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Book Review: A Guide to Shadow Work by Stephanie Kirby

Updated: Mar 29

Reviewing a book that I did not enjoy is always weird. Completing a book from its first draft to publication is an accomplishment on its own. But once it’s in the hands of readers, it no longer belongs to you. The book is measured against personal experiences, different levels of study on the subject matter, cultural concerns, and many more things. This is why I believe that reviews are for the readers and not for the author. With that said, here’s my review of A Guide to Shadow Work: A Workbook to Explore Your Hidden Self by Stephanie Kirby.

Stephanie Kirby is a self-titled “Shadow Work Guide.” Kirby offers courses to help people navigate their shadow selves and find healing.

The format of the book is one page of information, followed by a list of prompts, and then so on. The information is very general, so what you’re really buying is a list of prompts. As someone who recently wrote 300+ writing prompts inspired by the tarot for free and is selling a black and white printable version of it for only $5, I did not think the material warranted an entire book. The prompts in A Guide to Shadow Work are very superficial, which contradicts the notion that you’ll be using this book to dive deep into your soul/psyche/subconscious. You could Google a list of prompts and receive the same quality of questions for free. In fact, I already have.

I also had a problem with how the subject matter was approached. Shadow work has become a New Age buzzword, plain and simple. As I said in my article about Carl Jung and the New Age Movement, Jung has been elevated among New Agers to be beyond criticism. Within the first page of this book, there’s the sentiment that shadow work is helpful because Carl Jung said so. That’s not inherently good or bad, but why does one man make an entire practice valid? I would have preferred to see more recent examples and real-world examples demonstrating that engaging in shadow work is safe to do independently, as there is an ongoing debate about whether it should only be done under the guidance of a therapist.

I was disappointed by the book until I learned that it was part of the Wellness Workbooks series from Wellfleet Press. These kinds of series are what I consider to be coffee-table cash grabs. The publisher wants several aesthetically pleasing books with general information about a popular topic. Very little substance. Nothing controversial.

Cosmopolitan did the same thing with two of my favorite Instagram witches back in 2019. As someone who’s followed them for years, I know that they know their stuff, but the books did not reflect that. And I blame that on the publisher, not the writers. Because of that, I am not judging Kirby too harshly for this book. Many people wouldn’t turn down a book deal, especially if they don’t know much about the industry.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend the book, but to leave it on a positive note: it’s very pretty. A+ to their graphic designer.

I was given access to this book by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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