Arts and Entertainment

How to Be a 2017 New York Times Bestseller: An Ode to a Bawse A$$ Book

A review of Lilly Singh’s new book “How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Christine Jegarl

Every so often, the narration of a book comes to life in the form of a person—a well-fleshed character springing from its pages to look you in the eye to share a sincere moment. In her 2017 book, “How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life,” Lilly Singh’s witty, heartfelt words of wisdom take the form of the cool aunt you wish you had.

Singh’s aptly named book is an extensive how-to guide on absolutely winning at life. When giving life and career advice, she draws from personal experience as her primary source material. The integration of personal anecdotes in her unadulterated advice gives “How to Be a Bawse” its sense of intimacy.

She establishes the informal nature of her book in the introduction, stating “I’m not an expert and I’m not claiming to be one…I’m writing this…because I want to be a positive light in this world.” In this statement, the book’s purpose is made clear: Singh, as a wildly successful entertainer, entrepreneur, and all-around bawse, has reached out to the public in book-form to share her secrets and help us all achieve total bawsedom.

However, bits and pieces of Lilly Singh existed in the public sphere long before she published her book. Her loud, confident, and refreshingly honest voice has graced the computer screens of millions since 2010, when she started her YouTube channel, “IISuperwomanII.” On this channel, she primarily posts a variety of comedic skits relating to certain aspects of her life, the most notable of which are videos impersonating her Punjabi parents, Manjeet and Paramjeet Singh, reacting to pop culture and the modern world.

When she first created her channel, she was a recent college graduate who filmed videos as a means of alleviating her crippling depression. “IISuperwomanII” has acquired 11 million subscribers and 1.8 billion views in the six and a half years following, making Singh one of the most successful YouTube celebrities of all time.

She nods to her former battle with depression many times throughout the book. Many of the life lessons covered in “How to Be a Bawse” are ones she has learned in her long, grueling path to recovery. In her introduction, she establishes that she is writing from the perspective of someone who has overcome depression.

Her book is divided into four sections, titled “Master Your Mind,” “Hustle Harder,” “Make Heads Turn,” and “Be a Unicorn.” Each section consists of nine to 17 chapters of mini-lessons and pieces of advice and ends with a feature called “Out of the Blue,” where she looks back on a moment in her life when she was depressed and contrasts it with her life after recovery.

Singh’s second installation of “Out of the Blue” recalls her state of mind in 2010 and 2015. She felt unimportant and invisible in 2010—the temple being her only sanctuary. “I go there every day and sit in the back, as far away from everyone else as possible. But I still feel as if everyone is looking at me.” She notes that in 2015, having people look at her has become a positive aspect of her life: “I see a huge sign with flashing lights outside the venue that reads ‘Lilly Singh’s “A Trip to Unicorn Island”—SOLD OUT.’”

The optimistic side-by-side comparison of the before and after is especially uplifting and refreshing, particularly to those struggling with depression themselves. It reinforces and cements all of the ideas conveyed in the book by reminding readers that life can—and does—get better.

Excluding the recurring feature “Out of the Blue,” “How to Be a Bawse” has 50 chapters in total. Each chapter conveys a new life lesson in around three to five pages. Some chapters have cliché titles like “Don’t Overthink” and “Commit to Your Decisions,” while others have titles that are distinctly Lilly Singh, such as “Send the GPS Deep,” where she tells you to be introspective and address your inner issues.

Each chapter achieves the perfect balance between hilarity and seriousness, articulating genuine, sincere pieces of advice with “Game of Thrones” references and funny poems about vodka and soda. Singh’s success as a YouTuber is evident in her writing style, from the quippy, anecdotal intros to every chapter to the colloquialisms she uses to convey her ideas.

In her opening paragraph to “Let Go of FOMO,” she draws her reader in with an interesting, relatable concept: “If I had a dollar for every time I was tempted to hang out with friends instead of doing work, I’d have a yacht made of gold.” She closes off the paragraph with the hashtag “#YachtGoals,” a model example of the humorous language that has won over her young fanbase in her book and videos alike.

While Singh’s writing style is very resemblant of her vlogging style, many YouTubers who have written books have chosen to divert from their vlogging style, writing long, detailed sections of prose in the style of a traditional novel.

Though exploring every lesson in depth would have added a wonderful new dimension to “How to Be a Bawse” and the public’s perception of Lilly Singh, the concise, unconventional style the book is written in conveys Singh’s messages just as well. Through her writing, Singh brings an extra touch of heart to her already stellar advice.

There is no better person to tell you to get some exercise than the person who prefaces the “Be Active” chapter of her book with, “I am literally LOLing as I write this chapter because I am the least qualified person to do so.”

The layout of the book’s hardcover copy is similarly bright—before every chapter, a bold, stunning professional photo of Singh takes up a full page. Almost every page is touched with neon colors, and most chapters have at least one outquote in a bright color and a bolded, stylish font. The lively color scheme and uplifting, bolded outquotes reinforce the book’s positive message and the importance of self-betterment.

The way “How to Be a Bawse” exhibits Lilly Singh’s trademark boldness has garnered an overwhelmingly positive reaction from Singh’s long-time fans and has also won the hearts of new fans. As of May 2017, the book has become a #1 New York Times bestseller, and it currently has a whopping 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

There are many reasons why this book could have achieved these impressive feats, but above all, its success can be attributed to the fact that it is a true anomaly. It is simultaneously sentimental and practical, silly and sincere, and a gold mine of wisdom.

Without a doubt, “How to Be a Bawse” is a must-have for every human being struggling through life on this cold, lonely planet, aka every human, period.