Barbara Bush's Pearls of Wisdom, Lucid Dreaming, Conversations for #MeToo | Self-Help

Helpful advice for reaching any goal, from losing weight to saving for retirement.

Allred, Lance. The New Alpha Male: How To Win the Game When the Rules Are Changing. Sounds True. Mar. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781683643760. $22.99. SELF-HELP
Former NBA star Allred (Basketball Gods; Longshot) describes the new alpha male as one who adapts to instead of fighting against the changing world. The new alpha male makes choices that force him out of his comfort zone toward unity with his authentic self, where peace and clarity hold more value than money or praise. Allred names the ability to persevere as the capacity to adapt and uses the context of a basketball game to elaborate on accountability, integrity, compassion, discomfort, acceptance, transformation, forgiveness, and gratitude. The main idea is to discard the societal dictum of the macho man as hero and adopt a model of a healthier and stronger version of manhood.
VERDICT Excellent advice from someone who grew up in a "traditional male" atmosphere with some macho values but has changed his thinking and behavior.
 

Balcetis, Emily. Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World. Ballantine. Mar. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781524796464. spiral. $27.95. SELF-HELP
According to social psychologist/scientist Balcetis, people can train themselves to see life from a different perspective and thus gain a clearer understanding of their objectives—how far they’ve come, how far they have to go, and how to get there more quickly. The author explains how to narrow one’s focus of attention, materialize a goal, frame events accurately, and allow oneself a wide bracket to reveal the whole picture and generate options. Some of her advice isn’t new ("keep your eye on the prize"), but other tidbits about how to read a room and get unstuck are insightful and bound to produce favorable results.
VERDICT Helpful for reaching any goal, from losing weight to saving for retirement.
 

Beaulieu, Sarah. Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace. Berrett-Koehler. Mar. 2020. 216p. ISBN 9781523087402. pap. $19.95. SELF-HELP
Sexual harassment prevention consultant Beaulieu holds that uncomfortable conversations about sexual violence and harassment are worth having and that they require skills that can be mastered by anyone motivated to do so. The author introduces a five-step framework for having these conversations: know the facts; feel uncomfortable; get curious, not furious; see the whole picture; and embrace practical questions. Beaulieu examines each aspect of her subject through real-life scenarios, humor, storytelling, and self-assessments. Practice conversations help readers navigate the difficult world of compliments, displays of affection, and offhand remarks.
VERDICT A fine first step in promoting and participating in the healing and prevention of sexual offense.
 

Bush, Barbara. Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go a Long Way). Twelve: Grand Central. Mar. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781538734940. $22. SELF-HELP
Jean Becker, the ghostwriter of this book, worked for former first lady Barbara Bush (1925–2018) in a variety of roles from 1993 to 2018. She put together this tribute containing excerpts from Bush’s diaries, notes from her family members, and a collection of anecdotes from aides, historians, and family friends. The entries are grouped into categories, such as friends, family, and the importance of reading, and contain everything from minding one’s manners (e.g., looking someone in the eyes when meeting them) to having a positive attitude (e.g., always be grateful).
VERDICT A pithy book that packs a wallop of information and lots of laughs, this is a perfect gift for fans of the former first lady.
 

Clark, Liesl & Rebecca Rockefeller. The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More, and Living Generously. Atria. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781982113797. $25. SELF-HELP
Cofounders of the Buy Nothing Project Clark and Rockefeller offer a seven-step manual that teaches readers how to buy less, give more, and live generously. Based on a project in which neighbors actually bought nothing but shared and pooled resources, this guide presents concrete suggestions on how to avoid buying plastic, create a gift economy group, and find inventive ways to lend and borrow different items. This book not only enlightens readers on the consequences of using disposable goods but encourages them to think outside the box and envision the unforeseen blessings of sharing and using less.
VERDICT A great springboard to finding an antidote to consumerism.
 

Greenberg, Jolenta & Kristen Meinzer. How To Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books. Morrow. Mar. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780062957191. SELF-HELP
Building on the premise of their podcast By the Book, in which they fully immersed themselves in different self-help books, then shared what works and doesn’t, coauthors Greenberg and Meinzer report on their findings. Comedian Greenberg wanted to believe in the promises made in the various how-tos, while Meinzer, former director of nonfiction for Panoply Media, was more skeptical. They present their findings in a mix of memoir and prescriptive handbook-style writing, discussing advice that worked—committing acts of kindness, decluttering, engaging in positive self-talk—and ideas that didn’t—waking up early, meditating, and defining people by gender. Greenberg and Meinzer offer up universal foibles with a sense of humor and encourage readers to explore an array of avenues to self-improvement.
VERDICT Funny and wise, this will be particularly helpful to aficionados of the personal growth genre.
 

