The how-to-succeed genre became an increasingly important and lucrative segment of the book publishing industry from the twentieth into the twenty-first century. It also provided their authors, publishers, and other investors with significant additional revenue through television, radio, films, and the Internet. It exerted an influence on other markets, as consumers made decisions based on the advice they received.
Financial how-to-succeed books are an important segment of a larger genre, self-help books, which also includes books focusing on self-therapy and spirituality, health and weight loss, relationships, and related topics.
The first self-help books included financial advice alongside other practical suggestions. One of the earliest authors of these books was Benjamin
The trend of inspirational authors advocating self-confidence, positive visualization, and good thoughts as prerequisites for success in business grew in the twentieth century, and the genre became an identifiable aspect of American popular culture, as well as a thriving industry. In 1937, Napoleon
The Power of Positive Thinking,
First published in 1960, Maxwell
Dale Carnegie reads from his best-selling How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1955.
After the cultural changes of the 1960’s, large segments of the American public became interested in more expanded notions of self and society. Although traditional self-help and financial how-to-succeed books remained popular, new authors appeared who combined the essentially positive outlook of previous authors with an emphasis on moral and spiritual values, often with insights from other cultural sources.
First published in 1989,
Avoiding the emphasis on optimism and hope of the mid-century texts and the holistic philosophies of the New Age authors (who also remained popular in their own right), some writers at the end of the twentieth century candidly emphasized wealth as the goal and provided strategies for becoming rich without any spiritual or moral dimension. Many books focused on millionaires and how they became wealthy.
In 1996, Thomas J.
Entrepreneur and educator Robert
Financial and money management books for or written by women became increasingly popular during the late twentieth century. Bach published the best seller Smart Women Finish Rich: Nine Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams in 1999. Eight years after publishing The Millionaire Next Door, Stanley published Women Millionaires Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen. This significant study portrayed most millionaire women as frugal, hardworking, and very generous.
Kiyosaki’s wife, Kim
Anker, Roy M. Self-Help and Popular Religion in Early American Culture: An Interpretive Guide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Analysis of the role of religion and nineteenth century American culture in shaping self-help and how-to-succeed philosophies and literature. Archibald, Matthew E. The Evolution of Self-Help. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Historical study of the self-help movement, focusing particularly on the implications of the movement’s institutionalization and the consequences of achieving mainstream legitimacy. Dolby, Sandra K. Self-Help Books: Why Americans Keep Reading Them. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. Study of the distinctively American character and audience of the self-help genre. Simonds, Wendy. Women and Self-Help Culture: Reading Between the Lines. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992. Examines the gendering of the self-help genre in general. Useful for understanding the audience of both male- and female-centric how-to-succeed books. Starker, Steven. Oracle at the Supermarket: The American Preoccupation With Self-Help Books. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1988. A clinical psychologist studies the social significance of the genre itself, as well as the contents of specific popular self-help books.