The Magazine Reader on "The 4-Hour Body"

New Yorker LogoIn her New Yorker profile of self-help guru and bestselling author Timothy Ferriss, Rebecca Mead writes, "Every generation gets the self-help guru that it deserves." For example, the Depression spawned Napoleon Hill's still-popular Think and Grow Rich while the post-WWII era gave rise to Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. As anyone who has seen Mad Men knows, Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead became a kind of totemic guide of its own wacky sort. Then the rise of management consultancy in the '80s and '90s made Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People a huge bestseller (not to mention all its various spinoff titles). The '00s saw the Oprah-influenced rise of Ekhart Tolle's The Power of Now and other writings.

Book CoverNow we are privy to the strange ramblings of Ferriss' The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body. These are most graciously characterized as "colorful," as evidenced by their respective subtitles: "Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich" and "An Uncommon Guide to Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman." But lest you think Ferriss is all sizzle and no steak, he insists that his own personal guru is the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca, and advises students to read his Letters From a Stoic, as well as Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing, and British airline media mogul Richard Branson's Losing My Virginity (unfortunately, none of these is currently available from our library).

Whether you're interested in Ferriss' odd outlook on life or not, it's worth reading the New Yorker profile just for a glimpse of the current self-help zeitgeist.