Henning, Ann-Marlene. Let’s Talk About Sex: Real Stories from a Therapist’s Office. Greystone. May 2020. 272p. tr. from German by Jamie McIntosh. ISBN 9781771644280. pap. $17.95. SELF-HELP
Through her private practice and long-running German TV series Make Love, couples therapist Henning has talked with partners of diverse identities and sexual orientations. In frank detail, she provides an inside view into the many common sexual issues clients bring into her office in an attempt not only to let readers know they’re not alone, but to teach some of the thought patterns and techniques that can enable a more honest relationship and stronger performance. Henning discusses everything from erectile dysfunction and pornography to childhood experiences and narcissism in relationships and does so using real-life examples to pique interest and illustrate her points.
VERDICT A refreshingly open and honest book about a topic of great interest to pretty much everyone.
 

Johnson, Clare R. The Art of Lucid Dreaming: Over 60 Powerful Practices To Help You Wake Up in Your Dreams. Llewellyn. Mar. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780738762654. pap. $17.99. new age/psych
According to Johnson (president, CEO, International Association for the Study of Dreams), a lucid dream is one in which a person knows that they are dreaming while they are dreaming. Those dreaming lucidly can interact with and direct the dreaming mind and bring awareness to the symbolic stories being played out. The author first helps readers identify the kind of sleeper/dreamer they are, and then illustrates practices that focus on dream induction and stabilization techniques, as well as how to guide dreams with the power of thoughts and expectations. Options for coping with nightmares are also discussed.
VERDICT For those interested in pursuing a new spiritual adventure.
 

redstarMcHargue, Mike. You’re a Miracle (and a Pain in the Ass): Embracing the Emotions, Habits, and Mystery That Make You You. Convergent. Apr. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9781984823243. $26. SELF-HELP
To respond to the age-old conundrum of why we do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want to do, scientist, podcaster (Ask Science Mike), and author (Finding God in the Waves) McHargue offers some answers. He delves into the interplay of impulses, emotions, and environment to describe how the brain operates, the invisible rails that guide thoughts, and the way one’s past remains present. He then describes different theories of the mind, such as accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy and pulls the argument together. Though parts of the narrative may seem too academic, the resulting overall read is anything but. The author relates his own struggles and offers readers examples of opportunities to grow and practice self-acceptance as fellow travelers in the journey of life.
VERDICT ­Recommended for anyone who feels they’ve tried everything in the way of self-improvement yet are determined to live to their fullest potential.
 

Moe, John. The Hilarious World of Depression. St. Martin’s. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250271761. $27.99. PSYCH
Moe, creator of the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression, has found absurd humor in dealing with, as he says, a disease that’s trying to kill him. Through his own experience and interviews with comedians, musicians, and writers who deal with clinical depression, he found that comedy offers hope and the slim possibility that it’s not the person who’s broken, but the world. This offers great comfort. Comedians can talk about complex things in a way that allows audience members to see that others feel the same way they do and to laugh with an exhalation of relief. Essentially, Moe takes the stigma out of discussing mental illness and offers camaraderie to those who suffer from depression.
VERDICT Although primarily a memoir, Moe’s words should supply help, hope, and humor to many readers.
 

redstarMontague, Brad. Becoming Better Grownups: Rediscovering What Matters and Remembering How To Fly. Avery. Apr. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780525537847. $27. SELF-HELP
Montague, creator of the web series Kid President, presents a recipe along the lines of cartoonist Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man to help adult readers reclaim the laughter and exuberance of childhood. He distills his findings after visiting more than 100 classrooms across the United States and asking the schoolchildren what they want from adults. The answer: kids want adults to be present in their lives, to listen to and do things with them. Montague offers guidance in remembering what it was like to be a kid and how to view the world with eyes full of wonder.
VERDICT A fantastic, fanciful guide to becoming not only a happier adult but one who gives back and helps the next generation.
 

redstarSally, David. One Step Ahead: Mastering the Art and Science of Negotiation. St. Martin’s. May 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781250166395. $29.99. SELF-HELP
From 25 years of teaching negotiation (Johnson Sch., Cornell Univ.; Tuck Sch. of Business, Dartmouth Coll.), innovative strategist and behavioral economist Sally has discovered that the key to successful negotiation is to realize that it’s a psychological and social process. Sally writes that being able to recognize certain things about the person with whom you are negotiating and to adapt one’s strategy accordingly is key. He further assists readers in knowing when and when not to negotiate, and which of their personality traits will help in a negotiation and how to cultivate these characteristics. Research, practical scenarios, and countless examples from business reinforce Sally’s instruction.
VERDICT A comprehensive guidebook delivering valuable skills to apply in both business and personal relationships.
 

Saltz, Jerry. How To Be an Artist. Riverhead. Apr. 2020. 144p. ISBN 9780593086469. $22. SELF-HELP/creativity
If anyone should know about art, it would be American art critic Saltz, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2018 and has been senior art critic and columnist for New York Magazine. In this slim volume, he encourages would-be creators to realize their potential and explore the process of making art without self-censorship. Saltz presents 62 tips ranging from "Don’t Be Embarrassed" to "Start Now" and "Learn To Deal with Rejection" to prime the pumps of potential artists to get to work.
VERDICT An encouraging read for those cautious but eager to make art.

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