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John Masterson: My love-hate relationship with self-help books

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Rory McIlroy. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

I have a love-hate relationship with self-help books. I cannot stop myself buying them, though these days I restrict myself to charity shops. This is because none of the ones that would help me to my first million worked.

Part of my difficulty with these books, and indeed all books, goes back to my childhood belief that you began a book at the beginning and kept on going to the end. This is about as dumb as watching to the end of a boring film. Early on I did learn to use books. That means writing on them. Noting down things that make an impression. Relating an idea to something to which it would apply. But I was still cursed with that begin at the beginning and end at the end. I still didn't know how to tear out the page I wanted and throw the rest in the bin. So it came about that I have a lot of motivational or self-help books, many of which I bought having convinced myself there might be something of psychological interest in them. Sadly that is rare. Most of these books are just so much snake oil. But they do one thing very well. They may not make millions for the readers, but sometimes they do for the authors. If you are not all loved up with a religion then maybe they are the secular way to success. Instead of praying you can focus on a sentence that works for you.


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