There they are. In the self-help book section. Which I have to walk through, pass by or climb over to reach the science fiction section. Which, in some bookstores is located in the back, next to witchcraft, obscurities and uncategorized miscellany.
With dismay, I have watched this section grow over the economic crisis, promising the achievement of happiness in a certain number of steps or habits. Sometimes they are no more than an oversimplified version of how to practice Buddhism. On occasion, I follow a link only to find myself confronted with yet another one of those lists; different version, same thing. Banal advice with little application or truth.
In RL, I occasionally have to listen to summaries of such books, when a friend is excited about the possibility of self-improvement only to discover the disappointment of being marketed to. Secrets are not revealed, but maybe his life did not need improving to begin with.
I have a habit of looking at people's bookshelves when I am invited to visit their homes. Seeing 10 books on the shelf on organizing, makes me wonder if de-cluttering would not be more easily achieved by donating them. Just wondering.
This is not to suggest that some of these books do not offer value or great insight or that one cannot find useful (why did I not think of that) ideas and suggestions in a select few.
It is the heavy-handed approach of homogenization rather than accepting individuality that bothers me. I have flipped through a few and what appears to be ubiquitous is the following promise:
Self-help: This is what is wrong with you. If you follow this 52 week program and 365 steps you will be the deliriously happy person you have always wanted to be. If you cannot complete it, no wonder you are miserable. You are as useless as this book. Thank you for making us wealthy. No refunds.
There are no instructions for life or living it. No one provided us with the blueprints of the outcome of choosing option A versus option B. The insightful fellow blogger Marylinn Kelly put it aptly when she described us all as amateurs at life in her post named "Community Theater". Now. That is useful.