Taken for Granted:

It’s time again for the eternal optimists in our midst to prepare their New Year’s resolutions, most of which will be relegated to the “best intentions” scrap heap within a month.

One reason our resolve is so short-lived is the absence of supportive resources necessary when attempting meaningful changes in our behavior and life goals. And we will soon have one less source of help as the Only Helpful Books store on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta closes, a casualty of the Great Recession, the Internet and the Kindle. Ideally suited to provide meaningful advice during hard times, its shelves are stacked with heavily discounted books on career change, job hunting, starting a business and, most importantly, coping skills for life’s ups and downs.

The business model is the brain child of Golam Chowdhury, who has created a one-stop shopping experience in which information on virtually any self-help topic is available. Career and business start-ups are just one category in a broad range of topics that overflow the shelves.

Self help and do-it-yourself subjects include parenting, improving personal and family relationships, women’s issues, health, cooking, weight loss, beauty tips, smoking cessation, the psychology of personal change, inspirational guidance, college entry and grad school test preparation. Pointing to a book on mortgages and house hunting, Chowdhury remarked that awareness of the sage advice contained therein could have avoided the foreclosure grief many are suffering due to variable and sub-prime loans.

Some of the more outlandish titles include “Spot a Liar” and “How to Live with an Idiot.” The store also has a number of curiosities, including solar-powered globes, children’s science project kits and greeting cards that can grow flowers.

Inspired by his own wares, Chowdhury has not given up on the prospect of success. He attributes the store’s struggle to a poor location and is searching for a site that includes a complementary anchor store that will steer customers his way.

After leaving his home in Bangladesh 18 years ago, he successfully managed a string of Radio Shack stores, developing a keen sense of the marketing skills, persistence, optimism and awareness that adapting and fine tuning are necessary if a good business idea is to become a success.

Viewing the store’s appeal from a broader perspective, there is every reason it should be a success. The history of the country from frontier days to the present has been fraught with individual initiative and the belief that we can learn to do anything. From the do-it-yourself craze of the 1950s sustained today by Home Depot and Lowe’s, we have demonstrated that we are a nation of people willing to self educate and tackle everything from home improvement to self improvement.

We live in a country that has flourished on the basis of innovation, invention and expert advice — much of it constructive and some of it questionably vain. From Silicon Valley microchips to silicon implants, from Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura to the expensive tortures of wrinkle removal and hair implants, we continue to remake ourselves and our outlook on life.

We envy the self-educated and the self-starters and believe in rebirth and revival. Despite our economic woes, we continue to have a deep-seated optimism that the capacity to re-educate and change still thrives in the American soul and will enable us to successfully transition our economy and workforce from manufacturing-based to information-driven.

From Lincoln’s mastery of the English language studying Shakespeare by fire light to Bill Gates, struggling in his garage to provide a quantum leap in humanity’s access to knowledge, we gain hope.

Only Helpful Books will likely close sometime in January. You can still browse in person or check onlyhelpfulbooks.com. Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions.


Get in touch PAT GRANT has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. He may be reached at tfgranted@gmail.com.

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