Timeless tips: 7 classic self-help books to read while you’re staying at home

These books might be more than 20 years old, but the advice is just as relevant today as it ever was

Self-help books. 
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It may seem like the world is constantly in flux, particularly right now, as we find ourselves in such unforeseen circumstances. But even during a pandemic, there are some nuggets of wisdom that will always ring true.

As people across the world stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and find themselves with more time on their hands, there's no better time pick up one of these classic self-help books and learn a thing or two about living life for when it all starts back up again.

These seven picks might be more than 20 years old, but the advice they contain is timeless.

How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)

Dale Carnegie

This is the oldest one on the list – dating back more than 80 years – and yet it's probably the most famous, as it was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential books of all time. It promises to get you out of a mental rut, help you make friends easily and quickly, teach you how to increase your popularity, and how to become more persuasive and win new clients or customers, as well as boost your earning power – among other things. Dale Carnegie, a public speaker and writer, may have been born in 1888, but he would still be one popular man today.

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny (1992)

Tony Robbins

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny by Tony Robbins. Courtesy Simon & Schuster
Courtesy Simon & Schuster

Love him or hate him, American life coach, public speaker and writer Tony Robbins has a knack for turning people's lives around. Awaken the Giant Within wasn't his first book, but it is arguably his most influential. First published in 1992, it provides readers with tips on how to clarify their personal values, resolve any internal conflicts, master their emotions and overcome bad habits that have been holding them back. It's packed with research to back up his assertions, as well as practical guidelines to follow. Not many of us can say we don't need that kind of advice.

The Power of Positive Thinking (1952)

Norman Vincent Peale

Case studies and practical instructions are what fill the pages of this 1950s book by Norman Vincent Peale, an American minister and author best known for popularising the idea of positive thinking. His book helps boost self-confidence, build power and determination to reach your goals, break the cycle of worrying too much, improve personal relationships, assume control over your life and, ultimately, be kinder to yourself. The international bestseller was written with the “sole objective of helping the reader achieve a happy, satisfying and worthwhile life”. Who doesn’t want that?

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (2000)

Eckhart Toll

A handout book cover image of Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" published by Yellow Kite (Courtesy: Hodder & Stoughton) *** Local Caption ***  al08ma-uaereads-binherz04.jpg
Courtesy Hodder & Stoughton

German-born spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle is highly praised within the world of mindfulness and meditation. He's written a number of books, but this one is perhaps his most beloved and has been translated into more than 50 languages. In it, we're introduced to the idea of enlightenment, and how the mind is its natural enemy. Tolle teaches people about their role in the creation of their own pain, and how to live fully in the present, as opposed to constantly lamenting or yearning for the past and worrying about the future. Once you've finished with that, you can move on to his other bestselling work, A New Earth: Create A Better Life, a personal favourite of Oprah Winfrey's.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)

Stephen R Covey

There’s a reason why companies still send employees on this course: it just never gets old. The business and self-help book by American educator, author and businessman Stephen Covey presents a principle-centric approach to problem-solving both in our personal and professional lives. He uses insights and anecdotes to lay out a step-by-step method for living with fairness and integrity, allowing us to embrace the wisdom and power to adapt to change. He does all this while explaining seven habits that are grouped into three categories: independence, interdependence and continual improvement. The book has sold more than 25 million copies around the world since it was first published, and became the first non-fiction audiobook in the US to sell more than one million.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (1996)

Pema Chodron

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron published by Shambhala. Courtesy Penguin Random House
'When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times' by Pema Chodron. Courtesy Penguin Random House

Pema Chodron, the only female author on this list, is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun and, for many people, her bestselling book When Things Fall Apart has been life-changing. It's a classic from 1996, but she tackles topics that are particularly poignant for today. She addresses how we can continue to live life when everything seems to be falling apart, when we are constantly overcome by fear, anxiety and pain. The solution, she says, is to move towards painful situations, rather than backing away. She draws from Buddhist wisdom and offers tools for transforming suffering and negativity into endless joy.

The 48 Laws of Power (1998)

By Robert Greene

American author Robert Greene is best known for his books on the mastery of strategy, power and seduction. He has written six international bestsellers, but this one, his first, is his most enduring. It’s a practical guide for people who want to gain, observe or protect themselves against ultimate control. He distils 3,000 years of history into these 48 truths, drawing inspiration from the lives of influential historical figures, from Niccolo Machiavelli to Queen Elizabeth I and Henry Kissinger. Laws include “never outshine the master”, “enter action with boldness” and “crush your enemy totally”. It has sold millions of copies and is particularly popular with the rich and famous, including Kanye West, Jay-Z and Will Smith.