People with a Purpose by Trevor Barnes is a nostalgic look at the Teach Yourself series of books which started in 1938 with Teach Yourself Cooking. I found it really interesting to read extracts from the earlier books as it gives you a flavour of the era in which they were published. The early ones were quite firm with their readers telling them what they should and should not do. As the twentieth century progressed they became more relaxed.
The 1930s and 1940s concentrated on practical every day subjects such as gardening, cooking, flying, woodwork and mothercraft. They were of course influenced by the austerity of the war years and their readers were urged to save money and resources as much as they could. The 1950s branched out a bit with languages and embroidery and various aspects of gardening and cooking.
It was in the later years of the century that you got books such as Teach Yourself Alcoholism - was this a good choice of title? Then there are subjects such as stress and depression which had not been touched on in the earlier years. Looking back it seems the titles reflected the interests of society at the time. All the books were written by enthusiasts in their fields as the prolific quotations demonstrate.
I had not appreciated the breadth of coverage of this series until I read the book and I found it fascinating reading. It shows the self help movement has a long history behind it. This is a gem of a book to read from cover to cover or dip into from time to time.