Archive for August, 2012

The Type E Personality: 10 Steps to Emotional Excellence in Love, Work & Life

August 31, 2012

The Type E Personality: 10 Steps to Emotional Excellence in Love, Work & Life. Rodale. Jan. 2004. c.336p. ISBN 1-57954-675-7. $24.95. SELF-HELP

Previously, Redford Williams (director, behavioral research, Duke Univ. Medical Ctr.) has researched the health risks of the Type A personality. Here, he and historian Virginia Williams put forth a new personality, Type E (as in “Emotional Excellence”), and show how readers can adopt its ten healthful traits (e.g., good cheer, long lives, and happy relationships). Their techniques–including tuning into, recording, and reviewing one’s feelings–however, seem much like cognitive behavioral therapy and hardly merit the authors’ smug, self-congratulatory tone. Attempts to replicate the sunny mood of books like Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment point out multiple flaws. References to scientific studies clog the text and decrease readability; patient success stories, while expressive, are overemotional; and the brief self-survey is simplistic. Public libraries might instead acquire the authors’ earlier Life-skills: 8 Simple Ways To Build Stronger Relationships, Communicate More Clearly, and Improve Your Health and Even the Health of Those Around You or Albert Ellis’s How To Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable.

This review appeared in Library Journal on January, 2004, p. 129; the galley was recycled on August 31, 2012.

The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways to Do Less and Accomplish More

August 30, 2012

Jensen, Bill. The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways to Do Less and Accomplish More. Basic Bks: Perseus. Nov. 2003. c.320p. ISBN 0-7382-0912-0. $16.95. SELF-HELP

“Simplify,” advised Thoreau. These 32 gems will surely help corporate business-folk do just that. Not just tips or ideas, this is thoroughly researched, road-tested, timesaving advice, rooted in Jensen’s (Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster) belief that readers must focus on the important stuff and completely ditch the rest if they are to run a tight ship. Thus, “delete 75 percent of your email” isn’t just an empty edict–it’s direct advice backed up with experience. “This isn’t a manual for overthrowing your company,” Jensen notes; it’s more a guide to happy productivity. The Do-Less Toolkit in the back effectively and powerfully reduces already clear concepts to one-page summaries. A thought-provoking antidote to more structured approaches, like that of Etienne Wenger and others’ Cultivating Communities of Practice; recommended for collections serving corporate drones.

This review appeared in Library Journal on November 15th, 2003, p.85; the galley was shredded on August 30, 2012.

Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions

August 29, 2012

Santos, Aaron. Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions. Running Pr. 2012. 220p. ISBN 9780762443451. pap. $15. MATH
What does a sports-loving mathematician do in his free time? If you’re Aaron Santos, you gamely attempt to answer questions like, How many swimmers can fit inside an Olympic-sized pool before it overflows? About 2000. I think young minds will take a special shine to the explanations as Santos presents them because he shows his work (as my math teachers used to say). A few pages of explanation present the hypotheses, explain the basics of calculating the problem (including the math symbols that I don’t understand but enjoy looking at), and arrive at a solution. Thus, we get answers to the titular impractical sports questions such as Assuming the rumor about rat poop in baseball hot dogs is true, what’s the total mass of rat poop consumed in MLB ballparks each season? About 54 tons. An interesting series explores the number of teeth lost by NHL Hockey players in the 90 years since its inception‚ about 27,000! Leading to a total toothpaste savings of $1.8 million! Along the way, Santos admirably explains scientific notation, that all-star running back Emmett Smith really only ran 10.4 career miles, and losing ten pounds of unsightly fat requires climbing 120,000 stairs.

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Books for Dudes column: Men in Captivity, Ode de Bradbury & Heavy Metal for the Coffee Table on July 3, 2012; the galley was shredded on August 29, 2012.

Intelligent Fear: How to Make Fear Work for You

August 28, 2012

Clarkson, Michael. Intelligent Fear: How To Make Fear Work for You. Marlowe: Avalon, dist. by Publishers Group West. 2003. c.208p. ISBN 1-56924-489-8. pap. $13.95.

Clarkson, a journalist at the Toronto Star, analyzes the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of fear, reminding us that “we still react to danger … the same way we have for more than a million years.” Yet while our hard-wired capabilities were eminently useful for cave dwellers facing saber-toothed tigers, they don’t work as well with contemporary hazards like threats to our egos and sports challenges. Unfortunately, Clarkson overintellectualizes a “system of fear” encompassing worry, anxiety, stress, and fear. Workmanlike writing aside, this lacks how-to, and the most interesting material comes from quoted experts. Consider instead Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, Hugh Prather’s direct and fun The Little Book of Letting Go, and Thom Rutledge’s considerate Embracing Fear. Forget this title.

This review appeared in Library Journal on May 15, 2003 on  p.107; the galley was shredded on August 28, 2012.

