Sunday, May 25, 2008

You’ve Got to Read this Book! by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks

This book is an introduction to fifty-five people who are deemed to have had an influence in today’s world and their commentary on the books that have profoundly shaped their lives.

The co-authors, Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Gay Hendricks (co-author of Conscious Loving), judge themselves to be part of this select group of fifty-five and some of this coterie have nominated Canfield and Hendricks’ books as being influential.

The fifty-five people are authors and actors, sales people and sports personalities, media stars and musicians. Many of them are motivational speakers, representatives of the Self-Help movement, fitness and diet gurus and members of the ‘How I Got Rich’ group. Most of the contributors are Americans and the majority of the books they select are written by American male authors.

This eclectic smorgasbord ranges from Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits to Raymond Moody’s Life after Life and Venice Bloodworth’s Key to Yourself.

Interestingly, there are very few novels that have been literary change agents and only a handful appear in that quirky new list of ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’.

One valuable reminder is the impact of books on children and young people. Like Wyland, the artist who at the age of thirteen read Jacques Cousteau’s The Silent World and afterwards vowed, “I too will be an ocean explorer and diver.” (23-24)

The co-authors state in their preface, that like all personalities and books, some chapters will appeal to certain readers more than others.

You’ve Got to Read this Book! illustrates the different ways that books can influence us. Sometimes the truth of a story will seep into our minds and transform our thinking and acting. At other times a book will ‘go off like a small bomb’ and do its momentous work within us.

Often a book will have a role to play at a time of crisis or in a special season of our lives. Sometimes when we pick it up years later we wonder what we saw in the book and why we raved about it. Teacher Rafe Esquith testifies to the importance of timing in his testimony concerning Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

“I finished the book as the sun was coming up. With tears streaming down my face, I closed the book and stared out the window, my mind whirling with insights but my heart calm and peaceful at last. The book was the same book I had read so many times before, but I was not the same person reading it. All the life experiences I’d been through had made me see the world differently.” (35)

Pierce O’Donnell highlights a similar factor in his appreciation:

“When I read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, I was already wired to appreciate its message.” (63)

Sometimes the rebel in us reacts to being told, “You’ve got to read this book!” But this selection of short chapters is to be read in a different way—not necessarily in one sitting but in portions or snippets. Like a page of book reviews it may well spark some inspiration and either prompt you to purchase one of the books or knock it off your list (if you have one) of the books you want to read before the lights are turned out.

You’ve Got to Read this Book! By Jack Canfield & Gay Hendricks (New York: Collins, 2007).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 63.00.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of You’ve Got to Read this Book!