I recently had the opportunity to judge a national book contest. The topic that I was assigned was “Self-Help Books.”
I’ve been a judge of this particular contest for many years in various categories . I enjoyed the years I judged cookbooks and audio books.
I judged so many cookbooks that I can tell if one is good within a few minutes of opening to the first page. In fact, I read so many cookbooks that I gained 20 pounds. At least I think it was from reading them.
One year I drew Religion and Spirituality. That was certainly interesting. Everything from Wicca to Voodoo to Nature Religions to Conservative Christianity and Eastern religions were included. After reading about 20 books on various religious subjects, I should have been a saint. But I wasn’t.
When I agreed to judge the self-help category, I had no idea what I was getting into. Two shipments of books arrived at my home — 41 books in all.
The topics included getting into the college of your choice, acing a job interview, business writing, controlling anger, dealing with loss of employment, eating like a caveman, exploring holistic living, gaining financial stability, finding the right man, being a perfect parent, improving your marriage, and coming out on top in a divorce, dealing with illness, and overcoming grief.
That was only 14 of the 41 books.
The range of topics could take you from birth to death with no problem.
My task was to rate the books given standardized criteria. My opinion about the content — whether I agreed or not — was irrelevant. I was judging the research, presentation, writing, illustrations, if any, and readability.
If you happen to see me out and about and I seem a little addled, it’s because reading that many self-help books has made me second guess my every move.
If I seem like I have my act together, it’s also because of the books. I should be perfect by now. But I’m not. So as one of the books recommended, I will have to fake it until I make it.
See you next week. Be kind to each other.