Steve Chandler has been writing and editing This Book Will Motivate You for what feels like decades. Under various titles and multiple publishers he has revised and polished the text to a high shine. I don't say this to accuse him of being a one-trick pony. He has written several books on various self-help topics, it just seems that this is either a nut he is still trying to crack or else it's his pride and joy that he can't help but tinker with, like the uncle with the old hot rod car that he pulls out on the drive way on weekends trying to get the engine to purr. In either case, this latest 2023 edition is the newest and shiniest iteration of the material. So how'd he do this time?
This Book Will Motivate You is a collection of more than 100 essays, almost all of them between 1 and 4 pages, that tackle very discrete and defined subjects, examining them as challenges to your productivity and happiness and suggesting methods for overcoming each one. The subjects can be as simple as "Leave yourself messages" or as abstract as "Walk with love and death", the latter being a long allegory leading to the advice to sometimes approach issues by defining what outcomes you absolutely do not want and then working back from that direction, rather than immediately focusing on what you do want. (To be fair, he's not saying to always do this; that would be bizarre. It's meant to be a change up when the path forward seems cloudy.) If you've read books in this vein before you will not be blown away with the material he tackles here, although the presentation is unusual and could perhaps nudge your thinking in new ways. However.
The "self help" category of books is a peculiar one, particularly when viewed through the same metaphysical lens that most of the books on Facing North are examined. By and large, the books in this category are written with an eye towards making the reader a better cog in the machine of society, rather than perhaps altering their shape and function entirely. Books like "This Book Will Motivate You" will almost always have a few mentions of how being a better person (defined vaguely so as not to offend) can affect every aspect of your life, but the underlying assumption is "hey, we're all just trying to get ahead, right?" In the essay "Put your library on wheels", which as you can probably guess is about listening to motivational audiobooks, he starts with a story about his newspaper days:
"News programs today have one goal: to shock or sadden the listener... I watched as they tore through the wire stories to see if a news item from another state could be gruesome enough to save the front page. If there's no drowning, they'll reluctantly go with a near-drowning. There is nothing wrong with this. It's not immoral or unethical. It feeds the public's hunger for bad news. It's exactly what people want, so, in a way, it is a service."
There isn’t anything wrong with this? This is the foundation from which he's building his advice. "Look, the world is terrible and you're only doing your job to help with that, but for pete's sake be good at it and get paid what you're worth for doing it." Which part of the self, exactly, is being helped with this thinking? The world can, indeed, be a terrible place and as most people have learned, even when you're against it you still have to be able to get by in it even as you may work for change. To that end, this book provides as useful a set of tools and guidance as you are likely to find, and Chandler certainly cannot be faulted for being the creator of the situation, merely a pilot (reluctant or otherwise) to help get you through. In that respect, and only that respect, I can recommend this book as a useful read.
~ review by Wanderer
Author: Steve Chandler
Career Press, 2023 (previously published in 2004)
pp. 234, 17.95