The "self-help" genre is not a major factor in my library (despite several recent entries), and, while I recognized the titles of the author's previous mega-sellers, I'd certainly never actually read them. Richard Carlson, Ph.D., is the "Small Stuff" guy, which gives some context to the title What About the Big Stuff?: Finding Strength and Moving Forward When the Stakes Are High, this being his look at getting through the "crunchy" parts of life (and, as anybody who reads my main journal knows, I'm going through one of those right now financially, so hoped to "pick up some pointers" for fending off the depression of joblessness in this).
I wonder, however, who "his audience" is ... I was never able to "connect" here (unlike that Robert Fulghum book of a couple of weeks back) and even the "to the point" entries of the several dozen in here seemed to be at a distance. This had a disjointed feel (to me) like tuning into a TV program that one had never seen and never heard of and having to figure out what was happening, where the characters were coming from, etc. Carlson never grounds this in his own existence (although he references his experiences frequently), and it's like he's approaching each of the sections from some randomly selected stance, one quasi-Sufi, one quasi-Buddhist, most fairly new-agey. It was a bit of a "curveball" when late in the book he starts talking about his having attended a Christian university, as his vibe up to that point was definitely not of the "preachy" variety! Perhaps he's writing for the great grey mass out there who never get particularly reflective, nor have spiritual training beyond the basic Sunday School rhetoric to help guide them through life's challenges, but the over-all impression I got from this was that it was "tepid", and while his suggestions for various situations were well-considered they were (for somebody who has read widely) a bit like suggesting that one put a band-aid on a cut, or a lotion on a burn.
There are forty sections here, which tackle (to quote from the dust jacket) "the difficult issues - from illness, death, injury and aging, to alcoholism, divorce, and financial pressures - with his trademark wise and eminently helpful advice". Again, there is nothing that jumped up here and started to trigger the B.S. sensors (well "wise and eminently helpful" came close) but there was also nothing that stood out and made me say (in the words of the late great Johnny Carson) "I did not know that!" ... and, as finding new stuff is one of my main pleasures of reading, this proved to make this something of a disappointment.
Of course, I return to the fact that this isn't my genre of choice. There are plenty of folks out there who would no doubt find this an inspirational book, but it just never connected for me, although, as noted, it's all "useful" advice. I do have one personal issue with this, however (not that all the preceding couldn't be taken as "personal issues"), I found that in reading this I kept spinning into depressive states ... but perhaps that's on me and my current situation (it could happen reading the Sports pages, I guess), and not so much on the book, but it was definitely triggering stuff for me (and not in a constructive way).
Needless to say (although I did so in the post's title) the price was right on What About the Big Stuff? for me (via the dollar store) ... if you want a copy, you're going to have to shell out more than that, although the Amazon new/used vendors do have "new" copies for as little as a penny (well, $4 with shipping). Oddly, there is a substantial discrepancy between the "cover price" on the copy I have ($19.95) and the "cover price" that Amazon (and BN) list ($27.95) ... I would not recommend paying either of those for this, of course!