Stored in their original cardboard posting box for 75 years, twelve books of the Live Successfully! educational course show that personal development literature was going strong in the 1930s. What was the advice given then? Is it still relevant?
That will be the focus of a series of posts on this blog over the months ahead.
|Cardboard box with 1938 postmark over George VI stamp|
The course was published by Odhams Press, an innovative business that eventually succumbed to financial pressures and ceased trading in 1969.
The constituent books are still in circulation though, fetching £5 each at some online booksellers. Most are uncertain about the date of publication. There is a copyright reference, G638, that may mean something specific to those in the publishing trade. However, the postmark is clear evidence that they were around in the 1930s - a decade characterised by devastating economic decline, still referred to as the Great Depression.
Some of the keynote texts of personal development literature appeared at that time, providing how-to advice and optimism. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People was written in 1936, and Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich appeared in the same year as our postmark, 1938. The optimism of those texts would be challenged further with the outbreak of World War 2, a year later.
Back to the series:
Twelve books make up the course. These are:
1. How to discover the real you
2. You need not feel inferior
3. Conquering fear and worry
4. Memory, Concentration and Habit
5. How to control your nerves
6. Sex and you
7. How to make friends and be persuasive
8. The secret of self-expression
9. Making a success of your job
10. How to develop your personality
11. How to acquire knowledge and culture
12. Life plan for success and happiness
Each book is accompanied by a Try These Tests! supplement presented as a page folded in two and sealed on the open long edge. The idea is that having finished the book the reader is challenged to answer questions relevant to the topic printed on the front and back page then to break open the seal to reveal the answers to the questions printed inside the fold. Neat. In this series all but one of the seals are intact. That may reveal something about the original recipient's priorities back then in 1938 or perhaps having read one decided the course was not for them.
I'll let you know which seal was broken in a future post, so do click back from time to time.
It seems to me that the course titles are of continuing interest in the personal development field so I thought that it would be interesting to select some to see if the advice shared 75 years ago still applies today. And that's the plan, occasional posts on thoughts on books as I read them.
Have you read any of the classic texts such as those mentioned? Are they dated? Or still relevant? What book or course would you recommend? Comment below.