ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



May 2020



Asking for a Friend by Jessica Weisberg

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Anyone who likes self-help books / advice columns.

In a nutshell:
Author Weisberg explores the history of advice giving, from Benjamin Franklin to life coaches.

Worth quoting:
“Americans’ interest in advice reflects our cultural tendency toward optimism: we tend to believe that with a bit of direction and a small boost, the future can be bright.”

“People seem to prefer advice-givers whose wisdom seems attainable, who learned from doing.”

Why I chose it:
My sister gave me this for Christmas a couple of years ago, because I LOVE advice books (and have my own advice website).

The title gave me the impression that this book would focus primarily on newspaper (or online) advice columns: Dear Abby, Dear Prudence, Dr Drew (blech), Dr Ruth. And while the first two are covered in one chapter, the focus is as much on other ways people have become well-known by giving advice, including life coaches and marriage counselors.

The book is divided into four parts, and starts with ‘Old, Wise Men.’ I was most fascinated with the section on Benjamin Franklin, partly because Weisberg brings up the Silence Dogood letters, which I know only because I watch National Treasure probably three or four times a year. But it also covers experts like Dr Spock and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and traditional advice columnists like Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners), giving readers some insight into their background and their philosophy around providing guidance to others.

This book is mostly focused on the history of advice-giving; I think another volume would be interesting if it focused on the more modern advice columnists, or perhaps more of a comparison to how its evolved. This book seems to generally end with the 1990s (ish); it seems like so much has happened with this field in the last 20 years that I’d like to see that thrown into the mix.

The only criticism I have is in one chapter she reference Woody Allen a lot. I don’t need a pedophile mentioned in my books on advice, I don’t care how influential he may have been.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
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