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Self Care: A Novel (Paperback)
"Are you reserving all your intellectual labor for real life? Can you only reread and rewatch things you can recite from memory because new material is too taxing? For a while this summer, I found I was incapable of sustained focus on any book that asked anything of me in terms of patience or trust or any very complex thought.
Self Care insinuated itself pinkly into my to-read pile: short, plot-driven, radiating millennial vibes that were yelling at me on an instinctive level. If you’re on the hunt for well-written, highly readable, literary trash with a satirical edge and find that your mood these days only really responds to material that mercilessly savages qualities you recognize in yourself, this is the book for you.
Maren and Devin are the two cofoundresses of Richual (ugh), a social media/wellness platform reserved for women, purporting to uplift them out of their various trying circumstances by creating the conditions in which they could nurture themselves -- there’s no problem so big that the right skincare regimen or colon cleanse can’t fix it. Like many such brands, they are providing a real comfort to many with few options for addressing their own needs. But urged at the point of the rapacious capitalism of their “angel” investors, functioning always at breakneck speed to keep pace with the wildly oscillating social media metrics that will make or break their company, Devin and Maren are always in danger -- even with the best intentions, with their own overwhelming problems to manage -- of becoming the bad guy.
In the guise of an unforgiving, often hilarious satire, Self Care explores issues of privilege (obvious and insidious) in all its forms (whiteness, prettiness, maleness, wealth), the societal demands on women that are both alleviated and exacerbated by social media “communities,” and what it means for women to get and, importantly, keep a seat at the table. For what it’s worth, I think this book got me over whatever block was keeping me from enjoying reading.
For those of us who prefer a heads up about this kind of thing, Self Care does include instances of sexual violence."
--Sarah, Longfellow Books— From Sarah Recommends!
"Highbrow, brilliant." --The Approval Matrix, New York magazine
One of Cosmopolitan's 12 Books You'll Be Dying to Read This Summer
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer 2020
A Vulture Best Book of Summer 2020
One of Refinery29's 25 Books You'll Want to Read This Summer
An Esquire Must-Read Book of Summer 2020
A Book Riot Best Book of 2020 *so far
The female cofounders of a wellness start-up struggle to find balance between being good people and doing good business, while trying to stay BFFs.
Maren Gelb is on a company-imposed digital detox. She tweeted something terrible about the President's daughter, and as the COO of Richual, “the most inclusive online community platform for women to cultivate the practice of self-care and change the world by changing ourselves,” it's a PR nightmare. Not only is CEO Devin Avery counting on Maren to be fully present for their next round of funding, but indispensable employee Khadijah Walker has been keeping a secret that will reveal just how feminist Richual’s values actually are, and former Bachelorette contestant and Richual board member Evan Wiley is about to be embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal that could destroy the company forever.
Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and seen countless influencers who seem like experts at caring for themselves—from their yoga crop tops to their well-lit clean meals to their serumed skin and erudite-but-color-coded reading stack? Self Care delves into the lives and psyches of people working in the wellness industry and exposes the world behind the filter.
About the Author
Leigh Stein is the author of the acclaimed 2012 novel The Fallback Plan, a poetry collection the same year, and the 2016 memoir Land of Enchantment. From 2014–2017, she ran a secret Facebook group of 40,000 women writers, in her role as cofounder and executive director of Out of the Binders/BinderCon, a feminist nonprofit organization. She’s been called a “leading feminist” by the Washington Post and “poet laureate of The Bachelor” by The Cut.
"Though the turmoil at the center of [the novel] is entertaining, its twist ending a clawed swipe at the irony of the scarcity myth--the zero-sum foundation of capitalism--it's not the thing that kept me reading. Instead, it was Stein's deft navitagion of the shades of superficial feminism, the lexicon of start-up culture and the tone of a generation reckoning with how to be honest with itself."
