Friday, 4 September 2015

'The Power of Positive Thinking' by Norman Vincent Peale: A Book Review

The phenomenal and inspiring bestseller by the father of positive thinking. THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING is a practical, direct-action application of spiritual techniques to overcome defeat and win confidence, success and joy. Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time, shares his famous formula of faith and optimism which millions of people have taken as their own simple and effective philosophy of living. His gentle guidance helps to eliminate defeatist attitudes, to know the power you possess and to make the best of your life.

I am obsessed with the non-fiction and self-help genre. When I walk into a bookstore, that's the first shelf I'll hit. And since I'm on a journey of self-discovery and positivity, I knew I had to give this one a try. After all, it's one of the most well-known books on positive thinking.

Well, I've learnt my lesson now. Never judge a book by its popularity.

Geeks, here's a warning: don't pick this book up if you want to become more positive. Pick it up if you want to read multiple excerpts from the Bible, long-drawn evangelic statements and some irrelevant hate on atheism.

The plot blurb convinces you that this book is a spiritual guide to positive thinking. And that's great. I'm a very spiritual person. I do yoga, I listen to binaural beats, I read about Buddhism, and I try to be zen.
But it seems like the author of this book has confused spirituality with Christianity.

God is mentioned at least five times on every single page. The Bible is cited ten times per chapter. Some of the quotes are wonderful, yes, but it's the incessant 'read the bible or you'll never be happy' tone of writing that put me off.
Every single case that Peale mentions is about how some depressed, lonely or arrogant atheist found God by reading the Bible every day (to the point of being able to quote it without reference) and then suddenly became energetic, joyful and positive.

Great. But what about us atheists? What about Hindus, or Muslims, or Jains, or Buddhists, or people of any other religion? What about people who want to be spiritual, not religious? What about people who want to read about becoming positive and not about becoming Christian?

Plus, most of these cases are uncited and anonymous. We don't know the names of these strangers whom Peale has 'cured' of their foolishness. We don't know if there's any proof that they actually became positive using his methods.

I would have preferred it if Peale cited scientific journals that have shown a correlation between Christianity and positivity (if it exists at all, I have no idea). Maybe if he spoke about something other than the Lord, or maybe if every He on the page wasn't capitalised, I could have really learnt something from The Power of Positive Thinking.

Alas, the positive, grateful, energetic and outgoing atheist in me just couldn't bear to read about the ill-effects of 'not having faith'.
I've spoken about my religious beliefs before. I say, everyone has a right to have faith in anything, as long as it makes them happy.
And Peale's book goes exactly against my way of thinking. I read half of the book, and not once has he said anything positive about anything that isn't Christianity. Sure, he mentions living in the moment and being at one with nature, but even there he finds a way to shove the Lord at us, either by asking us to repeat a certain line from the Bible or by actually reading the entire holy book.

No, no, no!

If this book was about Christianity, why couldn't you just point-blank mention it on the back cover and save me the two hundred or so rupees I spent on it?

I hate leaving books unfinished, but I had to put this one down before my brain exploded. My way of being positive? Gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude. Not to the Lord or to the Bible or to any God, but to myself. To life. To happiness.
And I'm sorry, Norman Vincent Peale, but my ways are just as effective as yours.

I'm going to go with 1 star out of 5 for this one.
The Power of Positive Thinking is a Christian book for people of Christian faith who want to use their Christianity to become happier people. Not for anybody else.

Have you read this one, Geeks? If you aren't Christian, did this book bring you down too? Or were you able to actually use its practices and uplift your soul? If you did, then cheers to you. It just didn't work for me.

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  1. Love this review. Sounds more like a way for religious people to validate that their way is the only way to be happy, rather than actually talk about methods of bringing positivity into your life. Great points.

    1. Thanks, Nicole! I do wish I could have got more out of this book, though.

  2. Spot on. I read it when I was in high school. Initially I was so excited to read it thinking I would gain a lot from it but after the first few pages I realize his ways of being positive is just telling you to pray. I was immediately put off due to the same reasons you mentioned.


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