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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2005
Before you pick up another self-help book, read this one. You may decide to stop listening to everyone else about how to live your own best life and finally be able to enjoy ("savour") your messy humanity just the way it is. Most important - don't skip the chapter on the "asylum" of the family. It makes some very good and thought-provoking points about what really makes a good family (surprise - it is not material wealth or "opportunity").

I don't agree with everything Pearsall says (which is the point of the book anyway), but he opens the door for us to take a deep breath and realize that there is absolutely NO formula that can possibly encompass the entire complexity of a human life, and that our lives are meant to be confusing and infinitely messy. Otherwise they would be boring and valueless. Pearsall embraces real human being and living and inspires his readers to do the same. He has given me more courage to listen to myself and the people around me, rather than to the overwhelming amount of media produced by people who've never even met me.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2005
Don't get stuck on the provocativeness of the title. I have enjoyed and admired Dr Pearsall's other books, and this one might be his best, yet. As usual, he backs up his assertions with plenty of notes and references to particular studies. And there is a fine index, which is a joy because I found myself often wanting to refer to earlier bits of the book.

There were a number of "laugh out loud" moments of recognition: descriptions of family members that no one would choose, discussion of family as informal asylum, celebrations of human connectedness that give moments of delight even to difficult journeys.

This book is also a primer in dealing with intractable realities. Positive thinking is not the answer to every situation; anyone who has borne a deep grief knows this. Dr Pearsall recognizes the paradoxes inherent in living fully and in becoming honest with ourselves. Life is sunshine and shadow, day and night. Those who feel guilty at not being able to think themselves well or at being unable to clear all negativity from one's life will find a healthy dose of relief here. It is all right, the author seems to say, to acknowledge that the night is dark and that daylight seems far away.

A controversial aspect of this book will be its author's insistence that many incipient problems for individuals relate to over-emphasis on the individual in recent years. Codependence, for instance, might describe a functional, but difficult relationship; perhaps -- provocative idea, this -- we should be learning to care for others more than we care for ourselves. Maybe self-esteem is not only over-rated, but also might lead to unattractive deformities in personality.

But lampooning some sacred cows is not the point of the book. Rather, the book reminds us that it is a wonderful life. Throughout each chapter we are invited to embrace the full wonder of it all.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2006
Nowhere is the inclination to substitute cliches for substative thought more evident than in the self-help therapeutic culture. "Love should not be conditional" we are told sonorously by TV "experts." "Be all that you can be," "live up to your full potential," "nurture and understand your inner child," "express your anger," and my personal favorite, "we are all victims" are just a few of the silly old chestnuts that masquerade as legitimate advice. And of course sometimes there is an element of truth hiding somewhere in these hoary old sayings. But more often than not they are accepted as gospel and repeated ad nauseum until they've gained general acceptance despite being patently wrong most of the time.

Pearsall explores these and other hackneyed canards and exposes them to the light of the scientific method. Deep down, haven't most people suspected that many of these fabrications are utterly bogus? Pearsall says that the cornerstone of the self-help culture, the addiction paradigm is also a flawed construct. Only 5% (FIVE!!) of people in Alcoholics Anonymous succeed. This, according to their own literature. The famous 12 step program is unsuccessful in NINTY FIVE percent of cases!! Something's gotta be wrong with that particular picture!

Have you ever considered the possibility that this is as good as it gets? Well, it probably is, so why not sit back, relax and enjoy yourself? We're wearing ourselves out trying to "be all that we can be" and living up to our potential. Ever consider the possiblity that perhaps some people are just naturally happier than others? One of things that makes people so darn unhappy is that they think they should be happier and more fulfilled. If you aren't skipping down the street every day whistling zippity-do-dah you're probably pretty normal. But more likely than not you can't understand why you aren't happier. Most people think they are "entitled" to more happiness and if they don't get it then by golly someone's going to pay. And all too often it is the hapless spouse that pays the price.

