As a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I grew up in the “golden age” of self-help books. Thanks to the post-sexual revolution and pop-psychology, I’m Okay, You’re Okay and Our Bodies, Our Selves were shelved right alongside Tolkien and the latest Steven King (the latter two were more my speed) on the bookcases of the adults in my life. (If my parents owned the #1 bestseller Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask, I never found it.) To this day, I’m ambivalent about them. Haven’t you ever wondered if the secret to wealth, happiness, love, and whatever else you’re looking for is waiting right there in the pages of Dr. Phil’s latest? In spite of my curiosity, derision usually wins out. As I said to my friend D., an acolyte of books like The Secret, “Explain to me how a third-world child bride, for example, is going to rise above her condition by wishful thinking. Sure, we have the luxury to sit around finding ways to affirm our life choices, but is that really how we should be spending our time?” (Smug, I’m know, but I’m not the one proselytizing so that a self-help guru can buy another private jet.) A quick peek at the current bestseller list reveals things haven’t changed all that much over the years. The publishing industry continues to trot out titles like The Five Love Languages and The Happiness Project. But do they really differ that much from the recycled advice in Cosmo or from what our parents were reading in the ‘70s? I doubt it. While there may be some nuggets of knowledge to be found in self-help books, I’ll stick to earning wisdom the best way I know how: advice from friends and trial and error.
Find out more about the new “anti self-help book” The Case for Falling in Love or, better yet, watch Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as a father-daughter team scamming widows during the Depression in Paper Moon. Are self-help books a scam or a life-saver? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Tags: forty, forty-plus, Our Bodies Ourselves, over forty, Paper Moon, self help, self help books, The Case For Falling In Love, women, women over forty