Health Book Structure #4: There’s a Problem!

In a nutshell: A look at an important problem that most people don’t even realize is looming, with little or no discussion of the solution.

Sometimes, you don’t know you’ve got trouble until somebody warns you. And that’s the crux of this structure for health books. It’s a warning and maybe even a call to action. But it doesn’t solve the problem.

A good example of the There’s a Problem! structure can be found in  The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz, a book that discusses “how the Paradox of Choiceculture of abundance robs us of satisfaction.” Most people don’t realize that having too many choices in their lives is a problem, but Barry Schwartz sounds the alarm with his opening story:

About six years ago, I went to the Gap to buy a pair of jeans.

I tend to wear my jeans until they’re falling apart, so it had been quite a while since my last purchase. A nice young salesperson walked up to me and asked if she could help.

“I want a pair of jeans—32-28,” I said.

“Do you want them slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit, baggy, or extra baggy?” she replied. “Do you want them stonewashed, acid-washed, or distressed? Do you want them button-fly or zipper-fly? Do you want them faded or regular?

I was stunned. A moment or two later I sputtered out something like, “I just want regular jeans. You know, the kind that used to be the only kind.” It turned out she didn’t know, but after consulting with one of her older colleagues, she was able to figure out what “regular jeans” used to be, and pointed me in the right direction.

The rest of the book examines the reasons that an overabundance of choices is a big problem in our society. The author offers very little in the way of a solution: only16 pages, compared to 217 pages devoted to the problem.

In short, There’s a Problem! is all about presenting a conundrum. Its goal is to provoke an emotional response from the reader – anger, shock, fear, disgust or something similar – and to educate. Providing a solution is not the focus of the book.

See “7 Ways to Structure Your Health Book” to learn 6 more ways to format a health book.

About Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D.

Nadine Taylor, a Registered Dietitian, is an experienced writer who has authored or co-authored several books in the health and memoir genres. Her memoirs include Diana & Dodi: A Love Story, and her health books include Green Tea: The Natural Secret to a Healthier Life, Runaway Eating, Natural Menopause Remedies, Arthritis For Dummies and 25 Natural Ways To Relieve PMS. She has also ghostwritten numerous books in various genres.