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Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America

Written by Steven WattsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Steven Watts


List Price: $22.95


On Sale: October 29, 2013
Pages: 544 | ISBN: 978-1-59051-503-7
Published by : Other Press Other Press
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An illuminating biography of the man who taught Americans “how to win friends and influence people”
Before Stephen Covey, Oprah Winfrey, and Malcolm Gladwell there was Dale Carnegie. His book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, became a best seller worldwide, and Life magazine named him one of “the most important Americans of the twentieth century.” This is the first full-scale biography of this influential figure.
Dale Carnegie was born in rural Missouri, his father a poor farmer, his mother a successful preacher. To make ends meet he tried his hand at various sales jobs, and his failure to convince his customers to buy what he had to offer eventually became the fuel behind his future glory. Carnegie quickly figured out that something was amiss in American education and in the ways businesspeople related to each other. What he discovered was as simple as it was profound: Understanding people’s needs and desires is paramount in any successful enterprise. Carnegie conceived his book to help people learn to relate to one another and enrich their lives through effective communication. His success was extraordinary, so hungry was 1920s America for a little psychological insight that was easy to apply to everyday affairs.
Self-help Messiah tells the story of Carnegie’s personal journey and how it gave rise to the movement of self-help and personal reinvention.


   On a cold January evening in 1936, a great horde descended on the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Three thousand people crammed into the grand ballroom and the balcony encircling it, while hundreds more stood shivering on the sidewalk outside, unable to find even standing room as the hotel staff frantically wedged the doors shut and hoped the fire marshal would not appear. The throng was responding to a series of full-page ads in the New York Sun that promised “Increase
Your Income,” “Learn to Speak Effectively,” “Prepare for Leadership.” 
   Yet the crowd did not spring from the ranks of the working class or the desperately unemployed who were struggling to survive in the dark days of the Great Depression. It came from a more prosperous stratum, but one equally anxious about sliding into failure—entrepreneurs, businessmen, shopkeepers, salesmen, middle managers, white-collar executives, professional men. As the audience listened attentively for the next hour, fifteen figures paraded before the single microphone on stage and gave three-minute testimonials. Understanding the principles of human relations, the speakers proclaimed, had pointed them toward success… 
   After these endorsements, a short, trim man with steel-rimmed glasses, a ramrod posture, and a sincere, soothing voice with a slight Midwestern twang, took the stage. Dale Carnegie, creator of the selfimprovement course being praised, admitted that he was gratified by the large audience. But, he added quickly, “I have no doubt as to why you are here. You are not here because you are interested in me. You are here because you are interested in yourself and the solution to your problems.” He assured the crowd that each listener could learn the techniques that had improved so many lives. Each could understand how to be a good listener, make people like you instantly, develop an enthusiastic attitude, handle difficult personal situations, and win others to your way of thinking. Each could be successful. Every student taking his course, he declared in conclusion, “begins to get self-confidence. After all, why shouldn’t they—and why shouldn’t you?”


"An insightful and comprehensive new biography." —The Economist

"[A] penetrating biography...Watts’s lucid prose and shrewd analysis gives us an absorbing portrait of Carnegie and the America he both reflected and shaped." —Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

“Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, and now Dale Carnegie. Steven Watts is the Plutarch of American modernity.” —Robert Westbrook, author of John Dewey and American Democracy

Self-Help Messiah is carefully researched and vigorously written, a pleasure to read and ponder. Don't miss it!” —Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920

“Steven Watts’s Self-Help Messiah is a fantastic page turner about the complicated pop guru of the American Positive Thinking Movement. Dale Carnegie was a master marketeer and common sense philosopher. This first rate biography does the legend justice. Highly recommended.” —Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite 

"Compelling...Watts captures a momentous period of change in America and makes a forceful case for Carnegie's significance in it." —Barnes & Noble Revicews

[Steven Watts's] descriptions...are poignant.  Watts shows how particularly attuned Carnegie was to the psychological needs of Americans beaten down by the Great Depression, who needed to hear that positive thinking would garner positive results." —NPR, Fresh Air

"A fascinating portrait of the father of self-help and incisive analysis of the mercurial era that produced him." —Kirkus Reviews

"Watts...is an astute analyst of his subject’s life and times." —Washington Post

"Watts captures a momentous period of change in America and makes a forceful case for Carnegie's significance in it." —The Christian Science Monitor

“A…fine new biography” —Harper’s

“[Watts] paints a fascinating picture of a man who ‘struggled to accommodate his yearning for affluence with a genuine respect for moral virtues’ and whose story ‘is, in essence, the story of America itself in a dynamic era of change.’” —City Journal

"[Self-Help Messiah] should be required reading for anyone concerned by the ongoing drift from what had been a republic of individual citizens downward into a class-defined social-nationalist state that would have appalled Kafka and Orwell...[Watts] does a masterful job of weaving in Carnegie’s impact on the lives of individuals being tossed by the waves of industrialization, urbanization and mass media that dominated the last century and this." —Washington Times

"[Watts] weaves a very compelling and readable story about the human spirit and the psychological needs of a whole generation who were desperate to believe positive thinking and self-development would create a new and brighter future." —Waterloo Region Record

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