50 Success Classics: A book review by Bob Morris

50 Success Classics: Winning Wisdom for Life and Wotk from 50 Landmark Books
Tom Butler-Bowdon
Nicholas Brealey Publishing (2007)

Inspiring “stories” illustrate a “way of success that anyone can follow”

Note: This is one of volumes in the 5o Classics series, each available in a softbound edition and priced at less than $15.00. In my opinion, the vaue of the material in each volume is worth far more than that.

In both this volume and in 50 Self-Help Classics, Butler-Bowdon has selected and then provided a rigorous examination of carefully selected works which have had, for decades, a profound impact on those who read them and then applied the principles which their respective authors affirm. In this instance, “winning wisdom” to apply in one’s life and work. There are several reasons why I hold this volume in such high regard. Here are three.

First, Butler-Bowden has assembled excerpts and focused on key points from a wide variety of works which include (with authors listed in alphabetical order, as in the book) Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick, Andrew Carnegie’s Autobiography, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Thomas J. Stanley’s The Millionaire Mind, Brian Tracy’s Maximum Achievement, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Sam Walton’s Made in America, and Zig Ziglar’s Meet You at the Top. Obviously, some of this material would also be appropriate for inclusion in 50 Self-Help Classics.

Second, I appreciate the fact that Butler-Bowden also enables his readers to focus on issues of greatest interest to them by suggesting combinations of selections within these four thematic categories:

Motivation (e.g. Tom Hopkins’ The Official Guide to Success)

Fulfilling your potential (e.g. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement)

Prosperity (e.g. Russell H. Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds, a lecture and article rather than a book)

Leadership (e.g. Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader)

The diversity of Butler-Bowdon’s primary sources even within the same category is indeed impressive.

Third and finally, he makes clever use of a number of reader-friendly devices throughout his narrative, such as “In a nutshell,” “Final comments,” and a brief bio of the author at the conclusion of each selection. I also appreciate the inclusion of brief quotations wherever they are most relevant.

In the Introduction, Butler-Bowdon observes that “When we think of success writing it is often the motivational classics that first come to mind, and the titles in this [volume] represent the historical development of the genre….While all of the books have been bestsellers [and many continue to be], the main criterion for their inclusion was their impact and renown, or whether they filled a niche in terms of a particular subject or person….The leaders discussed are not specific markers for your own success — it is generally not a good idea to compare yourself to other people — but their stories illustrate a `way’ of success that anyone can follow.”

I agree with Butler-Bowdon that each person seeking success (however defined and measured) must assume primary responsibility for being and doing whatever is required to achieve it. However, most of those who share or are the subjects of the success “stories” in this volume have duly acknowledged the assistance provided to them along the way by family members, friends, allies, and in several instances, benefactors.

Butler-Bowdon realizes that he is providing “only a taste of the literature (the main ideas, context, and impact of each title)” while urging his readers to “feast on the real thing.” What he offers is by no means a buffet of entrepreneurial “hors d’oeuvres.” On the contrary, the content is solid and skillfully presented effectively. I am convinced that many of those who read this book will then be encouraged to read (or re-read) “the real thing.” If Butler-Bowdon’s efforts accomplish nothing else, that will indeed be sufficient to earn the praise I think he has earned…and justly deserves.


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