—Los Angeles Times
“Leigh Stein's latest novel is as decadent and brutal as a vampire facial. It's an exposé of feel-good feminism, an indictment of contemporary capitalism, and an absolute treat to read. This book will make you laugh, gasp, and vow to get off social media for good – and it'll understand when you can't help but log right back on.”
—Julia Phillips, National Book Award finalist for Disappearing Earth
"A darkly witty romp through corporate feminism."
"Leigh Stein's novel might just be the hit of adrenaline you need to delete your apps permanently--or at the very least, leap off your couch and do something better with your time."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Self Care proves Leigh Stein's status as a great 'demolition expert' (Kenneth Tynan's term for Bernard Shaw) of the influencer era."
—The New Republic
"Stein's sharp writing separates her from the pack in this exquisite, Machiavellian morality tale about the ethics of looking out for oneself."
—Publishers Weekly *starred review*
"Just try not to snort your Moon Juice out your nose while laughing your ass off."
"A brutal dissection of 'Insta-Worthy' culture, the unconscionable capitalistic impulses behind wellness ventures, and the farce of forced community building."
"Brutal and brutally funny...Stein presents a punchy, bracing criticism of modern feminism's transformation into a commercialized hellscape of goat yoga, healing crystals, and 'girl bosses.'"
"Merciless and mordantly funny...Stein gives her ruthless romp through influencer culture an authenticity born from a genuine love of the internet...This is the self-aware callout culture novel that we need, but odn't deserve. Don't sleep on Self Care (unless you Fitbit tells you to sleep more--then do that, hydrate, and add 20 minutes of Headspace before reading)."
"A novel of manners for our 280-character era."
"Stein offers a look into the dark underbelly of these easily marketable spaces, the promise that a room full of women equals safety, and the egos and violence that sadly so often exist within them."
"Self Care is the bitchy beach read for people who wear a 'Bitches Get Shit Done' T-shirt, but who are also well-versed in debates about reclaiming the word 'bitch.' Stein is the kind of writer who would be at home both in The New Yorker and on a Tumblr page devoted to writing poems about The Bachelor...At it's core, it's a very clever satire."
“Self Care is a skewering mockumentary about influencer culture, internet feminism, and the infinite ways that big tech capitalizes on our worst fears and insecurities. Utterly teeming with humor, this is exactly the sort of book that Dorothy Parker would have written if she’d been reincarnated as an Instagram celebrity.”
—Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers and Certain American States: Stories
"A hyper-timely--and unexpectedly heartfelt--satire of #girlboss culture and the wellness industrial complex...Compulsively readable...Brilliant."
“Wickedly talented Leigh Stein - for my money, one of our sharpest millennial writers - knows the internet, and she's used that intimate knowledge to write a pitch-perfect novel for our times. Self Care is a hilarious and sneakily moving send-up of what it means to try and live when every move you make is observed and dissected online, by a writer who sees the truth and says it with so much humor and heart you'll laugh (and maybe cry) out loud.”
—Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
"A titillating satire about our quest for validation and the lengths that some will go to for #selfactualization, Self Care is an intelligent, delightful read that will make your mind (and epidermis!) glow."
—Courtney Maum, author of Touch and Costalegre
"Timely and playful...Offering a juicy glimpse into the pathos and ethos of the wellness industry and the influencers who make it all appear so shiny and bright."
"A smart criqique of the wellness industry...but also a very fun read."
“It’s not just that I found Self Care wildly entertaining, I found it deeply illuminating. So this is how the clickbait gets cooked up! I learned, I laughed, I loved every page. What I especially admired was Leigh Stein’s rare ability to be hilariously wicked while remaining deeply empathetic. I say skip your next juice cleanse and read this brilliant and delightful novel.”
—Meghan Daum, author of The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars
"So damn good. i stared reading, kept reading, and didn't look up until I was done. There is so much to applaud about Stein's novel...A juicy, funny, smart read. Did I already say it was a smart read? Leigh Stein is so smart and so understanding of the internet I am in awe."
—Alma, Favorite Books for Summer 2020