Amazon.com
Amazon.com

11 Parodies of Notable Self-Help Books

Amazon.com
Amazon.com

When a book’s sole purpose is to help the reader change their life, it is only a matter of time before someone finds problems or inaccuracies within the text. And where there are problems, there is comedy. Here are 11 parodies of self-help books that (should) show the funnier side of advice giving.

1. Lean Over: Women, Work and Women’s Work

Lean In, written by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, has sold over one million copies and appeared on many bestseller lists worldwide. After the book’s success—and the media attention surrounding it—a parody was the natural next step. Comedians Alison Leiby and Alyssa Wolff write as narrator Cheryl Sandberger, a profane, name-dropping female executive of an imaginary company, doling out pearls of wisdom like, “In order to be successful, pick something that you can do without working too hard…”

2. He Just Thinks He’s Not That Into You 

Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo once wrote for the HBO series Sex and the City. In one episode, a character is having a hard time reading her date’s mixed signals and is finally told, “He’s just not that into you.” This one line sparked a book written by Behrendt and Tuccillo, followed by a movie of the same name.

For every phenomenon there is a parody, and this parody comes in the form of He Just Thinks He's Not That Into You. The book pokes fun at the caricature of obsessed women chasing down men, even suggesting handcuffing a man until he loves you.

3. The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People

The self-help book’s title The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People gives a general idea about what kind of advice the reader will encounter. Step-by-step, the author, Stephen R. Covey, guides his readers through the seven steps they can follow to find success. Easy enough? In the world of satire, the same concept is used for the opposite result. Why be successful when you can just coast?

4. Women May Be From Venus, But Men Are Really From Uranus

The simplified relationship advice from John Gray (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) was bound to get a parody, and Katherine Black stepped up to the plate. Black and unnamed co-author Finn W. Contini reduce men to beer drinking, farting, phallic-obsessed cartoons of the actual men in our society. By parodying the stereotypes presented in Gray’s book, they are calling into questions Gray’s use of stereotypes to solve relationship issues; maybe this technique will only drive people further from understanding their partners.

5. No Secret

The Secret took the world by storm in 2006, touting that the way to happiness is through positive thinking. What one puts into the world is what one gets in return. In No Secret, the author pokes fun at the concept of the Universe answering our simple needs, such as finding a parking space – and why positive thinking causes some people to get said parking spaces while other positive thinkers don’t.

6. The North Beach Diet 

The popularity of weight loss books is no surprise. In 2013, the U.S. weight loss industry grew to $61 billion in sales. Somewhere in those incredible sales numbers is one of the books/movements almost everyone has heard of: The South Beach Diet. Developed by a doctor, the diet focuses on a low-carb lifestyle. In that book's parody, The North Beach Diet, author Kim Bailey creates fattening recipes and lifestyle guides to achieve the absolute opposite results of The South Beach Diet. While one would very likely develop health issues following The North Beach Diet, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a chuckle at the expense of our weight-obsessed culture.

7. Blank: The Power of Not Actually Thinking at All

Some argue that Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t write self-help books. But because his book Blink offers readers a conclusion that they can make better decisions by training their minds, the book lands itself in the self-help genre as far as this list is concerned. In Blank, the book doesn’t ask you to think differently, but to not think at all in making life choices.

8. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Making Big Bucks

Deepak Chopra had a medical career in Boston before he became disenchanted with western medicine and turned to alternative medicine. He has written over 50 books and is estimated to be worth $80 million—hence the parody The Seven Spiritual Laws of Making Big BucksThe book satirizes Chopra’s successful franchise, saying the thing all well-known spiritual leaders have in common is their wealth. The author even goes as far as using a pseudonym lampooning Chopra: Deepockets Chokya.

9. Marry Smart…Or Die

Comedians Alison Leiby and Alyssa Wolff, writers of the first book on this list, couldn’t stay away from parodying the self-help genre. They found their next inspiration in the controversial book, Marry Smart. The book argues that the only time women will be around a plethora of eligible men is during college—and that these girls should do whatever they can to in order to land a man then. Leiby and Wolff, writing as the Princeton Momster, show the holes in Marry Smart’s logic with quick, biting pieces of advice, including the idea that single women over 30 may as well kill themselves, as they will always be alone.

10. Don't Worry Stop Sweating...Use Deodorant

The book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and It's All Small Stuff promises to teach people ways to de-stress themselves during their most anxiety-ridden moments. The parody Don’t Worry Stop Sweating … Use Deodorant breaks down their "stop-stressing" advice in sections including: Don't Worry, Make Money; Wait for Perspiration, Not Inspiration; and Friends Come and Go. So What?

