Self Help

Corky Pickering: Self-help books for men

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Maybe it’s a gender thing. Men don’t seem to talk much about their personal problems. Maybe that’s why most “self-help” books appear to have been written by women. The ladies are generally more nurturers and like helping people, while men appear to be more solitary when it comes to internal issues. Sure, they’ll join you in a beer or help get your lawnmower started, but they’re less likely to bare their souls.

For me, a big part of that male, solitary existence translates into internal reflection. I’ve always kept my eyes open for books that might help me to understand the universe, my place in it, and to make me a happier and better person. I’ve been reading this stuff for over thirty years and have something of a collection. Most of the books were authored by men. There are some notable exceptions, such as Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft, Sarah Breathnach’s A Man’s Journey to Simple Abundance, Linda Breen Pierce’s Choosing Simplicity, and The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James. There are undoubtedly others that were checked out of the library – but these were quite helpful during my quest.

I love sharing the truly significant books that I come across with my children, relatives and friends. When I finished Good Citizens, by Thich Nhat Hanh, I immediately had to send copies to my grown children, even though “crickets” is often their response. I do it nonetheless. I recently sent a cousin a copy of Love 101, by Peter McWilliams. She was feeling that while she did everything for others, she rarely did anything for herself. The book explains that it is important to love ourselves, and not be apologetic about it. The author asks “Who cares more about our welfare than we do?” I remember folks asking if I was talking to myself. I would answer proudly, “Yes I am. And why not? Is there a more interested listener who understands me better or has my best interests at heart more than me?”

“Simplicity” has been a subject close to my heart. Why make life complicated? Too much stuff can clutter your life, as well as your house and garage. If you have the space – you will fill it. That’s just the way things are. Everyone always says they would like time to do the things they really want to do, but they just can’t fit it all in. It’s all about defining priorities and choices and then having the determination to follow through. Of course, this is difficult to do in today’s fast-paced world. But it is definitely important to occasionally stop and smell the roses.

I remember buying Ernie Zelinski’s book, The Joy of Not Working. That book was something of a paradigm shift for me. Here’s a guy who was advocating working enough to pay your basic expenses and then taking the rest of the year off. Indeed, he advocated not working in any month that didn’t contain an “r” (which is May through August, if you’re trying to figure it out). I also bought his later book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free. I ended up lending it to a friend and colleague several years ago, who while hating his job, kept working. Even though he had sufficient assets to retire. He’s still at it, although he says he’ll pull the plug in two years. I hope so.

Lastly, I should mention a wonderful little book by Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat. I think the title is pretty much self-explanatory. The remaining tombs on my shelves will have to wait for another time.

Corky Pickering and his wife relocated from the Bay Area to Cottonwood in 2014. He recently retired from the federal government as an attorney advising law enforcement. He has been a rock and roll bass player and a Marine JAG. He can be reached at

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