cover image One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life

One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life

Mitch Horowitz. Crown, $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-98649-8

When his family life collapsed during his teenage years, Horowitz, vice president and editor-in-chief at Penguin/Tarcher, wished, prayed, read Emerson and the Talmud, and clung to the hope that a better attitude could improve his situation. When his family’s situation did improve, he grew to believe that his positive thinking had contributed and could continue to help steer him through rough waters. Taking the cue from his own experience, Horowitz offers a spell-binding survey of the evolution and persistence of positive thinking and its shaping of modern America, where its influence is felt in the messages of preachers T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen, in Ronald Reagan’s slogan “nothing is impossible,” and in commercial taglines, such as Nike’s “Just Do It.” Horowitz’s survey begins with 19th-century Maine clockmaker Phineas Quimby, who healed himself with a combination of vigorous physical activity and mind-over-matter techniques, before treating others, including the future Mary Baker Eddy. Horowitz then follows the trail from Eddy through figures like Prentice Mulford, who advocated the mind’s “wealth-building potential”; James Allen, who blended religion with motivational thought; friend-winner and people-influencer Dale Carnegie; and Alcoholics Anonymous founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. Horowitz, with an ear towards critics, cannily probes the roots of positive thinking through to modern science. (Jan.)