11. Kama Sutra for One 

By far the oldest self-help book mentioned in this list, the Kama Sutra, written in 400 B.C., explores human sexuality as part of one’s basic existence and road to spirituality. The parody Kama Sutra for One, currently has an average five star rating on Amazon. Instead of using comedy to bash the original book, this parody pushes the line even further as a celebration of the original text. Then again, people may just be into the book’s stick figure drawings…

All images are courtesy of Amazon.com, fair use 

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
15 Things You Might Not Know About Jules Verne
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jules Verne, widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, wrote some of literature's most famous adventure novels, including seminal works like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days. In addition to helping pioneer a new genre of writing, the French author also sailed the world, had a career as a stockbroker, fell in love with his cousin, and was shot by his nephew. Here are 15 facts you probably didn't know about him.

1. HE GREW UP SURROUNDED BY SHIPS.

On February 8, 1828, Pierre and Sophie Verne welcomed their first child, Jules Gabriel, at Sophie's mother's home in Nantes, a city in western France. Verne's birthplace had a profound impact on his writing. In the 19th century, Nantes was a busy port city that served as a major hub for French shipbuilders and traders, and Verne's family lived on Ile Feydeau, a small, man-made island in a tributary of the Loire River. Verne spent his childhood watching ships sail down the Loire and imagining what it would be like to climb aboard them [PDF]. He would later work these early memories of maritime life into his writing.

2. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS COUSIN.

Verne began writing poetry at just 12 years old. As a teenager, he used poetry as an outlet for his burgeoning romantic feelings. Verne fell in love with his cousin, Caroline Tronson, who was a year and a half older than him. He wrote and dedicated poems to Tronson, gave her presents, and attended dances with her. Unfortunately, Tronson didn't reciprocate her younger cousin's feelings. In 1847, when Verne was 19 and Tronson was 20, she married a man two decades her senior. Verne was heartbroken.

3. HIS FATHER PRESSURED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

While Verne had been passionate about writing since his early teens, his father strongly encouraged young Jules to follow in his footsteps and enter the legal profession. Soon after Tronson's marriage, Verne's father capitalized on his son's depression, convincing him to move to Paris to study law.

Verne graduated with a law degree in 1851. But he kept writing fiction during this period, and continued to clash with his father over his career path. In 1852, Verne's father arranged for him to practice law in Nantes, but Verne decided to pursue life as a writer instead.

4. HE LIVED IN PARIS DURING A TUMULTUOUS TIME.

Verne's time in Paris coincided with a period of intense political instability. The French Revolution of 1848 broke out soon after Verne moved to the city to study law. Though he didn't participate, he was strikingly close to the conflict and its turbulent aftermath, including the coup d'état that ended France's Second Republic. "On Thursday the fighting was intense; at the end of my street, houses were knocked down by cannon fire," he wrote to his mother during the fighting that followed the coup in December 1851. Verne managed to stay out of the political upheaval during those years, but his writing later explored themes of governmental strife. In his 1864 novella The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, Verne wrote about the struggles of ordinary and noble French people during the French Revolutionary Wars, while his novel The Flight to France recounted the wartime adventures of an army captain in 1792.

5. HE BECAME A STOCKBROKER TO PAY THE BILLS.

In May 1856, Verne was the best man at his best friend's wedding in Amiens, a city in northern France. During the wedding festivities, Verne lodged with the bride's family and met Honorine de Viane Morel, the bride's sister. He developed a crush on Morel, a 26-year-old widow with two kids, and in January 1857, with the permission of her family, the two married.

There was one big problem. Verne had been writing plays for Paris theaters, but being a playwright didn't pay the bills. Verne needed a respectable income to support Morel and her daughters. Morel's brother offered Verne a job at a brokerage, and he accepted, quitting his theater job to become a stockbroker at the Paris Bourse. Writing was never too far from Verne's mind, though. He woke up early each day to write and research for several hours before heading to his day job.

6. HIS ADVENTURE NOVELS WERE PART OF A SERIES …

A caricature of Jules Verne on the sea floor with fantastic sea creatures on the cover of a magazine.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Modern readers probably think of Verne's most famous books as distinct entities, but his adventure novels were actually part of a series. In the early 1860s, Verne met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an established publisher and magazine editor who helped Verne publish his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. This novel served as the beginning of Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of dozens of books written by Verne and published by Hetzel. Most of these novels—including famous titles like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—appeared in installments in Hetzel's magazine before being published in book form.

7. … THAT PROVIDED HIM WITH A STEADY STREAM OF INCOME.

Starting in 1863, Verne agreed to write two volumes per year for Hetzel, a contract that provided him with a steady source of income for decades. Between 1863 and 1905, Verne published 54 novels about travel, adventure, history, science, and technology for the Voyages Extraordinaires series. He worked closely with Hetzel on characters, structure, and plot until the publisher's death in 1886. Verne's writing wasn't limited to this series, however; in total, he wrote 65 novels over the course of his life, though some would not be published until long after his death.

