Are you curious about some of the worst overrated books of all time?
You have come to the right place.
After the worst books ever, this list is about the most overrated books of all time.
Please note: overrated does NOT (necessarily) mean bad.
Being overrated can sometimes be a surprising indicator of quality indeed.
To be overrated in the first place means that a book must have sold a lot, become very popular, or heavily influenced culture and people.
Indeed for this list overrated means that the book’s sales, success, or notoriety has outstripped its value, content, or usefulness.
OR, alternatively, the book’s notoriety has become so great that people are failing to see some of its flaws in them.
Here are the top 5:
#5. The 48 Laws of Power
Robert Greene is one of my favorite authors.
And The 48 Laws of Power is actually a very good book and a great read.
The examples of power moves in this slightly overrated book are all classical history. And sure people haven’t changed, but it’s not as powerful as giving us an actual video, or a more modern example that we have all witnessed.
Also, some of the laws are very theoretical and hardly applicable.
Take for example:
- Re-create yourself
- Assume formlessness
What’s one supposed to do with them?
They are too theoretical. You put the book down and you enjoyed the read, but you haven’t really gained a much greater understanding of power dynamics.
Or, equally important, how you can apply the principles.
This is, BTW, one of the reasons that prompted me to start ThePowerMoves: good demand for this kind of information but not so much quality content (and BTW, The 49 Laws of Power is an example of quality content).
Quote: (..) Act like a king to be treated like one
That quote is an example of the power that will, more often than not, backfire. Unless you have first built yourself into someone who can also produce the results of a king, that is.
What makes The 48 Laws of Power so popular?
Given the huge success, The 48 Laws of Power has enjoyed its more than a perfunctory question.
I believe part of is the willingness of people to acquire more power and if given the chance, to do so at someone else expense. But there’s something else:
- Robert Greene’s writing mastery
Robert Greene makes each law compelling and memorable.
He crafts artfully assembled sentences that make you smile as you ponder the depth of the brutally cold reality they describe.
Want an example?
“Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way”.
How could anyone not be enthralled by reading about that?
- Thirst for power -with little resources-
There are very few resources on power and power games.
Even a book like Games People Play, which most people I’m sure won’t even understand, has sold millions of copies.
Finally, The 48 Laws of Power had a big marketing machine behind it that helped propel it forward.
Fake or semi-fake news such as “banned in American” prisons was part of the marketing machine.
#4. David and Goliath
David and Goliath is a huge best-seller.
But it’s also one of those books that if you asked me what it’s all about 3 months after I read it, I wouldn’t be sure.
It’s disjointed, and the central story of how the odds were on David’s side in his fight against Goliath makes no sense.
You can watch the underwhelming Ted talk about it and see it for yourself.
Overall, a feel-good book with some good ideas and uplifting underlying optimism.
Do read it, but make sure you read the fundamental books first.
Quote: (..) The powerful are not as powerful as they seem – nor the weak as weak
Except maybe, sometimes, they are…
#3. The 4-Hour Body
Like all other books on this list, The 4-Hour Body is not bad.
And if you live and breathe the Ferris way of life, you’ll love it.
But if you don’t live and breathe the Ferriss style, chances are you’ll be left scratching your head.
What’s Ferriss style, you might ask?
The Tim Ferris way of life is an overdone of geekiness applied to self-improvement.
Ferris looks for the “hack”, the latest tech, the last bit of possible optimization.
And then recording and comparing everything (often forgetting that correlation is not causation though).
Take 4 grams of X, order 7 milligrams of Y, drink the shake at 7:05… Then compare and record the millimeters of your penis erection to yesterday’s erection…
That’s how the 4-Hour Body sounds.
Minus the penis part.
But not so minus the penis as you might imagine.
Indeed in this nutrition manual for math PhDs, Ferris even throws in his surefire way to make a woman orgasm.
And he does it in the perfect “hack and measures” Ferris’ style: tested and measured to the square millimeters of contact (three square millimeters in this case, and I’m not joking). For an overall time of 15 minutes of perfect efficiency.
She got off a perfectly timed orgasm. Ferris got off measuring the whole process.
Quote: (..) I had just taken my total testosterone from 244.8 to 653.3 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter), while cutting my estradiol (estrogen) in half
… That’s just another day for Ferris preparing lunch :).
Another Gladwell book on the most overrated book list.
I hope the author won’t stumble here any time soon :).
It’s nothing personal indeed: the books are good.
Some are very good.
And some parts are awesome.
Now back to this post.
