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Review: 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life, From Timeless Sages to Contemporary Gurus

50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life, From Timeless Sages to Contemporary Gurus50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life, From Timeless Sages to Contemporary Gurus by Tom Butler-Bowdon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a decent introduction to some of the most popular self-help books. It does a good job summarizing the main points of each book, explaining each book’s influence or claim to fame, and giving some biographical information about each book’s author. Since it’s really a reference book, I felt like I was being dipped into and out of the ideas, rather than immersed in them. For that, there’s no substitute for the books themselves.

The author uses a looser definition of self-help than I had anticipated. I expected modern self-help books like How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In addition to these, the list also includes books like Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Thoreau’s Walden. There are also several ancient philosophical and religious works such as The Bhagavad-Gita and The Bible.

I didn’t like the list's inclusion of New Age, paranormal “spiritual” works, advocating pseudo-scientific nonsense about using your mind to influence the physical world, bring good luck, and heal yourself and others.

Only a few of the books from my self-help shelf appear on this list. The list of all 50 books is available on Butler-Bowden’s site.

Common themes in self-help books
• Take control of your life, and take action! Don’t just float through life.
• Set high goals.
• Success depends on hard work, not luck.
• Be optimistic; think positively.
• Maintain a mindset of abundance, not poverty.
• Achieve “flow”, the mental state in which work comes naturally and brings joy and fulfillment.

Additional notes
• Effectiveness is more important than efficiency. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
• Be prosperity-conscious, not poverty-conscious. Appreciate the abundance of what you have, rather than focusing on what you lack. (Real Magic)
• Benjamin Franklin embodied the essence of self-evaluation and self-improvement. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is an excellent guide to self-improvement.

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