February 16, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield

So this is the original book. The one that started everything and spawned a series so large that most home libraries couldn't contain them all. Fortunately, since this is the first book it's not subject to a lot of the problems the others had. Although it does have it's cheesy moments, or maybe that's just me being older and more cynical than when I first encountered it.

The Chicken Soup for the soul books are compilations of stories, parables, verse, and other short writings that have a common theme of making you feel better about the world around you. Not all end happy but are meant to inspire. And this particular book has broken those different stories down into chapters titled, "On Love", "Learning to Love Yourself", "On Parenting", "On Learning", "Live Your Dream", "Overcoming Obstacles", and "Eclectic Wisdom". Sometimes the stories make sense in the chapters, like in the case of the parenting chapter containing a story "Why I chose my father to be my dad" which detailed the life of a dedicated parent. Others were not so obvious, like "Golden Buddha" in Learning to Love Yourself. Sure it was about finding that special something within, or they tried to tie it to that theme anyway, but it just didn't click with me in that chapter representation.

I'm not going to deny that some of the stories didn't bring tears to my eyes. They're meant to do that, just like those Budweiser commercials with the horses. They want to tug at your heartstrings. It's good advertising. And there were a lot of good stories in this book. At least half of them were positive, could make you cry, or had a good message. But then there were a lot of cheesy ones too. Or a lot that were quite obviously made up as opposed to being real life stories. A particular example of this would be the ones that mentioned a kind act preventing a suicide. I'm not saying that doesn't happen, but the stories here involving that theme just didn't ring as true.

This book also has undertones of religion, particularly Christianity. Sure there was a story about a Buddha, but it didn't go into that religion, merely used it as a fable of sorts. While there's nothing overt about the religion in these books, it is a common theme that they all share and some are more blatant than others. It's pretty sure that you'll never see a "Chicken Soup for the Atheist's Soul" coming from these publishers. But that's ok. It's their business and they can publish what they want. It's the reader's choice if they want to pick it up or not. But this first book is one where the religion isn't blatant and any reader can sit down and enjoy a few good short stories.

Probably one of the best of the whole series, before it got too big for itself. Sometimes the original is the one you need to stick with.

Chicken Soup for the Soul
Copyright 1993
308 pages

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