Cover image for Self-help nation : the long overdue, entirely justified, delightfully hostile guide to the snake-oil peddlers who are sapping our nation's soul
Self-help nation : the long overdue, entirely justified, delightfully hostile guide to the snake-oil peddlers who are sapping our nation's soul
Tiede, Tom.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
viii, 224 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF632 .T56 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Every year, Americans waste millions of dollars on books that promise to fix all their problems. We buy each new one, believing its promises despite the failures of all the previous tomes, continuing to hope for that nonexistent magic bullet. Tom Tiede, a former syndicated columnist and the recipient of numerous journalism awards, just might be able to cure us of this addiction. In Self-Help Nation, Tiede skewers the authors of self-help books, whom he compares to modern-day snake-oil peddlers exploiting our weaknesses.

As he slashes his way merrily through his least favorite books, Tiede posits a larger cultural argument about why we as a nation have fallen prey to the self-help juggernaut. Waging an eloquent attack on the salaciousness and irresponsibility of the media, the self-absorption of the Baby Boom generation, our fascination with celebrity, and other cultural afflictions, Tiede offers insightful commentary on what we've lost in our hyperaccelerated culture and calls for a return to the timeless American value of self-reliance.

In urging us to trust ourselves, Tiede is perhaps writing just another self-help book, a sure sign of the mess we've gotten ourselves into. Regardless, Self-Help Nation is a delight to read -- wickedly funny, refreshingly candid, and ultimately profound.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dismayed by the chronic dominance of bestseller lists by self-help books? Then welcome Tiede's as a breath of jocose cynicism. Perplexed about how humanity managed to survive in the pre-self-help era, an epoch that stretches back from Norman Vincent Peale to roughly the beginning of time, Tiede contrasts the self-reliant, think-for-yourself attitudes of yore with the placebo-palliatives to personal problems proclaimed by contemporary paperback advisors. Tiede has actually read the scrivenings of the late yet presumably still-hugging Leo Buscaglia; the salesman of eternal good health from New Delhi, Deepak Chopra; and dozens of their psychology-dispensing ilk. Tiede's acidic commentary about the platitude-purveying banality of such authors matches his amazement at the public's gullibility in buying the books. Dieting books, for example, are the book industry's license to print money, though none dare state the duh-solution to obesity: eat less. Tiede's tirade won't dent the sales of self-helpings in spirituality, relationships, or careers, but to the rest of us, who never want to take a step down The Road Less Traveled, his is a devilishly delicious diatribe. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

"She's a moralist, a stiff spine, a hanging judge, a smell fungus, a censor, a hall monitor and naturally... [s]he is also largely popular and wealthy. I'll get to hypocritical in a moment," writes Tiede of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. But the good doctor should not feel slighted; Christ himself doesn't come off much better in this mordantly funny attack on sanctimonious advice givers. Taking the view that most people are better off thinking honestly and logically about their own desires, TiedeÄa nationally syndicated columnist and recipient of the Ernie Pyle awardÄmassacres self-help books for their quick fixes and, he says, dumbed-down psychology and theology. In his view, they're unnecessary, untrustworthy and even harmful. Along with Dr. Laura and Jesus, Tiede goes after Norman Vincent Peale ("He was the one [at Calgary] wearing bells on his hat, telling everyone to be happy"), M. Scott Peck, Barbara Kessling (Talk Sexy to the One You Love), Elaine Emeth & Dr. Janet Greenhut (Care of Body, Mind and Spirit for Optimal Health) and Paul Harris (Direct Your Subconscious and Drive to Success). Tiede has a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to life and does not suffer fools gladly. He can be deeply moving, as when he talks about his experiences with disabled servicemen in Vietnam, or starkly terrifying, as when discussing torture in Uganda. His views are not going to be accepted by everyoneÄhe recommends smoking potÄand his rhetoric, while often hilarious, is so strong that it's sure to be ignored by those who might need it most: addicts of self-help. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this sardonic and bitterly derisive wake-up call, syndicated columnist Tiede criticizes the booming self-help publishing industry and the dependent individuals who buy into it. In chapters ranging from "Magic Bullets" to "Addictive Admonitions," he takes on everyone and everything from Laura Schlessinger and her Ten Stupid Things tomes to Richard Simmons, Deepak Chopra, and God. Hollywood, the print media, and the baby boomers who currently control those forums, he claims, have made Americans a people obsessed with transforming every minor malady into a disorder. Unfortunately, what begins as an in-depth analysis discrediting the self-helpers quickly becomes a belabored collection of Tiede's pet peeves, personal gripes, callous beliefs, and self-deprecating attempts at humor. He includes irrelevant footnotes, snippets of his own poetry, and quotes from the numerous books he discusses. With its alienating approach, Self-Help Nation has very limited appeal.DJeanne M. Leiboff, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.