What book / purchase might help my can't-do stepfather change his life?
January 13, 2012 3:02 PM   Subscribe

What book (or other purchase) would you recommend for my defeatist, unskilled step-father, that might help him improve his life?

My step-father (who I like but am not close with) has been going downhill for a while now. He married my mom about seven years ago, they both had a period of great success, but when the housing market collapsed things started going downhill. At this point, he's been out of work for two or more years and has no savings.

He's a very kind, decent guy, but has a fairly negative worldview / defeatist attitude. He hasn't been following up on work opportunities that seem too challenging / out of his comfort zone. There are no work opportunities in the area (North Georgia mountains) for someone with his experience (telecommunications electrician ("telephone pole guy") and carpeting).

I'm 800 miles away, and can't do much for him. But I'm hoping metafilter might have some recommendations for some kind of book (or other purchase) that might help him change his perspective / get him out of the do-nothing funk he's in / see that he's capable of learning new skills.

I know that I can't make him change, but I'd like to at least give him something that helps give him the option. Any ideas?
posted by ElfWord to Human Relations (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you buy him a session with a career counselor? Either in-person or on Skype or by phone? Because although that might be considerably more expensive than a book, it might be a better place to start.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:32 PM on January 13, 2012

The one book that I read that I felt understood someone with that kind of attitude was Transitions. And I hate anything that seems like a self-help book.
posted by perhapses at 4:30 PM on January 13, 2012

I think nearly everyone should read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill - but only the original, unedited, uncommented, un"revised", 1937 version. That version is public domain now and you can download it here and there on the net. Because it is PD and a classic, there are about 50 print versions of it now on Amazon, but most have been polluted with comments or introductions. The pure original is best.

One exception, the audio version from Audio Renaissance or High Roads Media (and Nightingale Conant) is authorized and read from a 1960 revision done by Hill himself, still in copyright, and is the best audio version available. This recording was done around 1985. There's an abridged version of this recording from the same sources, but the unabridged audio is best. All other audio versions are unauthorized and are trash.

Luckily the print and audio versions linked below are available used inexpensively. A somewhat neat thing is that if someone gets familiar with the slightly abridged and smoothed audio version, there are still interesting parts in the original 1937 text that were left out of the later version.

Free PDF download original 1937 text

Facsimile paperback of original 1937 version (This is the first and best unauthorized PD publication of the 1937 version)

Paperback authorized 1960 version

Unabridged authorized CD of 1960 version (Best audio version)

When I was at a low point, reading and listening to this multiple times really helped me. Millions of people over the years feel the same - check those Amazon reviews. All other popular self-help derives from this book. Newer publications may go farther and deeper in certain ways but are built on this book. And it is fun to read and listen to.

(It's unfortunate that there are so many bad and mangled PD versions out now.)
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:10 PM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin.

Not a self help book. Just a beautiful (and funny) story about someone whose life takes many unexpected turns, through the heights of success and the swamps of failure, all of which makes that life very rich.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:58 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you mean well, but if you want to help him, you might stop referring to him as "unskilled". Both telecommunications electrician and carpet installation are skills, and it's surely not helping him any to know that you consider him to be unskilled. In fact, I've run across jobs that were specifically looking for people with his type of telecommunications skills.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:32 AM on January 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

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