals ransacked the Anthropologie Sale section. I’m kind of a mess.”