Local author and professor Steven Watts be giving a talk at the Columbia Public Library this Thursday about his book “Self-Help Messiah.” The book documents the life and times of Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and the dynamic era in which he rose to fame. Here is an interview with the author for a sneak preview of the event.
DBRL: What inspired you to write this book?
SW: Over the last 20 years or so I have been writing biographies of major figures in the shaping of modern American culture, a group that included Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Hugh Hefner. In particular, I have been interested in exploring how a mainstream modern creed of consumerism, personality and self-fulfillment replaced an older Victorian standard of producerism, character and self-control. After completing the Hefner book, I was looking for a new subject when Dale Carnegie rose to the surface. I had taught about him for many years in a couple of my classes at MU, focusing on his popular advice literature in the twentieth century, and his ideas always had formulated vigorous debate, as some students loved him and others hated him. When I looked at the literature, I was surprised to see that no one had written a full-scale biography of this crucial figure in modern American life. So he seemed like a natural choice for my next project.
DBRL: As a library employee, I see “How to Win Friends and Influence People” circulate regularly, which surprises me considering that the book was written almost 80 years ago. Why do you think the book has stayed relevant for so long?
SW: “How to Win Friends,” some historians have suggested, is one of the three or four best-selling non-fiction books in the entire sweep of American history and probably stands in the top dozen or so for books of all kinds. The figures I have seen support that contention. Its enormous popularity is no accident. Carnegie, with his anecdotal style and perky personality, supplied Americans with a compelling and easily digestible handbook on how to succeed in modern society. (What Horatio Alger was to the nineteenth century, Carnegie was to the twentieth.) His advice is brilliantly tailored to meet the demands and expectations of a modern bureaucratic society and a consumer culture, particularly for white-collar workers. Since that basic structure still stands in place in the United States, and indeed seems to be spreading inexorably around the world with globalization, the advice is still relevant. People respond to it viscerally, I think, and sense immediately that its principles can be applied effectively to their daily lives.
DBRL: How pivotal do you think Carnegie was? Do you think he was in the right place at the right time, and that someone else would have filled this cultural role had he not? Was this shift already on the verge of happening? Or do you think our culture would have looked much different today had he not published this book?
SW: This “what if” kind of question is always difficult for a historian to answer because we will never know what might have happened. We can only speculate, and my speculation is this. Famous people, I always tell my students, are usually individuals who stand in the right place at the right time with the right idea. It is partly a matter of context and circumstance and partly a matter of individual perception and talent. Carnegie is just such a figure. American culture was in the midst of large-scale change in the early twentieth century, so, yes, that process would probably have gone on and ended up in roughly the same place without Carnegie. At the same time, however, his efforts played an important role in formulating and systematizing vague notions of personality development, consumer striving and success that were floating around in the cultural atmosphere. He took what was nascent and made it concrete. So Carnegie does strike me as a pivotal figure whose unique talents help define and push forward a broad process of cultural change that has shaped our modern world. While it would have gone on without him, of course, I believe that he played a very important role in giving it the particular caste it has taken on.
DBRL: In her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain pinpoints Dale Carnegie as one of the most influential people in America’s shift from a culture that values a person’s character to one that places more value on an individual’s personality. Do you agree with that assessment?
SW: I agree completely. In fact, this shift from “character,” with its stress on internalized moral qualities, to “personality,” with its stress on the projection of attractive images to others, is one of the main arguments in my book. It describes not only the broader shift in American culture that is first glimpsed in the 1890s before building much steam in subsequent decades, but also Carnegie himself, whose paeans to the power of personality are key to his success advice.
DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
SW: I do a lot of reading in non-fiction, as you might imagine, particularly in American history but also in ancient Roman history, which has been a kind of intellectual hobby of mine for many years now. In the former area, I would recommend Robert Dallek’s “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House,” an interesting exploration of the key figures who surrounded JFK in the creation of the New Frontier in the early 1960s. In the latter area, I have just finished “The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination,” by Barry Strauss, which presents a colorful and insightful account of the murder of Julius Caesar and its role in the decline of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
Don’t miss Steven Watt’s book talk at the Columbia Public Library from 7 – 8:15 p.m on Thursday, May 14. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” So advised Dale Carnegie, the father of self-help in the United States. His book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was first published in 1936 and still occasionally generates a waiting list here at the library. This is no small feat in an age when the Next Big Thing crops up approximately every 12 hours.
