Self-Help Books

Why Americans Keep Reading Them
Author: Sandra K. Dolby
Understanding instead of lamenting the popularity of self-help books
Paper – $28
978-0-252-07518-6
eBook – $19.95
978-0-252-09099-8
Publication Date: Cloth: 2005; Paper: 2008
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share
Preview

About the Book

Based on a reading of more than three hundred self-help books, Sandra K. Dolby examines this remarkably popular genre to define "self-help" in a way that's compelling to academics and lay readers alike. Self-Help Books also offers an interpretation of why these books are so popular, arguing that they continue the well-established American penchant for self-education, articulate problems of daily life and supposed solutions for them, and present their content in an accessible rather than arcane form and style.

Using methods associated with folklore studies, Dolby then examines how the genre makes use of stories, aphorisms, and a worldview that is at once traditional and contemporary. The overarching premise of the study is that self-help books, much like fairy tales, take traditional materials, especially stories and ideas, and recast them into extended essays that people happily read, think about, try to apply, and then set aside when a new embodiment of the genre comes along.

About the Author

Sandra K. Dolby, director of the Folklore Institute and professor of folklore and American studies at Indiana University, is the author of Literary Folkloristics and the Personal Narrative.