Nonfiction With a Side of Self-Help


130 books
153   votes


How to Win Friends and Influence People


4.06 rating

Comment 1: This book presents one of the classic statements of popular psychology oriented around positive self-image, self reliance, and cooperative relationships with others. It is one of the most popular and influential books of its type ever and provided the foundations for contemporary self-help celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey, as well as much of current motivational and organizational psychology that one finds in current business school curricula.What to make of it? I tend to side with the critics, who are numerous. It is difficult to argue with the basic points of the book, taken at a surface level. Most people enjoy being respected, agreed with, and successful. Confidence and self-reliance are no doubt important personal characteristics in personal success. Many people do not enjoy conflict or being disagreed with and would prefer instead cooperative relations with others. OK, but so what?The problem comes once it is realized that Carnegie is highlighting an ambivalence that is inherent in many of our social relationships. On the one hand, we can interact with people on their own terms and without expectations of obligations, duties, or norms of reciprocity. We can deal with and respect people as they are. On the other hand, however, much of what we do in social life involves either trying to accomplish something through other people or having other people trying to use us to accomplish something of importance to them. In trying to balance these two aspects of social relations, most of us become aware of the need to balance. We do not usually treat commercial relationships as close friends. We do not draw up elaborate performance-based contracts with loved ones such as family members. The problem is that people who expect to be treated as independent persons do not appreciate being used by others for some personal end. It is conceptually difficult to see how someone can be both taken authentically and respected as a person while at the same time being viewed as an agent for someone else. Family members and loved ones do not like to be used. Commercial partners do not appreciate being treated as friends when more immediate personal goals were the basis for interactions.Many adults learn to balance these differing perspectives towards others. Sometimes we treat others at arms length while at other times friendships can develop. Carnegie's classic work calls on the reader to both treat people on their own terms and also to attempt to influence them to get their cooperation in attaining one's objectives. Without more specification of how and where to balance, however, the book becomes a more cynical effort to redefine the problem of positive social relations in the form of a solution -- in order to influence people and get your way, treat them authentically. The rub, of course, is how to go about doing this. It is akin to arguing that the solution to poverty is easy -- just get some money!The faux sincerity and false positivity in the service of influencing others come across as phony and manipulative after a while. This recalls another old maxim - if something seems to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. The oversimplified examples and testimonials also get old in a hurry. The reduction of large business enterprises and their managers to a series of positive work interactions with employees is simplistic at well. The details matter, individual skills matter, industry structures matter, history matters. It is nice to imagine that a positive attitude can conquer all and bring one riches. That lets a lot of other factors off the hook for explaining success or failure. But wishing it is so does not make it so. The more I read it, the more it sounds like a text on manipulation and less like an industrial manual.


