Self-help book  

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"It has also been objected to the book that too much notice is taken in it of men who have succeeded in life by helping themselves, and too little of the multitude of men who have failed. “Why should not Failure,” it has been asked, “have its Plutarch as well as Success?” There is, indeed, no reason why Failure should not have its Plutarch, except that a record of mere failure would probably be found excessively depressing as well as uninstructive reading. It is, however, shown in the following pages that Failure is the best discipline of the true worker, by stimulating him to renewed efforts, evoking his best powers, and carrying him onward in self-culture, self-control, and growth in knowledge and wisdom. Viewed in this light, Failure, conquered by Perseverance, is always full of interest and instruction, and this we have endeavoured to illustrate by many examples."--Self-Help (1859) by Samuel Smiles

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A self-help book is one that is written with the intention to instruct its readers on solving personal problems. The books take their name from Self-Help, an 1859 best-seller by Samuel Smiles, but are also known and classified under "self-improvement", a term that is a modernized version of self-help. Self-help books moved from a niche position to being a postmodern cultural phenomenon in the late twentieth century.

Early history

Informal guides to everyday behaviour might be said to have existed almost as long as writing itself.

In Western culture, a line of descent may be traced back from Samuel Smiles' Self-Help to when Florentine Giovanni della Casa. In his book of manners published in 1558 suggests: "It is also an unpleasant habit to lift another person's wine or his food to your nose and smell it"'. The Middle Ages saw the genre personified in ' Conduir-amour ("guide in love matters")'; while in classical Rome Cicero's "On Friendship" and "On Duties" became perennial handbooks - not to mention Ovid's "Art of Love" and "Remedy of Love". The former has been described as a sex book but actually deals with practical problems of everyday life; the latter, equally essential, concerns itself with falling out of love.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Self-help book" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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