Lean the F*ck Out: Dr. Talia Argondezzi’s Anti-Self-Help Self-Help Book

Pictured on left: Argondezzi’s book launch in Phoenixville Pictured on right: Book Cover

Article by Kate Horan <kahoran@ursinus.edu>

Many self-help books are centered around an unattainable ideal life realized through unrealistic levels of positivity. Dr. Talia Argondezzi’s recently published anti-self-help self-help book works to break this trend, encouraging readers to “start challenging themselves to be bad at things.”

Published on November 7, 2023, Argondezzi’s book, titled Lean the F*ck Out, was inspired by these expectations of perfection. As an academic working at a college and as a “general middle-aged lady with a lot of middle-aged lady pals,” Argondezzi finds herself surrounded by people who “expect themselves to do everything perfectly all the time and to be everything for everybody.” She explains that many people she knows, including herself and especially but not exclusively women, “subject ourselves to unrelentingly high expectations in all facets of our lives, in part because those expectations are built into our demanding ‘lean in’ society.”

Writing the book did not take Argondezzi as long as she thought it would. It took her the better part of the summer of 2022, along with a good number of evenings and weekends that following fall and spring. In writing the book, Argondezzi started with a very rough outline and then sent her editor one chapter at a time. She didn’t experience any major bouts of writer’s block with this project, saying, “I love writing humor and I love bossing people around, so writing a satirical self-help book came relatively easily.”

Despite not experiencing major writer’s block, Argondezzi did face some challenges. In addition to the challenge of finding time to write, she struggled to strike the right tone for a book intended for a wide public audience. “Usually when I write humor, I can take whatever risks and use whatever tone I want. The only person I need to please is myself and one or two editors; once I get the piece accepted by the editors, it’s published, and people can either like it or not,” says Argondezzi. She finds dark subject matter appealing, and she can be as niche and weird as she wants. In this project, Argondezzi was challenged to take a different approach. “By contrast, my book editor constantly nudged me to think of a broader general audience for the book. I had to be careful to take a pleasant, breezy, encouraging tone, to avoid politics, and to make my anecdotes ‘relatable,’” she says. Under those constraints, Argondezzi explains that it was a little harder than usual to be funny.

Amid all of the advice presented in the book, there is a whole chapter on how people should clean their house less, and she wishes that everyone would follow that advice. Argondezzi states, “When I visit, I don’t want to feel impressed that your place is so clean; I want to feel like we can be buddies because we’re both slobs.”

When asked what she would say to encourage someone to read her book, Argondezzi says, “I don’t. I’ve been encouraging people to buy it, wait a couple days, then tell me, ‘I read your book and I love it!’ Don’t worry, I won’t ask any follow-up questions about what your favorite part was or anything. You can just fully lie and say you read it.”

In all seriousness, Argondezzi emphasizes that the point of the book is to make people laugh and to convince them to go easier on themselves, saying, “If you tend to push yourself too hard, this is the book for you.”

You can purchase Argondezzi’s book at Reads & Company, 234 Bridge Street, Phoenixville. It is also available online!

Get your copy today: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250287083/leanthefckout