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.
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…”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Bucks. The 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.
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.
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?
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