In this first full-length biography of pioneering self-help guru Dale Carnegie, Steven Watts makes the compelling argument that Carnegie's story is the story of America.
Reviewed for The Barnes & Noble Review by Barbara SpindelSkip to next paragraph
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Growing up in rural Missouri, Dale Carnegey absorbed many lessons from his pious mother and father, but they were not the lessons his parents intended. Despite their unrelenting labor and upstanding morals, the family lived in bleak poverty. In 1913, several years after Dale had left home, his father sold off a chunk of his farmland at a considerable profit. "Now you see how money is made," Dale wrote his parents upon hearing the news. "It is not by hard work."
Carnegey, scarred by the deprivation of his childhood and obsessed with the question of how to make it in America, would go on to write one of the bestselling nonfiction books of all time, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" – changing his name to the now familiar Carnegie along the way. Steven Watts, history professor at the University of Missouri, has written the first full-length biography of Carnegie, Self-Help Messiah, and he makes the compelling argument that "the story of Dale Carnegie is, in essence, the story of America itself in a dynamic era of change."
That change was indeed rapid and far-reaching. Carnegie was born in 1888, and through his early life the nation experienced, in Watts's words, "not only massive industrialization, mass immigration, and the closing of the frontier but the rapid growth of a modern consumer economy." With economic and demographic transformation came an attendant shift in cultural values, as strict Victorian moral codes lost ground and "character" came to be seen as less important than "personality."