The Next Chapter

Brian Francis tries out three popular self-help books

Brian Francis reviews three self-help books that vary in their helpfulness.
Author and TNC columnist Brian Francis reviews three recent self-help books.

Brian Francis is the author of Fruit and Natural Order. He's also a columnist for The Next Chapter, and he writes the Ask the Agony Editor column for Quill and Quire magazine. Last time he was on the show, he read three diet books and reported back on the experience. This time, he's taken a look at three self-help books and tells Shelagh Rogers what he learned and how he improved himself... or didn't.

ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE SELF-HELP INDUSTRY

I have a mixed relationship with self-help books. There is the business of self-help and the marketing that goes on behind it, so there's a part of me that always sniffs out what I perceive as... not insincere, but I think that people are being sold something. They're being sold hope or quick fixes, and that's similar to diet books — everyone's looking for that one miracle cure. Some of the books we're going to talk about today are kind of silly, and I think you can always learn something about yourself. You need to keep that door open and decide what does and doesn't speak to you.

FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT THE UNIVERSE TO HELP OUT WITH THEIR GOALS

The premise of The Desire Map by Canadian author Danielle LaPorte is that you shouldn't be following your goals but rather your desires. It's your desires that will help you achieve what you want to achieve in life. It's not so much about the goals as about the feelings that those goals produce. I think the book is good for people who feel that there's a universe that's being responsive to them and their needs, and that if you put something out there you will get it back in return. 

Sample quote: "Feelings are the road signs to your soul."

FOR PEOPLE WHO AREN'T TAKING THIS WHOLE SELF-HELP THING VERY SERIOUSLY

Selp-Helf is a book from YouTube sensation Miranda Sings, the creation of comedian Colleen Evans. Miranda Sings is a reflection of all those wannabe pop stars who believe they have the chops to make it but in reality they don't have what you'd call "star quality." She offers up what she thinks are some very important "selp helf" things that you can do to make your life better.

Sample quote: "Singing is a talent that sounds like talking but with more singing."

FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE THEIR ADVICE WITH A SIDE OF PROFANITY

F*ck Feelings is written by the psychiatrist Michael Bennett and co-written by his daughter Sarah, who is a comedy writer. The premise is basically that there is much in life that is beyond your control, but it's about pulling your head out of your behind, setting realistic goals and going for feasible results. I really liked this book because it says you know, life isn't fair, you have to deal with difficult people, they're not going to change, so how do you navigate your daily life and feel, not serenity, but that your life is tolerable and you have a sense of pride in how you deal with situations rather than try to change the situations themselves. It's funny, and there's a lot of swearing, but there is practical advice throughout.

Sample quote: "Eventually, striving to improve yourself brings diminishing returns and prevents you from accepting yourself and living with what you've got."

Brian Francis's comments have been edited and condensed.

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