We all love self-help books, at least I love self-help books and I especially enjoy simple self-help books. There is an opportunity to learn a new tool and potentially to develop a useful skill quickly and this simply is the quintessence of modern life and certainly mine. Way back when I read Dale Carnegie’s famous book on “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, this was the first of many similar books that I have read over the years. In a similar vein Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” and I am guessing that you can see the benefit of the catchy titles that give us a pretty good clue what the aim of the book is. These are old masterworks containing a mass of anecdotes that have been collected, generally, over many years of background work by the authors. The main message, though, was developed early on and probably could be communicated in just a couple of pages. The reason that these books take so many words to communicate their message is simply that the authors choose a subtle pedagogic style of attempting to lead the reader to understand and then to learn for themselves the deeper smart of the message. This type of book is the product of more effort that most of us will put into a book in this day and age. That does not mean that there are not ebooks of note and substance that can be found. What is true is that the modern versions of self-help books will tend to be shorter and much less subtle and leave the reader with a brain full of thoughts and ideas that will need to be processed and manipulated into a relevant context. This is modern society and clearly, instead of having just a single tome on the subject there are multiple available works which we can find and read and learn from. Rather than a single source we live in a world of interlaced matrices of information from which we define our own understanding.
Self-published ebooks are as good a place as any to find new self-help works that can add to our matrix of understanding. Of course the authors will have a hard time, more often than not, making us believe in their credentials but that surely should not eliminate the potential value of the message. We can always validate the message by finding corroborative works elsewhere. A couple of these works stood out for me recently. Andrew West writing in “Simple and Easy to use Anger MANAGEMENT Techniques for East and West” makes use of Zen insights and meditation elements which often seem incompatible with the high pace of western culture. We are more often than not incapable of reflection or taking the time to live in the moment and so our culture leads us inevitably to stress and anger. The author has made some good inroads into defining approaches that do fit in both culturally and effectively. There was a fair amount of repetition of advice, but when the advice is worthy then perhaps this is ok too. It does reflect, though, that authors have to be careful not to indulge in continuously restarting their lesson, lest the reader turn off completely. A natural length for such a book would be given by the scope of the expertise and the number of supporting discussions. The tendency of some other works to develop an ebook of specific size must be avoided, it is the content that surely dictates what this must be. This is the approach in “33 Ways to Boost Traffic to Your Website TODAY (Marketing Matters)” by Jeff Hamilton. As a total ignoramus in this area I have to be very positive about having read the 33 ways. It made a lot of sense and is a pick up and get working guide. I have not tried the ways but I will. The important thing to say about this work is that it is very brief, in essence not larger than the message it is trying to communicate. This is the extreme of a self-help guide because it is all about the how, a little is said about the why and very little is hinted at the in-use experiences.
So we have come to the other extremis of the pendulum swing. From Carnegie’s tome to Hamilton’s pamphlet; the lessons are different but still powerful and readily applicable in today’s environment but the reader’s choice is to find a timeless classic that will be useful in the future or to take a quick lesson today and be happy to take another quick lesson tomorrow when the world has turned once again.