There are perhaps a half dozen self improvement books of the 20th century that tower above the rest in their popularity. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale are among the most well known and best sold of the bunch.
In 1952 Peale’s book took bookstores by storm and has been a strong seller ever since. While remaining very popular the book has also drawn its share of criticism. Peale was a Christian minister and he uses a healthy dose of Christian religious faith and appeal to the power of God in this book. Yet while his frequent referrals to God and faith in God may put off non-believers or at least non-Christians, his emphasis on faith in oneself and one’s fellow man as well as his emphasis on thinking one’s way to success put off his fellow clergy and Christian friends who felt he diluted the Word of God too much and mixed too much humanism to suit a Christian audience.
Over time Peale’s combination of humanistic and religious themes may be the book’s strongest asset. More people may have found the book inspirational because of this duality than are put off by it.
However for many the jumping back and forth between a thought based success model similar to Napoleon Hill’s approach and a more religious emphasis on acknowledging the power and need for God’s and especially Christ’s intervention almost like an Alcohols Anonymous meeting is off putting. One almost wants to ask Peale to make up his mind. Yet Peale never found any contradiction in any of this. He did not see man’s faith in himself as inconsistent in any way with man’s faith in God.
On the strong side this book is full of anecdotes and discussion that inspires one to see how a positive mental attitude can lead one to success and equally how a negative approach is sure to lead to failure in one or more forms. Peale’s book also addresses the whole person. Long before it was fashionable to speak about life balance Peale stresses the importance of a person finding happiness and success in all aspects of their life, not just in their business or work.
On the weaker side the book is one of the last written in an earlier style of writing with pages filled with long paragraphs of text absent the outline style of success literature we are accustomed to now days. There are few sub headings or bullets in this book. The writing style is clear but dense. You have to read it carefully and with full attention to draw out the complete meaning. This is not a book for a lazy afternoon perusal. This is a book to be studied and is best read in manageable bites with ample time to digest and reflect upon what one has written.
Regardless of your religious persuasions, or lack of them, this is a classic and is infectious in its effort to move you toward a positive outlook. Anyone serious about a success literature library needs to own it and read it. Anyone feeling negative, lost or down would likely benefit from it.
The Power of Positive Thinking
©1980 Renewed by Norman Vincent Peale
First Published in 1952. Prentice-Hall Inc.