Paul Wilson, The Little Book of Calm (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 160pp
Like many others, I'm sure, I only read The Little Book of Calm due to its appearance in the first episode of the comedy Black Books (oh, if only Tempocalypse was real!). Reading the book from this perspective, and with Bill Bailey's narration in my head, it brought a smile. Some of the lines used in the show were made up by the sitcom writers, but others ("pretend you see it, then laugh", "have you ever noticed a calm person with a loud voice?") do indeed come from this book.
Some of Paul Wilson's suggestions are deserving of light-hearted mockery (turn your arms like a windmill, he advises, "and you will wave yourself calm"; to store away your worries, you might consider "whisper[ing] them into an envelope") but he does provide some good, if often rather obvious, advice. Despite this moderate level of usefulness, I still see this primarily as something to laugh at, something not to take too seriously. And I don't think it's cruel to laugh at The Little Book of Calm, as its intent was to spread calmness and good cheer, joy and love. Like the love I found in a little bookshop off Russell Square. Yes, love. You know, not, well, not love so much more... more... freedom! You know, fre... well, not really freedom, more a largeness of heart. Well, not really a largeness of heart... or freedom... or love. But I was never contractually obliged to sleep with foreign businessmen, alright? And that is not nothing, that is something.