The British self-help book baffling French intellectuals

High-brow French literary critics have been left baffled by the success of a write-it-yourself self-help book that has stormed the bestseller list. 

Burn After Writing, by British graphic designer Sharon Jones, provides prompts like ‘My Personal Style Summed Up In Three Sentences’ and ‘The First Thing I Bought With My Own Money’ and encourages readers to fill in the blanks.   

Once the journal is complete it can be kept, stored away or set alight, hence its title.

Burn After Writing, by British graphic designer Sharon Jones, has become a hit in France

Burn After Writing, by British graphic designer Sharon Jones, has become a hit in France

The book (pictured) provides prompts like 'My Personal Style Summed Up In Three Sentences' and 'The First Thing I Bought With My Own Money' and encourages readers to fill in the blanks

The book (pictured) provides prompts like 'My Personal Style Summed Up In Three Sentences' and 'The First Thing I Bought With My Own Money' and encourages readers to fill in the blanks

Burn After Writing, by British graphic designer Sharon Jones (left), provides prompts like ‘My Personal Style Summed Up In Three Sentences’ and ‘The First Thing I Bought With My Own Money’ and encourages readers to fill in the blanks. Right, one version of the book cover

Originally released in the UK in 2014, Burn After Writing has become a surprise runaway hit with French readers since it was released by Parisian publisher Guy Trédaniel in March. 

Mainstream media critics largely ignored the book launch but it was seized upon by TikTok and Instagram influencers excited to document their lives on paper, according to The Times.

Frédéric Trédaniel, managing director of Trédaniel, told the newspaper he was shocked when the first print run of 120,000 copies sold out within a month and is now rushing to bring out a second. 

Burn After Writing, which comes in a variety of colours to ‘suit your mood’, has also become the bestselling book in the ‘Essays’ category, beating out books by philosophers and historians.

It also has a five-star rating from customers of national retailer FNAC. 

Broadcasters at France Culture, a highbrow radio station beloved of Left Bank intellectuals, are among those taken aback by the book’s ‘incomprehensible’ success. 

On one show, a presenter described it as a ‘personal development book [that is] a little strange. There is nothing in it to read’. 

Similar ‘fill in the blank’ journals have been popular in the UK for a number of years, with high profile names including Fearne Cotton bringing out their own versions.  

 

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