After posting a review earlier today, I noticed that I have quite a few books with “How To” in the title… and none of them are actually self-help books! Yes, they’re all novels… but what if they weren’t?
What if all these books were really meant to be self-help guides? Let’s see how well they live up to their titles:
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (review)
Is it about… exercise routines involving walking? A guide to breaking up? Avoiding boring conversations?
Nope! It’s contemporary fiction about a woman who survives a plane crash, finds her life turned upside down, and ends up discovering all sorts of good things awaiting her, despite her physical and emotional injuries. And it’s just occurred to me that the title is somewhat ironic, since the main character (spoiler!) will never walk again… but she does figuratively walk away from the painful events and the unfulfilling relationship that were holding her back. So, no actual advice about walking or fitness or avoidance, but a nice, romantic read.
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Is it about… improving your life by becoming a better person? Learning self-control? Overriding rude impulses?
Nope! It’s a funny look at middle-aged marriage, and what happens when one person decides to change their entire way of being, pretty much overnight. Being generous, doing good for others, moving beyond materialism — all worthwhile goals, but in this story, it also makes for a lot of craziness and marital trouble. I didn’t actually learn to be good from this book, but I did get a new viewpoint on the value of communication and consideration in marriage, and how not to screw things up!
How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (review)
Is it about… being a domestic goddess? Mastering the fine art of pleasing a man? (Bleah) Learning how to be a supportive partner in an equal and loving relationship between equals? (wouldn’t that be nice?)
Nope! It’s a tense thriller about a woman whose recovered memories bring her to conclude that her entire marriage may be built on lies and deceit. It’s creepy and scary, and quite a good read. But I can’t say I learned anything about being a devoted spouse, unless that means endlessly scrubbing the kitchen, blindly obeying my spouse, and believing it when people tell me I’m mentally ill. No thanks.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (review)
Is it about… performing CPR? Learning First Aid? Getting Red Cross lifeguarding certification?
Nope! It’s a YA novel about grief and families, about a teen whose widowed mother decides to adopt a baby and the pregnant teen who enters their lives. It’s moving and beautifully written — but no actual lifesaving tips are provided!
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (review)
Is it about… clock making? Stopping the aging process? Taking photos to create a family archive? (Okay, that last one is a stretch.)
Nope! It’s about a man who has lived centuries, aging at a fraction of the rate that normal humans do. Really an incredible story about the meaning of life, the search for love, and allowing oneself to connect when any relationship can only end in loss. A must-read. But sadly, no real advice about how to become immortal!
And my newest addition, which I haven’t read yet — but stay tuned, because I’ll definitely be reading and reviewing this novella during the coming week:
How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger
Is it about… dating advice for the supernatural set?
Sort of! It’s fiction, of course, and tells the story of a young American woman who, after figuring in a scandal, gets sent off to England to marry a very proper British werewolf. So no, it won’t actually help us find an online dating site that might match us with hairy shapeshifters… but it might offer some clues about matchmaking and dealing with scandal. Oh, who am I kidding? It’ll be fun, and it’s by Gail Carriger, so it’ll be worth reading even without providing self-help guidance.
What “How To” books are on your fiction shelves? Do they live up to the title?
Please share your thoughts!