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The Growth of the Self-Help Industry

An article in New York magazine reports that the self-help movement has mushroomed into an "$11 billion industry dedicated to telling us how to improve our lives." The article observed:

Today, there are at least 45,000 [books] in print of the optimize-everything cult we now call "self-help" …. Twenty years ago, when Chicken Soup for the Soul was published, everyone knew where to find it and what it was for. Whatever you thought of self-help—godsend, guilty pleasure, snake oil—the genre was safely contained on one … bookstore shelf. Today, every section of the store (or web page) overflows with instructions, anecdotes, and homilies [from self-help books] …. [Self-help books] replaced doctors, priests, and therapists (and maybe even parents, senators, and teachers) with public personalities who gave names to the problems of millions.

The article offered titles and brief descriptions for some of today's most popular self-help books:

  • How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less
    How to make a lasting good impression, from teeth to breath to handshake to small talk.
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
    Business and science-tested strategies for bending others to your will.
  • 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute
    Provides behavioral tweaks … in an amount of time anyone can spare.
  • The 4-Hour Workweek
    Self-help's current version of get rich or get good at anything quick.
  • The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life
  • How to Think More About Sex
    Yes, that is the real title.

Possible Preaching Angles: The self-help movement can lead to the belief that we should and that we can save ourselves through our own efforts. The gospel proclaims the end of this type of self-help and the beginning of God's redemption to save those who cannot save themselves.

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