There are good self-help books and bad self-help books. But once in a while one comes along that’s so comically and so brazenly cynical and manipulative that it produces a kind of inverse sonic boom- you can practically hear the sound of shattered bookstore windows rippling up and down the coasts. Picking it up, you know you’re in the presence of demented genius. And you know, somehow, it’s going to sell. Such a book is The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne- No. 3 on the hardcover advice list. . . Byrne’s book promises, as many do, to help you zero in on “the hidden, untapped power” that’s somewhere inside you. But to get at this “secret” to success and well-being, you need to flip through so many pages of world-class inanities (“You are the most powerful transmission tower in the universe,” “Visualize checks in the mail,” “Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can”) that you begin to think the author is in on the joke and that you’re finally reading the self-help version of “This is Spinal Tap.” No such luck.
I visualize myself never, ever watching Oprah or reading self-help. But for those people with addictive personalities there is a salve in the form of a book, and that type of book is The Secret. Of course, I have also said that I think religion is a crutch, but I would never criticize people's faith. As a librarian, I probably shouldn't criticize people's literary tastes. As a cynic, I just can't help it.