Boyfriend 101: A Gay Guy’s Guide to Dating, Romance, and Finding True Love

August 27, 2012

Sullivan, Jim. Boyfriend 101: A Gay Guy’s Guide to Dating, Romance, and Finding True Love. Villard. May 2003. c.224p. ISBN 0-8129-9219-9. pap. $12.95. SELF-HELP

“Dating is not rocket science,” writes first-time author Sullivan, a serf-described dating and relationship coach, “[but] a skill that cab be taught.” This encouraging, goal-oriented guidebook to interpersonal interactions will help men take advantage of their strengths, find suitable (and cute) mates, have safer sex, and achieve diversity. Sullivan combines practical advice–“Be conscious and careful of whom you have sex with, and of the emotional consequences”–with upbeat encouragement–“God gave you a brain: use it!” Readers will appreciate straightforward, by-the-numbers material (e.g., sample personal ads) that leaves room for creativity and personal flair. Much like Neil Kaminsky’s Affirmative Gay Relationships, this is solid, instructive, and reasonably priced, though at times overly dependent on anecdotes to demonstrate points and provide advice. Either book is fine for most libraries.

This review appeared in Library Journal on May 15th of 2003 on page 110; the galley was shredded on August 27, 2012.

What it Was

August 12, 2012

Pelicanos, George. What It Was. Reagan Arthur Bks: Little, Brown. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780316209533. $35; pap. ISBN 9780316209540. $9.99.

Derek Strange, a private dick in 1972 Washington, D.C, is chasing bad guy Red Fury, who’s making the move from mere lowlife to local drug-dealing kingpin. Does that sound good to you? Then trust me, go forth and read it. Thing is, I get fined by the book reviewers union if I squander the 200-word allotment, so‚ĶPelicanos makes old-school fun with a propulsive plot featuring multiple teams‚ the cops, the mafia, even some hookers‚ all, for various reasons, chasing Fury. With no master plan, Red is burning his bridges faster than Patton’s Third Army ripping through Avranches. Loving little details of the ’70s are expertly interwoven: Strange gets $8 an hour, wears slacks, and says dig it. Still, if the action is hot and the details are chunky, the characters are shallow. These are doers, not thinkers, primal and unsophisticated. You’re not surprised that a cop and his paramour put a June Christy record on the console stereo and fixed a couple of cocktails. They had some laughs and fucked like animals in her bed. It’s easy to see how Pelicanos’s work translates to the small screen (The Wire, Treme).
So‚ why should dudes read it? It’s easy to read with lots of action and violence. What’s not to like?

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Books for Dudes The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the Ugly Guys in Six Suspenseful New Novels; the galley was shredded on August 12, 2012.

The Yale Child Study Center Guide to Understanding Your Child: Healthy Development from Birth to Adolescence

August 10, 2012

Mayes, Linda C., M.D. & Donald J. Cohen, M.D. The Yale Child Study Center Guide to Understanding Your Child: Healthy Development from Birth to Adolescence. Little, Brown. Feb. 2002. c.576p. illus. index. LC 00-039116. ISBN 0-316-95432-2. $40. CHILD REARING

Although this survey of child development and parenthood packs considerable wisdom and bears a prestigious imprimatur, it comes off as fairly generic. With its emphasis on a conceptual, developmental approach, it stands out in strong intellectual counterpoint to the quick how-to tactics of many contemporary titles, such as Sally Ward’s BabyTalk: Strengthen Your Child’s Ability To Listen, Understand and Communicate (LJ 3/15/01). Mayes, director of early childhood programs at the Yale Child Study Center, and Cohen, its former director, cover individual topics in 36 chapters (e.g., “Your Baby’s Motor Development,” “Sexuality and Gender,” “The Course of Pregnancy”). Though this comprehensiveness is a plus, much of the advice is common sense (“negative experiences or the absence of appropriate care may cause serious, enduring harm to early brain development”). As admirable as the authors’ goals are, it is hard to imagine public library patrons reading and retaining this much general information. For larger public libraries. (Index not seen.)

This review appeared in Library Journal on February 15, 2002 p. 172; the galley was shredded over a decade (!) later on August 10, 2012.

A Short Course in Kindness: a Little Book on the Importance of Love and the Relative Unimportance of Just About Everything Else

August 9, 2012

Forrest, Margot Silk. A Short Course in Kindness: a Little Book on the Importance of Love and the Relative Unimportance of Just About Everything Else. L.M., dist. by Independent Publishers Group. Apr. 2003. c.130p. ISBN 0-9708049-0-3. pap. $11.95. SELF-HELP

Humanity is “irrevocably interconnected, for better or worse” notes Forrest (coauthor, EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma), and she figures it might as well be for the better. In unerringly upbeat writing, she puts in a plug for kindness. The tactics that she promotes sound deceptively simple (e.g., listen, offer companionship, encourage laughter), but to perform them truly takes guts and courage. Kind and nice are sharply distinguished; the latter can be faked while the former, which can change someone’s life forever, cannot. This will raise awareness and give readers very real, if subjective, food for thought. Whereas other books, like Random Acts of Kindness, merely talk about inspiration, this actually inspires. Like one of Batman’s plans, it’s so crazy that it just might work! With a foreword by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay It Forward), this is recommended.

This review appeared in Library Journal 128.3 on Feb. 15, 2003; the galley was shredded on August 9, 2012.