Primarily, this book advocates being realistic in your life. If you've got the potential to become a concert pianist then by all means go for it. But if you are tone deaf, clumsy and simply loathe the piano then give yourself a break and take up something else that you are better suited for. Enjoy what you've got and what you are capable of. Derive happiness from your current situation and better appreicate those circumstances and those around you. Be realistic in your aspirations. There's nothing wrong with going for it, but again be realistic and recognize when to quit. Blindly forging ahead when you are not succeeding is as defeating as never trying something in the first place. Forget your inner child!! Learn to reach out to others and to behave as a mature adult. Do not succumb to the sirens call of victimhood and entitlement. NOTHING is more destructive to your happiness.

The whole of the therapeutic culture has come to rely on the silly nostrums that eventually have gained the status of unassailable truth. Pearsall effectively addresses these myths and explores their validity from a more flinty eyed realistic perspective. Many sacred cows are gored by Pearsall and I say it's long overdue.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2007
If I had to hear that old saw, "doing the best (s)he could" one more time, I was going to scream. Was Hitler doing the best he could? I hardly think so. Too many people seem to hide behind support groups, addictions, inner children running rampant, and myriad rationalizations why they can't or won't actually get down to it and just grow into mature, responsible, loving/lovable people. I found this book while sifting through my library for books to sell, and am delighted with it. To put it simply, it is a relief to read a book that is not a typical self-help book.

Dr. Paul Pearsall is "an internationally recognized neuropsychologist." He isn't Oprah, Dr. Phil, Carolyn Myss, he didn't write "The Secret" or any one of the number of mind-stunting books that flood the marketplace and populate the bookshelves of too many people. He has genuine credentials in his field and actually writes about productive actions for a new way of looking at yourself that don't involve psychobabble. He isn't touchy-feely, feelgood, co-dependency, addiction counseling, or bromide based. He's hilarious, challenging, and can back up what he says with common sense. He's the skeptics' guide to growth. For example, in chapter 2, he offers his alternative "facts of life": lose hope, give up, think sad thoughts, settle for second (or third or sixth) best, don't "work through" your grief, be a pessimist, don't try to discover your personal power, don't believe in yourself, men aren't from Mars women aren't from Venus, and most important to me personally, you're not a victim. He presents many more anti-bromides that came as a big relief to me. He reminds us that intuitiion can be wrong, a "prove it" mindset separates us from the herd, and becoming a contrarian makes a lot of sense. One of his better suggestions was to seek out someone who would never purchase the book you're looking at and ask them to review it. Sticking with those who are fanatics for an author, idea, or philosophy usually leads to handicapped thinking.

There are so many "what a relief" moments in this book - it's refreshing, mindful, (he discusses briefly the Buddhist Four Noble Truths to illustrate how to be a realist and what causes our suffering), and straight shooting. Not for the easily offended or those who use words like "resonate" outside of physics.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fat? Unhappy? Looking for love? With 20,000 plus self-help titles on the shelves, people are still overweight, suicidal and unfulfilled. Neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall debunks the promises of the self-help genre. He exhorts you to treat it skeptically, being mindfully aware of whether its counsel fits your life. This is probably not the "last self-help book you'll ever need;" it's certainly not the last self-help book Dr. Pearsall is likely to write (and he writes well, so that's fine). However, it will make you think and help you gain perspective on "self-helpism." Quit obsessing about the future and what you don't have. Seize the moment. A life well-lived must, in fact, be authentically lived, not just contemplated. We advocate Pearsall's contrary point of view as the antidote to way too much positive thinking.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2008
I'm 24. I'm not married, but I've been in a relationship for two years. I studied Anthropology in college and have since been working in a neighborhood not unlike the setting of "Little Children." Long story short, I'm immersed in other peoples' lives.

I live in a city that is grossly self-obsessed and it constantly amazes me to see people going through the motions of getting married, having kids, and getting divorced.

I bought this book as a means of making sense of the concept of marriage in a modern context, for myself, my employers (I'm a nanny), and everyone I know.

