Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Promise Land: My Journey through America’s Self-Help Culture Hardcover – January 7, 2014
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Customers who bought this item also bought
This book will not make you healthier, wealthier, or better looking. Instead, it offers a riff on the self-help industry—and an industry it is, with brands, magnates, and big bucks spent on programs and merchandise. With an eye for irony, Lamb-Shapiro attends various self-help functions, from a fear-of-flying class to a hot-coal walk, and works her way through the literature. She is critical of the genre’s one-size-fits-all approach, which emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for bad situations, even those seemingly beyond one’s control. But what started as an exploration of the irrepressible self-help culture quickly became personal. Those interested in self-help are, after all, seeking something—in Lamb-Shapiro’s case, coming to terms with the consequences of her mother’s death when she was a small child. The result is two-toned, both a surface ramble through parts of the shiny but hollow self-help empire and a personal reflection on her disastrous childhood. Ultimately, the latter provides her most lasting insight, that when it comes to human goals and desires, there are no simple answers. --Bridget Thoreson
Promise Land is very much a book of the publishing zeitgeist—the gimmicky premise, the mash-up of genres—and risks coming off as clichéd. But Lamb-Shapiro’s authorial presence rescues it from that fate. Her approach to the material is skeptical but not cynical; her personal disclosures feel generous rather than exhibitionistic; and she writes in a mordant, deadpan voice with impeccable economy and timing. —Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
1) To get a fair analysis of the self-help culture from its early beginnings; you get a history of the self-help culture that is well researched.
2) You learn about the loving relationship between a daughter and her father which is very well written and honesty told.
3) You also find out that author is not someone who is just writing about self-help, she, in fact, is need of self-help herself, such as her fear of flying and coming to terms with her grief.
4) The book will make you laugh, think, understand and even shed a tear or two.
Though the book is short, it does cover a lot of ground and, in the hands of an excellent writer, Lamb-Shapiro makes it work and presents a deeply personal story and at the same time provides a fair look at the self-help culture.
I liked this book, therefore, I highly recommend it.
Jessica Lamb-Shapiro's "Promised Land" takes a microscope to the self-help culture and analyzes it. She reads the books and attends the seminars, and notices many recurring themes. She notices the language of self-help, such as phrases like "You deserve it" and "I can do anything". She notices the posters with the many symbols of self-help, like the kitten dangling from a tree branch with the phrase "Hang in there". However, there does seem to be a recurring theme in all of this. These books and seminars seem to overpromise and under-deliver.
One of the seminars she attends with her father is offered by Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of one of the most lucrative self-help series in publishing history: Chicken Soup for the Soul. Purportedly there about 50 books in the series which have sold over 100 million copies. Lamb-Shapiro, her father, and about 600 other aspiring self-help gurus paid $1000 to be told by Hansen how they too can find the golden goose in self-help publishing. Irony of ironies, this seminar is a self-help seminar about publishing self-help books! As she describes it, the whole experience is more like a religious revival than a business seminar! People are asked to stand up, yell affirmations, and do silly things like draw smiley faces on other attendees fingers. But she points out what the seminar made up for in making you "feel good", it lacked in substance. What does drawing a smiley face on someone's finger have to do with creating a successful self-help book? There's no advice about marketing research, about choosing subjects, about finding an agent, and a host of other holes her and her father were hoping to hear about. After the seminar they ask for their money back. The one piece of concrete advice offered is the power of the success story. And what is Chicken Soup for the Soul? An anthology of success stories. Another, which was more helpful to her than the Hansen seminar, is a class she attends on curbing her fear of flying. Yet another is a book and seminar about finding a man to marry, offering very strange advice for single women. One of the strangest is that she should hide self-books, including the self-help book about finding a man!
These are just a few examples of the many which Lamb-Shapiro explores in her book. Her experiences I think tell us that self-help is not a complete sham but its promises may be overrated. While books offering advice on personal betterment certainly have their place, the idea that nearly every person attending a self-help seminar will become so much greater both personally and financially than they had been before is quite a boastful claim. Since the self-help movement really took off in the 1970's, it is now statistically much more unlikely to rise out of one's own income class than ever before. If this is true, the self-help promises are at best far-reaching and at worst empty promises. I love the formula offered at the Hansen seminar: Money = Idea + Energy. At first glance this seems like a very nice simplified formula for success. However, if you analyze it, it's kind of meaningless, because it doesn't take into account many unforeseen circumstances which lead to success, like luck. JK Rowling's original manuscript for the first Harry Potter book was dumped into a waste basket by the agency who ended up representing her. (A secretary who happened to see her drawings in the waste basket retrieved it and asked one of the agents to give it a second look.). Maybe there's other pieces of the puzzle the self-help gurus don't want to mention, such as luck. Money = Idea + Energy + Luck.
I had been waiting for a book like this which demystifies much of the self-help culture. Well done and insightful.