Having long had my own addiction to self-help books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Marianne Power’s Help Me, which sounded like the self help book to end all self help books.
Marketed as ‘one woman’s quest to find out if self-help really can change your life’ each chapter is a canter through famous self improvement books to show if they really work.
Far from being a catalogue of book reviews, it is in fact a real life experiment showing the impact of self help, both negative and positive.
Powers, a London based journalist, wakes up one morning with a killer hangover and the dark realisation she is unhappy all the time, but doesn’t really know why.
She sees self help as a way out and vows not to just ‘read’ self help but to ‘do’ self help and see if it can change her life.
It is an absolute roller coaster of a ride for Powers who takes part in the most hair-raising antics within the first few chapters alone, including stand-up comedy and jumping out of an aeroplane.
She throws her heart and soul into every book heading off on a retreat with as part of John C Parkin’s F**K It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way and chanting along with 7,000 others in car park attempting to Unleash the Power with Tony Robbins.
Not surprisingly part way through the experiment she begins to suffer some real mental health issues as the constant self analysis begins to take its toll.
She finds herself falling out with one of her closest friends, getting into money problems and sinking into a deep depression.
The voice of reason comes from her friends and family and most notably her wonderfully straight talking Irish Mother who constantly offers golden nuggets of common sense in Powers whirlwind of self-analysis.
I absolutely loved this book. It was beautifully written, raw, heart-warming and funny. You just can’t helping loving Powers, she is totally honest and vulnerable throughout.
The final book she looks at is You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and it does does appear to give Power’s the most peace, advocating self-love as a way of solving many of the issues we have.
I wouldn’t say it has put me off self-help books but it certainly highlighted to me the dangers of the seductive nature of the genre.
At best self help can provide comfort and a different perspective but it can also be really damaging. She highlights author Brene Brown’s take on self-help who says she just doesn’t recognise it. ‘We’re not meant to do it on our own,’ says Brene.
What comes out loud and clear from the experiment is how Powers sees the value in those people she loves and are close to her.
So maybe what we all need in our lives is an Irish Mother offering straight talking advice; now there’s a self-help book.
This book is part of 14 selected under the theme of female empowerment to be crowned ‘London’s BIG READ 2019’
If you live in London you can vote for your favourite book online at http://www.londonsbigread.com until June 30.
The winner will be announced at a fundraising dinner on September 2019.