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Three Books For The Self-Help Skeptic

You're probably a little skeptical about people who read self-help books. But I see these missives a little differently: After all, if I don't help myself, who will?

Once upon a time, I was in a rut -- the same negative thoughts every day, the same disorganized mess at home, problems that never got solved. Over the years, there were three books that helped me at critical moments. Each book, in its own way, helped me to clear my head, clean my closet and change my life. Scoff if you must, but they can shake it up for you, too -- if you're ready.


The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

By Don Miguel Ruiz, paperback, 138 pages, Amber-Allen Publishing, list price: $12.95

The Four Agreements changed my attitudes, my relationships and the way I move about the world. Ready for them? Here they are:

1) Always do your best.

2) Don't make assumptions.

3) Never take anything personally.

4) Be impeccable with your word.

These simple rules went straight to the core of every major area in my life. It's amazing how four simple ideas can transform everything. I still open it whenever I struggle. A tiny book with gigantic wisdom -- and not nearly as woo-woo as you might think.


Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui

By Karen Kingston, paperback, 192 pages, Broadway, list price: $11.95

An old friend gave me Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui before I got on a plane. I went home from the airport inspired -- and proceeded to raid the closets, open boxes that hadn't been touched since college and donate unloved gifts.

This book is all about permission to let go of the things, including ideas and people, that drain your life of energy and vitality. There's even a chapter about clearing your colon. In other words: Everything you don't need, don't love or don't want? Let it go.


Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress and Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love

By Judith Orloff, paperback, 384 pages, Three Rivers Press, list price: $14.95

In a busy, techno-dependent culture, we can end up feeling depleted and exhausted without even knowing why. Dr. Judith Orloff's book Positive Energy offers real solutions, such as how to protect yourself from energy vampires (you know who they are), or cure "technodespair" (Had a meltdown the last time you lost Internet access? You have it.)

This book taught me to turn away from the things that drain, and turn toward the things that nurture. I still multitask, and occasionally check my e-mail while I'm on the treadmill -- but at least I know better.

In my work, I am drawn to the nitty gritty, the dark, the underbelly. But in my life, like most of us -- yeah, even you -- I look for balance and harmony. Do yourself a favor for once -- silence that snarky inner voice and read these three books.

Lisa Unger is a New York Times bestselling author. Her latest novel, Fragile, was published in August.

Three Books... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva.

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Lisa Unger