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How Self-Help Publishing Ate America -- New York Magazine

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How-to writers are to other writers as frogs are to mammals," wrote the critic Dwight MacDonald in a 1954 survey of "Howtoism." "Their books are not born, they are spawned."

MacDonald began his story by citing a list of 3,500 instructional books. Today, there are at least 45,000 specimens in print of the optimize-everything cult we now call "self-help," but few of them look anything like those classic step-by-step "howtos," which MacDonald and his Establishment brethren handled only with bemused disdain.

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