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The Self-Help Industry


Self-help books have been around for a very long time, but it was during the mid-twentieth century when the industry, a decidedly American one, truly flourished.

However, along the way, the idea of helping yourself morphed via New Thought philosophy. Instead of writers telling their readers to focus on hard work, self-discipline, and faith in God, using quasi-religious language, authors are telling their audience to think positive thoughts and because they desire something, it will happen.

But all's not lost.

"City Journal's" Laura Vanderkam relates that most of the people who read self-help books pick and choose the advice that they follow. They must not all be filled with hokum. Folklorist Sandra K. Dolby has tackled the subject in her artfully titled book, "Self-Help Books: Why Americans Keep Reading Them."

By the way, from the self-help books Vanderkam listed, I can pick at least two that I've read. How about you?

Comments:

It's easy to dismiss this stuff, and some of the typical criticism is fair. Many of these books--along with their readers--make the questionable assumption that the author's own experiences can automatically apply to others.

On the other hand, the anecdote cannot simply be dismissed. It might be the exception, but at least it is more real and solid than a lot of theory.
Lee,
The older and possibly a smidgen wiser I get, the more I realize I truly need all the help I can get.

Thanks be to God!
I've read several of them by Carnegie, Peale, Covey, Robbins and others, since they're encouraged (and sometimes required) reading for any career associated even indirectly with Sales. (Even if I disagree completely with the premise, it's useful to know how others are thinking.) Many are compatible with Mormonism, which was nurtured in the same soil as New Thought; both claim you can pull yourself up via your own bootstraps (which is amusing to visualize), and that any failure is your own fault (which Mormonism even attributes to failures from before your own birth). I.e., "Your life is a mess, but you did this to yourself; now get up and get going to make it better!" (Interestingly, that's a very conservative idea, which clashes quite intensely with the liberal notion of permanent victim-hood and the need for help from other people and/or the government.)

I found the book _Spirits In Rebellion_ to be a fantastic resource for the background of this movement, along with a lot of articles I read in the "Christian Research Journal".

http://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Rebellion-Rise-Development-Thought/dp/0870740253

http://www.equip.org/category/new-age/

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You seem to have a theme going here, Kim, with self-help versus supernatural help. Keep up the good work!