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Self-Help Nation: The Long Overdue, Entirely Justified, Delightfully Hostile Guide to the Snake-Oil Peddlers Who Are Sapping Our Nation's Soul Hardcover – March 30, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"She's a moralist, a stiff spine, a hanging judge, a smell fungus, a censor, a hall monitor and naturally... [s]he is also largely popular and wealthy. I'll get to hypocritical in a moment," writes Tiede of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. But the good doctor should not feel slighted; Christ himself doesn't come off much better in this mordantly funny attack on sanctimonious advice givers. Taking the view that most people are better off thinking honestly and logically about their own desires, Tiede--a nationally syndicated columnist and recipient of the Ernie Pyle award--massacres self-help books for their quick fixes and, he says, dumbed-down psychology and theology. In his view, they're unnecessary, untrustworthy and even harmful. Along with Dr. Laura and Jesus, Tiede goes after Norman Vincent Peale ("He was the one [at Calgary] wearing bells on his hat, telling everyone to be happy"), M. Scott Peck, Barbara Kessling (Talk Sexy to the One You Love), Elaine Emeth & Dr. Janet Greenhut (Care of Body, Mind and Spirit for Optimal Health) and Paul Harris (Direct Your Subconscious and Drive to Success). Tiede has a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to life and does not suffer fools gladly. He can be deeply moving, as when he talks about his experiences with disabled servicemen in Vietnam, or starkly terrifying, as when discussing torture in Uganda. His views are not going to be accepted by everyone--he recommends smoking pot--and his rhetoric, while often hilarious, is so strong that it's sure to be ignored by those who might need it most: addicts of self-help.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Dismayed by the chronic dominance of bestseller lists by self-help books? Then welcome Tiede's as a breath of jocose cynicism. Perplexed about how humanity managed to survive in the pre-self-help era, an epoch that stretches back from Norman Vincent Peale to roughly the beginning of time, Tiede contrasts the self-reliant, think-for-yourself attitudes of yore with the placebo-palliatives to personal problems proclaimed by contemporary paperback advisors. Tiede has actually read the scrivenings of the late yet presumably still-hugging Leo Buscaglia; the salesman of eternal good health from New Delhi, Deepak Chopra; and dozens of their psychology-dispensing ilk. Tiede's acidic commentary about the platitude-purveying banality of such authors matches his amazement at the public's gullibility in buying the books. Dieting books, for example, are the book industry's license to print money, though none dare state the duh-solution to obesity: eat less. Tiede's tirade won't dent the sales of self-helpings in spirituality, relationships, or careers, but to the rest of us, who never want to take a step down The Road Less Traveled, his is a devilishly delicious diatribe. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr; First Edition edition (March 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137777
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,519,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born February 24, 1937 in South Dakota.

Residence. Living with the bears at a tree farm on the James River, in Virginia.

Occupations. National, foreign and war correspondent for NEA, a Scripps-Howard syndicate. Newspaper owner in Georgia. Newspaper publisher in California and Utah. Newspaper editor in Montana, Washington State and North Carolina. Antiquarian book store owner in Virginia; other business ownerships.

Travels. Something in vicinity of two million miles, reporting from nearly 100 countries.

Book publications. Your men At War, a collection of Vietnam columns; Coward, a war novel; Calley, Soldier or Killer?, an account of the My Lai Massacre; Welcome to Washington, Mr. Witherspoon, a novel; The Great American Whale Rescue, an account of a trapped whale in California, 1982; American Tapestry, Eyewitness Accounts of the Twentieth Century; The Man Who Discovered Pluto; Self-Help Nation, a review of America's myopic belief in personal perfection.

Awards. National Headliners Award, for domestic reports; Ernie Pyle Memorial Award, for war coverage; numerous state, regional and private organization awards, including Freedom Foundation's George Washington Medal.

Biography listings. Who's Who In The World (Marquis) since its inception in 1990; Who's Who In America (Marquis) since 1968; others.

Other activities in the arts. Once a member of a board of consultants, Norman Rockwell Museum; painter; lecturer on news and events.

Works and papers collected by the Special Archives Division of Mugar Library at Boston University. The library's Twentieth Century Archives include materials from scores of literary people from around the world.

Present or former member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Overseas Press Club, Senate Press Gallery, White House Press Association; numerous civic organizations.

