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The Essence of Self-help

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Want to lose weight and gain confidence? Of course you do.

Want to get right with God, make more money, be better in bed, reduce your stress, get ahead at work, bond with your mate, raise great kids and be one with the universe? Hey, who wouldn't?

For every human desire or dysfunction, there is a book of help, advice or guidance. Or more like 2,000 of them a year just in the psychology category.

But here's the problem: If you're so stressed out, messed up, overworked and underappreciated, who has time to read all those books? That's where this handy guide to guidebooks comes in. Critics say these books boil complex problems down to simple solutions. We'll boil 'em down even further. In super-abridged form, we'll whisk you through 10 different books of advice, most of them best sellers.

It's 2,481pages reduced to about 800 words. Read it or just skim it and become the total you that you were meant to be.

``Who Moved My Cheese?''

The pitch: ``This little story has been credited with improving careers, marriage and lives!''

The essence: In a simple parable, two mice and two Littlepeople'' in a maze find out that someone took their cheese. Some cope by looking for more cheese, others sit around and whine about the missing cheese. Looking is better than whining, so you should anticipate and embrace change. Another way of looking at it: We are all just rodents trapped in a maze. By Spencer Johnson, M.D., co-author of theOne-Minute Manager'' books. Putnam, $19.95. 94 pages.

``The Power of Now''

The pitch: Spiritual enlightenment, freedom from anxiety.

The essence: Endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, Now'' is a blend of Zen, Deepak Chopra and various Eastern philosophies. Free yourself from your clamoring thoughts through focusing and meditating on the moment, and you'll shed your ego and your problems.Wherever you are, be there totally.'' (Or as the philosophical pirate said, ``No matter where ye go, there ye arrrrrre, matey!'') By Eckhart Tolle, self-taught spiritual teacher. New World Library, $23. 191 pages.

``Self Matters''

The pitch: Shed your false self and start living like your authentic self.

The essence: Dr. Phil wants you to work, taking quizzes, keeping a detailed journal, going over your life's turning points in great detail to figure out how you got so messed up. Once you know that, reprogram yourself to have healthy responses to old issues. If it's not working for you, STOP DOING IT!'' By Dr. Phillip C. McGraw, aka TV starDr. Phil.'' Free Press, $14. 314 pages.

``She Wins, You Win''

The pitch (for women): Helping other businesswomen will help you get ahead.

The essence: ``Every time a woman succeeds in business, every other woman's chance of succeeding in business increases. Every time a woman fails in business, every other woman's chance of failure increases.'' So network, mentor, be a team player. By Gail Evans, former CNN executive vice president and feminist mentor. Gotham, $25. 190 pages.

``The Four Agreements''

The pitch: Ancient Toltec wisdom will lead you to ``a state of bliss (where) you are making love all the time with everything that you perceive.'' To get to that state, you'd probably be willing to eat the paperback rather than just read it.

The essence: 1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don't take anything personally. 3. Don't make assumptions. 4. Always do your best. By Don Miguel Ruiz, a Shaman-trained Mexican mystic. Amber-Allen, $12.95. 138 pages.

``The Purpose Driven Life''

The pitch: ``You will know God's purpose for your life and will understand the big picture - how all the pieces of your life fit together.''

The essence: Your purpose is to serve God. Become more like Jesus Christ, love one another and bring nonbelievers to Christianity. ``Worship is not a part of your life; it is your life.'' By Rick Warren, Christian pastor. Zondervan, $19.99. 334 pages.

``CEO of SELF''

The pitch: How to succeed in business also teaches you how to succeed in life.

The essence: You are in charge of your life. Set goals early and high; impossible dreams are achieved one goal at a time.''Success is a journey, not a destination.'' By Herman Cain, former godfather of Godfathers' Pizza and Atlanta businessman. Tapestry Press, $24.95. 178 pages.

''21st-Century Etiquette''

The pitch: ``A road map to get us back on the track of good behavior.''

The essence: Despite attempts at currency (cellphones, e-mail, gay parents raising a child), there is still an air of fustiness: how to eat soup (dip away from yourself), how to dress for church (an elegant linen dress accessorized by ... a chic hat or simple strand of pearls.'' Sometimes it's hard to tell if she's joking:The next time you see a male acquaintance at a restaurant with a significantly younger woman, never say, `Is this your daughter?'``By Charlotte Ford, contributing editor of McCalls and author of two other etiquette books. Penguin, $14. 288 pages.

``Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution''

The pitch: Lose weight and be healthier while eating tasty food.

The essence: Count carbohydrates, not calories. Load up on bacon, eggs, steak, cheese and fiber-rich foods; avoid white flour, white rice and processed foods. Studies have been contradictory and the medical establishment is not convinced, but millions swear by Atkins' program, outlined in several books. By Robert C. Atkins, M.D., cardiologist who built enormous diet franchise and died in April. Avon, $7.99. 540 pages.

``What to Do If a Bird Flies in the House''

The pitch: How to do important and semi-important everyday stuff.

The essence: How to fix a clogged toilet, play poker, prevent jet lag, eat a lobster, start a campfire, etc., laid out step by step. Some of it is elementary for adults.By Elizabeth Nix and Elizabeth Hurchalla, two gadfly authors. Griffin, $12.95. 214 pages.


(The Cox web site is at )

c.2003 Cox News Service

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