Wednesday, July 26, 2023

5 Books That Are Better Than Your Average Self-Help Book


Artist: Unknown

Self-help books are nice. They do a good job teaching us how we can improve as individuals. I usually will read one self-help book a year and try implementing that in my daily life for the whole year trying to make it my habit. Last year I read Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven, and I made my bed every morning that year. I still try to do it this year. I missed a few days, but it has been a nice habit to have, and it does make me feel more accomplished when I do it. This year, so far, I have read 3 self-help books because of a book club with my in-laws. I have read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, et al, and How Full is your Bucket by Donald O. Clifton. I realized that the formula for each self-help book is essentially the same: 1. Be vulnerable 2. Improve yourself, and 3. Follow this guide to become a better person. Following all their commitments to improve yourself becomes increasingly impossible for each self-help book you read. After some frustration about not being perfect I realized that there are books out there that have helped me more than self-help books.

In this post I will go over 5 books that I believe have encouraged me to become a better person.

Lord of the Rings

Of course, the greatest fantasy book ever will be on this list. There is a reason that this book has been cherished over the decades. Besides the great story, almost every character is a similitude of the Savior that we can emulate in some way or another. Do we associate ourself with Gandalf who must actively avoid touching the ring (sin) because he knows he will be corrupted if he does, or do we feel like Frodo who has a burden he feels that he must carry alone, or Sam willing to be the best support you can be, or even Aragon who helps others to succeed?

There are so many great relatable characters in the book and most of them are good characters that emulate the Savior. Don’t worry we all have a little Gollum in us, but we can succeed where he failed.

The Boys in the Boat

I might be a little biased here because I am from Washington, but if you have never read this book, it is really motivating. It’s a true story about eight-oared rowing crew from University of Washington competed and won in rowing during the summer Olympic in 1936. The story focuses on a nine-man crew and how different each of them are, and how they became synchronized to win first place.

I liked this book because it talks about the crew’s personal stories. We read how each of them come from different backgrounds but ended up having one purpose: winning first place. When one of the members got sick during the Olympics the boys kept him on the team because they would be better synced with each other. It's a good message that we need to stand up for and support each other. 

Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite living authors. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and when he writes his stories he includes gospel messages in them---like in Way of Kings. Near the end of the book Dalinar Kholin, King Gavilar's brother, wants to buy Sadeas bridgemen (slaves that carry bridges during the war with no armor to protect them. They usually have a short life span). He trades his sword (Shardblade) that is “worth fortunes. Cities, palaces, kingdoms” for the “worthless” men (according to Saedes).  Kaladin being one of the bridgemen has the following conversation with Dalinar:

Kaladin shook off his numbness. He scrambled after the highprince [Dalinar], grabbing his armored arm. “Wait. You—That—What just happened?”
Dalinar turned to him. Then, the highprince laid a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder, the gauntlet gleaming blue, mismatched with the rest of his slate-grey armor. “I don’t know what has been done to you. I can only guess what your life has been like. But know this. You will not be bridgemen in my camp, nor will you be slaves.”
“What is a man’s life worth?” Dalinar asked softly.
“The slavemasters say one is worth about two emerald broams,” Kaladin said, frowning.
“And what do you say?”
“A life is priceless,” he said immediately, quoting his father.
Dalinar smiled, wrinkle lines extending from the corners of his eyes. “Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me twenty-six hundred priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.”
“You really think it was a good trade, don’t you?” Kaladin said, amazed.
Dalinar smiled in a way that seemed strikingly paternal.

In Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 we are told: Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. We are all priceless to God. We have worth.

Artist: TotemofHorror

The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters, written by C.S. Lewis, is a compilation of letters written from a senior devil, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood with advice about in tempting his "patient," the average man.  When they are talking about God, they refer Him as the enemy. They mention how selfish gain and power are seen as the only good and how they can’t comprehend God’s love.

This book is a reverse psychology on how we should be. Instead of being selfish and gaining power for unrighteous purposes we need to be loving and serve those around us. I definitely feel like a better person when I try to be selfless than selfish and reading this book makes me want to be on God's side.

The Bible and The Book of Mormon

As someone that has grown up as a Christian and still lives it today; I have never found a set of books that have been more impactful in my life. From reading the scriptures I have gained faith that Jesus Christ did come and still lives today. He is the embodiment of what we should be and, as I study the scriptures, I get inspiration from God on what I need to improve on. Sometimes I am successful while other times I am not, but when I am, I feel like I am able to do more than what I expect from myself.

I feel like the scriptures are handbooks on how we can be the best versions of ourselves. No other self-help book can do what the scriptures can. They might tell you how to succeed in some respects, but the scriptures will show you how to be perfect in the things that matter most. 

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