Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Prophets

A Reader’s Bridge To Their True Self . . .

Did you know the best-selling book genre is “Self-Help”?

Do you know the roots of the genre?

Think it’s Psychology?

Eastern Mystics?


The Prophets of Religion?

I’ll leave the True Beginning of Self-Help as an exploration for your inner self to appreciate…

What I give you today is the latest best-seller in the genre: Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s Promise Land.

First a very curious bit of a review of the book:

“Jessica Lamb-Shapiro has an unusual relationship to the self-help industry: her father is a child psychologist who has authored numerous books on the subject. Lamb-Shapiro’s inherent ambivalence is at the heart of Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture, in which the author immerses herself in the world of seminars, mantras, and self-improvement, all the while exploring the nation’s enduring fascination with perfection. By turns funny and sad, the book is, ultimately, a deeply personal story—and a really good read.”

Apparently, her father’s books of self-help never sold well.

The NPR site has an interview with Jessica—audio and written. Here are a few excerpts:

“Lamb-Shapiro writes that even though she ‘had recoiled from self-help’ her entire life, she wanted to know ‘why people liked self-help so much, what it meant to them, whether it worked; and if it didn’t work, why people still craved it.’ It’s a funny and observant book that takes an emotional turn when she starts writing about a tragedy in her own family.”

Jessica: “You know, there’s a way in which philosophy tells us how to live our lives and self-help books tell us how to live our lives. So, you know, we tend to think of philosophy as this really lofty territory and self-help books as this ridiculous low-brow territory and I think that the language that they use and some of the ideas reflect that. There’s some base level where they’re trying to do the same thing, which is why something like ancient Greek philosophy can be sold in the self-help section.”

“People seem to be interested in self-improvement and so much of self-help is about buying things, so it makes sense that infomercials and reality shows, which tend to sell things, are part of that. And I think that that’s one of the ways that it just seeps into our lives. Because you can be exposed to an infomercial in passing or watch a reality TV show and you might not think that you’re engaging in self-help but you’re still being exposed to a lot of the ideas and values of it.”

So, where did self-help begin?

Reading the Words of a Prophet.

Reading what the Philosophers borrowed from the Prophets?

Reading what the Psychologists borrowed from the Philosophers?

Reading what the Self-Help Gurus borrowed from the Psychologists?

And, perhaps most importantly, why do you think Self-Help is the World’s Best-Selling Genre?
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