The Bog of Lost Scholars

January 4, 2014

What I Learned from a Crappy Book

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society,The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 1:57 am

I like to read self-improvement books — books on decluttering, organization, motivation, time management, and general ideas on how to accomplish more and better things. A few weeks ago I checked out one of these books from the local library; today I returned it unfinished.

To be polite, it did not work for me. To be blunt, it was not even a heap of steaming crap, because a heap of steaming crap could have been composted into a useful and fertile idea. The book took a vague central concept — let’s call it flocculation, to be completely meaningless — and then spent half the book talking about how flocculating would make your life better and make you accomplish awesome stuff; it ignored the fact that there are millions of people who have flocculated and still failed catastrophically. It berated certain segments of society for discouraging people from flocculating, and then gave as a counterexample a friend of the author’s who flocculated while a member of that segment and became extremely financially successful; er, why didn’t the friend use the power of flocculation to change that segment of society, then? And by the time I realized I was in peril of violating my morals re: library books and the wallbanging thereof and closed the book, the book *still* hadn’t really defined flocculating or given any evidence that flocculating actually does anything. I suppose there’s a 0.004% chance that the book got better towards the end, but as I was over halfway through at that point, I decided I didn’t need to read more.

I did, however, get one useful personal guideline:

Any book talking about how you can improve yourself so that you can accomplish great things, but that uses “lose weight” as one of the examples of what you can do with this willpower and strength, is a complete crock.

There are a bunch of things I want to accomplish with my life — write novels, make cool crafts, help good books find their readers, trace my genealogy for myself and my distant cousins, rear my children well, nurture my marriage, dance, learn new skills, gain in-depth knowledge about many different topics, travel, etc. “Lose weight” isn’t on the list any more than “breathe” or “shower regularly” is. (It’s not even on the personal maintenance list, though “eat in the way that’s healthy for my body” and “get enough exercise” are.)

Really, this book is talking about how you should start flocculating because you’ll be able to change the world through political activism or entrepeneurial daring or artistic accomplishments, and then in its list of things you can accomplish by flocculating it includes “lose weight”? (And not even a list that included, say, “get off drugs” or “stop smoking” — “lose weight” is supposed to be an accomplishment like reducing crime in your neighborhood or directing a society-changing film or raising a million dollars for medical research.) Those things don’t even belong on the same spectrum, and this makes it clear that this book isn’t really about how to make the world better; it’s about how to gain the author a fawning crowd and some money.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress