Re-Branding The Self Help Section Of The Bookstore

Shani Silver
5 min readDec 26, 2019

It’s time.

Photo by Noémi Macavei-Katócz on Unsplash

You do a lap. You pick up a novel for cover. Maybe you hide behind the high collar of your winter coat like a Cold War-era operative. You’ve gone to the bookstore to shop for self-help literature and you don’t want anyone to know. It’s embarrassing. It suggests a broken-ness. It’s a sad endeavor. It shouldn’t be. This situation is bad for business, and we can fix it. We just need some new PR, that’s all.

I do realize that bookstores, on the whole, are dying. Self-help sections probably had very little to do with their demise. But if I can contribute even one small morsel of sustenance to their survival than I’ve done a good deed this day. Bookstores are a weight-bearing Jenga piece in human culture and they must be protected far better than we’re protecting them now. In fact if, after reading this, someone proudly walks into their local bookshop and Instagrams themselves #selfhelpshopping I’d be quite proud. Anyway.

Self Help as a retail section implies a negative. This branding was flawed from the start. It instantly insinuates that you need help, and are therefore deficient in some capacity. Oh, you’re in the Self Help section? Wonder what’s wrong with you. Isn’t that just like our society? To kick a person in the shins just as they’re trying to do something good for themselves, thereby negatively reinforcing a good behavior and decreasing the probability that the behavior will continue. We’ve Pavlov’s dogging ourselves into darkness and I won’t go quietly.

I see no shame in Self Help. I see bravery, really. Someone who not only went out into the world in search of betterment, but also had the presence of mind to acknowledge their own need for same. It takes a viking these days, it really does. We should be applauding them, applauding ourselves, rolling out a red carpet that leads us directly to the section of the bookstore we’re looking for, as opposed to hiding it so far in the back and to the left that we have to ask someone where it is. The humanity.

Shani Silver

Author, podcaster. shanisilver@gmail