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Old 10th October 2019, 11:43 AM   #1
wasapi
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'Self help' books?

So far, I have yet to see one that "helps". I have never bought one, but have seen them at friends homes. They strike me as self-absorbed-wooish-books.

But I am open. Perhaps I have missed something of interest or help. Has anyone found them to be useful in your life? If so, I would like to know about them. I try to be nonjudgmental, but admit to a bias against this type of literature. Thanks.
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Old 10th October 2019, 12:05 PM   #2
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They really help for making small talk in social situations.
Not the ones that are designed for that purpose though, those are useless.
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Old 10th October 2019, 12:10 PM   #3
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The only one I have read is "59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot' by Richard Wiseman. It seemed OK but I wasn't really looking for help.

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Old 10th October 2019, 12:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
The only one I have read is "59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot' by Richard Wiseman. It seemed OK but I wasn't really looking for help.
Ditto, took me about 59 seconds to drop every bit of advice garnered therein.
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Old 10th October 2019, 02:05 PM   #5
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A good one can help with cognitive behavioral analysis, making you think about things you had not before.

The kind I have always refused to buy or even look at is the "For Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's Guide to..." type. I love a good book on basics, but insulting the potential buyer's intelligence is not a good start.
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Old 10th October 2019, 02:16 PM   #6
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They should be good. But you are right, they are mostly worthless. Take a look at the qualifications and experience of those who wrote them. Mostly they are written by people who are not the outstanding stars in their field. They are written by people who are just ordinary people. Then look at their references. They do not even exist. So they wrote what they knew, which is not much. So that is the value of their books.

Buy a book where you can see that I am wrong. That one would be a good book.
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Old 10th October 2019, 04:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
They should be good. But you are right, they are mostly worthless. Take a look at the qualifications and experience of those who wrote them. Mostly they are written by people who are not the outstanding stars in their field. They are written by people who are just ordinary people. Then look at their references. They do not even exist. So they wrote what they knew, which is not much. So that is the value of their books.

Buy a book where you can see that I am wrong. That one would be a good book.
Interesting. I have one in mind. I inherited a box of books from my deceased boy friend. There is one about learning to have a relationship based on truth and honesty. I may crack it this evening.
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Old 10th October 2019, 04:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
Interesting. I have one in mind. I inherited a box of books from my deceased boy friend. There is one about learning to have a relationship based on truth and honesty. I may crack it this evening.
You cannot have a deep and meaningful relationship without openness and honesty. So if there is a book that says just that and not much more then it is not worth much. It leaves out the "no blame", "look for solutions to issues" ideas.

A much better book would be one that is called "333 secrets to a successful relationship."
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Old 10th October 2019, 06:29 PM   #9
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Or just try reading actual philosophy. Yes, I know, that's an unpopular word here. But Marcus Aurelius's Meditations are a classic for a reason. Or the works of Epictetus. Stoicism is a wonderful philosophy that has provided great comfort to clever people for centuries.
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Old 10th October 2019, 07:18 PM   #10
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I got some use out of a self help book once. I actually talked about it on this forum, too.
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Old 10th October 2019, 09:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I got some use out of a self help book once. I actually talked about it on this forum, too.
Most methods of quitting smoking have a similar success rate.
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Old 10th October 2019, 09:22 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Most methods of quitting smoking have a similar success rate.
Oh yes, absolutely. That was just the one I used, and it came from a self-help book, which is why I bring it up now.

Haven't relapsed into smoking since then, by the way.
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Old 11th October 2019, 12:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Or just try reading actual philosophy. Yes, I know, that's an unpopular word here. But Marcus Aurelius's Meditations are a classic for a reason. Or the works of Epictetus. Stoicism is a wonderful philosophy that has provided great comfort to clever people for centuries.
Agreed.

Problem is, they make no money for the publishers as they are out of copyright.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:09 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
So far, I have yet to see one that "helps". I have never bought one, but have seen them at friends homes. They strike me as self-absorbed-wooish-books.

