Title: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Author: Dale Carnegie
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: 3 out of 5
Format: Print

My 2012 reading has continued apace. Here are my thoughts on the first non-fiction book I read this year, which I finished over a week ago.

About the book: This was one of the books, if not the book, that launched the self-help genre. The title pretty much says it all. However, the subject matter is deeper than the title suggests, as it also talks about effective leadership skills, and talks about interpersonal skills in greater context.

What I liked: I liked the sense of Dale Carnegie’s voice that shone through the text. Yes, the tone is a tad fusty (the book itself is over 75 years old), but I got a more authentic sense of the author’s voice here than I did when reading other famous self-help books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or Getting Things Done.

Those other books sounded fake because the anecdotes used to illustrate key concepts were so heavily paraphrased that they ended up sounding like the authors themselves. They also packed a lot of fluff – GTD, in particular, could have been just as useful at half the length. In contrast, How to Win’s chapters were succinct, and the letters and anecdotes that Carnegie quoted really did sound like they were written by other people.

I also liked that this book had such practical information; it contained little jargon or technical-sounding acronyms. Instead, there was just good, old-fashioned psychological insight, the most important of which can be boiled down into five words: people like to feel important.

What I disliked: Yes, the book explicitly states on the cover that it’s all about how to influence people, but I was still uncomfortable with some of the pieces of advice offered – they felt downright manipulative. On top of that, I’m unsure whether the now-dated references to celebrities and captains of industry detract from, or add to, the book’s charm.

The verdict: I liked it, and felt that a lot of the book’s suggestions were practical and easy to implement. It says a lot of true things about human nature, even if the book’s method of attack is flowery and old-fashioned.

Next up: Empire State, by Adam Christopher.