Dilbert cartoons have inspired a huge following. Because of this, the cartoonist behind the strips, Scott Adams, is able to publish popular humour books, as long as they are written under the guise of being a 'Dilbert book'. As of July 2003, Adams has written four Dilbert books, The Dilbert Principle, The Dilbert Future, The Joy of Work and Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel. As well as these books of prose, there are a number of paperback cartoon collections of strips published in newspapers.
The Chapter Books
Generally, the chapter books focus on making fun of the way most companies are run, suggesting creative alternatives to problems and making the readers laugh. It takes the perspective of a cubicle dweller who opposes management. Since the character of Dilbert in his cartoon strip is an engineer, Scott Adams1 focuses closely on their behaviour and work. All of these Dilbert books have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers List. The books make fun of management, and so sell much better with low-level employees. Adams explains:
For every person who's a manager and wants to know how to manage people, there are 10 people who are being managed and would like to figure out how to make it stop. You have a choice of appealing to the one or to the 10, and I simply choose the 10.
This is not to say that some of the Dilbert Books don't appeal to managers. There was the popular Dogbert's Top-Secret Management Handbook, where the character of Dogbert2 explains management and how a manager should do his job. This was a cartoon compilation, and not a regular book of prose.
The Dilbert Principle
The first book, The Dilbert Principle was published in April 1996 and stayed on the bestseller list until January. The book started from an article published on 22 May, 1995 in the Wall Street Journal called 'The Dilbert Principle'. It got a huge response and led to the book being written. The article also serves as the first chapter of the book.
The name of the book is derived from the 1969 humour book The Peter Principle which states that employees are promoted to their level of incompetence. The Dilbert Principle states that incompetent employees are promoted directly to management.
This book is a guide to management, communication, pretending to work, marketing, engineering, meetings, sales, downsizing, leaders etc. The book cover claims that it is 'A Cubicle's Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads and Other Workplace Afflictions'. Throughout the book are Dilbert cartoons, usually placed in context of what the subject is. There are also emails from fans and email complaints.
The Dilbert Future
Life in the future will not be like Star Trek.
The Dilbert Future, published in 1997, departs slightly from the theme of work. It is still essentially a book on the future of work, but branches out to themes like technology, democracy and gender relations. As with the rest of the books, Adams uses the same format of 'The Dilbert Principle' by providing cartoons and emails. Throughout the book, Adams makes predictions such as 'Evolution will be debunked'. The predictions are sometimes silly and sometimes serious. Notably, in the introduction, Scott Adams mentions the term 'in-duh-viduals' for the first time. This term would be incorporated into the DNRC3. This term is one of the most popular of all those new words coined in Dilbert and has led to the creation of many others, including the term 'a-duh-lescent'.
The last chapter, number 14, is called 'A New View of the Future'. This and the postscript to Chapter 14, and Appendix A are actually thought experiments. They provide a new perspective on physics and the world. They deal with several interesting theories and ideas as well as affirmations.
Interestingly, soon after the hardback version came out, one prediction appeared, in part at least, to come true. This stated that 'In the future, the media will kill famous people to generate news that people will care about' (this was predicted slightly before Princess Di's death, which many have commented became more a media circus than a memorial). It was noted in the foreword for the paperback edition along with some other predictions that only half came true.
The Joy of Work
I cried because I did not have an office with a door, until I met a man who had no cubicle.
The Joy of Work, published in 1998, explains exactly what the title suggests; the joy of work. It is slightly less cynical than the other books and is much more optimistic about society. It offers advice to make yourself happy, instead of talking about the world. It actually puts things in perspective with an opening quote (see above), which is not something Scott Adams would normally do.
The idea of the book is to bring happiness to your job. It teaches techniques to bring creativity to your job, manage your boss, survive meetings and create laughter at the expense of others.
Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel
Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, published in 2002, is a guide to taking advantage of the 'Weasel Zone'. The book itself explains:
There's a gigantic grey area between good moral behaviour and outright felonious activities. I call that the Weasel4 Zone and it's where most of life happens.
It tells you how to avoid work, hide your incompetence and outwit co-workers. In addition to helping you become a better weasel, the book gives a great deal of information on weasels. It explains how other weasels work, how to identify weasels and the types of weasels.
The book proposes a weasel sign where a person takes two of his fingers on each hand and cross them over your nose quickly to create finger whiskers. While you do the signal, you're supposed to say fft fft. This action is intended to imply that a person is a weasel.
The Dilbert Cartoon Collections
The thing that brought a great deal of popularity to Dilbert and a great deal of wealth to Scott Adams are the cartoon collections.
Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 16 April, 1989 to 21 October, 1989.
Shave the Whales - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 22 October, 1989 to 4 August, 1990.
Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 5 October, 1990 to 18 May, 1991.
It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 19 April, 1991 to 13 December, 1992.
Still Pumped from Using the Mouse - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 14 December, 1992 to 27 September, 1993.
Fugitive From the Cubicle Police - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 28 September, 1993 to 11 February, 1995.
Casual Day Has Gone Too Far - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 5 February, 1995 to 19 November, 1995.
Seven Years of Highly Defective People - A collection of cartoons from the earliest days of Dilbert to the present5. This book featured commentary below the strip.
I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 20 November, 1995 to 31 August, 1996.
Journey to Cubeville - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 1 September, 1996 to 18 January, 1998.
Don't Step in the Leadership - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 12 January, 1998 to 18 October, 1998.
Dilbert Gives You the Business - A themed guide to all sorts of popular strips published in newspapers that are themed by profession.
Random Acts of Management - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 18 October, 1998 to 25 July, 1999.
A Treasury of Sunday Strips: Version 00 - A collection of Sunday colour strips published in newspapers from 1995 to 1999.
Excuse Me While I Wag - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 26 July, 1999 to 30 April, 2000.
When Did Ignorance Become A Point Of View? - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 1 May, 2000 to 4 April, 2001.
Another Day In Cubicle Paradise: A Dilbert Book - A collection of strips published in newspapers from 5 April, 2001 to 11 November, 2001.
What Do You Call A Sociopath In A Cubicle? Answer: A Co-worker - A collection of strips published in newspapers themed around co-workers.
When Body Language Goes Bad - A collection of strips published in newspapers from November 2001 to August 2002.
As well as these, there are two books published with original cartoons drawn for the books.
Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies - A collection of strips themed around working for a big company. Published in 1991.
Clues for the Clueless - Dogbert's guide to etiquette. Published in 1993.