Mailing address: PO Box 230, Amherst, Va. 24521; e-mail: tomtiede@msn.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Crystal Eitle on March 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Self-Help Nation" opens with a sad story: The author, Tom Tiede, having once been a bookstore owner, is called to a near-empty house to purchase a personal collection. There are hundreds of books, three-quarters of them self-help, almost all "hardcover, rush-out-and-buy first editions." Mr. Tiede estimates the owner spent $12,000 on these books over a period of four years. This hapless man had lost his business, his wife, and finally his home. Had he put that 12 grand toward mortgage payments he would perhaps at least still have his house. Sadder still was the fact that most of the books had bookmarks lodged only 20 or 30 pages in. Such was the catalyst for Tiede's diatribe against the purveyors of self-help and the suckers who buy their books.
One of Tiede's favorite criticisms of self-help books is that they offer "common sense" advice that most of us have known from infancy. But what looks like common sense to him is news to a lot of people; a lot of us have holes in our upbringings, and weren't taught the value of, say, persistence, hard work, developing a strong will or maintaining a positive attitude. If people can learn these things from a book, that may not be such a bad thing.
Tiede comes off as arrogant, and his book is sure to offend many people. There is good and bad in this book in about equal measure, an odd mixture of spite and compassion. Too bad it's impossible to give 2 1/2 stars. For example, he despises the entire Boom generation, but is keenly sympathetic to women and women's concerns. His overall attitude is that humans are flawed, but so what? Our problems aren't as big as they seem, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something. So what if we get into bad relationships? We learn from them and move on.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The world needs a good book calling to task all the charlatans out there getting rich by offering advice on everthing from sex to getting rid of problem dandruff. Unfortunately, Tom Tiede's "Self-Help Nation" is not up to the task. The book is merely a disjointed collection of screeds against everything and everyone ranging from Thomas Jefferson, to Christians to modern newspapers to that always popular target--baby boomers. The book should be entitled, "Tom Tiede's Pet Peeves: a Self-indulgent Monologue." The book's cover promises readers an antidote to the "snake oil peddlers who are sapping our nation's soul." Instead, Tiede simply offers his own brand of snake oil in a package that promises an antidote but contains only colored water.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By yoginimama on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book. Who wouldn't, with a title like that? But I couldn't get past the first chapter. It's disorganized, almost incoherent, and just plain unpleasant. There *is* a great book waiting to be written about the potential for charlatanism or just plain bungling in the self-help movement....but this isn't it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Betty McNeal on June 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a ranting, raving critique of the torrent of popular self-help advice books and of the growing swarm of advisors getting rich off the incomplete, oversimplified solutions they dispense. Tom Tiede, veteran journalist, spares no author, dead or alive, in his crusade to wean the world away from bogus helpers and healers. For this we are grateful.
It's about time someone stemmed the tide of publisher's hype, misleading titles, quasi-authorities, talk-show spiel and pure nonsense peddled as fact and honored as life-changing truth. I commend Tiede for taking on the thankless, largely hopeless task of getting through to the spiritually blind and deaf who compose the bulk of humanity. His topics hit home, covering relationships, marriage, addictions, loneliness, obesity, self esteem, alcoholism, sex and more.
Mixing reason with humor, satire, shock and insult Tiede tears down best selling authors, such as Deepak Chopra, Denis Waitley, John Bradshaw, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Dr. Susan Forward, Terry Cole-Whittaker, Leo Buscaglia and more. Any self-help writer of the last 30 or 40 years is a target for his piercing pen. Then he crosses the line of political correctness into religion, sacred books and saviors.
Sprinkled among the tirades are touches of time-tested wisdom where Tiede urges us to think for ourselves and tackle reality with all its ups and downs, its eternal challenges that will not go away with secret techniques and magic answers. We get the impression that Tiede himself has come through the fog and found fresh air on the other side.
Unfortunataly, his use of four-letter words and vulgarities and his attack on souls considered as holy prophets and great message-bearers will no doubt turn away the very folks who need a wake-up call.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Mize on February 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Lately, I have been weary. After reading "Self-Help Nation", I came to the conclusion that I was tired of being bombared with books that tell me what's wrong with my life and then purport to tell me what I need to do to fix it. For the past 15 years I seem to have been in one big "change your life" blur. Nothing was ever good enough, or even just good. It couldn't be good, it had to be better.
Buddhism, Taoism, A Course In Miracles, Metaphysics, Hypnosis, Tony Robbins, Fit for Life, Self-Talk, Celestine Propehecy, Yoga, Meditation, Creative Visualization; you name it I've purchased and read a book on it.
No wonder I'm tired.
In "Self Help Nation", the author takes a scathingly funny look at the Wayne Dyers, The Deepak Chopras, the Louise Hays, of our world. Sometimes, he states, you just gotta take responsibility for your own life and make it on your own, without any outside help from these self-proclaimed 'experts'.
I would change that to pick a system of belief and stick to it, rather than going on the cafeteria plan and buying any and every book that comes out, hoping to glean yet another morsel from it.
The best part about this book is that it really opens your eyes and gives you a starting point in weaning yourself (and myself) away from the self-help and psychology section of your local bookstore.
The worst part is that the author takes way too many potshots at so many different authors. It's like watching your drunk uncle gripe about everyone in town, rather than giving you the good gossip on the mayor and the city council.
The last two words of this book are Self-reliance.
That's what it's all about. Relying on yourself. Remembering that everything you need to know is inside of you.
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