Book Review: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

splash: book review of Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell MaltzThis is a book review of the classic Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Although this title was introduced already in 1960, most of its teaching and principles are very much applicable even today. This is a must read, for anyone interested in self-realization, self-actualization, and the law of attraction.

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THE BOOK

In this book review I will be reviewing my copy of Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz. This is the Pocket Books mass-market paperback edition of this title, and (it claims) it was published in 1969 (it says “first printing” on the copyright page). Originally, however, the book was first published in 1960, by Prentice-Hall.

Front and back cover of Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (Pocket Books 1969)

Now, when I say that the Pocket Book edition was published in 1969, I say that because that is the date stated on the copyright page of this book (“First Pocket Books printing May 1969”). But that date cannot be the date the printing of this particular copy.

For not only do we have (on the back cover, and on the inside front cover) an ISBN number (the full specification of which wasn’t even properly defined until 1970), but we have an EAN barcode as well, and an ISBN-13 number (and ISBN-13 numbers were not introduced until 2007). It follows that my copy must be a 2007 printing (or later).

So in this review I will refer to this copy as the 2007 printing (edition), although it may actually be later than that. I have had it in my bookshelf for five years or so, so it wasn’t printed later than, say,  2014.

Other Versions or Editions

It is important to note that there are several versions (“printings”, “editions”) of Psycho-Cybernetics, even as published by Pocket Books. For example, I have one other copy from 1977, which claims to be the 31st printing (May, 1977; ISBN: 0-671-80628-9).

Front and back cover of Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (Pocket Books 1977)

This copy, as you can see in the photograph (immediately above), has another front cover and back cover than the 2007 copy.

Also, on the inside, some of the pages in the beginning of the book (for example, the title and copyright pages) are slightly different. Furthermore, the 1977 edition is also 0.25 inch taller than the 2007 copy. What’s important, though, is that all the core parts of the book are the same: the page count is the same, and the typesetting and scale seems to be identical to the 2007 edition.

There is also a so-called “updated” and “expanded” edition here. Whether that 2015 edition (TarcherPerigee; ISBN: 978-0399176135) is a good edition or not, I do not know. What I do know, however, is that Maxwell Maltz died in the 1970s. Therefore, whatever “updating” is done, is not done by Maxwell Maltz himself.

The Text

Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics is a “self-help” or “self-development” type of book, aimed at the general public. It is not a university textbook in psychology or anything like that; rather, it’s a practical handbook meant for people who are interested in self-improvement and self-realization.

The book has three main parts: the front matter (17 pages); the main part (268 pages); and the index at the back (14 pages). So all in all, 299 pages.

The front matter consists of various title and copyright pages, after which a preface (“Preface: The Secret of Using This Book To Change Your Life”) introduces the main concepts of the book. The preface is 11 pages long (page v to xv). After the preface comes a two-page “Contents” section, where the 15 chapters in the book are named, with descriptive titles. Examples: Chapter 1: “The Self Image: Your Key to a Better Life”; Chapter 3: “Imagination–The First Key to Your Success Mechanism”; etc.

The main part of the book is divided into 15 chapters. Some of the main concepts discussed in this book are: the self-image; the success mechanism; the use of imagination; how to think rationally; the importance of relaxation; how to achieve happiness; etc (see also the text on the back cover, in the photograph above).

Also, it may be good for the prospective reader to know that there are no images, or pictures, or illustrations, or diagrams in this book. This is a text-only book.

THE REVIEW

1. Physical Format

My copy of the 2007 edition is approximately 4.05 x 6.70 inches (10.4 x 17.0 cm). And it’s approximately 0.6 inches (1.6 cm) thick. These dimensions makes it eminently portable, although one perhaps may have wished that it would have been only half as thick (to make it even more portable).

Note here that the 1977 edition is slightly less portable. This is not only because it is 0.25 taller than the 2007 edition; it is also because it is slightly thicker. This is partly because the old cover uses a heavier paper, and partly because its inside pages use a slightly thicker paper than the 2007 edition.

Also, in the 1977 edition the paper has yellowed substantially, on all the pages of the book. However, the paper in the 2007 edition has no such yellow color. The reason for the yellowing pages is unclear: Is it maybe only an effect of “sunning”, being in a sun-exposed bookshelf in a second-hand bookshop, for years on end? Or is it an effect of the paper quality itself? Or perhaps a combination of both?

In any case, if I were to buy yet another copy of this title, I would make sure to select the newer 2007 edition. I think it’s more portable, and l like the more whitish paper better, too.

2. Paper, Printing, and Binding Quality

The paper is mass-market paperback style, there’s no doubt about it. But that works very well, for reading. However, if you are planning on writing in the book (notes, etc.), you will have to be selective in terms of which “instruments” you are writing with.

So when I tried to make some notes with my LAMY fountain pen, the ink bleeds too much, and makes the letters less crisp to read. Also, my ink bleeds through to the opposite side of the page, so when I turn the page over, I can still see the text there (so I basically cannot do any notes on that page, in that location at least).

Thus, the “trick” would be to avoid typical fountain pen ink (which normally is water-based), and instead using a pencil, or, perhaps, a ballpoint pen (BIC, etc.). That will work much better.

As far as the printing and binding goes, there are no complaints. I mean, there are a few loose pages, due to the paperback binding. But that is no surprise since I have used heavily throughout the years. I’m actually amazed that it’s still in one piece.

3. Layout, Design, and Typography

I think the overall design of this book is very well done. Although the font size is not bad, I would have preferred if it was a little bigger. But it works. And the leading is big enough to make the whole page easy to read.

Also, headers and subheads are nicely done. And this is true also for the running heads: “PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS” at the very top of all even-numbered (left-hand) pages, and the current chapter title at the very top of all even-numbered (right-hand) pages.

