About the Book
I wanted to find out what would happen if I really did follow the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Really felt The Power of Now? Could life be transformed? Could I get rich? Skinny? Find love? Be more productive and fulfilled? Because I really did want all the things these books promised.
For years Journalist Marianne Power lined her bookshelves with dog-eared copies of definitive guides on how to live your best life, dipping in and out of self-help books when she needed them most. Then, one day, she woke up to find that the life she hoped for and the life she was living were worlds apart—and she set out to make some big changes.
Marianne decided to finally find out if her elusive “perfect existence”—the one without debt, anxiety, or hangover Netflix marathons, the one where she healthily bounced around town and met the cashmere-sweater-wearing man of her dreams—really did lie in the pages of our best known and acclaimed self help books. She vowed to test a book a month for one year, following its advice to the letter, taking what she hoped would be the surest path to a flawless new her. But as the months passed and Marianne’s reality was turned upside down, she found herself confronted with a different question: Self-help can change your life, but is it for the better?
With humor, audacity, disarming candor and unassuming wisdom, in Help Me Marianne Power plumbs the trials and tests of being a modern woman in a “have it all” culture, and what it really means to be our very best selves.
“Equal parts touching and hilarious, Power’s account of the year she spent following the tenets of self-help books will make you feel better about your own flawed life.”—People
“Marianne Power had me at hello. I’d only read a few pages of her blog-turned-memoir, Help Me!, and I was already all in.… wry, cheeky… reads like a novel, with full-color recurring characters, including love interests, an increasingly exasperated roommate and Power’s pragmatic, farm-raised mom always ready with a one-liner. ‘You’re not going to go all American, are you?’ she asks Power at the start of her experiment. ‘You know… happy.’ …Bridget Jones does self-help.”—Rachel Rosenblit, Washington Post
“A meta book about the [self-help] genre.”—Forbes
“Bold, earnest, and utterly hilarious…You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might even achieve the level of self-acceptance Power reaches by the end.”—Refinery29, “Best Books of January”
“Self-help is a huge industry—but does it actually work? Journalist Marianne Power decided to find out.… With the rollicking, easy-to-read voice of a Sophie Kinsella or Bridget Jones novel, this book showcases how complicated the notion of changing your life actually is—and questions some of the inherent problems with self-help in the first place, while recognizing its very real ability to transform one’s life. It also acts as a sampler platter of self-help books that are actually worth your time. If you’re looking to make changes in the new years and wondering where to begin, this is a great jump-start.”—mindbodygreen, Best Books of January
“Harrowing, often side-splitting … Throughout this consistently entertaining book, [Power] writes with unflinching honesty—and bald hilarity, especially as she encountered deadpan reality checks from her mother, sisters, and skeptical friends—about the throes of facing her fears, tackling money issues, living in the present, opening herself up to rejection, and getting over her hang-ups with men … Bridget Jones meets Buddha in this plucky, heartwarming, comical debut memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Couldn’t put this book down—Marianne’s honesty and wit shone through. There’s something everyone can relate to, whether or not you like self-help – just a hugely enjoyable, fantastic read.”—Poorna Bell, author of Chase the Rainbow
“Sparkling … a laugh-out-loud odyssey, with embarrassing incidents and downright disasters aplenty. But the real triumph of the book is the way it transcends its ‘Bridget Jones gazes at her navel’ premise to ask searching questions both about the purported effectiveness of self-help in the light of a multi-million dollar personal development industry; and about how we can really best find contentment. If you’ve ever worried that self-help might be a euphemism for self-obsession, then this is a book for you.”—Bookseller
“Power is such an engaging writer, it’s hard not to empathise with what she’s saying … Plus, she’s very funny … Marianne Power is a delightful companion and one who (putting all natural misanthropy aside) acts a powerful reminder that the traditional ways of denigrating or demanding too much of ourselves ain’t going to get us anywhere … excellent.”—Emerald Street
“Funny and fearless, I loved Help Me! almost as much as I loved Marianne’s mum who was always on hand with some no-nonsense advice and really needs to write her own self-help book.”—Red Magazine
“A sweet sharp read, and the last chapter made me cry. As someone a bit dubious of self-help books, it’s perfect: Power spends a year trying to live a month per book. It’s quite a fun journey through the ups and downs of negotiating ourselves through life, but underneath that is a serious, generous message, and it really does feel like you’ve learned something by the end of it.”—Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist
“A laugh-out-loud funny book that also manages to be thought-provoking, perceptive and devastatingly honest. I loved it.”—Lucy Diamond, author of Summer at Shell Cottage
“Sublime and ridiculous, in equal measure. I tore though it hungrily. One minute I was having an existential epiphany, the next I was honking with laughter. Britain’s answer to Sarah Knight, with Amy Schumer’s naked hilarity and Matt Haig’s soul-deep profundity chucked in.”—Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober
“Marianne’s writing makes me smile and has moved me to tears more than once. She combines a journalist’s no-nonsense investigative skills with a tenderness and honesty that sets her apart. In her blog she wrote frankly and movingly about issues that so many women are dealing with but can find it hard to talk about because we’ve all got caught up in trying to present our best faces to the world. Her writing has been a starting point for so many conversations that brought me closer to friends I thought I knew intimately, and from the comments on every post I know that hundreds of others felt the same. In helping herself, it turned out that Marianne was helping all of us.”—Erin Kelly, author of He Said / She Said and The Poison Tree
Praise for the Help Me! blog
“Outstanding…powerful honesty.”— Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich
“Messy and deep…that’s what makes it so good.”—Marianne Cantwell, author of Free Range Humans
“Raw and honest writing, inspiring.”—Kate Northrup, author of Money A Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
I started small on January 2nd – with a spot of parallel parking. Not exactly dramatic, but I hadn’t tried it since my driver’s test when I was seventeen.
At home my bold step into the world of fear-fighting was not greeted with excitement.
‘I just did a parallel park!’ I told mum, swinging the car keys on my fingers like a man of the road, an easy rider. She looked up from the sink full of dishes.
‘Does your book tell you to park?’
‘No, it’s just about doing scary things. Confronting your fears. And parking is scary.’
Mum looked bewildered. She didn’t find parking scary. She could fit a truck on a postage stamp and would make no big deal about it.
When she was my age she had three children and a house to run, she was not ‘challenging’ herself by parking or jumping into icy ponds.
She did not have time for self-discovery or, as she puts it, ‘I was not brought up to contemplate my toenails.’ Funnily enough, self-help wasn’t big on the farm in rural Ireland, where she grew up, the eldest daughter of seven brothers and sisters.
When I had told her about my idea at Christmas, she opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. Then she opened it. And closed it.
‘Most people would say your life is already very good, Marianne.’
‘I know it is but what’s wrong with wanting to be a bit happier?’
‘Nobody can be happy all the time. It’s just not the way life is.’
‘Well that’s miserable.’
‘No, it’s not. It’s realistic. Maybe you would feel better if, instead of always looking for more, you were grateful for what you have.’