The Book Club: A Selection of Self-Help Books

From: Emily Yoffe
Subject: Absolute Positivity
Posted Monday, July 12, 1999, at 12:00 PM ET

Dear Jeff,

What struck me immediately about these three bestsellers is what they are not about. They're not about some of the recently popular themes of the self-help genre: making money; enhancing your sex life; vanquishing your rivals; getting rid of toxic parents, spouses, or boyfriends. We must really live in contented times if these are the books people are reading to improve their lives. The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. (but really by Cutler, who says in an interview he's not sure the Tibetan leader even read the manuscript), is obviously explicitly about Buddhism, even if it is not terribly instructive in the basic tenets of the religion. And both Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... And It's All Small Stuff, and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up make reference to Eastern philosophy of a watered-down sort.
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