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Self-help books get the 'tough love' treatment

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The new cookbook by Ms. Barnouin and Ms. Freedman pro­­motes a vegan diet. A sassy illustra­tion of an angular woman in a chic cocktail dress on the cover and advice such as "Stop being a moron and start getting skinny" hint at the vulgarity-laden blunt talk found inside.

Their first book didn't get much traction, selling only 10,000 copies when it debuted in 2005. But in May 2007, when the lithe Victoria Beckham was photographed holding up a copy in a Los Angeles store (despite the fact that she didn't buy it and says "I've never read a book in my life"), sales soared.

This nontraditional approach and vernacular voice also permeate "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys." While relationship books of the past featured hints on how to attract "the man of your dreams," this book – which sold 30,000 copies in the first two weeks after its release in 2004 – tells women that if a guy doesn't call or ask them out right away, he's not interested, and they should give up.

The book's title – from a line of dialogue in a "Sex and the City" episode – has become such a catchphrase that it's being turned into a major film starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston. Meanwhile, the success of Freedman and Barnouin's books have prompted them to begin work on another, this one for pregnant women.

The new, no-holds-barred world of self-help also includes "Why You're Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad" (May 2006) and "You're Fat! Now Lose It!" (September 2007).

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