Why is Outliers overrated?
Spend 10.000 hours doing something and you will reach the top in whichever field you’ve picked.
Does it make sense to you?
If you have a critical mind, red flags will pop up all over the place.
What about your initial talent, the type of discipline you’re training for, how you train, how passionate you are about it, the competitiveness in the field, etc., etc.?
Obviously, it’s quite silly to set an amount of time and say that you will be an expert if you train for that long.
And yet that’s exactly what Outliers popularizes.
Anders Ericsson, the author of the original research that the “10.000 hours rule” takes inspiration from, had to write a whole book to set the record straight (Peak, the best book on the science of performance).
Outliers, like some other Gladwell books, is 4-5 stars for captivating and entertainment value and a bit less for factual, applicable, and reliable information.
Quote: In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours
“Have settled”, “they” (those bunch of crazy number crunchers, you know.. ).
Way to twist reality and misinterpret research, a heavy-weight competitor for the title of the biggest pop-psychology myth ever.
#1. Think and Grow Rich
With 70 million copies sold, Think and Grow Rich is the absolute N.1 best seller in the self-help category.
I’ve never heard anyone daring to actually criticize this sacred monster of self-development.
And to be fully frank, it’s a groundbreaking book and I personally also took one major lesson learned from it.
But except for some of the wisdom in it, I felt Think and Grow Rich was a colossally overrated book.
What made it unpalatable?
First, of course:
1. Quackery Sold as Science (Ie.: LIES & BS)
Hill writes of his own personal takes on the law of attraction, infinite intelligence, faith, and desire.
And that’s cool.
What’s not cool is when he sells his ideas as facts and science.
Which is exactly what he does.
He flaunts “evidence” where there is none. He attributes scientific rigor to mental lucubration that is neither falsifiable nor provable.
And when not even Hill can muster the courage to claim scientific rigor for his mental constructs, he says that “science will prove” -LOL-.
2. Money Focus (And Nothing Else)
Take anyone whose only focus in life is “getting rich” and chances are you have just met someone with unaddressed psychological issues.
Indeed most -albeit not all people chasing money are on a fool’s hunt. A few lucky ones will realize it when they actually get the money.
For all the rest, Think and Grow Rich provides validation to keep doing the wrong thing. And it will keep them from facing their real issues.
The Scrooge McDuck-ian exercises of DESIRING money as deeply as you can (caps from the author) and visualizing yourself touching the money are particularly misguided and ill-conceived in my humble opinion.
3. Full of Power Moves: Teachers’ Frame, Smart Alecking
Like an oracle dictating the latest commandments, Napoleon Hill writes in a very dogmatic tone.
Which is probably one of the ingredients that made Think and Grow Rich so popular.
People have a tendency to obey charismatic men who speak with convictions.
Why Nobody Dare Criticize It: The Spiral of Silence
The Spiral of Silence is a social theory postulating that when most people in a group accept something as true, then single individuals are loath to voice disagreement.
So, to avoid being black sheep, the disagreeing individuals silence themselves.
The funny thing is that, once an idea takes hold, there can be many disagreeing individuals. In extreme cases, a large portion or even a majority of the group.
But nobody speaks up, and everyone continues to perpetuate the lie.
The bigger, more accepted, and more praised an idea or product becomes, the stronger will be the pressure on the individuals not to voice their disagreement.
And this is what I feel is happening with Think and Grow Rich.
A funny skit on the “silencing power” of the Spiral of Silence:
And please note that I myself was a victim of this spiral of silence.
On my first read, I tried hard to find the positives in this book and slightly downplayed my criticism. I wanted to tell the truth, but “without going overboard” and while seeking bridges with the majority of praisers.
There is plenty of evidence to support the belief that the subconscious mind is the connecting link between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence (now if he had only provided one such evidence… )
The reality of a “sixth sense” has been fairly well established (“fairly well” LOL )
So far, science has not discovered where this organ of the sixth sense is located, but this is not important (of course not). The fact remains that human beings do receive accurate knowledge, through sources other than the physical senses (“the fact remains”, LOL)
The time will come when the schools and educational institutions of the country will teach the “science of prayer.” Moreover, then prayer may be, and will be reduced to a science (“time will come when… ” Nice move from Hill to look like an oracle ahead of his time )
The above quotes wouldn’t be enough to get you a passing grade on a high school science test. But they made the job of selling 100 million copies.
In a way, that’s also the beauty of the human experience :).
I’m so glad to have found out Coffeezilla channel shedding light on Napoleon Hill: