Self help books/how to books-How useful they really are?

In my housing society complex(Kunal Icon), we celebrate Independence Day and Republic Day every year by flat hoisting and also arranging a guest lecture by experts/accomplished personalities. We had famous Marathi author, playwright Shivraj Gorle for this year’s Republic Day celebrations. He is very famous self help book writer. He, being a very good orator, entertained audience in his lucid and attractive style about art of living.

The question raised in the title of the blog came to fore once again while I was listening to him. This has always been in my mind as a question asked quite often. At the same time, we all know how big the market on such category of books, and many of the bestsellers are from this category. That means people are buying it, reading it, but not sure how useful this bibliotherapy is if followed verbatim. I personally was never a great fan of such books and never took them very seriously.

It is said that such category of self help books, ‘how to books’ started with Dale Carnegie’s book titled ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People?’ in early 20th century. Do they really help the readers? Some books are based on own experiences, others are based on psychological theories, while few others try to give case studies, and also prescriptive solutions.

Gorle raised the same question and he was more inclined towards saying that they do help, and he threw readers’ responses as proofs. Gorle, of course, stressed that such books can help only if advice is put in practice. One needs to approach with open mind and accept change.

While some other authors such as Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi, has expressed views effectively discounting the usefulness of such books, rather cautioning on going blind eyed. They do indeed help author and publisher nonetheless, as such books are sold typically as hot cakes.

Everybody goes through levels of challenges and stressful situations on various fronts such as career, relationships. Most of us try to find a quick way out for problems. As humans, we typically look for prescriptive solutions for problems we face. I come across many such cases as I have been working as lay counselor for a self-help support-group(SHSG) in mental health domain under SAA. The fact is that there is no such hard-cast solution. There could be some patterns. But again those need to applied in each case very diligently.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Self help books/how to books-How useful they really are?

  1. this is more in line with “if you are punyawant, then only you will see GOD” style 🙂 Very good discussion point raised indeed. If you look at the definition of a scientis ” a skeptic with an open mind” then I can definitely call you a scientist prashant! keep it up.

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    • Prashant Kulkarni says:

      Wah, Atul, I like the saying-perfect way to describe that tendency. You may like the other article I had written on putting children through grill for that ‘extra’ edge…check it out here

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  2. marathepa says:

    What I think is a person who has the patience to read a book which claims to help him to improve at an area displays qualities of a persistent, meticulous person. Even if the subject matter discussed in the book may not help, that person is more likely to be successful because he has the courage to accept that he needs help.

    IMHO it’s more like parents who read parenting books turn out to be better parents. That is not more because of the subject matter discussed in books, but because these guys spend money, time and energy on reading parenting books. So they are most likely to spend time, money and energy on their kids.

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  3. Snehal Shivalkar says:

    Prashant – IMO it depends on the expertise of the author on the subject matter of the book, how well s/he has articulated the topic and the contents of the book. There are a few good books out there and most others are hogwash. And then it depends on the reader as well. As you mentioned, most folks go through stressful and challenging situations in life. Some navigate them well whereas some don’t get out of it ever and there are some who do ok. Each one will have a different take on the same book. So “To each his own” I will say.

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