Five books that will change your life without making you feel like crap.
“Reading self-help books gives you the impression of being productive
when, really, it’s just another form of procrastination,” writes Gregg Clunis in his upcoming self-help book “Tiny Leaps, Big Changes.”
That might sound counterintuitive, but it’s already a recurring theme in 2019 self-help books. Since the blockbuster success of blogger Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k” in 2016, they are increasingly written by authors who don’t claim to have all the answers. On the first page of Dr. Venus Nicolino’s new self-help book “Bad Advice,” she describes the very idea of self-help literature as a “f–ked premise” and “super dumb.”
They’ve created a new aesthetic in modern self-help, one that offers life guidance to readers with the caveat that nobody is an “expert.” “I’m not here to lecture you,” writes John Kim in the just-released “I Used To Be a Miserable F*ck.” “I am doing this with you, as a brother. As a fellow human.”
Here are five titles in the next wave of self-help books, which want to help readers change their lives without being too pushy about it.
A book for people who’ve lost “the love of your life” — which could be a partner, a pet, a best friend, or even “an imaginary boyfriend/girlfriend” — it encourages readers to wallow in their self-pity, whether that entails overeating, skipping work to watch Netflix, having feelings of self-loathing or stalking an ex on social media. There’s no judgment here or “it’s all going to be OK” platitudes, just acceptance that recovering from heartbreak takes time and a lot of complicated emotions.
Premise in one quote: “It’s OK not to be OK.”
Recurring themes: Pop-culture metaphors (i.e. rating your emotional state on a Britney Spears scale of insanity, from “Not Britney At All” to “Bald Britney”); reader participation (plenty of blank pages for readers to provide their own examples of emotional pain, so the book “ends up being something we’ve written together.”)
Based on a podcast by the same name, Clunis, the son of Jamaican immigrants, explains how to achieve success “from small, incremental steps each and every day.” The focus — in what we’re repeatedly reminded is “not a self-help book” — is on behaving more like an immigrant blue-collar worker who’s just happy to have a job and doesn’t sit around waiting for inspiration.
Premise in one quote: “Stop putting so much focus on finding your passion and start focusing on creating opportunities instead.”
Recurring themes: Reality “audits” (a brutally honest accounting of your actual behavior); goal list-making; daily motivational challenges (like setting your alarm clock an hour earlier); stories about the author’s no-nonsense, cancer-surviving, happy-just-to-have-a-paycheck immigrant parents.
A month-by-month guide for recovering work obsessives, which takes you from not being a “workaholic martyr” in January to “learning to saunter” in November. Written by a man with so much personal insecurity and workaholic anxiety that he once “worked through most of the day of my father’s funeral.”
Premise in one quote: “The mantra for the recovering workaholics is ‘Don’t just do something — sit there.’ ”
Recurring themes: Mindfulness; meditation; evocative language like “musterbate” (i.e. “bowing to the demands of others.”)
A guide to avoiding douchebaggery behavior from a guy who repeatedly admits to his own failures in work, relationships, friendships, etc. Advice is separated into don’ts — don’t whine, text like you’re 17, be creepy — and do’s — do make your bed, have a firm handshake, say “I was wrong.”
Premise in one quote: “Your sh*t is your sh*t . . . you are the constant theme throughout. And only you can figure out how to take all the sh*t and make something beautiful.”
Recurring themes: Colorful cursing; vivid accounts of his personal failures (in relationships, friendships and careers); chapters that could either be a joke or serious advice, like #60, “Don’t Wear Skinny Jeans,” a chapter that contains just two sentences: “Wear pants that fit. That’s all.”
Nicolino, a therapist and reality-show host, skewers self-help book clichés and offers tough-love alternatives. Instead of “following your bliss,” she suggests “gripping your grit” by embracing your inner John Wayne to get the job done; and rather than “living each day like it’s our last,” she recommends remembering that “you can have a bad day and a fantastic life at the same time.”
Premise in one quote: “Right now in this moment, you are perfect. A year ago, you were perfect. A year from now, you will still be perfect.”
Recurring themes: Colorful cursing; a conversational tone that feels like you’re in a bar on your third glass of chardonnay with your oldest friend.