First, a disclaimer. I’m not the perfect authority on the best self-help book for summer because I’m not exactly a self-help book person. They can feel too prescribed for me, too repetitive, too simple. Sometimes even too confusing.
More often than not I end up feeling somewhat empty by the end of the book, like I’ve missed something. Like I bit into what I thought was going to be a dense, delicious cake only to discover it was mostly air.
Let’s face it, life is complicated and messy, and self-help books usually aim to simplify and clean it up it in some way.
Now that’s a tall order. And in an effort to fill it, much of the self-help genre relies on advice giving and prescribed remedies.
But deep down do we actually want that? Do we need the mostly one-size-fits-all advice of a self-help book for what ails us?
And when you think about it, we aren’t truly sick are we? Certainly we’re seeking something, answers maybe, but in that state what we may need most is to let ourselves out, to explore and experiment. To be moved and healed. To be touched and inspired.
Pretty different from advice, don’t you think?
So at this point you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m writing about the best self-help book for summer.
Yes indeed, who am I to offer a recommendation?
Well, here’s what happened. I stumbled on a list of summer self-help books, and I got curious. I wondered what my list would look like.
Because in spite of the way this blog post started out, I do have some much loved self-help on my shelf. But when I considered compiling a list of them for summer, I immediately pushed back.
Nope. Too much of a homework assignment for both me and you. Still, I figured I could maybe choose one, the best self-help book for summer based on what has moved, touched, healed and inspired me.
Admittedly, this is a very personal lens on self-help. Yours might be totally different.
Before I could even begin to narrow it down, I had to consider the qualities that I’d want in my own best self-help book for summer.
I discovered that the book had to be…
- Relatively short and easy to read, and easy to get lost in
- Colorful, fun and playful, with both words and pictures
- Written by someone who really knows their stuff
- Thought provoking, wise and ultimately hopeful
- Experimental in some way, encouraging action of some sort
- Focused on the reader finding their own answers
- Inspiring, moving and healing (or at least with the potential for it)
So, based on that criteria, the best self-help book for summer is: Life, Paint and Passion.
Life, Paint and Passion was written by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley, experts in the art process painting. (To learn more about them, click on their names to see all the wonderful things they’re up to these days.)
As you may know, process painting is one of the expressive arts, which emphasizes personal exploration and creative experience rather than the finished product.
Much like expressive writing, process painting has the capacity to guide you through the messy and complicated territories of life that I alluded to earlier, not by providing direct routes or answers, but by opening up space to let your imagination out and discover what’s already in you.
Not surprisingly, process painting, like process writing, is also a vehicle for mindfulness, a sanctuary and respite in and of itself, a way to retreat, reset and restore balance in your life.
Plus, process painting can be incredibly fun and playful.
Every time I pull the book off the shelf I’m enthralled again. Not only does it meet all my criteria for the best self-help book for summer, but you can flip it open to almost any page and start reading. Each short chapter, and the stories in them, will almost certainly lead you to pause and consider picking up a paint brush yourself.
If you do decide to paint, the book includes ample wisdom about the best materials. But don’t let that stop you if you can’t get them. I’ve discovered that it works even with inexpensive craft paints and brushes. Big paper is good too.
Of the many things I love about the book, perhaps my favorite is that there are insightful painting prompts sprinkled throughout.
As an added bonus, they function as great writing prompts too.
Here’s what I mean, a few samples from the book. (I’ve added the “writing” option to each one.)…
- If you are planning instead of playing, think about this: What would you paint (or write) if it didn’t have to fit?
- The most interesting thing to paint (or write) is what you don’t know about yourself. The true meaning of the painting (or writing) is beyond any story you can expect or imagine.
- If you are frightened of painting (or writing) your demons, ask yourself: What would I paint (or write) if I let myself go wild?
- What would you paint (or write) if you could afford to be shamelessly uninhibited about what you created?
- If you’re attempting to resolve a problem with your painting (or writing), think about this: Does the creative process need you to check on its progress, or can it be trusted to do its work of healing?
So, are you ready to paint yet?
As the creative force passes through your inner world, it carries images and feelings that are uncompleted, unfinished, misunderstood, not experienced or denied. By spontaneously painting them, healing happens, not because of what you do with the image or meaning, but because of the powerful cleansing energy of creativity.
-Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley