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100 Best-ish Nonfiction Titles: Self-Help

An end is in sight for our consideration of the Time 100 Best Nonfiction Titles, I promise. The Time category list proceeded alphabetically, so the way I see it, all we've got left is Self-Help/Instructional, Sports, and War (they also include Social History, but we covered that in our History section). I'm not crazy about any of these categories, thinking Self-Help is largely too personal to apply "best of" honors to, and I feel like I listed some of the best Sports books under Biography. War, likewise, seemed more a part of History to me. But I already punked out on the Nonfiction Novel and Political lists, so I'm going to woman up and finish out with these categories.

Here's the Self-Help/Instruction titles Time listed:

The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous
The Elements of Style, E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr.

Well, at least this is a list that has brevity going for it. But I just get a chuckle out of any list that pairs these two books in the same category. I've been lucky enough not to need The Big Book*, but I have read parts of The Elements of Style and should read it again. It is a great little book for writers.

Now, best self-help. I fully believe in the category; I once taught a class on the reading interests of adults and I told the students not to laugh at self-help, as everyone will need a self-help book of some kind someday. Really. It's a universal. But, as noted previously, Self-Help tends to be very personal. There's definitely benchmark titles in the field: Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People; Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus; anything by Geneen Roth or Wayne Dyer, etc. Those tend to leave me cold. So I'm just going to list a couple of books I've found very informational in my own life, and leave it at that.

The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, by Andrew Tobias. Personal finance affects everyone, and even if you don't plan on becoming a big-time investor (or you don't have much to invest), Tobias's very understandable and often quite funny (which is necessary; books like this are a real snooze if the author doesn't have a sense of humor) guide can really help you get your mind around money basics. College graduates (if not high school) should be given the latest edition of this guide as a graduation present.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Everyone needs a dictionary, and don't give me any shit about using Your computer isn't always on, or at least it shouldn't be, and neither should your smart phone. I use my dictionary ALL the time, for spelling help, pronunciation (Mr. CR and I had a heated discussion about the pronunciation of the word "secreted" the other day--I won't keep you in suspense, I won), hyphenation, etc. The other day my dad called and wanted to know the definition of "hubris." I love my dictionary. It's one of the few things in the world that I know how to use and never lets me down.

*Sometimes the spirt is willing but the flesh is weak: My standard physical reaction to anything more than two beers is to pass out, only to wake myself up with copious vomiting 6 to 12 hours later. At least it made me a cheap date, if not the life of the party.