Saturday, August 21, 2010

Help yourself

I've always been a bit iffy about self-help books. I see them on the shelves in bookshops, I hear them being talked about on the radio, and I almost always find myself wondering what kind of crackpot nonsense this one contains.

I do have a few myself. Some, I bought because something appealed to me, although it's rare that I'd agree with everything an author has to say. Still, one or two ideas or methods that help me work out some problem or other I have is OK by me. On the other hand, I have several that are complete and utter rubbish - those I bought because "everyone" was taking about them and I wanted to be able to give an informed opinion the next time I was asked what I thought of a particular book. (My opinion is pretty sure to be "Bollocks!" in case you're wondering.)

The thing that surprises me about self-help books is the same thing that puzzles me about fad diets, or those fat-loss miracle gadgets they sell on daytime TV infomercials: I'm amazed that there are so many gullible people out there. If the last thirty-seven books turned out not to contain the answer to all your problems, why on earth would you think that this new one will be "the one"?

I understand getting sucked in once, twice, even three times. But I know people with literally shelves full of these things, and they are utterly convinced that this one holds the key to happiness. It never does. There's definitely a certain type of person who likes to read about how to change their life for the better, but doesn't really want to put the effort into doing it. Surely at some point you have to stop reading books telling you how to live your life and just... live your life.

I really don't like being told what to do, so perhaps that has something to do with my aversion to literary life-changers.

So I'm curious: How many of these do you own? And is there one or more that has literally saved your life, your sanity, your marriage or something else important?

Do share.


LizN said...

I find many self help books a complete yawn, especially the ones that detail "plans" for you to follow to achieve psychological nirvana. However I have read a few good ones in my time - I enjoy Brian Tracy for goal setting and Brooke Castillo for self coaching.


Magda said...

Oh boy. I'll lead off (proudly - NOT!!) with a quick count of 22 books just based on diet, health, fitness etc. I have 2 more coming LOL. I'm sitting here laughing my head off. Out of the 22 I can name about 3 or 4 that had some good stuff in them and helped me at the time. I can also name many that I thought were total crap and left me wondering what all the fuss was.

Debstar said...

I once read The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It seems that I have been living according to his philosophies all along so I learnt nothing.
I have, over the years, read many books on dieting, food etc. Not one gave me the total information that I needed, and much of the information was useless, but each one has given me a morsel (pardon the pun) of information that has been valuable to me. Maybe for some people it is the same with self-help books.

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