March 10, 2010

Faith in your essential greatness and beauty 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life ~ Tom Butler-Bowdon A brilliant introduction to the "literature of possibility", September 21, 2005
By       Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews

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. Permalink
 1.         James Allen As a Man Thinketh (1904)
2.       S Andreas & C Faulkner (eds) NLP: The New Technology of Achievement (1996)
3.       Marcus Aurelius Meditations (2ndC)
4.       Martha Beck Finding Your Own North Star (2001)
5.       The Bhagavad-Gita
6.       The Bible
7.       Robert Bly Iron John (1990)
8.       Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy (6thC)
9.       Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)
10.     William Bridges Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes(1980)
11.      David D Burns The New Mood Therapy (1980)
12.     Joseph Campbell (with Bill Moyers) The Power of Myth (1988)
13.     Richard Carlson Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (1997)
14.     Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People(1936)
15.     Deepak Chopra The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1994)
16.     Paulo Coelho The Alchemist (1988)
17.     Stephen Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
18.     Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1991)
19.     Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)
20.    The Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler The Art of Happiness (1999)
21.     The Dhammapada (Buddha's teachings)
22.    Wayne Dyer Real Magic (1992)
23.    Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance (1841)
24.    Clarissa Pinkola Estes Women Who Run With The Wolves(1996)
25.    Viktor Frankl Man's Search For Meaning (1959)
26.    Benjamin Franklin Autobiography (1790)
27.    Shakti Gawain Creative Visualization (1982)
28.    Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence (1995)
29.    John Gray Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus(1992)
30.    Louise Hay You Can Heal Your Life (1984)
31.     James Hillman The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling (1996)
32.    Susan Jeffers Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway (1987)
34.    Lao-Tzu Tao-te Ching (The Way of Power)
35.    Maxwell Maltz Psycho-Cybernetics (1960)
36.    Abraham Maslow Motivation and Personality (1954)
37.    Philip C McGraw Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters (2000)
38.    Thomas Moore Care of the Soul (1992)
39.    Joseph Murphy The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963)
40.    Norman Vincent Peale The Power of Positive Thinking (1952)
41.     Carol Pearson The Hero Within (1989)
42.    M Scott Peck The Road Less Traveled (1990)
43.    Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged (1957)
44.    Anthony Robbins Awaken The Giant Within (1991)
45.    Florence Scovell-Shinn The Game of Life and How To Play It(1923)
46.    Martin Seligman Learned Optimism (1991)
47.    Samuel Smiles Self-Help (1859)
48.    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin The Phenomenon of Man (1955)
49.    Henry David Thoreau Walden (1854)
50.    Marianne Williamson A Return To Love (1993)

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