Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Rant: What about "The Secret" and Analytical Skills

I know. You’ve been dying for one of my rants, right?

You know the ones that are unorganized. Ungrammatical but passionate. The ones that are ticked. Well here is one of those, just for you. It’s coming to you before the holiday season when I’ll try to think of something more inspirational.
First, this is what made me think about “Analytical Skills,” the topic of this rant. It is a link one of my blog subscribers sent me for a list of books (naturally I thought of you! Books!!). It's a list of books that will make you dumber! (

I actually agree with most of their assessments of books that don't do much for the reader. I tutor a few students in ESL (English as Second Language) and accent reduction and I almost always review what they read in my first session with them. If they enjoy biographies, I steer them away from People magazine and suggest they read the biography editions of Time magazine—those issues where they list the 100 Most Influential People, as an example.
I steer them away from TV News (both ultra liberal and ultra conservative) and give them assignments for news channels that try to give us a more balanced perspective. I think that we spoon feed ourselves the kinds of material that only confirms what we already believe and I think that is a mistake. I also don’t see how knowing about the most recent car chase on the 405 or five-alarm fire in a crack house is going to make us any brighter. I also recommend 60 Minutes on Sunday nights and a few other programs.
Gasping for breath here.

You remember only a few weeks ago when writers (presumably all of whom can read!) were tsk-tsking over the information in Amazon’s most media release that reported their e-books had outsold paper books for the first time? Turned out it was that e-books had outsold hard cover books for the first time (and said exactly that!). That is a factoid; it certainly only barely qualifies as a fact. It sure isn't news considering how expensive hardcover books are these days. Seems everyone read what they wanted when they saw the word “hard” and didn’t stop to think how improbable it would be that e-book sales might have surpassed the sales of all books made of paper!
On this list published by Online Certificate Programs, you’ll find Dan Brown’s most famous book. Sure, it’s a fun story. But if you read it without analyzing his style, it may ruin your own style for the next decade. (I believe writers absorb subconsciously the styles of those they read—all the more reason to read well-written works!).

Only a few weeks ago I was given a bruising review on Amazon. It was from a woman who had decided not to read the Frugal Editor because what could an editor/author know if she had a book with an amateurish cover? Worse, the reviewer felt compelled to tell the world that it was an awful book after confessing she hadn’t read it! What she didn’t know about the branding part of marketing could fill another book. The Frugal Editor (  gives frugal advice! Therefore the cover is Frugal! Ah, well. One of the signs of weak analytical skills is that those who are weakest have never analyzed their own skills so they don’t have a clue!

You’ll see Ronda Byrne’s The Secret on this list of books that make people dumber, too. Actually, I think The Secret might help some folks but only if they use all the analytical skills they can muster when they read it. There are some things that get carried too far, even some that are misleading. Still, we could all use a more positive attitude and there are some principles of physics in it that are right on, principles that most of us regular folk either don’t know about or don’t know much about. That makes it hard for us to filter out the nuggets from the husks.

I do think a list like this is something we may find helpful. We should use our analytical skills no matter what we read, though--including this list.

We’re not required to agree with anything we read. It’s important to consider the source. Frankly, the Internet is right there at the top of news sources I choose to distrust. It’s right up there with political campaign ads. Right up there with medical claims and endorsements of all kinds (in spite of the fact that endorsements and blurbs are practically the lifeblood of selling books.) In fact, there isn’t much that I don’t mistrust. If that’s a bad thing, well, sue me. (-:

I’m done.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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