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It’s hard to help the ones you love, though it might be even harder for them to help themselves, which is why the self-help publishing industry consistently turns a profit each year. But why buy a self-help book when literary fiction can do the trick just as efficiently? Surely there’s a fictional equivalent for every possible human problem. And then there is the cost benefit- Reading fiction is much cheaper than therapy or Prozac, and definitely more enjoyable. If only all the books could fit inside the medicine cabinet.
Beware though, you must choose wisely. A close reading of The Things They Carried by the hoarder in your family could prove devastating. I know from personal experience the anguish that a wrongly prescribed fiction book can inflict upon a person- Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays contributed to my brief gambling addiction and affinity for all-you-can-eat buffets.
My advice- Stick with these contemporary classics. If they can’t cure what ails you, at least you’ll be well read.
If your child hears voices—
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
If your husband is second guessing his sexuality—
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Or if he’s simply having a mid-life crisis—
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
If your brother is a sex addict—
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
If your cousin is into sexual experimentation and “trying new things”—
My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up by Stephen Elliott
If your mother is depressed—
Something Is Out There by Richard Bausch
If your daughter talks back—
Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
If your sister suffers from low self-esteem—
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
If your wife is disillusioned by marriage—
Why Did I Ever? by Mary Robison
If your son is acting out violently at school—
Everything Ravaged Everything Burned by Wells Tower
If your aunt might have an alcohol problem—
Lit by Mary Karr
If your friend hates his job—
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
If you’re dealing with a dysfunctional family—
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Amy Silverberg is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a collection of short stories. Follow her on twitter here: @AmySilverberg.