But I am open. Perhaps I have missed something of interest or help. Has anyone found them to be useful in your life? If so, I would like to know about them. I try to be nonjudgmental, but admit to a bias against this type of literature. Thanks.
Having always had an interest in psychology I have read quite a few of these, mainly out of curiosity. They are useful for reassurance. For example, having decided to completely transform my life, I came across an unread copy of FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY amongst my hundreds of books I stopped packing, to start reading it. The first couple of chapters were good but I then identified the underlying principle of her thesis, which seems to be Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (where you can't change the situation but you can change how you react to it), which I don't really believe in as my view is that your emotions are there to be listened to, especially fear.

Having got a psychology degree, like my course tutors, I developed a strong sceptism towards what we call 'pop psychology'. I don't know whether this is intellectual snobbery or because 'pop psychology' is basically crap and easy money for the authors playing on people' insecurities. Nevertheless, I can't resist downloading stuff about 'HYGGE - have you seen how many books there are on the market about this? - and things that relate to my life situation (for example 'HOW TO DOWNSHIFT, GET RID OF CLUTTER or DEATH-CLEANING, SWEDISH STYLE.

These books contradict each other as the HYGGE books (well, this particular author, anyway) say you should fill your home with fluffy rugs, plants, bric-a-brac, whilst the 'declutter' ones urge, 'get rid, now!!!'

I have books on QUIET and SLOW and I tell myself I will read them one day, once I have got through my pile of a hundred books 'waiting to be read'.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:11 AM   #15
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Is there not an inherent failure in having a book on self help?
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:12 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
They should be good. But you are right, they are mostly worthless. Take a look at the qualifications and experience of those who wrote them. Mostly they are written by people who are not the outstanding stars in their field. They are written by people who are just ordinary people. Then look at their references. They do not even exist. So they wrote what they knew, which is not much. So that is the value of their books.

Buy a book where you can see that I am wrong. That one would be a good book.
You're right. That's why I stick with books by people who are subject matter experts, like Art of the Deal.

Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Agreed.

Problem is, they make no money for the publishers as they are out of copyright.
The "Classics"? A new translation is copyright-able. Maybe not a huge market but that's what publishers of scholarly stuff live off of. If the original is in the public domain (say ancient stuff in Greek or Latin), then the translation can get a standard copyright.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:14 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
You cannot have a deep and meaningful relationship without openness and honesty. So if there is a book that says just that and not much more then it is not worth much. It leaves out the "no blame", "look for solutions to issues" ideas.

A much better book would be one that is called "333 secrets to a successful relationship."
Yes. This. Any book with the title promising to reveal, 'The Secret' or 'Secrets' will be a best-seller (see Dan Brown or the Holy Grail genre). Likewise, anything with 'Chicken Soup' in the title.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:14 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
Is there not an inherent failure in having a book on self help?
Sorta like a second cousin to the Seinfeld "coffee table book" (that was actually a coffee table), I'd like to write a self-help book called "Ten Tricks To Buying the Right Self-Help Book".
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:17 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I got some use out of a self help book once. I actually talked about it on this forum, too.
Any book that scares the bejasus out of you is great for giving things up.

Want to give up cigarettes? Get a book all about lung diseases and cancer.


Alcohol? Easy, just read a book about the horrors of alcoholism or a medical book about the kidney or the liver and the diseases thereof.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:20 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Foolmewunz View Post
You're right. That's why I stick with books by people who are subject matter experts, like Art of the Deal.



The "Classics"? A new translation is copyright-able. Maybe not a huge market but that's what publishers of scholarly stuff live off of. If the original is in the public domain (say ancient stuff in Greek or Latin), then the translation can get a standard copyright.
Maybe but they tend to sell for about £1.
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Old 11th October 2019, 01:23 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Foolmewunz View Post
Sorta like a second cousin to the Seinfeld "coffee table book" (that was actually a coffee table), I'd like to write a self-help book called "Ten Tricks To Buying the Right Self-Help Book".
Sorta like being in the support party for a solo trek.
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Old 11th October 2019, 03:46 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Maybe but they tend to sell for about £1.
The advantage of printing such a book would be that you do not have to pay the author anything. Just find a source you can copy, make a few minor changes and print. If someone copies your work they also copy your changes and you can show that it was your copy they used by these minor changes.
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Old 13th October 2019, 05:45 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Any book that scares the bejasus out of you is great for giving things up.

