The Literary Salon – Help Me

Help Me BookThis month’s literary review is about one woman’s humorous but perfectly disastrous journey through the world of self-help books.   

The Publisher’s Blurb: 

Marianne Power was a self-help junkie. For years she lined her bookshelves with dog-eared copies of definitive guide after definitive guide on how to live your best life. Yet one day she woke up to find that the life she dreamed of and the life she was living were not miles but continents apart. So she set out to make a change. Or, actually, to make every change.

Marianne decided to finally find out if her elusive perfect life—the one without debt, anxiety, hangovers or Netflix marathons, the one where she healthily bounced around town with perfect teeth to meet the cashmere-sweater-wearing man of her dreams—lay in the pages of those books. So for a year she vowed to test a book a month, following its advice to the letter, taking the surest road she knew to a perfect Marianne.

As her year-long plan turned into a demented roller coaster where everything she knew was turned upside down, she found herself confronted with a different question: Self-help can change your life, but is it for the better?

About the Author:

Marianne Power is a successful British journalist and blogger.  She lives in London, England.    She was a freelance writer at the time the book was written.

My Goodreads Review:

Help Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your LifeHelp Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life by Marianne Power

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marianne Power’s year long journey sampling the shelves of the self-help section is an enormously entertaining look at the self-help genre.    We’ve all read self-help books, except maybe those with perfect lives and non-dysfunctional families.    But are they…well…helpful?    We tend to read them and then toss them aside, so how intriguing to read about someone who spent a year road testing them.   I absolutely loved this book – it was brilliantly written, hilariously funny and when she spirals out of control into the depths of despair, painfully honest.   Not many people would be so revealing about their less than perfect lives and perceived flaws.  Fortunately, Marianne had her mother, so full of wisdom and sensible advice, to help her through her year of applied psychology.   I can just hear her mother sighing, “Oh Marianne, you’re fine, just the way you are.”   And she is.   PS.  I hope now that she has become a successful author, she makes enough money to pay off all her debts and buy a house.    

Discussion: 

I noticed this book on the Just New Releases shelf at my local bookstore, because pursuing the self-help section is something I’m long past.   When you’re older, you realize that your life doesn’t need fixing…. you’re happy to be still living, reasonably healthy and mostly content.   If I do pick up a self-help book it’s more likely to be one about living with gratitude or something practical like how to get organized – Marie Kondo I may be revisiting you before I empty out those kitchen cupboards! 

The book was so engaging, I just could not put it down.    I enjoyed her witty style of writing.   The chapter on angels was LOL funny, but then I grew up Catholic so I could relate.    

‘My guardian angel was a daily companion who got me through exams and my ever-present fear that a burglar would break in while I slept.  Every night I’d pray to her, turn off the lights, and then when I’d be practicing playing dead, (I figured murderers wouldn’t kill me if I was already dead in my bed), I’d imagine her flying over me, her golden wings flittering, like Tinkerbell.   She was pretty.  As all angels should be.’       

While I was aware of some of the titles and authors she explored, I had only ever read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (which surely must be from the 80’s), and The Secret, (during my Gospel according to Oprah phase).   I knew of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and that Tony Robbins was a popular life coach but the chapter on his workshop was just too weird and cult-like.    Of all the books she mentioned, the one that seemed to resonate the most with her was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.    She had tried to read it once but her therapist recommended it might speak to her now, as sometimes it’s a case of the right book at the right time.   I might check that one out as I tend to be a worrier and have trouble staying in the present.   (Edited to add – sorry to say but I abandoned Mr. Tolle at the halfway point,  although I did find him helpful those nights I had insomnia mulling over all  those kitchen reno decisions – it was so boring that after a few pages I was out like a light). 

She did see a therapist, and that brings up another issue about self-help books – many people turn to them because they can’t afford a therapist or a life coach and there’s only so many times your friends and family can listen to you moaning about the same old problems.   Not everyone has a wise sage of a mother dispensing sound advice, so to obtain nuggets of wisdom and fresh points of view from the pages of a book cannot be dismissed.  Discussions about how to live a good and happy life have been with us since the days of the Greek philosophers.    But is too much introspection a bad thing?   The last chapter sums things up nicely.  

Some Quotes:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates)

“All this thinking about yourself is not good for you.”  (Marianne’s Mum – Chapter 11)

 Is there a particular self-help book which you have found helpful?

10 thoughts on “The Literary Salon – Help Me

  1. www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com says:

    I thought I had read all the self-help books out there until Marie Kondo came along. Then my darling daughter sent me a copy of THE NEXT RIGHT THING to do — um, I mean, to read. It’s about just that. After all the praying and planning and tossing all night, just put IT aside and do the next right thing: wash the breakfast dishes, fold the clean laundry. The answer will reveal itself in due course.

    That book has been my latest and, probably, the greatest to learn. I’m still practicing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      That sounds interesting……I will check it out. That is often the way an answer appears…..we sleep on it, or do something else, and our subconscious works away on it quietly in the background and comes up with the answer! It reminds me of the Beatles lyrics to Let It Be which apparently is about Paul struggling with the backup of the band – there will be an answer, let it be.

      Like

  2. lindasschaub says:

    That sounds like a fun read – something to give you a laugh while you are dealing with this extensive remodel event and frayed nerves. I have read plenty of self-help books in my day, but, like you said, it was for our younger selves when there was lots of room for improvement – by now we’re content and not so willing to make changes (nor do we feel we need them). If I read anything it would have been about staying organized, something I no longer am, but once could lay my finger on anything in this house … those days, like my youth, are long gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Then I recommend Gretchen Rubin’s latest book which I just got from the library – Outer Order, Inner Calm. She is an organizing guru and I read her other books several years ago. Saw this one reviewed somewhere and ordered it. I did okay with my start to the kitchen clean out, although I all I managed to put aside for Goodwill was a small painting and the insulated carry bag I used to take my lunch to work in! Maybe the book will motivate me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shelley says:

    LOL – I’ve often thought about testing a self-help book, not all of them. WOW! That’s a feat in and of itself. I’ve read a few of the ones that she read, so, like you, I will likely be entertained by the book. I’ve added it to my WTR list on Goodreads. Thank you for sharing your whimsical take on the book – I enjoyed your post!

    Liked by 1 person

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