8. HE DREW INSPIRATION FROM HIS OWN SAILING ADVENTURES.

During the 1860s, Verne's career was taking off, and he was making good money. So in 1867, he bought a small yacht, which he named the Saint Michel, after his son, Michel. When he wasn't living in Amiens, he spent time sailing around Europe to the Channel Islands, along the English Coast, and across the Bay of Biscay. Besides enjoying the peace and quiet at sea, he also worked during these sailing trips, writing most of the manuscripts for Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea on his yacht. As he earned more money, he replaced the Saint Michel with a larger boat that he called the Saint Michel II. A few years later, he bought a third vessel, the Saint Michel III, a steam yacht that he hired a crew of 10 to man on long voyages to Scotland and through the Mediterranean.

9. HE'S ONE OF THE MOST TRANSLATED AUTHORS IN THE WORLD …

Verne wrote in French, but his works have always had an international appeal. Since the 1850s, his writing has been translated into approximately 150 languages—making him the second most translated author ever. He has appeared in translation even more often than William Shakespeare. He is second only to Agatha Christie, who holds the world record.

10. … BUT NOT ALL OF THOSE TRANSLATIONS ARE ACCURATE.

Although Verne wrote primarily for adults, many English-language publishers considered his science fiction writing to be juvenile and marketed his books to children. Translators dumbed down his work, simplifying stories, cutting heavily researched passages, summarizing dialogue, and in some cases, nixing anything that might be construed as a critique of the British Empire. Many translations even contain outright errors, such as measurements converted incorrectly.

Some literary historians now bemoan the shoddy translations of many of Verne's works, arguing that almost all of these early English translations feature significant changes to both plot and tone. Even today, these poor translations make up much of Verne's available work in English. But anglophone readers hoping to read more authentic versions of his stories are in luck. Thanks to scholarly interest, there has been a recent surge in new Verne translations that aim to be more faithful to the original texts.

11. HE HAD MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Starting in his twenties, Verne began experiencing sudden bouts of extreme stomach pain. He wrote about his agonizing stomach cramps in letters to family members, but he failed to get a proper diagnosis from doctors. To try to ease his pain, he experimented with different diets, including one in which he ate only eggs and dairy. Historians believe that Verne may have had colitis or a related digestion disorder.

Even more unsettling than the stomach pain, Verne suffered from five episodes of facial paralysis over the course of his life. During these painful episodes, one side of his face suddenly became immobile. After the first attack, doctors treated his facial nerve with electric stimulation, but he had another attack five years later, and several more after that. Recently, researchers have concluded that he had Bell's palsy, a temporary form of one-sided facial paralysis caused by damage to the facial nerve. Doctors have hypothesized that it was the result of ear infections or inflammation, but no one knows for sure why he experienced this.

Verne developed type-2 diabetes in his fifties, and his health declined significantly in the last decade of his life. He suffered from high blood pressure, chronic dizziness, tinnitus, and other maladies, and eventually went partially blind.

12. HIS MENTALLY ILL NEPHEW SHOT HIM IN THE LEG …

In March 1886, a traumatic incident left the 58-year-old Verne disabled for the rest of his life. Verne's nephew Gaston, who was then in his twenties and suffering from mental illness, suddenly became violent, to Verne's detriment. The writer was arriving home one day when, out of the blue, Gaston shot him twice with a pistol. Thankfully, Verne survived, but the second bullet that Gaston fired struck the author's left leg.

13. … LEAVING HIM WITH A PERMANENT LIMP.

After the incident, Gaston was sent to a mental asylum. He wasn't diagnosed with a specific disorder, but most historians believe he suffered from paranoia or schizophrenia.

Verne never fully recovered from the attack. The bullet damaged his left leg badly, and his diabetes complicated the healing process. A secondary infection left him with a noticeable limp that persisted until his death in 1905.

14. HIS WORK CONTRIBUTED TO THE RISE OF STEAMPUNK.

Verne's body of work heavily influenced steampunk, the science fiction subgenre that takes inspiration from 19th century industrial technology. Some of Verne's characters, as well as the fictional machines he wrote about, have appeared in prominent steampunk works. For example, the TV show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne explored the idea that Verne actually experienced the fantastic things he wrote about, and Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea appeared as a character in the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

15. MANY OF HIS PREDICTIONS WERE SURPRISINGLY SPOT-ON.

Some of the technology Verne imagined in his fiction later became reality. One of the machines that Verne dreamed up, Nautilus—the electric submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—came to life years after he first wrote about it. The first installment of the serialized Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was published in 1869, and the first battery-powered submarines were launched in the 1880s. (Similar submarine designs are still in use today.)

In addition, Verne's Paris In The Twentieth Century contains several surprisingly accurate technological predictions. Written in 1863, the dystopian novel imagines a tech-obsessed Parisian society in 1960. Verne wrote about skyscrapers, elevators, cars with internal combustion engines, trains, electric city lights, and suburbs. He was massively ahead of his time. He even wrote about a group of mechanical calculators (as in, computers) that could communicate with one another over a network (like the Internet). Pretty impressive for a guy born in 1828.

But Verne's influence goes beyond science fiction, steampunk, or real-world technology. His writing has inspired countless authors in genres ranging from poetry to travel to adventure. As Ray Bradbury wrote, "We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne."

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN

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