Carnegie’s life story is as American as it gets. He was a Missouri farm boy turned cultural phenomenon, arriving at that status via a series of sales jobs, stints teaching public speaking in night school, the launch of a leadership training franchise and eventually his best-selling book. He played a major role in the shaping of U.S. society as we know it today, some say for the better and some say for the worse. The truth is probably a mix of the two. Warren Buffet claims to have gained a lot from Carnegie’s teachings, but so does Charles Manson. It may be a case of appropriate versus inappropriate use of tools.
That’s what Carnegie aimed to provide – tools for social interaction. His initial target audience consisted of professionals who struggled with people skills. “How to Win Friends…”contains an agreeable mix of aphorism and anecdote. Along with bits of his own wisdom, the author includes quotes aplenty from other sources: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Buddha, Henry Ford and more.
The book is so entrenched in our cultural consciousness, it continues to inspire spin-offs for readers of all ages. Some contemporary variations are: “How to Win Friends and Influence People for Teen Girls,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” and a children’s book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence Creatures.”
If learning from the master is not enough and you also want to learn about the master, you’re in luck. Steve Watts has written a biography about Carnegie, “Self-Help Messiah,” and will be giving a talk on May 14 at the Columbia Public Library. The event will take place in the Friends Room from 7:00-8:15 p.m.
The post Classics for Everyone: How to Win Friends and Influence People appeared first on DBRL Next.
Flowers, breakfast in bed, finger-painted and glitter-encrusted masterpieces — if you are a mom, you may be the lucky recipient of one of these traditional Mother’s Day gifts. Here at the library, we are also fond of giving the gift of reading (naturally). Here are five books and their publisher’s descriptions that moms might enjoy.
“Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now“
Irreverent, thought-provoking, hilarious and edgy: a collection of personal stories celebrating motherhood, featuring #1 New York Times bestselling authors Jenny Lawson and Jennifer Weiner, as well as many other notable writers. “Listen to Your Mother” explores why our mothers are important, taking readers on a journey through motherhood in all of its complexity, diversity and humor.
“Bettyville” by George Hodgman
A witty, tender memoir of a son’s journey home to care for his irascible mother — a tale of secrets, silences and enduring love. When Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself — an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook — in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over.
“Three Many Cooks: One Mom, Two Daughters: Their Shared Stories of Food, Faith & Family” by Pam Anderson
When the women behind the blog Three Many Cooks gather in the busiest room in the house, there are never too many cooks in the kitchen. Now cookbook author Anderson and her daughters Maggy Keet and Sharon Damelio blend compelling reflections and well-loved recipes into one funny, candid and irresistible book.
“Postcards From Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail” by Caroline Clark
Award-winning journalist and host of Black “Enterprise” Business Report Caroline Clarke’s moving memoir of her surprise discovery of her birth mother — Cookie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole — and the relationship that blossomed between them through the heartfelt messages they exchanged on hundreds of postcards.
As the summer months come upon us, it is time to be active outdoors with the whole family! There are few sports that are more family friendly and all-encompassing than bicycling. With our great network of trails and fantastic cycling infrastructure, bicycling is a favorite pastime of many in Mid-Missouri, and from April through October, the trails and roads are crowded with cyclists of all ages. In celebration of National Bike Month (and also Bike, Walk & Wheel Week here in Columbia!), let’s showcase some of the great books the library owns that will keep you pedaling happily through the warm countryside.
First, let’s review safety. Almost two months ago I was taking a spin with some friends near McBaine, Missouri and had a spill on the bike. Although my bike wasn’t hurt too badly, I was pretty banged up. Most especially, my helmet was quite badly broken. The helmet most likely saved my life. For some great tips about bike safety, please see this book published by Bicycling magazine and Rodale Press, “The Big Book of Bicycling.” The book includes a chapter on safe riding techniques and helmet selection. A great tip: “All helmets sold in the United States meet CPSC safety standards, so a $30 lid is equally as good as a $200 one.”
