Work & Purpose

The 9 Best Self-Help Books for Boomers

The newest titles that can make midlife the time of your life!

It's a new year! Time to get a new job! Time to figure out how to retire! Time to unravel the intricate mysteries of Social Security! Time to seize that smart-alecky Twitter thing by the lapels and show it who's boss — and while you're at it, find yoga sources to keep your fiftysomething body limber! All of which you could do, if somebody told you how.

Every year billions of self-improvement books get published. To find out which ones are the most beneficial to our 50-plus age group, I talked to AARP book editor Jodi Lipson, marketing experts and lifestyle writers. Here are their favorite titles:

Power Marketing for Small Business by Alfred Poor of the Center for Small Business speaks to the fact that more and more older Americans are trying their hands at entrepreneurial ventures. Whether it’s to add a little income or to replace lost jobs, they're launching and getting involved with small businesses. But one of the biggest marketing challenges is getting found by potential customers and clients. This book shows how adding video to your website can give you the most impact for the smallest investment of time and money.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Twitter Marketing Although lots of boomers are in business for themselves, says marketing maven and co-author Esther Schindler, not all of us are comfortable with shout-about-myself marketing ("Aren't I cool? Don't I offer the best services anywhere?"). One of the nicest things about Twitter is that you don't have to tell people that you're great; you can simply share your achievements or what you're proud of and people can conclude for themselves that you're great.

(More: 3 Great Jobs to Ride the Age Wave)

Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness Mark Sisson, a voice in the movement to increase wellness using evidence derived from the study of human evolution, says it's time to get primal. That means going barefoot to cure foot and back pain, wearing sunglasses at night to improve sleep quality, and powering down our multitask modes in favor of the better-quality focus of single tasking, among other things. According to Sisson, the frenetic pace of modern life — too much noise, too much artificial light and way too much digital stimulation — is stressing our nervous systems both day and night. He offers guidelines to reconnect us to our brains' hard-wiring, trigger feel-good hormones, and promote optimal gene expression that allows us to reset modern life and make time for play, adventure, quiet reflection, friends, family, rest and rejuvenation. All that, with no need to spend money on a health spa!

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes Psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova shows us how to unpack the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights a la the master of deductive reasoning. Drawing on 21st-century neuroscience and psychology, Konnikova explores Holmes's unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation and logical deduction. Sherlock Holmes's extraordinary intellect isn't merely a gift of fiction, she says. We can learn to cultivate these abilities, starting in that vast mental attic where information is stored and organized.

The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky believes we've been sold a false bill of goods: myths, in other words, about what will give us lifelong happiness. As it turns out, we're far more resilient than we think. Because we're led to believe that life's turning points will affect us so profoundly — be it marital status, children, professional satisfaction, wealth, financial ruin or illness — we perceive natural rites of passage as emotional land mines and make wrong decisions. In a nutshell, we put too much weight on our initial emotional responses. The Myths of Happiness directs readers to look beyond that first response, offering the perspective we need to make wiser choices, whether it's how to slow the amount of time it takes for good news to wear off or how to find our way out of a time of darkness.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe isn't a self-help or instructional book per se, but it's rich in life lessons that have triggered many to start book clubs with loved ones at any point in the age spectrum. It tells the tale of a mother and son who bond over books as the author's mother endures chemotherapy treatments for her fast-moving pancreatic cancer. Reading the same books, ranging from classic to popular, from fantastic to spiritual, gives them something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. You don't have to wait until someone you love is sick to enter into one of these reading groups. The book speaks to people 50+ because we're looking to deepen our relationships with loved ones who are older than us as well as those in the next generation who might have left home. Schwalbe has received feedback from grateful readers who've simply run out of things to talk about with children off in college, as well as from a grandmother who started reading The Hunger Games with her grandson and now has something to chat about beyond "Did you do your homework?" or "When are you coming to visit me in Florida?"

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Lisa Vaas
By Lisa Vaas
Lisa Vaas has been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. Her work appears in such publications as Sophos' Naked Security, Forbes, Time, and the U.S. and British editions of "HP's Input/Output." She can also be read at http://lisavaas.com.

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