How to or not how to


My friend has hundreds of ‘How to...’ books crammed into his cupboards, squeezed into open shelves and stacked ceiling high on the floor of his bedroom, yet he is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the person I knew ten years ago: a laid-back Bangalorean without the least desire to change no matter how many ‘How to...’ books he might own. I reckon his ‘How to...’ books are merely an intellectual exercise enabling him to monitor the evolving or dissipating desires of the general public as each new book supersedes the previous one.

His books can be classified under three general headings: 1. How to become wealthy 2. How to become and remain healthy and 3. How to become popular and be loved.

There must be at least a hundred books on how to acquire wealth or become a millionaire. I cannot for the life of me work this out. Surely if one book is so sure of making you a millionaire by adopting its tried and tested methods, then there seem to be no point in buying any more books in this genre as it stands to reason that you are now a millionaire and therefore have no need for further literature on what you have already acquired.

If only this were true, but it doesn’t happen. Wealth is a chimera. So the book in question is either misleading or the author is lying.

Another book is published making the same promises of untold wealth guaranteed if its methods are followed. Again a blank is drawn. It seems the only ones getting rich are the writer and the publisher, and the more books they publish the richer they get. So the obvious way to become wealthy is to write a book on how to become wealthy yourself.

Next come the Health Books. There are, it seems, myriad ways to stay well or grow robust and strong. Surely one book assuring extraordinary health would be sufficient if the instructions were followed to the letter and then the reader becomes fit as a fiddle. But this means that the publisher’s health suffers if he doesn’t publish another book on the self-same subject but this time with alternative solutions. Indeed, one book touts one method, while another is against this way of achieving health. It would almost appear to suggest that if one doesn’t switch to this new method one is almost guaranteed to fall ill, hardly a pleasant thought. It’s enough to make you sick.

The books on how to become popular and be loved can fill a small library. Yet each book has a go at it. One says that you can become popular and make friends merely by smiling and listening to others. Unfortunately my friend tried this for a while and his extending circle of ‘friends’ began to spread the rumour that he was quite stupid and having nothing to say would just sit there smiling to cover up what a total idiot he was.

He went into phase two when he followed the advice of the next book that advocated making ingratiating, flattering remarks and never disagreeing with anything that anyone said. Eventually a disgusted close friend snarled, “If you don’t stop agreeing with me again, return the thousand I lent you.” This quickly cured him of that approach.

After years of collecting all these ‘How to...’ books, my friend tells me he has learnt a lot from them. He is now deeply involved in writing a book entitled ‘How to Choose a How to Book’.

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