Want to give up cigarettes? Get a book all about lung diseases and cancer.


Alcohol? Easy, just read a book about the horrors of alcoholism or a medical book about the kidney or the liver and the diseases thereof.
Is that what worked for you? It didn't work for me. All the information in the world about how horrible nicotine addiction is for you has no effect because it's an addiction and addiction doesn't work like that.
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Old 13th October 2019, 07:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Is that what worked for you? It didn't work for me. All the information in the world about how horrible nicotine addiction is for you has no effect because it's an addiction and addiction doesn't work like that.
Exactly. When I was in my 20's I watched a film showing the actual lungs of a lung cancer victim. Showed the difference in the way it prematurely aged smokers compared to non smokers.

Scary? Yeah. Enough? Not close.

I have to admit that I am incredibly lucky. My lung capacity is that of a healthy young person. Also, no doubt genetic, I look, by my skin, to be 15-20 years younger.

However, I have been vaping for about 9 yrs now. I am resigned to the fact I am a smoker, and enjoy it, and will continue to do so.
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Old 13th October 2019, 09:26 PM   #25
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Books for treating spider phobia are quite useful if they are heavy enough.
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Old 13th October 2019, 11:03 PM   #26
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When I saw the book title Emotional Blackmail, I bought it immediately because I had come up with the term in a discussion with a narcissistic (ex-)girlfriend. It confirmed ideas that I had already formed but also made me aware of mistakes that I had made when dealing with narcissists.
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Old 14th October 2019, 12:34 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
When I saw the book title Emotional Blackmail, I bought it immediately because I had come up with the term in a discussion with a narcissistic (ex-)girlfriend. It confirmed ideas that I had already formed but also made me aware of mistakes that I had made when dealing with narcissists.
Susan Forward is very good with this type of book. A friend recently was going through a bad time with another friend of mine so I gave her Forward's 'When your lover is a liar' - which I came across as I was packing stuff - obtained such a long time ago I couldn't even remember what was in it or what made me buy it in the first place.
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Old 14th October 2019, 03:23 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
The kind I have always refused to buy or even look at is the "For Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's Guide to..." type. I love a good book on basics, but insulting the potential buyer's intelligence is not a good start.
How very weird.
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Old 14th October 2019, 03:37 AM   #29
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I read ones that have to do with things, not thoughts. I have one on foods, one on supplements. Supplements are junk, mostly. If you are deficient, take calcium or iron or whatever.
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Old 14th October 2019, 04:21 AM   #30
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It's not exactly a typical self-help book, but I would recommend 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman for understanding human reasoning or improving decision making.
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Old 14th October 2019, 04:43 AM   #31
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I've just realised/remembered that I made a major turn around in my life when I read, and took on board, the advice in, Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I went from 60 per day to zero in one day back in Sept 2008 and haven't touched a cigarette since. I did put on a ton of weight but got that under control a few years later.

At the rate I was going I think I would have had some serious health issues by now.

So, they're rubbish those self help books, except when they're not!
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Old 14th October 2019, 06:29 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
How very weird.
My opinion, or the fact that those types of books exist?
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Old 14th October 2019, 07:23 AM   #33
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I think that you should consider that the titles refer to the way people may describe themselves when they know almost nothing about a particular theme: 'I'm a complete idiot when it comes to .... '
The titles don't insult "the potential buyer's intelligence." They speak to somebody who may have uttered those (probably exaggerated) words about themselves, somebody with a bit of self-irony. They may be insulting to somebody who hasn't got any.


ETA: In the case of some of the books, buying, reading and accepting their message proves that you not only are an actual idiot, it has probably contributed to your remaining one, too: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chakras
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Old 14th October 2019, 07:28 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Is that what worked for you? It didn't work for me. All the information in the world about how horrible nicotine addiction is for you has no effect because it's an addiction and addiction doesn't work like that.
No, I gave up smoking years ago for a bet. Thinking of my good health motivated me never to smoke again.