It’s also very important that kids learn early about bike safety. Confident cycling is one of the most important elements behind safety, and helping your kids ride with confidence will prevent many accidents from happening. The library has some great kids books about cycling, including “Safety on your Bicycle” for the very young readers in your family. With photographs and illustrations provided, including the proper way to put on a helmet, this book is a good starting point for kids. Pednet, Columbia’s homegrown cycling advocacy organization, also offers fantastic beginning bicycling courses for children.
One of the great classics of all literature when it comes to everything about the bike is “Effective Cycling” by John Forester. The first edition came out in 1974, and there is now a seventh edition published, with a great deal of updated information. If you are a cycling commuter (especially if you are negotiating heavy traffic), a general enthusiast or a burgeoning bike mechanic, this is a fantastic handbook. Forester is an engineer, so the sections in the book on riding in traffic safely are technically superb. There is even a section about cycling with children, and in keeping with the thoroughness of the book, several pages devoted to building one’s own “tagalong” bike (Forester calls it the “kiddie-back tandem”), the design of which he helped refine in the 1970s. My wife and I use this device all the time to transport our daughter around town. He offers an important piece of advice: “Remember that the child who assists will not be working as hard as the parent who leads” True indeed!
Cycling is in a renaissance right now. Not only is the sport more popular on a recreational level, but there is also a tremendous amount of active participation by several organizations in the community that have helped in changing the way bicycles are perceived. Pednet and GetAbout Columbia have done a great job making our streets and roads safer for cyclists here in Columbia — the infrastructure has become much more cycling friendly since I moved here in 1999. And how has the cycling renaissance that has caught on in many American cities changed the way we transport ourselves through work and recreation? See the book “Pedaling Revolution” by Jeff Mapes. Mapes says: “cycling advocates have been the sparkplug for a broad coalition pushing government at all levels to adopt ‘complete street’ policies . . . ” Indeed this has been the case here in Columbia — we are certainly a good case study.
One of the great things about cycling is that it is a life-long sport. Nicole Cooke, the Olympic gold medalist in the cycling road race in 2008, recently wrote a comprehensive book titled “Cycle for Life: Bike & Body Health & Maintenance.” The book is perfect not only for the serious recreational rider, but also for women cyclists who are just getting started in the sport.
A last bit of advice is . . . remember to have fun out there! And, please, always wear a helmet when you ride.
For this edition of Ask the Author, I am excited to introduce the library’s very own Svetlana Grobman! If you’re a regular DBRL Next reader, you may have already heard about some of her travel adventures or teared up while reading her post about how libraries can change lives.
Grobman has just published her first full-length book, “The Education of a Traitor,” a memoir describing her experience as a Jewish child coming of age in Russia during the height of the Cold War. The book has been described as “An intimate look at a young woman’s struggle to find her own truth in a repressive society.”
DBRL: In “The Education of a Traitor” you tell of your fear and painful sense of isolation as a child. How much of this fear and pain do you think arose from the prejudice you felt growing up Jewish in an anti-Semitic country, and how much from a family life that might be considered dysfunctional by present-day American standards?
SG: The sense of isolation came from both sources, but it was the society that did most of the damage. As for my family, growing up I never thought about it as dysfunctional. Even now I believe that we were a very average family for that time and place. On the bright side, feeling lonely made me a voracious reader.
DBRL: So much of this memoir is vividly told, with compelling details of touch and smell and taste. Considering how many years have passed and how distant you are now, geographically, from your childhood in Russia, why do you think these sensory memories stayed with you?
SG: I think that children feel more acutely than adults, taste wise especially. That’s why children like bland food, and as we age, we need more and more spices. Also, nothing smells as good as it did when you were a child. For example, I planted a lilac tree in my American yard, but it just is not as fragrant as the lilacs from my childhood – or that’s how I feel.
Another thing about children is that the sense of fairness is ingrained in their psyche. As adults, we no longer expect things to be always fair. We have seen so much unfairness in our lives that we no longer react to it as strongly as we used to. This is not the case with the children. To them, things that are “unfair” really traumatize them. On top of that, children have no power to change things. This by itself is enough to feed your worst memories.
Also, there is this about memory. As we age, things no longer come to us in chronological order. What we remember the most are the things that shocked or pleased us the most. The rest fades into the background.
