Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill [1938] This is one of the best-selling self-help books of all time. Written during the Great Depression, against a backdrop of millions of people out of work and a looming world war, Napoleon Hill's magnum opus held out hope that life could get better. While not considered part of the New Thought movement, Hill drew on many of their concepts and techniques. He prefigured the 'Prosperity Consciousness' of present-day New Age thinkers. And a host of motivational writers and speakers have followed in his footsteps. A good part of Hill's book is simply the gospel of 20th century American Capitalism: work hard, have a firm handshake, get ahead by doing quality work, treat your customers with respect, anybody can become rich and/or powerful if they overcome their personal weaknesses. Some may find the core 'secret' of this book elusive; Hill never gives us a succinct formula to acquiring wealth, although he hints that it exists. However, the title of the book is 'Think and Grow Rich,' not 'Get Rich Quick': Hill insists that we take a very detailed personal inventory, and grow spiritually, in order to draw wealth our way. This involves a developing a high level of self-discipline and obeying the Delphic injunction to 'Know Thyself'. He also incorporates a lot of good, practical business advice: find new opportunities created by technological innovations, make a written plan and keep to it, don't be afraid to fail repeatedly. The secret is here, it is just simply the sum of parts rather than an explicit roadmap. Towards the end of the book he steps off a precipice and ventures into some very esoteric territory. He discusses harnessing Kundalini energy, manifesting psychic powers such as telepathy, tapping into higher consciousness, and getting in touch with the great minds of history, although, again, he is not too specific about how to accomplish these feats. Think and Grow Rich is one of those books which makes a lasting impression. No matter what you may think of Hill's philosophy and his folksy writing style, you are bound to come away from this book feeling energized, more optimistic about life, and (possibly) a bit richer for the experience. --J. B. Hare, 7/20/2006
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