The only “issue” one could address is perhaps the cover design. In my view, both the front cover and the back cover could have been made nicer. On the front cover, the white text on the red background does not have enough leading; and on the back cover, the usage of “PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS” twice, in the same font size, on the same page, makes it look a little “home-made”.

In any case, these are minor things. The book, and especially its interior, is very nicely done.

4. Basic Content

The basic content is, I think, very good. In terms of the “promise-to-delivery” ratio, I think it delivers 100%.

In other words, what it promises on the front cover and on the back cover (even on the 1977 edition’s covers) it delivers on the inside.

This book really is jam-packed with information. And not only any information. It’s information that is highly relevant to the advertised content.

5. Writing Style

In my opinion, the title is really bad. That”s the single worst aspect of the book. Which average person would ever become interested in a book like this, having such a title? I mean, even if “cybernetics” was a hip word in the 1960s (was it?), which “non-technical” person would at that time ever consider even looking inside it, let alone buy it?

One explanation may be that it may have been heavily advertised and marketed aggressively in various media. Other than that, with such a title, how could a book with such a title become so successful?

In any case, what is good to know for the reader of this book review is that the text inside of the book is very well written. There is no trace of any complicated technical discussions, or of trying to make this into an academic textbook, or of pretentious flowery language, or anything like that. This is an eminently readable book, written in good English, with active (not passive) sentences that are concise and to the point.

Another good thing about this book is that there are lots of subheads, on average maybe one per page. So you can easily jump into the text when you see an interesting subhead. Thus, the whole book feels much less compact, and more easy to use, since there is at least one subhead on each spread.

And this is extra noteworthy here, in the context of this book. This is because this is a true pocket book, in terms of size. Thus, the amount of text on each page is smaller than if it were a bigger format book.

This means that amount of text in between two subheads is rather small, and can be digested rather quickly (which is good). No need to finish a whole chapter (5, 10, or 15 pages, etc.) to be able to get all the points; one point at a time is good enough for me.

6. Theories

One complaint that some mathematicians or scientists people could put forward about this book would be something like this: “OK, the book is jam-packed with interesting theories. But those theories are not proven. So the book is more or less useless, other than as entertainment or fiction“.

My answer to such a “complaint” is simply that while it is true that his whole “system” of theories are not proven, Maltz does also not enter into deep scientific matters to prove them.

But it is true that he is enthusiastic about certain matters, and certain scientists and authors, and it is evident that he thinks that some of those other theories are correct, and (scientifically) proven. Thus, he refers to various scientists and thinkers such as the British neurophysicist W. Grey Walter (pp. 22-23) and Dr. John von Neumann (p. 18).

However, the important thing here, both for Maltz himself and for the reader, is that he doesn’t spend too much energy trying to scientifically prove anything. Of course, he does do a god job of trying to convince the reader that his collection of theories is right. But I think the tone in general is that you cannot really prove that these theories are correct, unless you verify them yourself.

So the ultimate “scientific” test of these theories is whether or not they work for the reader. The proof is in the pudding, and you have take a bite to feel the taste. And if you don’t want to taste the pudding, that’s up to you. However, if it’s a super-pudding, you’ll really miss out on something.

7. Usefulness

I think this book can be very useful, for a reader with the right mindset. But it really requires the right mindset. What do I mean by that?

Well, as I see it, some people are “interested” in self-help for “ulterior” motives. They want to “improve themselves” just enough to get what they want. And when they get what they want, they stop practicing whatever method or system they used.

What I am saying here is that this book may be thought of as a “foundation” type of book. It’s a book where you have to change your “basic” way of operating in the world. And it requires considerable changes in your life. So if you’re not the kind of person who is up for a challenge, in terms of changing your basic thinking and behavior, then perhaps this is not the book for you.

However, I do not want to discourage anyone from reading this book, because I think it’s incredibly important. So what I also will say is that almost anyone can take away something from this book.

And I am not just saying that there is “information” and a philosophical “perspective” that can be gained from reading this book. I am also saying that there are many exercises in this book which can, when practiced, help.

But my point is here that not all people are into “exercises”, especially not if those exercises are not “paying off” quickly enough. So, I think one must have patience and perseverence while using this book, while also not being too hard on oneself for not “progressing” quicker.

So I think the general idea when it comes to “self-help” is that one must enjoy the process itself. And in order to do so, one must, I think, give up (or “postpone”) any thoughts about “getting something” from one’s endeavors, whether that “something” is a new car, a new house, or a new romantic partner.

8. Conclusion

Psycho-Cybernetics is a truly great book. It does have some minor weak spots (e.g., maybe too many quotes from famous people), but all in all, this is a very important book. It has contributed very favorably to my own development. It is now in my category of the “ten most important books” that I have ever read.

And even if you do not think that you will be doing any “exercises”, I think this book, from a human standpoint, and from a searcher’s perspective, is genuinely valuable. If you are into “self-help” or “positive psychology” or “healing”, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.

Chris Bocay

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Edition Details:

Title: Psycho-Cybernetics
Author: Maxwell Maltz
Publisher: New York: Pocket Books
Year (stated on copyright page): “First Pocket Books printing May 1969”
Year (factual): 2007 (or later)
Edition: First (in terms of main content inside)
Binding: Paperback
Pages: xviii + 282
ISBN-10 (a): 0-671-70075-8
ISBN-10 (b): 0671700758
ISBN-13 (a): 978-0-671-70075-1
ISBN-13 (b): 9780671700751

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Copyright © 2019 by Chris Bocay. All rights reserved.

Last update: Sun 29 Dec 2019.

Cite as: Bocay, Chris (2019) “Book Review: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz”. Website: <https://chrisbocay.com>. Accessed: [today’s date].

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