what is the dumbest, funniest, most peculiar piece of advice you have ever found in a self-help book?
April 5, 2007 9:16 AM   Subscribe

what is the dumbest, funniest, most peculiar piece of advice you have ever found in a self-help book?

perhaps you've heard of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret." it's practically everywhere I go and I find it highly interesting that tips such as "look at fat people and you will become fat" (I am paraphrasing news reports here) are actually taken seriously by anyone.

but they are and that just called for a wall of post-it notes.

I have a decent collection thanks to coworkers and acquaintances already but I'm looking for more. so: what is the dumbest, funniest, most peculiar piece of advice you have ever found in a self-help (or other) book?

(yes, thank you, I am aware of Christopher Buckley's line "The only way to get rich from a self-help book is to write one.")
posted by krautland to Writing & Language (35 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not exactly a self-help book, but Scott Adams wrote in one of his books about his practice of "written affirmations" in which he writes 25 times on a sheet of paper something he is going to do... every single night. That doesn't seem to be as much an affirmation as OCD.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2007


There is a book called Frugal Indulgents that is full of idiotic advice.
  • Buy a suit on sale just because it's a designer suit, even if it doesn't fit right and you can't afford to have it tailored. Because the label is more important that if somethign actually fits, right?
  • Use your expense account to take your friends out to dinner. Great way to keep your job!
  • Rack up $10k worth of credit card debt because your wardrobe is way more important than your finances.

posted by tastybrains at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2007


Also, get a copy of David Cross' album "The Pride is Back." His routine about the dating self-help advice book is one of the funniest bits he's ever done. He mentions advice items like "stir up the evening with a kazoo solo" and "tell your best UFO abduction story... make one up if necessary."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2007


THERE IS NO KNOWN NAVY BLUE FOOD. IF THERE IS NAVY BLUE FOOD IN THE REFRIGERATOR, IT SIGNIFIES DEATH.

From Erma Bombeck's "if life is a bowl of cherries what am i doing in the pits?", which was a parody of '70's self-help books. If you, for some reason, are interested in the silliness of self-help books, maybe you should check it out.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:36 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The entirety of that godawful 'The Rules' book for women who want to get married.

Or as I like to call it, 'How to trick a man into marrying you by playing the subservient yet chipper slavegirl'.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


At my old job, we would do hilarious melodramatic readings from this book when we needed a super-short break. I remember advice such as "lower your expectations" and "avoid the golden handcuffs" (particularly funny in a non-profit context). The best, though, has to be: "Remember the Phrase, 'Being Dead Is Bad for Business.'"
posted by bassjump at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2007


M. Scott Peck's suggestion, in The Road Less Traveled, that the only healthy marriage is an open marriage.

(This makes it particularly odd that, when my soon-to-be-wife and I attended the Engaged Encounter weekend required as part of our Catholic wedding, I noticed that TRLT was on the recommended reading list for that program! My wife thought I should bring it to the attention of the program coordinators, but I didn't bother.)
posted by jayder at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I actually have a collection of really ooold self help books that I have found at thrift stores for their sheer entertainment. Just great stuff... on how to be a good woman, how to make people like you, how to go steady with a girl, how to become a social climber, etc. Anyhow, one of my particular favorites is one called "You Are Not The Target" and it was written by one of Aldous Huxley's wives if I recall. There was a lot of really great stuff in there, but I remember one of her tips was to fill a sink with water and ice cubes every morning and then to shove your face in it and blow bubbles out of your mouth and nose. You were supposed to do that a few time before starting out your day.

I tried it once. It was really, freaking cold.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this is exactly on point, but I have a book called "Should You Marry a Lawyer?" The answer the book gives is, basically, "No."
posted by footnote at 10:30 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, and there was "How to Make A Man Fall In Love With You" from 1987. That one's great. It tells you to figure out which of the senses that special man you want is powered by. If he's an auditory person, then you should always say things like "I HEAR what you're saying." If he's a visual person, you should say "I SEE!" If he's a tactile person, you should say, "Yes, I can FEEL what you mean. I FEEL the same." And then you're supposed to physically mirror him as he speaks. If he has his hand on his leg, you put your hand on your leg. If he crosses his legs, you cross yours.

Oh, and you're supposed to do some kind of little trigger that trains him to think you're irresistable. For example, let's say that he goes really crazy when you run your fingers through his hair... well, every time you do that, you should say his name in a particular voice, or use some particular phrase or something. You train him so that then later when you're in a fight or something you can work in that same phrase or say his name in that voice and he won't know WHY but he'll get these hot feelings for you that will remind him of how much he wants you & how HAWT you are.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh, I dunno... we're still making fun of the "men should have a man-cave" section in one of John Gray's books.

Just say it, repeatedly, and it gets funnier:

Man cave.
Man cave.
Man cave
MAN CAVE!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The entire text of Fascinating Womanhood.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2007


I remember one of her tips was to fill a sink with water and ice cubes every morning and then to shove your face in it and blow bubbles out of your mouth and nose. You were supposed to do that a few time before starting out your day.

That actually sounds really refreshing!
posted by tastybrains at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2007


FYI, (as of 1996) John Gray ACTUALLY had a customized cave in his home for this purpose. No word on whether or not he throws his wife Bonnie down a well on the property.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:49 AM on April 5, 2007


My father-in-law recently read (to my dismay) Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About. (I know, I know.)

Apparently microwaving food is "the worst thing you can do to your body." The book actually tells you to throw out your microwave.

I tried to counter this sillyness with science (microwaves excite the water in food, THAT'S ALL) but was rebuffed.
posted by chuma at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2007




I don't have it, but I'm sure you can pull a couple diamonds from Lube Jobs: A Woman's Guide to Great Maintenance Sex .