Think and Grow Rich


4.12 rating

Comment 1: Overview: 60% brilliant, 30% obvious, 10% batshit crazy - and 100% worth readingNapoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" is about more than getting rich: it's about getting what you want. And while his no-bullshit insights come with a liberal dose of craziness and – well – bullshit, his overarching philosophy is spot-on. Hill's recipe boils down to this: to get what you want you must 1) desire, 2) believe, 3) act, and 4) persist.First, the battinessHill's advice is always useful, even if not always completely truthful. For instance, he repeatedly claims that "thoughts can affect mother nature." I don't think this is true, and Hill doesn't provide any evidence to support his claim, but his reader might be better off believing it. Because thoughts do profoundly affect you. And if you think you can affect nature by thought alone, and "think" accordingly, the impact this will have on your beliefs and your actions can be profound."Lack of evidence" is a common theme through "Think and Grow Rich." Some of the claims Hill makes are pretty crazy, though they're presented as if they were glaringly obvious and unquestionably true. He often states that a claim has been "proved" where it's simply been stated. You'll read about the transmutation of the subconscious, about how thought vibrations travel through the ether, and how to plant creativity in your subconscious via communication with the infinite intelligence. The book is heavy on mystical musings and light on facts. That said, I don't think these bits of battiness detract from Hill's core message, and if anything, my occasional outrage kept me engaged.Onto practical matters: The first step towards riches is DESIREOn first glance, this statement might seem banal, or even tautological: if you want riches, the first step is to… want riches. But Hill's advice cuts much deeper than this. It is not enough to want riches, or to wish you had them. Hill means something more radical: you must have a burning desire to be rich. If you fail in this regard, you will fail to achieve your (vaguely) desired goal.Hill gives some concrete advice for nurturing desire. First, you must define your purpose. Only then can you become consumed by it. Hill's recipe for making desire concrete is this: decide exactly how much money you desire; establish a definite date by which you intend to possess it; create a definite plan; write it down; and read your written statement aloud - twice when you wake up, and twice before you go to bed. Become so obsessed with desire that you already see yourself in possession of the moneyBut don't kid yourself into thinking desire will be enough: "wishing will not bring riches... [only] planning definite ways... and backing those plans with persistence" will. Take, then, this burning desire, and put all your effort behind it. I love Hill's emphasis on action: you are instructed to be a practical dreamer. It's not enough to 'decide' you're totally committed: act accordingly. Cut off all sources of retreat, Hill tells us. Burn all bridges behind you, so that you win or perish. The tone here might be a little extreme, but his message carries crisp and clear: don't half-ass it.Include liberal doses of FAITHIt is impossible to translate burning desire into action without belief. You must have faith: you must believe in your plan, and more importantly, believe in yourself. Of course, this is easier said than done. One concrete way to foster faith is through autosuggestion. The idea here is that you can come to believe something by repeating it to yourself sufficiently. Repetition of thought is powerful, and Hill claims it's the best way to influence your subconscious mind – the presumed bastion of belief.This might come off as a little crazy, but Hill elaborates: repetition alone isn't enough. The mere reading of words is of no consequence unless you mix in strong emotions. Desire is one such emotion. Thus, if we've followed Hill's first step and developed a burning desire, it will be that much easier to apply autosuggestion to foster a sense of faith. And believing in yourself, and in your plan, is absolutely crucial. This might all be getting a little speculative, but so far, I'm inclined to agree with Hill.A short aside on transmutation: the mystical powers of sex and the subconsciousIt's only when Hill starts discussing the power of belief that I find myself getting incredulous. Hill claims that belief is "picked up by the subconscious mind and transmuted to its physical equivalent." If by this Hill means 'your beliefs will affect your own actions,' then I agree. If instead he means 'your beliefs themselves can influence physical reality,' then I disagree - or at least I would love to be presented with evidence.And indeed, you soon discover that Hill does mean the latter. He explains that our brains are connected by vibrations of thought, and that these vibrations connect us to the "infinite intelligence" – whatever that is. Hill confidently states that there is an undiscovered organ in the brain that receives 'vibrations of thought' – called hunches – from this infinite intelligence. Once these hunches have been captured, our subconscious mind will hand them over to our conscious mind in a flash of inspiration. And this, he claims, is how to get your plan for riches. As best I could tell, this is what Hill means by "transmutation of thought."It's my opinion that Hill here is liberally dipping into craziness – and he doesn't stop there. "Sex transmutation" comes next. We're told that "sex energy" is "creative energy," and you're implored to "harness and transmute" your desire for sex to lift yourself to a "higher sphere of thought." Harnessing sexual energy, it seems, will help you capture those aforementioned hunches. Here, at least, Hill offers some circumstantial evidence: apparently, many of the highly successfully men he studied were "highly sexed." Again, I'm not quite sure what this means, and I'm not quite sure how he was able to ascertain the sexual nature of so many strangers, but there you have it. There is no substitute for PERSISTENCEBack to practical matters: we've discussed desire and belief, and the need to "act" has been referred to throughout. The final ingredient is persistence. Without persistence, you will fail. Unfortunately, lack of persistence is a "weakness common to the majority of men." Fortunately, it can be overcome, and the ease with which it may be conquered "depends entirely on the intensity of one's desire." Of course, it's hard to 'learn persistence,' since you need to be persistent in the first place to be able to successfully employ a 'persistence enhancing technique.'That said, Hill does give some good 'persistence enhancing' advice, which amounts to restating the advice that’s been given thus far. The key, again, is to have a definite purpose and a burning desire for its fulfillment. You must then transform that purpose into a definite plan, and immediately act. Consciously conquer procrastination and indecision. Throughout, guard your mind against negative and discouraging influences. And finally, form a "master mind alliance" – a coordination of knowledge and effort, for the attainment of a definite purpose – consisting of people who will encourage you to follow through with your plan and your purpose.ConclusiontHill might be a little crazy, and his writing style is a bit over the top. He tends to take on the tone of a late night infomercial ("I have never known anyone who was inspired to use the secret, who did not achieve noteworthy success in his chosen calling") and he has an troll-like propensity to go into all-caps mode ("ALL ACHIEVEMENT, ALL EARNED RICHES, HAVE THEIR BEGINNING IN AN IDEA!"). More critically, some of the particular things he says are at odds with his philosophy as a whole ("these steps call for no hard labor. They call for no sacrifice"). The danger is that these are the statements readers latch on to, and lose the forest for the trees.And this would be a shame, for when all is said and done, "Think and Grow Rich" is terrific book. Hill is passionate, and his advice is refreshingly practical. The above caveat aside, Hill tells it like it is. He decries the "universal weakness of lack of ambition" and our "national pastime of trying to get without giving". He explains that people mistake their wants for their just dues, and is explicit on the fact that you can't get something for nothing: "there is but one dependable method for accumulating, and legally holding riches, and that is by rendering useful service."Mystical musings aside, Hill's philosophy makes sense, and not in the vague "no shit, Sherlock" sense. He believes that "riches begin in the form of thought," and he makes this claim concrete. Desire, believe, act, and persist, he advises. If you do these things, you cannot fail – and never forget that "a quitter never wins-and-a winner never quits."


Autobiography of a Yogi


4.19 rating

Comment 1: Yogananda is truly inspiring, and I am not a 'disciple.' I simply recognize truth when I feel it. He lived a profound life, as he chose to diligently focus on high aspects of being. In this book, he talks about this life as a projection in the following way:"One day I entered a cinema house to view a newsreel of the European battlefields. The First World War was still being waged in the West; the newsreel presented the carnage with such realism that I left the theater with a troubled heart. 'Lord,' I prayed, 'why dost Thou permit such suffering?' "To my intense surprise, an instant answer came in the form of a vision of the actual European battlefields. The scenes, filled with the dead and dying, far surpassed in ferocity any representation of the newsreel. 'Look intently!' A gentle Voice spoke to my inner consciousness. 'You will see that these scenes now being enacted in France are nothing but a play of chiaroscuro. They are the cosmic motion picture, as real and as unreal as the theater newsreel you have just seen -- a play within a play.' "My heart was still not comforted. The Divine Voice went on: 'Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever desire another? Without suffering, he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom. The tragedy of death is unreal; those who shudder at it are like an ignorant actor who dies of fright on the stage when nothing more has been fired at him than a blank cartridge. My sons are children of the light; they will not sleep forever in delusion.' "Although I had read scriptural accounts of maya, they had not given me the deep insight that came with personal visions and with the accompanying words of consolation. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture; and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality." I highly recommend this writing by Yogananda. He offers many examples of living a 'miraculous' life, both within his own experiences and others. I have quotes around 'miraculous,' as I understand that we are Consciousness Itself - there is no separation. And with that understanding, 'miracles' are simply manifestations of awareness and can be considered a normal part of life. Examples include human beings who live without food or water, and those who spontaneously heal or facilitate such healings. Yogananda made his conscious departure from the physical, while in front of a public audience, on March 7, 1952. He left an 'incorruptible' body, as several (if not many) 'saints' have done, meaning the body did not deteriorate. The book doesn't say how long this continued, but it matters not. There are various bodies on display around the world, of those who have achieved this state of incorruptibility - for hundreds of years (refer to Susan Shumsky's book "Ascension"). The best overview of this book may be on the back cover: "Named one of the 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century, Paramahansa Yogananda's remarkable life story takes you on an unforgettable exploration of the world of saints and yogis, science and miracles, death and resurrection. With soul-satisfying wisdom and wit, he illuminates the deepest secrets of life and the universe -- opening our hearts and minds to the joy, beauty and unlimited spiritual potentials that exist in the lives of every human being."


Lucky Go Happy: Make Happiness Happen!


4.69 rating

Comment 1: With chapters that separately cover their own pieces of the “complex puzzle” which is happiness, Paul Van Der Merwe offers a story-book on happiness that might equally be read by random dipping as by sequential reading—rather like happiness itself. Parable or fable, these tales read smoothly and “happily” while teaching wise lessons through humor and animal interest. I read them sequentially, laughed out loud on occasion, and thoroughly enjoyed those stings in rat-like tails—Lucky being a rat (a Comment 2: This had been a highly entertaining and though-provoking book. At first glance, you'll think this is some kind of a Self-Help book teaching you how to find happiness. But, surprise, surprise! Lucky Go Happy isn't just your ordinary book. There is quite a story to it, a journey of sorts, on how a Lion King sent his friend, Lucky the Rat on a quest to finding real happiness. This book or fable has depth, heart and soul. Comment 3: There is a lot of wisdom locked up in this little book and the lessons are cleverly conveyed to the reader in a thoroughly enjoyable story. The topic of happiness has been covered in so many books, but this one is different with new and enlightening angles on this age-old topic. I would recommend this book to anyone - a great read!


The Art of Startup Fundraising


4.4 rating

Comment 1: "The Art of Startup Fundraising" by Alejandro Cremades is a great read for all starting entrepreneurs. The business startup is perhaps the biggest and most daunting hurtle for those who wish to start a business. You’re excited, you have an awesome business idea, but you do not have the money to fund the growing business. What now? Alejandro Cremades will tell you exactly what to do in this book. Furthermore, this book will teach you how to document your way to success and use technology to your Comment 2: This is a must read for anyone serious about raising capital as a startup entrepreneur. Alejandro did a wonderful job creating a this fundraising handbook for entrepreneurs. It provides a look inside the the world of angel investing and fundraising from one of the most qualified minds in the industry. Alejandro has a proven track record of startup investment on both sides of the negotiating table. The book includes practical examples for accurately analyzing capital needs, identifying the best p Comment 3: I felt that this book was written in a language that is clear and concise. It's easy to understand and makes some parts of fundraising (which for me is quite difficult) that are actually pretty complex seem much more clear. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take on the task of fundraising. Convincing other people to part with their money is not the easiest thing in the world and when you have a good cause to raise money, you have to do it in a way that appeals to them and makes them fe

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Great books have been published recently dealing with sociology,psychology,AND how to improve yourself.