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4.6 out of 5 stars28
4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2004
This is *the* best book on the subject of self help, or indeed human existence for that matter.
The wealth of ideas is inspiring. It also acts as a perfect guide to further reading . There's background about each of the authors, the main points of their books are summarised and there's also a commentary. It's all written in an authoritative style (I immediately trusted the author) but it's told engagingly (as if it's told to you by a wise-but-trusted friend).
Buying self-help books can be a daunting task in itself. This book has guided me to books that I have loved including:
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck
(I'm also looking forward to reading Iron John by Robert Bly and Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Emerson!)
It has helped me avoid books that I would not enjoy, but even then I have been entertained and enlightened by Tom Butler-Bowdon description of them. I might not agree with what they have to say, but I find it helpful to know what they have said. I'm thinking particularly of John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus here.
Self-help books often get a bad press and it is true that not all of them are helpful. However, I think it's the duty of all individuals to learn as much about themselves and other people as they can. Why neglect all the great ideas just because they are written down?
This book should be given to every adult in the land. You learn about chemistry, physics, maths and geography at school but you are rarely prepared for how to interact with others, how even to live your life. This book is a gift for those looking for direction, reassurance or guidance.
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In both this volume and in 50 Success Classics, Butler-Bowdon has selected and then provided a rigorous examination of carefully selected works which have had, for decades, a profound impact on those who read them and then applied the principles which their respective authors affirm. In this instance, inspiration and guidance to transform one's life. There are several reasons why I hold this volume in such high regard. Here are three.
First, Butler-Bowdon has assembled excerpts and focused on key points from a wide variety of works which include (with authors listed in alphabetical order, as in the book), Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, Robert Bly's Iron John, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers' The Power of Myth, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler's The Art of Happiness, Wayne Dyer's Real Magic, Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, Abraham Maslow's Motivation and Personality, Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul, Joseph Murphy's The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Obviously, some of this material would also be appropriate for inclusion in 50 Success Classics.
Second, I appreciate the fact that Butler-Bowdon also enables his readers to focus on specific themes of greatest interest to them by suggesting combinations of selections as follows:
The Power of Thought: Change your thoughts, change your life
Following Your Dream: Achievement and goal setting
Secrets of Happiness: Doing what you love, doing what works
The Bigger Picture: Keeping it in perspective
Soul and Mystery: Appreciating your depth
Making a Difference: Transforming yourself, transforming the world
The diversity of Butler-Bowdon's primary sources is indeed impressive even when grouped according to a common theme.
Third and finally, he makes clever use of a number of reader-friendly devices throughout his narrative, such as "In a nutshell," "Final comments," and a brief bio of the author at the conclusion of each selection. I also appreciate the inclusion of brief quotations wherever they are most relevant.
In the Introduction, Butler-Bowdon observes that a self-help book "can be your best friend and champion, expressing a faith in your essential greatness and beauty that is sometimes hard to get from another person. Because of its emphasis on following your star and believing that your thoughts can remake your world, a better name for self-help writing might be the `literature of possibility.' Many people are amazed that the self-help sections in bookstores are so huge. For the rest of us, there is no mystery. Whatever recognizes our right to dream, then shows us how to make the dream a reality, is powerful and valuable."
What he offers is by no means a buffet of motivational "hors d'oeuvres." On the contrary, the content selected is solid and skillfully presented within an appropriate context. I am convinced that many of those who read this book will be encouraged to read (or re-read) many of the primary sources in their entirety. If Butler-Bowdon's efforts accomplish nothing else, that will indeed be sufficient to earn the praise I think he has earned...and justly deserves.
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2003
As a great lover of Self-help books, this book covers great books in all major self-help categories. The Author has placed the 50 titles into very useful sub-categories. Then there are the actual summaries themselves, which are extremely useful. I was also thinking this..... 'the author of this book is living proof that self-help books do work'. Tom's come up with a
great idea. I'm sure he'll be back with more. There are titles of older books that are centuries old and can be bought for under £2.00.
