A feminist analysis of self-help bestsellers for improving relationships: a decade review

J Marital Fam Ther. 2001 Apr;27(2):165-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2001.tb01154.x.


Self-help literature is pervasive and influential in the United States. A critical analysis of self-help books would help therapists to determine their utility for the therapeutic process and assist them in making reading recommendations to clients. In this study, a content analysis was conducted of the top 11 relationship self-help books on the New York Times Bestseller List over a period of 10 years (1988-1998) to determine the degree to which these books support a feminist approach to therapy. This study yielded three major findings. First, the number of feminist books, the number of nonfeminist books, and those falling in the middle across four components of feminist family therapy are about equal. However, the second major finding was that the top-selling books are more likely to be nonfeminist than feminist. The third finding is that most best-selling self-help books appear to have become less compatible with a feminist approach to relationships over time. This analysis encourages therapists to think critically about these best-selling books; it will also allow therapists to consider this methodology as a model for critically analyzing other books that they recommend to clients or use in their own professional development.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Feminism*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Manuals as Topic / standards*
  • Self Efficacy*