The worst self-help books

Student Life

Welcome to autumn: a time of new beginnings – a time to turn over a proverbial new leaf – a time, perhaps to buy a self-help book. (Well, technically, spring is perhaps better associated with such things – but it’s a new academic term and a new academic year after all, so just roll with the argument, pedants).

First years might be keen for a fresh start (pun emphatically intended). Second years may need guidance on how to conduct life away from the comforts of college. Finalists are probably in need of some hard-hitting but vital advice about their respective futures. Whoever you are; whatever you’re doing: don’t read any of these.

I’m Only Being Honest by the one and only Jeremy Kyle (2009)

“Basically, if you start trusting yourself to do what’s right, you’ll know exactly how to deal with any situation.”

Jezza has taken some time out of his busy schedule of self-satisfied and exploitative TV-making to write a book. Usually, his wisdom is only bestowed on one or two people at a time, but the book provides a wider platform as the guru diligently investigates the problems of modern Britain. In it, he ‘maps out an agenda for change’, promises the blurb. It is apparently ‘a spirited call-to-arms’ whereby Kyle ‘delves into the shady, neglected corners of our society’. Chilling.

The Rules of The Game by Neil Strauss (2008).

“If the target is attractive and used to men fawning all over her, the pickup artist must intrigue her by pretending to be unaffected by her charm.”

Want someone with whom to skip through Christchurch meadows? Tired of returning home lonely after a night at Park End? Well, men of Oxford, Neil Strauss claims to have all the answers you need. He launches the lucky reader on a month-long programme in which they learn the hidden secrets of how to attract the laydeez. One of Strauss’ favourite methods is the ‘neg’: an insult disguised as a compliment (he provides the flawless example of ‘you have the cutest Bugs Bunny overbite!’ which apparently helped him to ‘score’ with a model). Worrying.

He’s Just Not That Into You – Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccilo (2004)

“Many women have said to me, “Greg, men run the world.”

Less a self-help book, more a brutal tirade, this guide makes its demoralising point over and over again. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking anyone ever fancies you, Greg and Liz urge: they don’t and they won’t. The dismal tome may have inspired a schmaltzy romcom, but don’t be fooled: it’s not a motivational read. Upsetting.

Winning Lotto/Lottery for Everyday Players –  “Professor Jones” (2003)

“Substantially increase your chances of winning million-dollar jackpots”

Nice concept, but the total lack of reviews on Amazon speaks volumes. There’s an incredibly slim chance it might have been Derren Brown’s secret weapon of choice, but this doesn’t really justify spending £7.16. Delusional.

More Joy: Advanced Guide To Solo Sex – Dr. Harold Litten (1996)

“Dedicated to increasing the pleasure of masturbation for male readers”

Popular it may be (there’s only one left in stock on Amazon), but this is hardly the kind of book you want to be seen reading in public. And no, I have not read it – even if it is written by the self-styled ‘world’s leading apostle on auto-eroticism’. Embarrassing.

Rosie Wilson