However, today it’s time to wave goodbye to Mr Nice Guy as I lay the boot into some of the most overrated, overhyped and oversold books the self development field has ever known.
I have no doubt that you’ll have read some of the following books, I have equally no doubt you’ll like some of them. In fact, I like some of them, I just don’t like them as much as it seems everybody else does.
Get Things Done – David Allen
There is some OK material in GTD, if you’re into tickler files, to do lists and you like to be told everything multiple times.
Allen hit the gap in the market for an accessible and easy to understand book on time management. Having said that, the time you need to implement the actions he recommends means you’ll probably need 2 weeks off work just to get up and running, by which time you’ve probably been fired.
It is dry at best (if you ever see David Allen heading for the open mic at a comedy club you may want to ask for your check) and crushingly predictable.
A note of warning: It really isn’t the book to buy if you are a serial procrastinator as some people seem to believe, although to be fair, I don’t think it is sold like that.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
Make no mistake, 7 Habits is a good book with some interesting ideas and I thoroughly enjoyed it when I first read it many moons ago. It is 10 million copies good and does it deserve the hysterical praise it often receives though? Not in my opinion it doesn’t.
What Covey does is take some very old concepts and ideas developed largely by other people and repackage them as these magical 7 Habits that highly effective people all adopt.
20 years ago when it came out it may well have been more cutting edge and it may be a tad unfair to knock it for being unoriginal and dated. But hey, I’m feeling unfair today so that’s what I’m doing.
I do like the 4 quadrants section, but like a lot of these books Covey could have delivered all the useful information in about a quarter of the space.
The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
About 100 pages into 4HWW and I am completely enthralled. This is some powerful shit I’m thinking. Then I have no idea what happens, but it just falls off a cliff. Maybe Ferriss remembered he had a cage fighting engagement in Guatemala and outsourced the end of the book?
The premise is bullshit let’s be honest, and Ferriss has since all but admitted as much. It is marketing hype and I doubt there is a single person that is now only working 4 hours per week due to reading this book.
There is value in the book if you are looking to work for yourself or reduce your work hours, but it doesn’t deserve the fawning adulation that so many bestow upon it.
It’s a thought provoking read in places and an ok book, but a long way from being a classic in anything other than the way it was marketed and named.
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Is there a book on psychology as widely referenced as Flow? I doubt it. Is it ground breaking? Absolutely it is, and I’m glad I forced myself to read it. However, it’s dry, repetitive and the information the average person needs could be written on one sheet of a legal pad
If you are an academic type or interested in psychology, then ‘Flow’ is a must read. If you are casual observer, that’s wondering what all the hype is about I’d steer clear.
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
Be in the moment people.
There I’ve said it and yes of course there is more to this book than that, but not a massive amount more. My opinion of this book may be colored by the fact I listened to it an an audio book and Tolle has the kind of monotone voice that could send you to sleep if you were being chased by a swarm of machete wielding killer bees.
Oprah loves the bearded one (although I’m not sure what good it’s done her) whereas I haven’t got a clue what he’s talking about half the time.
Another interesting and massively read book with some good material contained within. In fact, until about half way through I was enjoying it. Then Peck decides to go overtly Christian and almost evangelical. He insists people have a duty to straighten out friends and relatives who have slipped off the correct path in life.
Not in my map of the world they don’t Pecky . If we start imposing our beliefs and values on other people we not only demonstrate a stunning lack of respect, but we also presuppose we know what is best for them, and more importantly, that they don’t.
How high and mighty is that?
Excuses Begone! – Wayne Dyer
It’s official (at least in my head) Wayne has run out of anything new to say. This is the same ole, same ole, rehashed stuff that he’s been delivering for the last 5 years or so.
Wayne Dyer has written some great books and I am not knocking him. He does piss me off sometimes when he starts playing fast and loose with scientific proof. Overall though he inspires in his own inimitable way and usually delivers.
There is only so much anybody can say I guess and if you have more than one or two of Dyers earlier books, you wont need this one.
I also doubt very much it will help you to change your belief system, but that’s another story.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus – John Gray
Men are different to women you know.
Men like to withdraw when they have problems, whereas according to the good doctor, women prefer to bang on about their issues to anybody and everybody prepared to listen. Gray takes stereotyping to a whole new unhelpful level because women and men aren’t all the same any more than all Leo’s are the same and all want to rule the world (I do though).
The fact he is a trained therapist may mean he only ever interacts with people that have issues and that could be slanting his judgment.
There are threads of behavior common to a lot of men and women due to the fact that mens brains are marinading in testosterone and womens in estrogen during critical periods of development.
However, if he he came to our house he’d be in for a shock. I love to talk about problems, I wear pink and my wife is better than me at DIY. And I’m not even going to mention the underwear drawer.
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s it really, and yes it is as glib as the title suggests.
If you really want to understand fear and not be beaten to death by platitudes, check out Embracing Fear by Thom Rutledge and The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Both are far superior to this book. As is Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman if you want to know the true power of optimistic thinking and how it can help you in your life.
Who Moved My Cheese? – Dr Spencer Johnson
Some mice in a maze find a huge supply of cheese. Then somebody moves it or they eat it, I forget which now. A couple of the mice sit around fretting and moving from peckish to hungry to ravenous whilst the other two go looking for new cheese. Amazingly enough, they find it too!
It’s a while since I read the book and I can’t remember if the 2 simpleton mice die of starvation or get saved by the other mice, and quite frankly I don’t really care.
Basically, change and adapt or die, sums up this blog length book that has sold about a trillion copies.
So I know you’re just itching to tell me what a half-wit I am for panning a book you love. So be my guest, tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.
I did also start making a note of the heavily hyped books that I personally think deserved the praise and another 10 that didn’t get hyped, but probably should have been. If you’d like me to run another post and list those let me know and I’ll be happy to oblige.