If I had it my way, this book would be required summer reading for high school and college seniors, and couples about to take their vows. Rather than romanticize the idea of marriage, people should sit down and look objectively at how marriages succeed and fail, something this book outlines perfectly through the use of case studies and decades of research.

I went through this book with four highlighters: 1) I highlighted all of the things/qualities/behaviors my boyfriend and I don't possess/need to work on together and individually 2) all the things I need to work on 3) all the things I believe he needs to work on. I requested that he do the same in his own book so that we could exchange our copies and review the points that matter most to each of us.

By highlighting the author's words I believe we will be able to take in the information more objectively than we would if we were, say, communicating the thoughts to each other directly. Anyway, I think it's a very very good read and can only help one to improve upon one's relationships and, subsequently, oneself (if there ever was such a thing:)).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2012
"It doesn't matter what kind of traumatic experiences you had, it's all in your head, so shut up and shape up. Don't be a whiner, don't be so weak, roll your sleeves and pull yourself out of the swamp, pull yourself up by your bootstraps..."
Here: you got that, now you don't need the book.
While I agree that wallowing in the mire is waste of time, if it was so easy to pull yourself by the straps, people would never need help and therapy. The whole book is dedicated to denying the real pain and damage done by traumatic experiences, which may generate more guilt and sense of failure in the trauma survivors. The book does not provide particular techniques for recovery, just more of the same "don't whine, it was not that bad." While I agree that reevaluating your bad experience and not over - dramatizing it, can be helpful in moving on, I don't think anybody need a whole book repeating one idea, "com'on, whiner, stop bitching and complaining." In my opinion, such approach does not encourage healing, just add to the guild and sense of inadequacy in a depressed person.
You can buy this book, if you need somebody to bully you, but then again, you can have the same experience for free - just call some cold hearted, highly critical blamer you know and have him / her slice you in little pieces.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2005
The Heart of the Last Self-Help Book is this -- Pearsall cites scientific evidence to challenge what he calls the McMorals of self-potentialism: the unsubstantiated prescriptions, programs, guarantees, and gurus that define our pursuit of The Good Life. Therefore this book becomes the newest contribution to the Realistic Psychology Movement, in contrast to the superficial be happy-ism of the Positive Psychology Movement. Possibly the best Realistic Psychology book (for real people) since The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. Beyond psychology, the more philosophically inclined might add The Myth of Sisyphus. Recommended for demonstrating that psychologists can be realistic.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2006
Very frustrating book to read. The idea of the book is great--that the self-help business has gone too far and allowed people to cop out of their own personal responsibility. But the execution of the book is filled with poor research, weakly-drawn conclusions and hypocrisy.

The chapters on love and the family are particularly bad. Though he claims unconditional love is hogwash and that family interests should rise about individual interests within the family, by the end of the chapters he is preaching the same old self-help message that he claims to condemn. He even praises bad parenting and then uses his own problem kids as an example.

The book doesn't deliver what it claims to sell. It doesn't practice what it preaches. And, worst, it uses a few oddball research studies to attempt to draw conclusions that are just not supported through most research.

So if you are buying the book based on the title or description, beware! It ends up being a pretty traditional self-help book that preaches a traditional psychological perspective with a lack of moral perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
I read "The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need" several years ago. Much like you, I was lured to it by the promising title as it appeared that all of the great wisdoms of the universe could all be found within this Persall's book--the last one I would ever need on the subject. Really, how could one pass up such a golden opportunity? Yep, I bought it and gobbled it up. It was basically a summary of the "best of" self-help suggestions that are out there on the market. Good if you are drawn to magazine style advice. Not so good if you crave details and depth. Overall, I found it an average read. Not great. Not terrible.

So, was it the last self-help book that I ever read? Nope! But I'm quite okay with that and won't hold the author accountable for failing to stop my ongoing love of self-growth and personal discovery. If you take the plunge and purhase it, I can't tell you if it will be your last self-help book but it certainly wasn't mine.
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