Alcohol, I made a New Year's resolution to make 2019 a dry year. The effect on my health is amazing. I have never felt better. Plus save a lot too, as my tastes were towards good quality wine. It was like cigarettes, I began to resent my need to 'restock' on going shopping.

Plus it coincided with my joining a gym so the motivation to improve my overall health, diet and fitness was strong.

And do you know what? I haven't missed it at all. I threw a party recently and it was just as much fun with alcohol-free pink bubbly. (I was conscious that most attendees had driven, it was only afternoon and there were a few children.)

I do read medical books as I like to frighten myself. I had a book about the renal system ( a free review copy) and the sheer number of possible things that can go wrong...I have a friend who has had a kidney transplant and needs regular dialysis. they help motivate me to treat my body well.
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Old 14th October 2019, 08:57 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
A good one can help with cognitive behavioral analysis, making you think about things you had not before.

The kind I have always refused to buy or even look at is the "For Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's Guide to..." type. I love a good book on basics, but insulting the potential buyer's intelligence is not a good start.
I disagree about at least one; “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: a Step by Step Manual for the Complete Idiot” is both an invaluable repair guide as well as the only one that can be read just for amusement.
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Old 14th October 2019, 11:50 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
So far, I have yet to see one that "helps". I have never bought one, but have seen them at friends homes. They strike me as self-absorbed-wooish-books.

But I am open. Perhaps I have missed something of interest or help. Has anyone found them to be useful in your life? If so, I would like to know about them. I try to be nonjudgmental, but admit to a bias against this type of literature. Thanks.
I can count the self help books that are based on real psychology and therefore in theory actually 'helpful' on one hand.

But they're out there, it's just a difficult market segment where sensationalism and folksy truisms are viable product.

Wendy Kaminer's "I'm Dysfunctional; You're Dysfunctional" is worth a read - it's a self help book about self help books.
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Old 14th October 2019, 12:20 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
So far, I have yet to see one that "helps". I have never bought one, but have seen them at friends homes. They strike me as self-absorbed-wooish-books.

But I am open. Perhaps I have missed something of interest or help. Has anyone found them to be useful in your life? If so, I would like to know about them. I try to be nonjudgmental, but admit to a bias against this type of literature. Thanks.
I abhor book burning in general, but these, I would eagerly make an exception for.
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Old 14th October 2019, 08:02 PM   #38
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I've read a bunch of personal finance and business books and I find a lot of overlap. They aren't bad if you find some good ones. I think there are 3 or 4 different types of self-help books. Sometimes you have 10 books saying the same thing, but only one is saying it just the right way. Its all about where you are and how the author makes their case.

Also, don't take any of it as gospel. Especially if it's part of a "franchise".
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Old 15th October 2019, 02:01 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
My opinion, or the fact that those types of books exist?
It would have never crossed my mind to feel insulted by the title of one of those books.
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Old Yesterday, 09:57 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
A good one can help with cognitive behavioral analysis, making you think about things you had not before.

The kind I have always refused to buy or even look at is the "For Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's Guide to..." type. I love a good book on basics, but insulting the potential buyer's intelligence is not a good start.
I share a considerable distaste for Complete Idiot and the like books as well, perhaps in part because, as a person interested in mechanical things and in doing things right at least if I can, I was long ago introduced to the Ur "Compleat Idiot" book, the famous book by John Muir on "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive," famous among hippies at one time. Among other things, it advised that rather than spend a few bucks on a torque wrench you torque your flywheel bolts with a cold chisel, and suggested that the (simple and primitive) electric choke was so complicated and mysterious that you should remove it, start your car with ether, and let it warm up for ten minutes, rather than keep it working right. I'm sure there was more, but I forget, never having actually owned the book. I read it for laughs at a friend's house. He went through a few VW's which never seemed to last as long as they should, and did a little business on the side of fixing other people's VW's too for a fairly short while. ("That cylinder head only has a small crack in it so it's still good....")

Anyway, I concluded that a book for complete idiots is meant just as it says, and in finest Dunning-Kruger fashion, it could never mean it was for me.

I can't think of many if any modern self help books that have been much use, though I do seem to recall finding Epictetus's Enchiridion useful. It's still a good idea to remember that everything has two handles.
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