From the description: "As men clamor for more action and women grumble for more sleep, the topic of "maintenance sex"-those dutiful two minutes to "get it over with"-invariably arises to divide and conquer a couple's sex life...Part saucy sex manual, part relationship survival guide, Lube Jobs includes a provocative menu of twenty ready-made "lube jobs" consisting of naughty sex scenarios, bedroom-toy tips, sexual techniques, and erotica. Each lube job inspires a woman to embrace maintenance sex as a critical aspect of her committed relationship, and shows her how to infuse it with spontaneity and affection."
posted by Atom12 at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2007


I can't believe I forgot about How to Goodbye Depression. Thank you for reminding me!
posted by miss lynnster at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2007


How to Good-bye Depression!
posted by miss lynnster at 11:18 AM on April 5, 2007


I used to do a whole series on my blog making fun of a book called On Becoming A Woman.

Written, of course, by some asinine 1950s doctor dude, so just about everything in that book was dumb, funny and peculiar to our modern eyes.

This person put up some scans of it, so you can witness the true horror...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2007


Seconding The Rules. Here's a good one:

Close the deal--Rules women do not date men for more than two years. If you've followed The Rules, your man probably loves you and wants to marry you. Your problem is not if he marries you, but when! If it's been more than a year, see less of him and think about dating others. You've already spent more than a year waiting for him to propose; do you have another year to wait?
posted by landedjentry at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2007


::Waiting to see if anyone's gonna bring up L. Ron Hubbard::
posted by miss lynnster at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2007


I had this book called "Vagabonding," about freeing yourself from the bonds of society, man, and travelling around the world.

One suggestion was "save money by cutting your own hair." Seriously? I spend at most $18 every 6 weeks on haircuts. Asking the reader to mutilate his personal appearance for a few dollars that will never add up to anything made the whole concept so unappealing and the authors appear so out of touch that I pretty much stopped taking it seriously right then.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:59 AM on April 5, 2007


How to Survive and Thrive in College, by Cliff R. Schimmel, PhD.

Published in 1990. Out of print, and I don't have my copy anymore, but I remember the most-often-quoted passage around my dorm was:

"Boys like to feel smart.... When he says, 'Let's go to the football game,' you say, 'What's a football?'"
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


From the worst 'How To' book on screenwriting ever written ("How to Write a Movie in 21 days" by Viki King).

WEAR YOUR LUCKY SOCKS
posted by unSane at 2:17 PM on April 5, 2007


Apparently microwaving food is "the worst thing you can do to your body." The book actually tells you to throw out your microwave.

Oooh! I read something from another person about how horrible microwaves are. Her rationale was that there was apparently a case when a nurse heated some blood in a microwave before using it for a transfusion (or something along those lines), and the patient died because of it.

Now...I can think of many reasons this is a bad idea. The uneven temperature of the blood. The extreme heat from the microwave. The fact that the nurse is obviously a moron. The possibility that the high heat caused the blood to change in a chemical way. None of this has any bearing on why heating food via a microwave is going to kill you.
posted by tastybrains at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2007


Well, today I saw that they've published "Chicken Soup for the Nascar Soul." I can't imagine there's anything dumber inside than the title on the cover.
posted by dobbs at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't remember the book it was from, but here's a rough paraphrase:

When things are going wrong, remember the 100 year rule. Just think to yourself, "100 years from now, are my current problems going to make any difference?"

I loved how this "uplifting" advice was one step from nihilism. (100 years from now, will anything I do in life really matter? What's the point anyway?)
posted by Wingy at 4:15 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


*rummages through bookshelf of musty paperbacks*

The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans For Physical Fitness (1962) mostly has pretty decent advice except that their plan for men consists of 5 exercises for 11 minutes a day and their plan for women is 10 exercises and 12 minutes per day. Say wuh?

I also found Number 11 of Raymond de Saint-Laurent's Mind-Training Series, The Gift of Imagination (1955). Let me tell you-- the guy has NO imagination.
" The daydream is ... contrary to the true nature of man. The man who abandons himself to dreams denies the supremacy of the intellect and delivers himself to the dictates of caprice. He dissipates his powers of concentration and, in doing so, abandons his claim to being a creature of reason ... True relaxation will be found in the moderate pursuit of some congenial occupation; the daydream is the greatest of all destroyers of human energy."
He must be high off the glue from his stamp collection. I sure wouldn't trust his reasoning capabilities to help me discover my gift of imagination. Not at all.
posted by bobobox at 8:49 PM on April 5, 2007


After you collect all the stupid advice, you need to weave it into a book that passes itself off as a genuine self-help book. I'm a little twisted, but there's something very funny to me about writing a book just to fuck with people.

::constricts anus::
posted by LordSludge at 10:11 AM on April 6, 2007


MeTa
posted by bigmusic at 8:22 PM on April 6, 2007


chatfilter
posted by edgeways at 10:12 PM on April 6, 2007


so not chatfilter.
posted by krautland at 2:30 PM on April 7, 2007


You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

Hay believes we make ourselves ill by having thoughts of self-hatred. She includes a directory of ailments and emotional causes for each with a corresponding affirmation to help overcome the illness. For example, the probable cause of multiple sclerosis is "mental hardness, hard-heartedness, iron will, and inflexibility." The healing "thought pattern" would be: "By choosing loving, joyous thoughts, I created a loving joyous world. I am safe and free." --P. Randall Cohan
posted by LoriFLA at 5:56 PM on April 7, 2007


one of her tips was to fill a sink with water and ice cubes every morning and then to shove your face in it and blow bubbles out of your mouth and nose.

Perhaps she was suffering from tachycardia?
posted by oats at 6:48 PM on April 7, 2007


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