Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicken soup for the soul: Think positive---101 inspirational soties about counting your blessings and having a positive attitude

By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Amy Newmark

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Before you read this review you must understand several things.  First, I am not a strong advocate for any of the books in the Chicken Soup series.  Second, I am a believer in a positive life, and thinking positive about anything should a natural and automatic part of living, not something saved for a particular illness, problem, or situation.  Third, I find that prayer serves no purpose whatever.  It may be useful to buoy your spirit or give you hope, but chances for a positive outcome because of prayer are 50-50, just as they are in life without prayer.  And there are no such things as miracles.  Fourth, all thoughts and feelings occur in the brain — not in the heart.  You cannot be guided by your heart, have a nagging in your heart, or have a broken heart.  Sorry.  The heart is merely a muscle that pumps blood.

Also, and this is just an aside.  Anecdotal evidence (stories, examples, personal experiences, and illustrations) count for little in the course of life.  There is no doubt that they have persuasive power because of the way they stir the emotions and can rally people to act.  But with respect to proving something (there is no doubt that God exists), or serving as a basis for argument, they have no — zero — evidential power.  The experiences detailed in this book are personal, highly subjective, and told with a bias (slant or angle) that can easily cause readers to question their true veracity.

Then why did I pick up this book?  Curiosity could explain it.  I write positive essays, and even my publishing company, And Then Some Publishing, is based on a philosophy (carefully explained at the website) that is founded on the idea that you must do everything that is required of you in life — and then some.  It is the “and then some” that is most likely to bring you recognition, rewards, riches, and success.

One more answer as to why I picked up this book is simple: I am always in search of additional ideas to write about.  At my blog, I write a 1,000-word essay every week, and this is my fourth year (over 200 essays!) of writing them.  I thought that with 101 inspirational stories in this single volume, surely I would find one or two that would stimulate a unique thought, a useful memory, or a new essay.  I was wrong.

Now, you might think — from this introduction to this review — that I found the essays boring, unnecessary, inappropriate, irrelevant, or worthless.  No such thing.  Most are very well written.  Their writers tell a compelling story in great detail and always with a positive outcome.  Just as in all the Chicken Soup books, if you want short inspirational essays, there is no doubt about it, this is a good choice.  They will cause you to closely identify with the writers and, in many cases, appreciate human determination and perseverance.  (I always think to myself, “Damn! what some people have to endure!”)

On the other hand, I found the essays rather repetitive, so I do not recommend readers read the book from beginning to end without stop.  (It can be read quickly.)  Put it somewhere where you can read it in short segments, just as I think it is intended.

I want you to know that I admire any book that causes readers to feel better about themselves or better about the human race in general.  If a book such as this gives people hope, then it has served a useful purpose.  If it helps people put their own life in perspective (by comparing theirs with others in worse situations than their own), then I think it is valuable.  And, if it makes readers “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” as Dylan Thomas expressed it in his famous poem, “Do not go gentle into this good night,” then, perhaps, it should be read by everyone.

(I have reviewed over 250 books, and I did not realize that I had reviewed this book previously.  On July 23, 2011, (about 8 months after my first review) I reviewed it a second time.  Although there is some of the same information in my second review as there is in the first, there is a lot of additional information.  Without any tailoring or deletions, the following is my second review of this book.)

I have been delighted with many of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but not in the way many of those reading this review would suppose or imagine.  My first goal in selecting this book was to find potential topics, themes, or ideas to write about on my own positive-oriented blog at

For the short, inspirational stories, of course, this is not unlike most of the previous books of this genre (although a number of reviewers at suggest this selection is not as strong as others).  

There was an unexpected byproduct here, however, similar to the one I experienced in reading my father-in-law’s (Edgar E. Willis) book, How to be Funny on Purpose: Creating and Consuming Humor.  What I discovered from reading the Willis book, because of its clear, accurate, and detailed explanation of how to create humor, I found myself engaged actively in the process of writing jokes.  I had never written jokes previously nor did I think myself capable.  What fun I had constructing them!

Well, in reading about “thinking positive,” I went through a number of epiphanies.  I couldn’t help myself.  I thought, for example, about what a positive and pleasant life I have led, and why it has happened.

The life I have led, both by design and positive thinking, fortunate (and lucky) decisions I made along the way, and certainly circumstances that have provided opportunities I never dreamed could happen, has been challenging, exciting, rewarding, and incredibly satisfying.  Many of the results of positive thinking occur because of good choices along the way!

Here is my conclusion regarding positive thinking.  All of life depends on making good choices.  So, if I were to give advice to anyone (as I have done to over 80,000 students during my teaching career), it would be this: Prepare yourself in such a way that you (not someone else) is in control over the decisions of your life.

Now, I fully realize this is easier said than done and, too, that no matter how much we prepare, we cannot be in total control over all the decisions of our lives.  That is true, however, that should not be discouraging.  The point is to prepare as widely, broadly, and thoroughly as possible—stretch ourselves in all possible directions—in order to give ourselves the edge, the opportunity, or the advantage in any decisions that affect (or impinge on) our lives.  We do not (cannot) know what curve balls life will throw at us, but that does not mean we cannot prepare ourselves to meet them.

When you apply this philosophy to your life, you are always looking for ways to improve, expand, or extend.  You never stop learning or, even more important, looking for ways to increase your knowledge and potential.

This is the philosophy, I believe, that best undergirds, reinforces, buttresses, supports, and strengthens positive thinking, or it is the most likely philosophy to bring positive results from positive thinking.  Positive thinking alone is valuable, but it takes more than just positive thinking to bring concrete results.

I found this Chicken Soup for the Soul book useful and valuable in this regard.  I realize that teachers seldom know the impact—long-range results—of their instruction, but if I instilled this single idea in any of my 80,000 students I taught over more than 30 years in the classroom and lecture hall, I would consider my work successful.  It is more than just a positive message, it is a charge, command, or instruction that, when internalized and practiced, will send you on a mission to take responsibility for your life.

This book is available at Chicken soup for the soul: Think positive — 101 inspirational stories about counting your blessings and having a positive attitude

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