DBRL: Your book relates the many ways schoolchildren and the public were indoctrinated to believe in Soviet superiority in all matters. When did you first begin to suspect this wasn’t true?
SG: There’s one story in my book called “The Young Pioneer.” That story is one of the examples of brainwashing school children into believing that nothing is more important than their country and its morals – not even their families. That story stuck in my mind because that was the first time I, then 9 years old, realized this cannot be true, at least not to me. My family was more important to me than my country, although, at that time, I believed that the reason for that was my personal weakness.
Later, I began paying attention to the messages of our mass media, which were strikingly different from my everyday experiences. For example, our agriculture was “the best” in the world, but we had to import wheat and other products from abroad. Our textile industry was doing great, but the only clothes I saw in the stores were dowdy, etc. It happened slowly, but by the time I turned 13, I had no doubt that everything that the Soviet regime told us was a lie.
DBRL: Can you comment on your choice of title for your memoir?
SG: I’ve been called a traitor several times in my life. The first time, it was my school principal. He called me a traitor because I wanted to transfer to another school. Later on, when I finally decided to leave Russia, many people called me that: people at work, neighbors and especially Soviet officials. In this country, a person can decide to live anywhere she wants, but in Russia in those days, it was considered to be a treacherous act. So, this is the origin of my book title.
DBRL: Have you read any good books recently that you would like to recommend to our readers?
SG: I am a non-fiction reader by far. Just recently, I ‘discovered’ Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night,” which, apparently, impressed even Hemingway. When I read fiction, I mostly go for historical fiction, like “The Greater Journey” by David McCullough, “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin, etc. However, I just recently read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and I’d definitely recommend it.
Don’t miss Svetlana’s author talk on Thursday, May 7th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library. There will be copies of her book available at the event for purchase and signing. You can also buy a physical copy or an ebook on Amazon. If you can’t make it to her talk on May 7th, be sure to visit her website to find out about her other events.
The post Ask the Author: An Interview With Svetlana Grobman appeared first on DBRL Next.
Today, May 1, the library is closed for staff training, and on Sunday, May 24 and Monday, May 25 we’ll be closed in observance of Memorial Day. While our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, don’t forget that the digital branch is always open. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library this holiday or any day.
- Research a purchase and prepare for those Memorial Day sales by accessing Consumer Reports through the library’s website for free with your library card.
- Find out what all the Hoopla is about, and check out this collection of downloadable and streaming music, video and audiobooks.
- Read cooking magazines (for free!), like Bon Appetit and Food Network Magazine, on your tablet, computer or mobile device using Zinio, and get a head start on your summer BBQ and picnic planning.
- Download an eBook.
- Get book recommendations for readers of any age from our blogs: DBRL Kids, DBRLTeen, DBRL Next or One Read.
- Entertain the kiddos with animated, talking picture books in our TumbleBook library or using StarWalk KidsMedia.
- Browse our subject guides on current topics like gardening and farming, events & festivals, or travel, a great starting point for making your summer vacation plans.
- Search the catalog for books, movies music and more. Check out the staff picks while you’re there!
April 30, the final day of National Poetry Month, is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Unlike most novels, a poem fits neatly in a wallet or pocket and can be easily shared with a coworker, friend, family member, grocery clerk, barista or anyone else you encounter during your day. A few well-chosen words can shine like crystal or feel like sharp truth. Verse can lift you up and make you see your world with new eyes. Poems can make you laugh or weep. They can make you feel less alone.
Observe Poem in Your Pocket Day by choosing your favorite lines and carrying them with you to read and share. Or post them on your Facebook page. Tweet them 140 characters at a time (don’t forget the hashtag #pocketpoem). How you celebrate is up to you.
What? You DON’T HAVE a favorite poem? Well, your friendly neighborhood library can help you out with that.
You can go old school and romantic with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” You can celebrate nature with Mary Oliver. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./ I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,/ how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,/ which is what I have been doing all day.” Visit the surreal with Mark Strand. “There is no happiness like mine./ I have been eating poetry.”
