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Becoming Your Best: A self-help guide for thinking people

Augsburg Books, 2008
RRP $29.95

Reviewed by Bill Adams.

This is an excellent book, well written, well presented and refreshingly different from the spate of stuff that tells us we should indulge ourselves because “we deserve it”.

The author, a minister and therapist, makes the point strongly that if we wish to find happiness that endures then it will only be by the development of character, maturity and rational choices.

Feelings, of course, play an important role in everyone’s life and should be taken seriously but the modern fetish of living by emotions, because it is not healthy to restrain how we truly feel, is not good enough to guide us into the big decisions.

Every point made by the author is illustrated by references from the writings of Jane Austen and from his own experiences in personal and marriage counselling.

Jane Austen’s heroes, both female and male, are good examples of those choosing to become better people rather than simply responding to the expectations of others, even parents and friends.

The advice given is sound, solid and applicable to all. There are questions on each chapter for groups or individuals in the back pages.

But I do have a problem with this book.

Who is going to read it?

I know lots of people who should read it but I suspect that they won’t.

I have just finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and it could not be in stronger contrast.

Yates’ characters are usually people with personality failings, not of the kind to make a murder mystery, but just like the people we meet every day.

Their relationships and families are dysfunctional and needy but I could not imagine any of them reading this book, although they all should. So how do you get this message across?

I can suggest two ways.

You could become a novelist like Jane Austen and use the power of narrative to lead people to self discovery or you could become a preacher and have the arresting power of the gospel to catch people on their way.

Maybe, afterwards, they might read this book.