Self help or motivational literature tends to hold up a mirror to the society that created it. Victorian sobriety and industry provided us with the robust self-reliance of the Samuel Smiles classic, Self-Help. The Depression age gave us the American archetype of the wandering salesman, making a sincere effort to know and understand others (How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie). The optimism of revivified, post-war America yielded optimistic, motivational classics such as The Magic of Thinking Big, where the power of positive thinking perfectly complemented America's manifest destiny of benevolent global hegemony.
In the 1980s, big goals and instant change were order of the day. This was perhaps the decade where life coaching went mainstream and figures such as Anthony Robbins emerged as motivational superstars. The genre continued to evolve over the next twenty years. The explosion of creative self help literature around the century's end saw a marked divergence between more spiritually focused works and those that celebrated rapid accumulation of wealth. Now that the credit and property bubbles have burst, has a new self help literature emerged that suits these troubled times? A quick review of recent works suggests that we have found a new model.