Normally, I’m not one to gravitate to self-help or how-to books, but something about Adam Gnade’s 2013 chapbook drew me in. Maybe it was the cold winter months looming over my shoulder or, probably more likely, it was the blunt, unignorable title spread across the cover that led me to Gnade’s Do-it-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad.
Part book of lists, part miniature memoir, Gnade shares self-pep-talks to readers in a light, casual tone that makes his chapbook feel more like a conversation with a friend than your average self-help book does. As the title suggests, Gnade isn’t afraid to carry his profanity into the body of his work; “Don’t let the assholes win,” as he suggests in one list, makes the advice feel more real and less polished or forced.
With lists including “Guide to Not Freaking Out All the Time” and “A Rough Guide to Surviving the Unsurvivable,” there’s bound to be at least one piece of advice any reader can take away from Gnade’s guide. However, he doesn’t wear out the novelty of his lists by cramming the entire 59 pages with only those. Instead, between the lists are small bits of memoir that further serve to guide readers out of the “Big Motherfuckin’ Sad,” creating an easy flow to follow. These memoirs, including a vision of George Bush throwing a football, also give a good personal look into Gnade’s own Sad until it feels like a friend helping to pull readers from the sludge of sadness. Or if a reader is seeking to cheer up a friend, there’s even a small section in the book titled “Helping Your Friends Get Through It.”
A short read, The Guide can be finished in one sitting or plucked from the shelf to read one list at a time. Opening to the center of the books reveals the message “EVERYONE GOOD IS NECESSARY” before continuing to the regularly formatted pages. Even reading that one sentence when in a low mood makes owning The Guide worth it.
Whether you’re in need of some help shaking the winter blues in preparation for spring or you’re just seeking reminders to be happy, Gnade’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad is definitely worth dipping into for a quick pick-me-up.