Want more? Check out any of these poetry collections from DBRL:
- “Face” by Sherman Alexie
- “The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems” by Billy Collins
- “Valentines” by Ted Koozer
- “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver
- “Jelly Roll: A Blues” by Kevin Young
- “180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day“
April showers bring May flowers and a whole crop of titles you are going to want to add to your holds list. New books from Jane Smiley, Naomi Novik, Kate Atkinson and the late Kent Haruf hit the shelves next month, and there is something here for every type of fiction reader. Whether you want a grown-up fairy tale or historical fiction, sci-fi or a thriller, this month’s list delivers. Here are the top 10 books publishing next month that librarians across the country love.
“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik
“A young girl is unexpectedly uprooted from her family and becomes involved in a centuries-old battle with The Wood, a malevolent entity that destroys anyone it touches. Fast-paced, with magic, mystery and romance, Novik’s stand-alone novel is a fairy tale for adults.” – Lucy Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library, St. Peters, MO
“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
“The human world is in peril. Feyre, a semi-literate girl, hunts for her family’s survival. After she kills an enormous wolf, a fierce fey shows up at her doorstep seeking retribution. Feyre is led to beautiful eternal springs, but the journey is not without danger. Maas masterfully pulls the reader into this new dark fantasy series which feels like a mix of fairy tales, from Beauty and the Beast to Tam Lin.” – Jessica C. Williams, Westlake Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH
“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson
“In ‘A God in Ruins,’ we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with ‘Life After Life,’ this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” – Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT
And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog so you can place holds on these books hitting our shelves in May.
- “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi
- “The Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
- “Early Warning” by Jane Smiley
- “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson
- “The Ghost Fields” by Elly Griffiths
- “Our Souls at Night” by Kent Haruf
- “Little Black Lies” by Sharon Bolton
A little while back three people recommended the same book to me over the span of about a month. These folks thought I’d enjoy the latest book by Jean Kwok, author of the previous bestseller “Girl in Translation.” In fact, I had picked up “Mambo in Chinatown” earlier and put it down as ‘not my type’ and so, after the first recommendation, I just said thanks, without comment. After the second recommendation, I had to share a laugh and explain what was going on, but after the third recommendation, which came via e-mail from a casual acquaintance, I decided I was supposed to read this book, my ‘type’ or not! The novel proved to be an entertaining look at ballroom dance, as well as the conflicts inherent in growing up the child of recent American immigrants.
Ever since I took up ballroom dance as a pastime, I have been on the lookout for good books about dance. I recently found one that fit the bill for me. “Astonish Me” by Maggie Shipstead brings to life the story of Joan, an American woman who, in 1977, falls in love with a Soviet ballet dancer, Arslan Rusakov—who is a clearly a fictional version of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Told in time jumps and multiple points of view, this is a story of unrequited love played out in the highly political, passionate world of professional ballet. Written with complexity of character and an intriguing plot and an ending twist that may or may not come as a surprise, the book is highly readable for dancers and non-dancers alike.
The world of ballet apparently offers a lot of fictional fodder. “Dancer” by Colum McCann is a colossal literary work that brings to life the extravagant world of Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian peasant whose genius propelled him to become an international ballet legend. Inspired by biographical facts, the story is told through a wide variety of voices, including Nureyev and his contemporaries, from the celebrated to the unknown. Beginning with Nureyev’s youth in Stalin-era Soviet Union and ending with his days of wild abandon in eighties’ New York, “Dancer” encapsulates the legendary artist in a way that captures his true essence, as well as his dazzling façade.
Cars can get us to where we need to go, but sometimes they are tied to greater stories that speak to our lives and dreams. Check out these films that take a look at different roles cars play in our society.
Trapped in a failing marriage, demolition-derby driver Ed “Speedo” Jager channels life’s frustrations onto the track, hoping to parlay his talents into a “real” racing career. This film captures the collisions and confrontations during one tumultuous year.
“Bulletproof Salesman” (2008)
Fidelis Cloer is a self-confessed war profiteer who found the perfect war when the US invaded Iraq. It wasn’t about selling a dozen cars, or even a hundred, it was a thousand-car war where security would become the ultimate product.
“Revenge of the Electric Car” (2011)
A sequel to the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” director Chris Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM and the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors to chronicle the story of the global resurgence of electric cars.