Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone Hardcover – Jan 2 2008
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“Lisick has created a hilarious, knowing tale of a year of willing ridiculousness.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“A witty, disarmingly earnest account of the year [Lisick] spent test-driving renowned self-help franchises.” (Entertainment Weekly)
not only hilarious but enlightening... Readers will be inspired: If a woman in a banana suit can clean her closet and pay off her credit card debt, surely you can, too.” (People)
“sweetly neurotic, funny and occasionally insightful.” (Los Angeles Times)
“wildly funny” and “a cross between David Sedaris and Susan Orlean.” (Seattle Times)
“Beth Lisick’s latest book is a wildly fun read that falls somewhere in between memoir and a Cliffs Notes guide to the self-help genre.” (Bust Magazine)
“A delightful, Plimptonesque exercise in immersive journalism...sharp, irreverent and endearingly screwed-up.” (Kirkus Reviews)
About the Author
Beth Lisick, author of the New York Times bestseller Everybody into the Pool, is also a performer and an odd-jobs enthusiast. She has contributed to public radio's This American Life and is the cofounder of the monthly Porchlight storytelling series in San Francisco.
Top Customer Reviews
The idea of a new Self-Help program every month coupled with the observations of the presenters and conference participants, yielded several laughs for me as well as some wry smiles along the way.
While much of the material is humorous, there are some insights to be gained along the way and in the end she actually manages to draw it together to a conclusion that yields an opportunity for a little thought and introspection.
Be aware, there is a some rough language in the book. The lampooning of religious people may cause some a little discomfort. For most however, taking the book in a light vein will yield an enjoyable read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author was both less skeptical (drat! Not enough cynicism for me!) and not committed enough to actually trying to implement and test the gurus' advice. Her life is a mess both in terms of finance and focus, facts she cheerfully -- even defensively -- admits and also as she admits, ripe for some overhauling. Yet, she never fully commits to any of the (expensive) programs some of which not only might have helped her personally, but have made the book a better read. Her commitment to testing their theories was as vague as her focus in life. Her occasional forays into TMI territory (did we really need to know about her brief relationship with a pothead, every boring conversation and kiss included, while on a Richard Simmons cruise without her husband? How did that add to anything in the story? And worst of all, the incident wasn't even funny!) merely serve to distract us from the testing of the theories just as she uses these events in her life to distract her from actually accomplishing anything.
Some months the author's program report consists of a paragraph, but by the end of the year the author seems to lose interest in her investigation and in writing the story. She takes refuge in a nicely-circular summation of how her life fits together and ends the year apparently unchanged.
As a reader, I learned little I didn't know before about these self-help programs with the possible exception of her largely-positive review of Richard Simmons. I did learn far more than I wanted to know about the author's messy life, which suffers from the ultimate failure of being... boring.
The kicker here is that Lisick decides to go straight to the gurus themselves, instead of just getting their books. Some of her "guru" choices are curious. For example, pursuing fitness by going on a cruise with Richard Simmons is like flying to Paris and eating a Big Mac at McDonalds. What? No Oprah, Dr. Phil or Dr. Ruth? A week in Tuscany to read a book about artistic creativity?? Come on!!
Incurring the costs of dabbling in each of these self-improvement ventures sounds like it darn near bankrupts her family financially. It's hard to afford these trips when one of your main jobs is wearing a banana suit, though maybe she could get a job with Fruit-of-the-Loom for future marketing efforts.
The result is a relatively entertaining, albeit somewhat self-absorbed, journey down the path of reputed self-improvement.
At one point, Lisick quotes Henry Miller,
"Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself."
Maybe she should ponder that quote a little more. "Forget yourself," indeed!
The journey begins immediately and starts out slowly, and at times I wasn't sure what the author was going to learn or accomplish. But things start to get rolling around the "April" chapter, in which she goes on a "Cruise To Lose" and encounters the one and only Richard Simmons. The whole experience is fun to read about, and though I'm not sure how badly she needed Richard's help in the first place, it doesn't matter. How many of us have secretly wondered what happens on those cruises? It's like a tell-all, and it's fantastic. Richard Simmons has helped a lot of people, and maybe you can't afford to cruise with him, but you can afford to read this book.
Throughout the year (and the book), the author seeks help for various things, including disorderliness and hoarding, parenting, her financial situation, and success. She reads self-help books by leading gurus and attends seminars and conferences, then summarizes all the information she's gathered and puts it in simple terms for us readers, all the while adding her own insight and reactions. She is a funny writer, and while sometimes she goes off on tangents that don't seem relevant, she always comes back to the point.
'Helping Me Help Myself' was a worthwhile read, and after reading it once, I'm tempted to read it again. Several of the chapters didn't apply to me, but others did, and after reading those, I feel inspired to go out and make some changes in my own life. Thanks, Beth Lisick!
This book combines "Cliff Notes" of the various self-help programs Lisick reviewed within a year-long period with intricate details of her dysfunctional thoughts, actions and encounters along the way. The theme of the book seems to be "Ha, Ha, I'm dysfunctional and no one can do anything about it, not even Jack Canfield himself." I suppose that's a story many people can relate to but I'm not sure why it's necessary to dedicate an entire book to it.
As hard as Lisick tries to convince you she's a screw-up, she dilutes her message when she throws in stories about her two-week stay in a Tuscany villa, her chance meeting with a literary agent who ends up selling two of her books and her overnight stay at Jack Canfield's mansion. She tries to sour these incidents by clouding them with seemingly insignificant details like how she I spent every last dime she had to get to Tuscany or how she was late to the event where she met her agent and in fact, she almost blew the event off completely and, even though she spent the night at Jack Canfield's house and he gave her an autographed book and a copy of The Secret, she could barely look him in the eye when he walked in the room.
I guess if you want to commiserate about your past self-help failures, you're in good hands with his book. Or, maybe you're a Lisick fan and you will be fascinated to hear the blow by blow details of her cynical thoughts and disorganized life. However, if you're looking to read about a person who takes a year to help themselves and actually does, you'll be extremely disappointed. There is definitely no happy ending here unless you read between the lines then you could say, "hey it is possible to be cynical, sarcastic and disorganized and still manage to get a literary agent and a book on the New York Times Bestseller list." From that perspective, maybe she's right, maybe there is no need for self-help after all.
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