7 Self-Help Books To Take On Your Desert Island Retreat

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon you’ll be able to get away from your home, perhaps even lie on a deserted island somewhere warm. Well, it’s good to imagine. And as you’re never one to miss an opportunity for self improvement and learning something new, I know you’ll love some suggestions for which self-help books you need to pack. Here are seven of my life-long favourite self-help books – and why.

Louise L Hay – You Can Heal Your Life (Hay House Inc)

This inspiring book was written in the 1980s and originally self-published by an awesome woman. Louise is the fairy godmother of all self-help books. Louise’s system is all about affirmation – and the idea that all our physical and emotional ailments can be healed and released through the power of the mind, in particular by repeating positive mantras on a daily basis. Her personal story of finding forgiveness towards an abusive family; learning and growing throughout her life; then growing her self-publishing success into one of the world’s largest self-help publishing companies, is truly wonderful. And then she learnt to dance in her 70s. 

Eckart Tolle – The Power of Now (New World Library)

If you want to know what it feels like to be in the present moment, this book reads like a living meditation, with the aim of opening your mind and taking you on the journey to deepest knowing. What if you could feel that presence, that feeling of being right here, right now? Not angry about the past or worrying about the future – but fully present all the time? What might that feel like? 

Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way (Souvenir Press)

Another classic, first published in the early 1990s, Cameron’s book is for blocked creative people. I regularly recommend this manual as a first port of call for designer and artist friends, who are experiencing creative blockages. I don’t make art professionally, yet I find myself using her techniques almost every day. Cameron was married to legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese and helped him and other friends, such as Steven Spielberg, to become pioneers in their field. The book is structured as a twelve-step programme, so you may find some of it emotionally difficult and challenging. But stick with it, this book can literally change everything for creative artists. 

Brené Brown – Daring Greatly (Penguin)

If you want to think about your relationships with yourself, your family, colleagues and community, but have no idea how to change yourself or others, let Brené tell you all about how and why we are the way we are, in an open and engaging way. One of the biggest current names in self-exploration and improvement, Brené has interviewed hundreds of people, building years of research that is thorough and life-affirming. She even has an acclaimed Netflix Special that condenses this book. Brown’s open, funny and honest style will make you think about practical ways you can be present and a better person. 

bell hooks – All About Love: New Visions (Harper) 

A visionary exploration of relationships by a formidable American academic, on the nature of compassion, for ourselves; how can we teach our children and expect better from others, when we aren’t kind to the ones we love the most? This is probably the purest, most intellectually rigorous of the books on this list. bell hooks is a truly great philosopher. Don’t be put off by the word ‘love’ in the title.

Ram Dass – Be Here Now (HarperOne)

One for the yogis and the journeying spirits. If you think yoga is just a series of exercises and breathing tips, think again. Send yourself on a trippy journey in this chaotic, beautiful kind of graphic novel from Ram Dass, one of the first Westerners to dive deep with Eastern mysticism and yogic philosophy. The second part of the book – ‘The Cookbook for a Sacred Life’, condenses thousands of years of Indian philosophy – how to live, what to eat, how to meditate and what to chant – into a few short, rich pages. First published in 1971, this iconic book influenced everyone from Steve Jobs to George Harrison, and many other famous seekers.  

Denise Duffield-Thomas – Get Rich, Lucky Bitch (Hay House UK)

Well, Rifa must be kidding right? A book about money? How very dare you. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, what on earth could a blonde Aussie housewife tell you about accruing wealth and what woo woo ways could work? With her ‘lucky bitch’ manual, Denise has actually made a very solid ‘money mindset’ book, with practical exercises and mindset work that can seriously change the way you think about money. Denise runs a worldwide online network too, where women support each other in the quest for financial stability and independence. 

So that’s your seven Desert Island (well, summer retreat) self-help book tips. I guess my ‘luxury object’ is a yoga mat. What’s yours? 

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