Book Review: ‘The Worrier’s Guide to Life’

Cartoonist Gemma Correll lays out a novel solution for those who are regularly gripped by fears, worries and insecurities in her book, The Worrier’s Guide to Life. Find the humor in your situation!

A lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression, Correll has adopted humor as one of her principal coping mechanisms. By incorporating all of her worries into her thoughtful, often hilarious comics, Correll has found a measure of peace by embracing as just another aspect of her personality instead of a flaw to hidden away at all costs. 

Some Very Familiar Anxieties

The Worrier’s Guide to Life doesn’t have much of a structure; it’s collection of Correll’s strips that are linked by the common theme of anxiety. The book opens with a comic depicting a fetus that is wracked with insecurity about the shape its life will take. That gag is followed by a series of strips that delve into common fears related to body image, interfamilial and romantic relationships, and money. And many one-off strips deal with the technocratic and economic uncertainties facing Millennials today. Fans of cartoonists like Lynda Berry and Gary Larson will find a lot to love in the book’s general anxiety sections. But, Guide to Life gets a little deeper and darker as it goes.

Understanding Through Humor

Some of the book’s latter strips deal with how someone with a mental illness views the world. Correll uses a series of horror movie posters to depict the terror someone with social anxiety feels about benign interactions. She presents a bunch of Lisa Frank-esque stickers that should be given as rewards completing mundane self-care task like doing the laundry or filing one’s taxes. In her clever way, Correll expresses the profound sense of isolation and powerlessness anxiety and depression sufferers feel. That facet of the work might give some measure of solace to the afflicted and a new level of understanding to the friends and family of those dealing with mental illness.

Some Drawbacks

Despite the book’s many virtues, it’s ultimately a slight effort. Had Correll created something with a narrative, autobiographic work in the vein of harrowing Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, it probably would have carried a greater emotional heft. Also, Guide to Life is made up entirely of gag strips, which even with Correll’s considerable talent, becomes somewhat tedious after a while. Additional, Correll’s topical jokes will likely not age well. And with an MSRP of $14.99, the book’s 112 pages seem somewhat expensive, although it is available in a less expensive Kindle edition.

The Value of a Good Laugh

The Worrier’s Guide to Life is more than worth your time, especially if you’re someone who struggles with anxiety or depression. That’s something reassuring about having material proof that you are not the only person in the world who feels uncomfortable with confrontation, large groups of people and the stress that comes with being unable to navigate social nuance. Being able to view one’s mental illness through the lens of humor is hugely valuable in the recovery process as it allows for a less overwhelmed view of one’s malady. There’s nothing more emotional liberating than being able to laugh at one’s worries.