10 Novels to Solve All of Your Problems


There’s no denying it — the self-help book business is booming. Recently, we read a fascinating article in New York magazine that argues that part of the reason the industry is doing well is that publishers have changed the way we think about self-help — no longer just how-tos, but memoirs, narrative nonfiction, business writing, and yes, even novels are making their way onto that once-scoffed-at shelf. Indeed, why relegate yourself to cheesy self-help books proper when you could clear that paranoia/codependency/narcissism right up with a good novel? A novel, you say? Which novel? Never fear, sufferers: after the jump, we prescribe (though take our comments with a grain of salt, we’re nerds, not doctors) a few books to cure whatever ails you. Have some prescriptions of your own? Be a good Samaritan and leave them in the comments.

Laziness Oblomov , Ivan Goncharov

The title character of Goncharov’s satirical novel famously refuses to leave his bed for the first 150 pages of the novel — something that may be familiar to you if you are suffering from unrepentant laziness. Although, let’s be fair: you can’t get much lazier than Oblomov. When contemplating Hamlet’s eternal question, “To be or not to be,” Oblomov “rose from his chair, but, failing at once to insert his foot into a slipper, sat down again.” Eventually, Oblomov’s laziness starts to gnaw — he loses the girl he loves because he can’t bring himself to organize his life enough for marriage, then weds the landlady out of sheer convenience, and eventually dies of — what did he call it? — “Oblomovitis.” If that fate doesn’t get you out of bed, we don’t know what will.

Shopoholism Brave New World , Aldous Huxley

Any number of fictional dystopic futures might suit for this particular ailment, but we’d recommend the classic. After all, this is the kind of world you get when the only god you pray to is the guy to make mass consumerism as easy as possible — Henry Ford. If disposable consumer goods are your closest thing to heaven, read this one in the mall and see what happens.

Codependency Gone Girl , Gillian Flynn

Again, there are many novels full of poisonous relationships that could cure you of your constant desire for a mate, but this one has been on our (and everybody’s) minds recently. Plus, it has that special quality of making you feel like you might not really know even those who are closest to you — seems like an easy way to inject any codependent relationship with some healthy wariness and paranoia to us.

ParanoiaThe Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe

Then again, too much paranoia can be a bad thing. Forgive us, we know this is a short story and not a novel, but who can beat the lesson? The lesson being: calm down. After all, if you give in to your wild paranoia, you’ll lead the cops right to your dead body — er, door. And then your dead body. Plus, we find all that rhythmic beating oddly relaxing.

Compulsive Eating The Middlesteins , Jami Attenberg

If you, like Edie’s parents, secretly believe that food is “made of love, and love … made of food,” if you, like Edie, eat compulsively and expansively, if you, like Edie, have an addiction, then read this book — then you might just get a few tips, whether on food or family, or that nebulous source of yumminess that finds itself somewhere in between.

Narcissism The Picture of Dorian Gray , Oscar Wilde

Well, obviously. Look, if you love your looks too much, sell your soul and then devote yourself to a life of debauchery, even Oscar Wilde is going to condemn you in the end. A cautionary tale, dear image-obsessed children.

Nymphomania Infrared , Nancy Huston

What could put even a die-hard sex addict off the stuff? Perhaps a few pages from Huston’s novel, which won the Literary Review‘s 2012 Bad Sex in Fiction Award. “My sex swimming in joy like a fish in water?” Oof. Maybe we’d rather have a shower. Read more here.

Ludomania The Gambler , Fyodor Dostoyevsky

But of course — what better novel (or in this case, novella) to cure a gambling itch than a tale of a downward gambling spiral, written in a flash to pay off gambling debts? Then again, it’s not like Dostoyevsky has been much diminished in the public eye by his habits. But it’s fair to say that Alexei Ivanovich does not fare quite as well.

TV Addiction Infinite Jest , David Foster Wallace

An Infinite Jest cure is twofold: firstly, this is a long, complicated, engaging novel that will probably distract you from your television for several months. Secondly, after reading with horror the fates of those who came into contact with The Entertainment (these folks seem more and more common these days), we wager you’ll consider the kind of media you consume a little more closely. Or at least not blithely start watching any old movie that comes in the mail. Even if it looks like Netflix.

Agoraphobia The Shining , Stephen King

What can we say? When the building you’re living in is trying to kill you with everything it has, the outside just won’t seem that scary anymore. We know it’s cold — wear a jacket.