4 Books That Will Help You Fight (and Beat) Anxiety

4 Anxiety Books Cover

That gnawing sense of unease and that we call anxiety affects far too many of us. Whilst it’s estimated that 4% of the global population currently experience a diagnosable anxiety disorder, millions more experience a lingering sense of trepidation and worry that undermines living with ease. Anxiety steals our ability to flourish and thrive – which is why many people seek out therapy to better understand their own triggers and anxious responses. But what else can you do?

For anyone who wants to explore how to reduce feelings and symptoms of anxiety and find ways to live with ease – there’s plenty of self-help books that offer insight and practical strategies for managing anxiety. Therapists call reading to support improved mental wellbeing, “bibliotherapy” – the art of reading, including reading self-help books, can be therapeutic. Here we delve into three tips from a range of anxiety self-help books that I find helpful when working with anxiety. I hope that you’ll find ideas and approaches from these books that you can adopt and adapt in your own life to find freedom from anxiety.

Be a Human Being in the Present Moment

We are human beings, not human doings. Sometimes, we can become so fixated on the to-do list and what we need to achieve that we forget the art of simply “being” and remaining present to this moment. Anxiety tends to drag us into past problems and future concerns – with worries and fears of “why didn’t I…” and “what if…” haunting us. To-do lists keep us trapped in a future focus and the “someday” rather than the here-and-now, meaning the specter of anxiety is never far away.

Richard Carlson’s classic, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff advocates living in the present moment, rather than keeping busy ruminating about the past or giving our focus only to our future planning. Relaxation and taking time to simple “be” is one of Carlson’s remedies for reducing the torment of anxiety in our lives. In this book, the “someday” becomes the “right now”. The book ends with the stark message that this day might be your last day. Such a sentiment certainly helps to bring a sense of perspective to life. Remind yourself that it’s all small stuff with this simple summary of Carlson’s classic book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

If you’re looking for some practical and natural ways to access relaxation, consider the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Dr Qing Li’s book, Forest Bathing is the go-to book on the topic. Forest Bathing encourages us to find a sense of serene calm and quiet amongst trees, mindfully observing nature whilst breathing deeply. Recent research has shown Forest Bathing to be effective at reducing and managing anxiety. Read a summary of Forest Bathing to begin to incorporate this mindful practice into your weekly schedule.

Find the Courage to Choose Your Own Path

Criticism can be anxiety provoking to receive, even when we recognise its potentially constructive nature. The fear of rejection can lead to a perfectionism that fuels anxiety – we become terrified of getting it wrong or facing other’s judgement. We begin to fear the perceived attack of another’s viewpoint and become defensive or withdraw and let go of our own power. We lose touch with our own path and own evaluation of self in the process. Left unchecked, we become orientated around what others think of us, rather than what we think of us. Spiraling anxiety can be the result.

Facing the fear of such judgement and learning to walk our own path regardless is the theme of The Courage to Be Disliked, written by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga Set out as a conversation between an older philosopher and a younger man, the book explores ways to develop the courage to change and to ignore limitations that we place on ourselves. If you’re short on time, this simple summary of The Courage to Be Disliked can be a great place to begin to implement some of the key messages from the book to help lessen the grip anxiety has on you and your life.

Lean Into Your Vulnerability

As a defense against anxiety, it can be tempting to hide behind a façade of invincibility. Somehow, it feels easier to show our strength, fortitude, and our capabilities rather than our fear and flaws. The cost of such defense is connection. We lose the opportunity for intimacy and real relationships when we choose to hide our fullness, including our vulnerability. Lack of connection leaves us isolated and alone. Yes, taking pride in doing something well is a mark of healthy self-esteem and can help us stay true to our own values. But it’s also a fallacy to believe or think that we will or must never make a mistake.

Aiming for “good enough” and being transparent about our vulnerability is the key message at the core of Brene Brown’s writing – particularly in her best seller, Daring Greatly. Brown explains how taking the plunge of allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a sign of strength and courage and has the power to shrink shame and build anxiety proofing resilience. Find the courage to dive into this book by dipping your toe into this simple summary of Daring Greatly.

So, reading can be great for our mental health. Reading relaxes our bodies by lowering heart rate and easing muscle tension. Even just six minutes of reading has been shown to be effective at promoting a relaxation response. So, if you’re looking for ways to manage and reduce your anxiety, the books listed here are helpful places to begin your journey into self-help reading for anxiety. Book summaries are a great way to both save time and gain the overview and key message of a given book. I hope that the books listed here are helpful for you in finding freedom from anxiety.


GBD Results Tool. In: Global Health Data Exchange [website]. Seattle: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; 2019.

Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute (2017) An Investigation into the Therapeutic Benefits of Reading in Relation to Depression and Well-Being.

Siah, C.J.R., Goh, Y.S., Lee, J., Poon, S.N., Ow Yong, J.Q.Y. & Tam, W.-S. (2023) The effects of forest bathing on psychological well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 32, 1038–1054.

Last Updated on February 22, 2024

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Claire Law

Claire is a Qualified and Accredited MBACP (Accd.) Registered Integrative Psychotherapist. She has a background of almost 20 years of teaching experience. She now works as a relational psychotherapist, writer and trainer. Claire is passionate about supporting children's and young people's mental health and wellbeing.