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Title: The Self-Destruction Handbook (8 Steps to an Unhealthier You)

Authors: Adam Wassom and Jessica Stamen

Publisher: Crown Publishing, a division of Random House

Copyright: 2004

ISBN-10: 1-4000-5033-2

ISBN-13: 978-1-4000-5033-8

Relevance: Writers and reporters with addiction problems? Say it’s not so. The Self-Destruction Handbook is a humorous and cynical look at the thousands of self-help books out on bookshelves these days. Proudly proclaiming that “Rehab is for Quitters”, the book is a must-have for anyone who takes themselves (or others) too seriously, or anyone who must work with or interview members of the public. This includes, of course, reporters and correspondents.

Review: There are so very many self-help books out on book store shelves today, one would be excused for thinking the Western world is the most healthy and happy society in human history. Alas, as reporters and correspondents know all too well, the world is, in fact, a very unhappy place, full of pain and suffering and all the rest. Welcome!

Cheer up, the book says. Embrace it, suggest the authors. This tongue-in-cheek self-help book highlights eight ways anyone can incorporate self-destructive behavior into their everyday lives. It’s easy!

The first chapter – appropriately titled “12 Steps to a Drinking Problem” – deals with alcohol addiction in its many forms. It extols readers to renounce God, drink alone and engage in an inappropriate and degrading alcohol-related sexual encounter. This is arguably the book’s funniest chapter and lays the groundwork for the remaining parodies.

Another chapter installment outlines why smoking is cool and provides a handy overview of smoking techniques from “The Bogart” to “The Nazi”. Illustrated instructions on “Smoking with Emphysema” help readers understand how dedicated smokers can let nothing stop them on their quest to look cool, despite the nearby oxygen tank and possible tracheotomy.

By now, readers won’t blink when they encounter a chapter titled “Your Brain on Drugs” that includes drug culture vocabulary builders, marijuana etiquette and advice on picking the best “gateway” drug. We found this section and the next (“The ‘Rules’ for Dysfunctional Daters”) particularly funny and provided some of the best laughs from the book. We especially liked “The Best Ways of Exploiting Internet Personal Ads and Television Dating Shows”. Technology, it seems, can help anyone – even those bent on self-destruction.

The book continues with “The Man And Mistress Guide To Infidelity”, a hilarious how-to outlining various ways to include one’s partners and lovers into one self-destructive spiral downwards. The chapter includes sections on “Relationship Troubleshooting” and “Revenge Affairs”. Again, in keeping with the spirit of the book, the humor is dark and brooding: More than one of us at the office thought it hit too close. Oh well, we guess one sees what one wants to see in life!

Are these real?
We were a bit confused when we read the chapter titled “Condoms are for Suckers”. Here, one learns about a wide variety of unsafe (and quite likely, physically impossible) sex acts, from the “Donkey Punch” to the “Belgian Spritzer”. Are these acts physically possible? Would they be legal even if they did? No matter. Like the rest of the book, the content here is purely for entertainment purposes and should never be tried in real (or fantasy) life. Really.

Nearing the end, we have “How to Lose Way Too Much Weight In 90 Days”. The authors present three simple steps to releasing your “inner child-body”, essentially an unhealthy, emaciated physique that practically guarantees your friends’ shocked attention and quite possibly an invitation to a trashy talk show and commercial endorsements. Classic!

Why not get a tattoo? In fact, why not cover your entire body with them? Indeed, after reading the final chapter in the Self-Destruction Handbook, one has the feeling that “The Ins and Outs of Self-mutilation” could be the book’s only conclusion. Here, readers learn everything from getting the “right” tattoo to the finer points of “cutting” all the way to staging a fake drug overdose (turns out, the trick is scattering empty pill bottles nearby).

To be sure, the book isn’t non-stop laughs and it isn’t for everyone (clearly those who are really depressed might find the humor a bit off-putting). It can get a bit tedious at times and a good editor might have trimmed the text down or ordered a slight re-write in some places where the copy dragged. This said, the book does offer more than its share of humor and certainly underscores much of the absurdity in the continuing self-help craze.

Overall: Don’t be put off by the title, The Self-Destruction Handbook is often hilariously laugh-out-loud funny poking humor at the thousands of annoying self-help books written for people with way too much time (and money) on their hands. While not denigrating people who are genuinely on the path to self-betterment, the book does an excellent job in shaking the far greater number of us who really should just get back to work or out for a nice walk in the sun with an appreciative dog. A perfect companion to the sardonic writer or correspondent who thinks he’s got something to be depressed about and wants to let everyone in his circle know it. The Self-Destruction Handbook is recommended.

End of Review

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