Self-help books deemed scammy

That’s similar to my method.

The only tool I really thought was worth the hype was Vellum, so that I could get them in formatted correctly without having to fuss with it.


RE The Secret:

I live around the corner from the fabulous world headquarters of the Beyond Words publishing, who brought The Secret into the world:

You think they would have visualized a nicer place by now.


I use Devonthink to organize my pdfs-- it’s kind of awesome being able to have a personal version of LexisNexis. The bulletin board attracts its fair share of people extolling the benefits of “being productive”. Which is fine, as long as people are still posting scripts and macros.


I’ll throw Suze Orman on the pile. Spent hours watching all of her shows, and many similar, hoping for something actionable to do. Other than the obvious (e.g., make more, spend less, etc.), the only actionable advice I ever got–buy her books and DVDs.

“Want to make a million dollars? We’ll show you how. Send $1 to…”


The previous tenant was Initech. The manager stayed on.

“If you could just visualise what you want to attract it, that’d be great…”


As a child, I remember reading a fiction book entitled “Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!” In it, a kid who’s struggling to figure out their place in the world finds the titular book, and attracted by its promise, follows its instructions to the letter, no matter how absurd and stupid they are. I can’t remember all the details, but I remember one of the things involved wearing a head of broccoli as a necklace. The kid slavishly follows all those instructions while everyone around him tries to pull him out of it, until he finally gets to the last step: sit in a room and drink lukewarm tea. Finally, the kid has the realization that this is what perfection means: never taking risks, never being yourself, just sitting in a room, alone, drinking lukewarm tea. He throws off the shackles of being a perfect person and becomes joyfully imperfect instead (and as it turns out, that’s what the self-help author was after all along)!

Anyway, here I am like twenty years later, and that book still colors my perception of anything approaching “self help”.


“These books are based on an industrial level of delusion, praying on people’s desperation”

Stuff like that always ruins the message for me. If you can’t spell or proof, I always wonder what other things are missing.


I had the displeasure of working at the public library when The Secret was at its most popular. There were definitely people who read everything in this genre, and never seemed better off for it. The worst of the worst is the Christian self help genre though. It’s all this same shit, but with Jesus added in (usually prosperity gospel nonsense). And the Christian self help ones can churn out books fast too.




As a librarian (a member of a profession that likes facts), this really cheeses me off. I usually toss psychology self-help books on the same pile as medical woo (‘Medical Medium’), financial woo (‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’) and any other book that claims to get where you want or need to go if you just buy it and follow its life-changing instructions. As others have noted, the advice ranges from innocuous and motivational to downright toxic. I really hate having to spend our library’s limited budget on self-help books that are written either by delusional twits, or purely to make the author and publisher fat royalty checks; but the marketing has convinced the NYT Book Review or Oprah to sell, sell, sell (and their followers to buy, buy buy!) At least Michael Connolly makes no bones that he’s writing purely for entertainment value.


Actually, for a certain subset, ‘praying’ is appropriate.


Interesting that no one has ever published a self-help book titled “Luck”.

Of course, it would contain two words: “That’s it.”


The movie version of this stars Wallace Shawn.

Terrible telecine available on YouTube:


Those Marie Kondo books show up at the thrift by the dozen…I guess her readers are taking her advice to clear away clutter.


They did not spark joy.


Gonna have to take issue with #19: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Basically an innovative treatise on recognizing and dealing with cognitive biases. E.g. the sunk cost fallacy that leads people to stick with stuff that isn’t working.

If ever there were a subject that should be taught in school this is it.


30+ years ago the HR department brought in someone to give us training on using day planners to help organize our lives. IIRC these courses were somehow related to Covey, or some similar quasi-religious bullshit.

The whole thing was mainly a scam geared towards getting you hooked on their weird notation scheme. Of course to follow their “system” you needed each calendar entry to have a box labeled “priority” or whatever, and their refills had all the right boxes with all the matching labels. They charged a small fortune for the annual calendar refills with the specialized pages, and there was no way the company was going to reimburse us for them. I remember creating a PostScript calendar that did what I needed without the clutter of the weird boxes, and I printed them for free on our shiny new PostScript printers. I used those right until the advent of the Palm Pilot.


Yours is awful too. At least in mine, this person wasn’t actively taking food away from children, just making a bad argument.

That pastor can rot.


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