In honor of Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, I’d like to outline some of the reasons I’ve come to abhor the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, beginning with the fact that none of the editions come with an actual bowl of chicken soup.

For the lucky few of you who have never been exposed to Chicken Soup books, they are compilations of “heartwarming” real-life stories meant to inspire readers to do good in the world, believe in themselves, embrace friends and family, etc., etc. Chicken Soup has over 200 different titles, separated out by demographics such as “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul” or “Chicken Soup for Grandma’s Soul.” It’s easy to spot a Chicken Soup book. Just look for the mottled, colorful backgrounds, glaringly cheery photo stock pictures, and carbon-copy WordArt fonts that generally decorate the cover.

Chicken Soup’s website offers this rather drastic self-description:

Welcome to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a world leader in life improvement. We have been helping real people share real stories for fifteen years, bringing hope, courage, inspiration and love to hundreds of millions of people around the world. We hope our books and products touch your life in a similar way.

Hmmm…“a world leader in life improvement”? May want to be careful with that one. Anyway…

A caveat to readers: I am predisposed to hate Chicken Soup. My introduction to the series occurred during the first five sleep-ridden minutes of every junior high school day, where a lack of friends and alternate reading material on my homeroom teacher’s bookshelves lead me to crack open that initial book—a move I have since regretted. Blearily slogging my way through “heartfelt” story after “heartfelt” story in an effort to appear too cool to talk to people may have given my perception of the compilations a negative slant. Nevertheless, here are my top three reasons (there are many more, I assure you) for hating Chicken Soup for the Soul:

1.      The stories are depressing.

Nary can you find a Chicken Soup story does not include a death, illness, or some other tragic accident. Maybe I’m missing something here, but when one of your books is titled “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book,” I don’t exactly expect to find a wealth of good feeling there. There is a fine line between poignancy and blatant catastrophe, and Chicken Soup has crossed it. My heart feels anything but “warmed” after having to read about your 70-year-old grandma with cancer, your dog that got hit by a car, your brother who lost seven toes to frostbite in a tragic skiing accident, and your uncle who fell down a well and successfully called for help, only to tragically have his eye poked out with a garden rake by the rescue team.

2.      Jack Canfield has a dopey smile.

And he looks like he self-tans.

3.      The shameless self-promotion.

As you may have been able to tell from their self-description, the Chicken Soup team has a pretty high opinion of themselves. Granted, they are a franchise. It’s understood that the bottom line is to make a profit from you, not to enhance your soul. But they could be a little more subtle about it. Four pages of critical acclaim, a gold banner across the cover boasting their 8 million copies sold, and repeated proclamations of their (outdated) #1 status on the New York Times Bestseller List make my would-be “rekindled” soul is feelin’ a little exploited.

Not to mention that reading Chicken Soup makes me want to eat real chicken soup. Except by the time I’m done reading, I’m too depressed to eat anything. There must be something out there for me…aha! Here we have it: “Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul.”

What about you guys? Do you read the book series (or know that it had a holiday)? If so, do you like it or hate it? If you have a loving history with the books, feel free to avenge them below.

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My name is Sam and all I care about is food.

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5 Responses

  1. Mister

    I hate reading books which aren’t beneficial. I feel like the Chicken Soup books don’t benefit me. I prefer to spend time reading textbooks, blogs (Study Hacks+ScottHYoung) instead of storybooks.

  2. Leona

    When I was in 7th grade we took a class trip to a eco-friendly camp for 3 days. One night one of the counselors read a story from Chicken Soup to us before bed. This was 18 years ago and still, all I remember was a depressingly sad story about a life lesson someone learned after one of their grandparents died. Way to make me feel better, by reminding me of my own mortality. Ugh. And I see that they are making their own brand of soup. Lame product tie-in.

  3. CPB

    I remember coming across the books as a kid. I picked one up out of curiosity at a local book store, saw that it was just a haphazard collection of anecdotes, then promptly put the book on the shelf. The only people I’ve met who read those things as if they’re gospel are severely impoverished ghetto dwellers.

  4. Diego

    I got the book as a Christmas gift from my mother, who was feeling a bit distressed about me been “distant”. I appreciate warmly her kindness and positive intentions, so I greeted the gift with gratitude. And I found the book to be such a fucking pile of bull that I had to see if more people considered it that way.

    It manipulates the reader with its sad, cheesy accounts of “life”. Stories are shallow, supremely common and structured in exactly the same way. At least you’d expect to find colorful styles across the stories. You need only read the last paragraph, and you know exactly what the previous three pages said. I find it so bad it made me mad.


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