So far I've bought 'following your own North Star' which is a lovely book. 'Awaken the Giant Within' is 'THE NUMBER ONE ACTIVATOR BOOK'. If you keep searching and searching waiting for the ultimate book to get you fired up, I found 'Awaken the Giant Within' just Perfect. I preceeded this one with "The Power of the Sub-Conscious Mind" by Joseph Murphy. The author's little review on this was spot on. Thereby bypassing what might be off-putting from the Amazon negative reviews about references to the Bible, this book is "THE NUMBER ONE BOOK ABOUT THE IMPRINTING ON THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND". I was really unfocused about my daily habitual repetitions in my conscious mind and the impact that has on our lives. We create our own reality with our every thoughts. Now I'm far more alert. Enjoy Tom's great book.

Creator of the Beginner Tai Chi (DVD)
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on 13 October 2004
As a self-help "guru" I was delighted to come on this book just after it was published. It is treasure trove indeed for anyone interested at all in self help - or even someone who is a little sceptical. Although a self help enthusiast himself, the author is both crtical and fair minded and ranges over an amazing list ranging from the ancient, the sacred, the traditional and the modern. He points out the strengths and limits of each writer and gives a synopsis. My own copy of the book is already dog eared with use. As a bonus, he also gives another fifty writers with a brief outline of their writing in an appendix. A super book. Let's have volume 2 sometime!
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on 15 March 2003
I stumbled upon this book in error and thought it sounded interesting - what luck chance brought me, as this was one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time!
Butler-Bowdon writes really clearly and lightly; some of the books he covers are quite daunting but I came away with his summaries having made it clear what the authors wanted to achieve. I don't know how he got the idea to write a book like this but it was a brilliant one, and I think that it will become a classic itself - for the easy writing style, but also the amount of ideas he covers and summarises all in one place.
Since reading it from cover to cover I am still dipping in again to get the 'nutshells' of some of the 50 books, particularly the ones I wouldn't ever have thought of as self-help. I recommend this book as highly as possible; it really has something for everyone.
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on 18 February 2003
This is a comprehensive review with a wide scope, covering the teachings of Buddha, Tao Te Ching and 6th Century philosopher Boethius through to texts from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The focus is inevitably on the second half of the 20th century when the Self Help genre really established itself.
A standard format is used to review texts which are covered in enough detail to get a distinct insight into their content. Tom Butler-Bowdon is even-handed in his approach and doesn't give the impression he favours one particular strand over another. The discussion is lively and enaging so that, despite the similar format given to each book, my interest was maintained throughout.
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on 22 January 2004
I am an avid self help reader and found this publication fantastic. I have enjoyed and learnt from each review by Tom and this has inspired me to purchase other 'good' books. I cannot recommend this highly enough and think everyone will find inspiration in it. I hope there is a book 2 coming out soon
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on 29 September 2004
A wonderful book and great value for money. Really helps to see the wood as well as the trees. Anyone interested in self help will benefit from reading this helpful collection. The background information is also really useful. There is an excellent range of writers over many centuries. As a bonus, there are fifty more summaries of other self help writers as an appendix.
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on 8 March 2003
I saw this book whilst browsing for yet another fix of pop psychology and thought "Wow! I'll never have to read another self-help book again. This bloke has done all the reading for me. I'll save a fortune."
Well I've just read the book from cover to cover and intend doing so again. Unfortunately the author has only fuelled my desire to read even more books on the subject and what's more he's given me a massive list of titles! I'm not sure whether to thank him or batter him.
Great book. A new classic.
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on 9 October 2003
Tom Butler-Bowdon has put together a superb collection of short reviews of self-help books here. Although I had read many of the featured authors already, there is such a broad range in the chosen 50 that I suspect most other seasoned self-help readers would benefit as I did. For beginners and those curious about the self-help publishing phenomenon, this could indeed be "the only self-help book you will ever need" as they say!
The brief summaries of each book and writer are balanced, intelligent and insightful. The "in a nutshell" comments are invariably accurate e.g. "When you are aligned with your higher self and your life purpose, miraculous things happen" for "Real Magic" by Wayne Dyer. Butler-Bowdon also presents the case for and against each book and writer, being more obviously critical of some than others, but remaining open and balanced with his objective assessments.
The inclusion of the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita and Benjamin Franklin's autobiography stretch the "self-help" genre beyond obvious modern writers and adds depth. 50 more books are recommended at the end. Excellent, thanks Tom.
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