Dubai: Their titles are many, but all rivers run to the ocean. These books explain how to beat stress, achieve goals, take better decisions, make friends, be content and live happily ever after.

According to book stores, experts and readers, people are buying self-help books in big numbers these days as they seek to empower themselves and have more control on their life situation.

“I read such books to develop myself,” said 28-year-old Emirati Abdullah Bin Salem.

Anything to do with mindfulness, happiness, ‘eat pray love’ sort of books, ‘find yourself’ topics and poetry does really well.

- Statement by Magrudy’s general manager

“I have benefited from these books much more than academic books at college,” he said, adding that his favourite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

A reader is turning pages of one of the self-help books at Magrudy's bookstore in Dubai. Self-Development books are among the top sellers in bookshops. Image Credit: Jumana Al Tamimi

He said he particularly liked to read stories of people who succeeded after they failed.

“They show the path to accomplishment. The learning experience is much better than any degree,” said Salem, who was thankful to his mother for encouraging him since a very young age to read books.

Self-improvement books help provide the basis of knowledge that can empower peoples’ choices and action, said Noni Nathoo, a personal trainer, certified nutritionist and life coach, who is also a bookworm.

Noni Nathoo
Noni Nathoo Image Credit: Supplied

Nathoo strongly believes that through knowledge, humans can “shift to action”.

“I believe that everyone who is given a chance to do better will do better — but they have to know what better is and why. That’s where I lean on well written material by some geniuses. These books help my clients fill in the gaps in their perception to help empower them and take the steps they wish for themselves,” she said.


self-help books’ share of the 350,000 books sold in 2018

“I have personally used these books to understand how to optimise my own performance. I believe that’s what these books accomplish. They open our minds to potential and encourage us to perhaps break down our limiting beliefs so we can be better versions of ourselves in whatever we desire.

"Each of these authors reveal thoughts and emotions that readers identify with as they themselves have asked the same questions or have felt the same way,” Nathoo added.

Many people turn to books to update their knowledge to carry out their duties.

Sonali Bhat, a supervisor at The Indian High School in Dubai, said her favourite book ‘Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg actually helped her at work, “because habits are strong among youngsters”.

Sonali Bhat
Sonali Bhat Image Credit: Supplied

Self-development books also help readers to keep on track of latest trends in different fields, said Bhat who regularly visits bookshops and book fairs.

Bookstores on their part confirmed that self-help books are among their top sellers.

In a statement to Gulf News, Magrudy’s general manager said self-development books comprised nearly 30 per cent of the total 350,000 books sold in 2018.

“Anything to do with mindfulness, happiness, ‘eat pray love’ sort of books, ‘find yourself’ topics and poetry does really well,” the statement said. Online sales and e-books are also “seeing growth”, the bookstore claimed.

At Kinokuniya, self-development books are second only to literature in terms of sales.

Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of Light House Arabia in Dubai, said, “Self-development books are popular because they are usually about the human condition. Regardless of where we live, we all struggle with stress, lack of self-compassion, negative thought patterns, difficulties in communicating with others, marital issues etc. So everyone can relate to these books. Some practices or applied skills might be more culturally relevant than others, but the topics usually are quite universal.”

Saliha Afridi
Saliha Afridi Image Credit: Supplied

From the readers’ point of view, they can learn lessons from the books at their own pace and in privacy, as they don’t have to discuss their difficulties with others.

“Knowing that others may be going through something similar or writing about things that you are going through makes it a shared experience. It validates and normalises their own difficulties,” said Afridi.

“However, self-help books are not for everyone. People who have mild difficulties and a high level of insight and discipline are probably able to use them best. For others, it just adds to their difficulties and frustration. Knowing something, and integrating it into your day-to-day life are two very different things. All self-help books require you to practise and integrate that knowledge into your life,” added Afridi.

Best sellers at Kinokuniya for 2018 and 2019 (some titles are on the list since 2018).

1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

2. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

3. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organising and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) by Marie Kondō

4. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

5. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz

6. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

7. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

8. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

9. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene