Megan McArdle: Self-help books, refuge of the benighted masses!

15 Sep

What’s Wrong With Self-Help Books?

Oh, self-help books, refuge of the benighted masses!  Could there be anything more risible than the bovine hordes of Middle America standing stolidly in the bookstore, brow furrowed as they earnestly try to decide whether  “How to Save a Marriage” or “The Relationship Rescue Book” is the One True Way to revive a relationship grown soggy with suburban ennui? How dull are their imaginations!  How amusing, their endless quest for better marriages, personal finances, management skills, and figures!  Oh, lucky we, the intellectual elite, who do not need such pedestrian advice!For of course, all of the intellectuals I know have strong and happy marriages, top-notch management skills, 401(k)s filled to bursting with wisely allocated investment, and a body fat percentage that would be the envy of many supermodels.  No, wait, that’s Paul Ryan I’m describing.  So suddenly I’m confused.  Why don’t intellectuals read self-help books?  Oh, right, because we’re too smart for that sort of thing. This is, after all, a group of people who takes the observation that “practice makes perfect” more seriously if it is attached to a study published in Psychology Review.

  Actually, I’ve read & liked & recommended many self-help books. My mother has also. I told her once that it was all a lot of stuff I already knew. She said, “Yes, but at my age you need to be reminded.” Now I’m the age she said that. Then I believed her, now I know.

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