In Competition 2815 you were invited to contribute to the booming genre of self-help by proposing a new title guaranteed to storm the bestseller lists and providing a blurb for it.
There was lots of good stuff, though some promising ideas failed to deliver in the execution. I was intrigued by Josh Ekroy’s invitation to get in touch with my inner duct tape, and Bill Greenwell’s The Etiquette of Misery: How to Turn Grieving into Gold would surely put a spring in the step of the ranks of Melancholics Anonymous.
Commendations go to Brian Murdoch and Mike Morrison. The prizewinners, printed below, earn £30 each. This week’s king of the hill is Rob Stuart, who pockets £35.
Psychopaths of Glory — Unlocking the Bastard Within
Do you dream of a career in politics or big business but worry you lack ‘the right stuff’? Do you find yourself unwilling to lie, cheat and screw other people over in the single-minded pursuit of your own selfish goals? Then you’re probably one of the unfortunate 99 per cent of the population afflicted with a conscience. Dr Martin Pournelle, himself an unbelievably callous prick, shows you how this evolutionary albatross can be overcome, guiding you step-by-step through the process of surgically modifying your prefrontal cortex using simple household tools and an ingenious series of exercises, ranging from breaking children’s toys to microwaving kittens, that will systematically transform you from bleeding heart into unfeeling monster. If you can learn to Be Ruthless, Not Toothless™, the world’s your oyster — an oyster you’d happily eat alive in front of its horrified mate.
You’re On Your Own, Pal; How to Kick the Self-Help Book Habit
This book will be the last self-help book you will ever read. It will take you step-by-step through the cold turkey phases: how to ignore agony aunts and bin Sunday supplements unread; how to hurry past high street bookshops; how to recognise and avoid other addicts; how to deploy non-introspective displacement strategies (DIY, gardening). After each chapter, the reader is exhorted ‘Now tear this chapter out and burn it’, a symbolic gesture designed to imprint his rejection of self-help literature. For the benefit of weaker brethren, the book is printed on paper guaranteed to yellow quickly, and has a spine bound with exceptionally weak glue, so that it will fall apart by itself within a month of purchase. Since the book is quite expensive, its self-destruction is a powerful aversion therapy against recidivist purchases.
I’m So Simple: Coping with Anxiety-Deficit Today
With ever-mounting levels of anxiety in today’s hard-working, results-driven world, those who think they have nothing to worry about can easily feel marginalised or of low self-worth. Fortunately, this discreetly packaged manual, bursting with accessible tips, means you need no longer feel like the Norman No-moans: soon you’ll find you have just as much to fret about and just as many emotional burdens as even your most high-achieving friends! Learn how to miss-manage your work-life balance via easy-to-follow tips, like the ones about plugging into excessively complex mobile technology situations, that are just so simple you’ll kick yourself you didn’t buy this book sooner. You’ll start with basic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — yes, anyone can learn how to forget they’ve already turned off the iron — and very quickly find yourself progressing to full-blown General Anxiety Disorder. Soon you’ll be stressed along with the rest, no longer the Simple Simon on the sidelines.
Reality Sucks: Making Friends with your Delusions
You’ll often hear ‘he’s away with the fairies’, or ‘she lives in a world of her own’, as if the workaday grind was all that mattered — a one-eyed perspective, potentially hurtful and limiting.
Great philosophers such as Plato and great writers, Shakespeare among them, have recognised a higher, more satisfying plane of existence than the mundane one. Now their message has been updated for the 21st century by Natalie Blister, author of Let’s Hear It for the Ostrich. Braving fact-based orthodoxy, Reality Sucks shows that embracing the truth of the imagination can open a pathway to selfhood.
The keynote is ‘I believe’, whether it’s that you’re a greater poet than Dante or that George Clooney is secretly in love with you. This book will demolish the barrier that divides the slave of objectivity from the fulfilled human being.
Following up her critically acclaimed self-help guide Finding the Inner You, bestselling Scottish author Mary Stone presents a step-by-step guide to reachieving a healthy level of distance from your deepest identity. Packed with helpful diagrams and song recommendations, Learning to Stand Yourself is a vital guide for anyone oppressed by an incessant flood of self-help books and an often misjudged desire to access the very essence of their own being. Stone combines practical tips with long-term identity-suppressing techniques to help readers rejoin the meaningless, everyday cycle of culture and commerce, one step at a time.
‘After reading Finding the Inner You I was disconcerted to realise that my deepest self is really quite irritating, as well as being a die-hard racist. Learning to Stand Yourself enabled me to withdraw to the surface again and rediscover that empty feeling of loss and dissatisfied uniformity, which I had really begun to miss.
Thanks, Mary!’ — Susy Douglas, Leicester
Our next competition: literary merger
This year saw the largest-ever merger between two publishing houses when Penguin and Random House joined forces in an attempt to compete with the might of Amazon. You are invited to effect a literary merger of a different kind by blending two existing well-known books and providing a synopsis of the new title. Please email entries, of up to 150 words, wherever possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 2 October.
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