Personal Development Book Reviews – Fiction self-help

If you’re somebody who prefers fiction books with a good story to lose yourself in, there is no reason to miss out on the wisdom and magic of the personal development/self help genre. Many of us find ourselves to be much more engaged with stories and characters as opposed to facts and theories and so some of the books below may be more suitable than those in the previous blog to ease you into this genre. These books range from classics to more modern options, but the one thing they all have in common is potentially life changing lessons and perspective changes, all wrapped up in stories that will have you eagerly turning the pages until the very last one.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig (2020)

One of the more modern offerings of its type, this novel is nothing short of genius. Matt Haig is one of those rare talents that can write both fiction and none-fiction wonderfully. Having suffered from severe mental health issues throughout his life, Matt brings his first-hand experience to everything he writes and combines it with his amazing literary talent.

This book follows the story of Nora, who becomes so disappointed with her life and the direction it has taken that she decides to end it. After ending her current life, she gets the chance to revisit all the times she feels she made ‘mistakes’ in her life and to try the different lives she could have lived had she made different choices. Every single story she visits is fascinating and entertaining and will have you eagerly wanting to find out how it turns out for her. It’s incredibly interesting to go along on this journey as surely it’s a universal trait to wonder ‘what if’ we’d have done something (or several things) differently in our past. Surely we could be happier, healthier, more successful, richer and so on? As Nora searches for her ‘perfect life’ she learns a lot of lessons about life and regret along the way, as does the reader along with her. Without giving away the ending, this book is a real eye-opener and incredibly comforting for anyone who feels they could have ‘done better’ with where they’re up to and how they feel about their life. It’s also a fantastic story and truly unusual concept. Truly life affirming.

Also by Matt Haig – Notes on a Nervous Planet, Reasons to Stay Alive, The Comfort Book

Let your imagination roam in The Midnight Library

Pollyanna – Eleanor H. Porter (1913)

An old classic, this book follows Pollyanna, a young girl who goes to live with her grumpy aunt following the death of her dad. Determined to keep his positive nature going in the world, she continues to play a game he had taught her which involves trying to find something to be glad about in even the most challenging of situations. As simple as this sounds, the enchanting nature of the main character along with the events that unfold in the story serve a real lesson that no matter what circumstances and events we’re dealt, we always have a choice over our perspective and reactions. As Pollyanna states in the book, ‘when you’re hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind…,’ showing that gratitude goes a long way to shaping our experience of life. As the story develops, the effects of Pollyanna’s positive disposition means she creates bonds with several other characters which emphasises the fact that a positive outlook can affect not only your life but everyone that you come into contact with.  This is a great book to read to young children or for them to read for themselves once able, but it’s also one that I still very much enjoy as an adult (the language can be a little ‘old fashioned’ if you will, but it’s not a bad way to expand your vocabulary?!). I think most of us could do to be a bit more Pollyanna and demonstrate how positivity can always thrive in the face of adversity.

Also by Eleanor H. Porter – Pollyanna Grows Up, Just David

The pages of The Alchemist take you through a variety of countries and life lessons

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (1988)

Having been published several times over the years and in many different languages, ‘The Alchemist’ is now a firm classic. It follows a young boy called Santiago on a journey across different countries and along with this he goes on an inner journey too in search of love, meaning and life experience. This book is a great example of how time and travel as well as the people we meet along the way are really what make our lives so unique. The story is all about following your heart and listening to your intuition to truly fulfil your destiny and live the life that is true to who you are.  The book demonstrates how having faith and determination even in the most testing of times pays off with great rewards and is steeped in ancient, spiritual wisdom. Expect hard-hitting quotes such as ‘the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn’ and ‘when you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it’. With a strong travel theme, expect great imagery of various countries and environments and enjoy getting lost in the magic of the writing.

Also by Paulo Coelho – Veronika Decides to Die, The Pilgrimage, Eleven Minutes

I’ve personally enjoyed all of these books and find fictional stories can deliver messages and wisdom in the most enjoyable and heart-warming ways. Let me know if there are any you’d add to the list or if you enjoyed any of these books too. See you in the new year with lots of exciting new content!

Bev Meakin – Personal Trainer/ Exercise Referral Officer and Complementary Therapist. Instagram @bevs_life