According to a report in Publishers Weekly, the print-publishing juggernaut that is adult coloring books is slowing down worldwide. In Australia, it’s come to a juddering halt: Nielson BookScan reported that sales dropped from $14m in 2015 to $1.1m in 2016.
So, what will be the next big thing in publishing? Could it be a brand new literary genre known alternatively as anti-self-help and anti-improvement?
One commentator noted that, “Reading an anti-self help book to crack your dependence on self-help books might be confusing.” I decided to take a closer look at five best-sellers whose titles suggest they might fit this new genre:
1. Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze by Svend Brinkmann
Stand Firm made psychologist Svend Brinkmann a media darling in his homeland of Denmark. According to Brinkmann, “The idea of ‘progress’ is only a few hundred years old — and is, in fact, destructive.” Clearly that’s a concept with universal resonance as the book has become an international best-seller. He also suggests we shouldn’t buy into the idea that we are special.
2. Just Get On With It: A Caring, Compassionate Kick Up the Ass! by Ali Campbell
Ali Campbell’s Amazon bio mentions, “an enviable list of high-profile clients.” An editorial review praises his “no frills approach.” This book isn’t so much anti-self help, as a way to kick the procrastination habit without going five times around the house. Straight to the point, no messing about, just like a kick up the you know what.
3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Mark Manson hits the nail on the head when he says, “The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience.” He adds, “the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” Negative, positive, just two sides of a coin, and you can’t have one without the other. So own them both.
4. The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like by Sarah Knight
The problem and solution are one and the same, as set out in the sub-heading: to be happy, don’t waste your precious time on those you don’t really care about. Of course, that’s easier said than done; luckily Knight has a strategy or two for you.
5. Promise Land: My Journey through America’s Self-help Culture by Jessica Lamb-Shapiro
Promised Land is both a memoir and an interrogation of America’s self-help culture. Jessica Lamb-Shapiro has the inside running: her father wrote in the genre, often including her in his books.
Now that I’ve looked beyond the titles I’m not sure if these books really are ‘anti-self help.’ Each, in their way, offers help, but without the over-promise and uber-hype of traditional examples of the genre.
YouTube Channel: The RSA
Featured image via Wallpaper Cave