Personal crisis reading

How my lifelong obsession with popular self-help books has shaped me into the person I am today

It was a typical November afternoon and I was sitting on the floor of my new apartment, trying hard to make sense of the personal discoveries I had just made.

In the process of unpacking boxes, I was struck by two things. One, I have lots of books. Two, I have lots of self-help books.

Wait a minute, self-help books? Lots of them? What’s my problem?

I soon found myself standing in front of the bookshelf, lost in thought. The pieces started to fall into place.

My first encounter with a self-help book was not a very happy one.

When I was in high school in China, my teacher introduced me to this genre.

She complained everyone in my class would mimic the writing style in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

The book has remained tremendously popular since its publication in 1993.

It has sold millions of copies and been printed in more than fifty languages. It’s no wonder these high school kids copied its style.

Around the same time, my father tried to make me read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Toru Kiyosaki, a best seller on financial success.

He saw on TV some teenage geniuses who were already successful financial planners and he believed his own daughter had only been paying attention to pop music and parties. He thought he could cure my with these books.

When I was in my second year of university, one of my friends passionately, almost forcefully, lent me the books The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer and The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Breckenridge Carnegie.

“You should read these books, Jen, they are really helpful,” she said.

She probably thought it was her responsibility to improve me and my world.

In my life, there were moments of desperation, fear and worry, but I trusted that books like How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Carnegie could help me regain my peace of mind.

As ironic as it is, I also bought the book my father had tried to get me to read.

These books have come into play at times when high school kids were not satisfied with their own writing style, when a father wanted a financially minded daughter, when someone tried to help a friend, or when a confused soul needed help.

After all, there is nothing wrong with my obsession with self-help books.

I bought them when I was looking to upgrade my scope of knowledge.

I cherished the books I bought.

Without them, I would not be who I am today.