I kind of expected to see a lot of familiar titles when I saw an article by Richard Davies called “The 30 Best Self- Help Books.” Indeed, there were just six of the thirty I didn’t recognize. The other twenty-four are books which turn up nearly every week. This begs the question of whether the donors are giving away these examples of the best because the books did work, or because they didn’t. We needn’t go into that.
For those of you who are strangers to the Book Fair and came to this blog because you clicked on the line below the Newark High School Marching Band website, self help books go into a category we call “How To (Head)”. But not all of the books on this list are to be found there, because no two people sort books exactly the same way.
There are, for example, four novels on the list, and we don’t put novels–no matter how inspirational–in with Chicken Soup For the Soul. Nay, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Celestine Prophecy, and The Alchemist will be found in Science Fiction and Fantasy, while Siddhartha is in Literature, with the rest of Herman Hesse.
The Anatomy of Melancholy, which he lists as a guide to mental health, is generally to be found in our Philosophy section. (So is Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but that’s because helpful customers like to move it there.) The same is true for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Man’s Search for Meaning. (This last has equal claims to going into Psychology or Biography, but the question of where to put Holocaust memoirs which are classics of existential psychiatry is one of those things I’ll consider when I have won the Lottery and have a lot of time on my hands.)
I’m Ok - You’re OK, How To Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich–these are all to be found in How To (Head), along with the work of Melody Beattie, Norman Vincent Peale, and M. Scott Peck. Carl Sagan, however, is generally to be found in Science, even though his advocacy of scientific principles as a guide to life could be considered self-help. (Have I ever mentioned my volunteer who felt that Plato and Aristotle should be taught in Kindergarten, so children would learn to reason at an early age? She also wanted Stephen R. Covey to write a Kindergarten age version of his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which also makes the list. By the way, Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten does not, somehow, make the top 30.)
As to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, this is usually to be picked up in Military History, even though I get a LOT of copies donated with collections of business management books. He recommends it also as a guide to sports or marriage (though he quickly notes that was meant as a joke. I dunno: I bet there are a few marriage counselors with a copy on the office shelf.)
It’s a good list, and I have customers who would just adore a chance to argue with the author about why, say, Norman Cousins is not in the tally, nor Bernie Siegel or Rich Dad, Poor Dad. There are experts on every subject to be found among the crowd in July: they are willing to lecture me on the thinking behind Free to Be You and Me or what Tony Robbins learned from Wayne Dyer which Dyer picked up from Dale Carnegie. If you are one of these people, I would be glad to give you the Web address of this list, so you can join the people who commented on it.
In the meantime, I’m going to be working on my next bestseller, How To Lose Fifteen Pounds and Make a Million in Real Estate While Raising Your Self-Esteem By Proving Marilyn Monroe Was Murdered. The royalties from that should hold me until the Lottery picks the right numbers.