Making the Most of Our Time | Self-Help Reviews

The latest self-help offerings embrace the whole spectrum of life, from petty aggravations to aging and death.

THIS FALL, the latest self-help offerings embrace the whole spectrum of life, from petty aggravations to aging and death. With Backbone, Karen Duffy speaks from experience and helps readers cope with incurable illnesses, while Joy Loverde discusses all aspects of eldercare in Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? Other books suggest making the most of our time through mindfulness practices and art, with Resmaa Menakem’s memoir My Grandmother’s Hands providing valuable insights into healing racial tension.

redstarAndré, Christophe. Happiness: 25 Ways To Live Joyfully Through Art. Rider. Oct. 2017. 224p. tr. from French by Trista Selous. ISBN 9781846045059. pap. $27.95. mindfulness Following the success of Looking at Mindfulness, André presents readers with another series of classical artworks that portray the forms and flow of happiness, offering glimpses into the paintings of Vermeer, Klimt, Chagall, and others. Accompanying text describes “the birth of happiness,” “vanished happiness,” “the twilights of happiness,” and “the plentitude of happiness,” so that readers can experience the emotions of the artist when studying a particular piece. Quotations throughout help guide readers into a thoughtful reverie. ­VERDICT Highly recommended.

Baréz-Brown, Chris. Wake Up! A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now. Experiment. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781615194100. pap. $15.95. SELF-HELP

Psychologies magazine columnist Baréz-Brown’s first book provides an antidote for living on autopilot—going passively through the motions, feeding off of existing habits, and never stopping to experience or enjoy the moment. Using experiments designed to awaken readers to their own body and surroundings, his advice ranges from journaling and turning off the TV to cooking from scratch and climbing a tree. The message is complemented by drawings, space for writing, quotations, and “payoffs” for the rewards of each exercise. VERDICT This fun book stimulates the imagination and will definitely add spice to readers’ lives.

Brown, Brené. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage To Stand Alone. Random. Sept. 2017. 208p. index. ISBN 9780812995848. $37; ebk. ISBN 9780812995855. SELF-HELP

Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection; Rising Strong) contends that one of the major crises in today’s culture is the feeling of being disconnected, which evidences itself in perfectionism, people-pleasing, and the erosion of civility. True belonging, states the author, is a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity, and four steps to accomplishing this include moving in, being civil, holding hands (connecting), and having a wild heart (standing up for oneself and one’s beliefs). Mixing research, storytelling, and honesty, the author leads readers in becoming courageous and finding meaning in uncertainty. VERDICT Bound to be another best seller. A solid option for all collections.

Byrne, Jennifer. The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Life: 100+ Ways To Hack Your Look, Love, and Work by Doing (Almost) Nothing! Adams Media. Sept. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781507204450. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781507204467. SELF-HELP

In this breezy, light read, writer/journalist Byrne (The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, among others) serves up suggestions for looking presentable, sucking up in social situations, “half-ass-ing” it at home, and more. Providing answers to life’s little quandaries, such as disliking a friend’s new partner, having to appear busy at work, and being totally bored on a family vacation, Byrne supplies three solutions to every problem, involving pep talks, tips on sharing the awful truth in a positive way, and finding hiding places for clutter. VERDICT A humorous guide with advice for just about anyone.

redstarDuffy, Karen. Backbone: Living with Chronic Pain Without Turning into One. Arcade: Skyhorse. Nov. 2017. 248p. ISBN 9781628727951. $22.99. SELF-HELP

Duffy (actor, VJ for MTV; Model Patient) has managed a full life despite living with chronic pain. Her story is not all doom and gloom, however. A self-described optimist, she relays excerpts from her own experience and those of others to relate everyday situations fraught with physical limitations. Her style is funny, too. Inserted into the book are a set of mastectomy paper dolls, a variety of mustaches to stick on tongue depressors, and even a game of bingo consisting of platitudes spoken by well-meaning people. VERDICT Duffy’s memoir is a joy to read and an inspiration for those who are healthy as well as those with lifelong travails.

Garfield, Charles. Life’s Last Gift: Giving and Receiving Peace When a Loved One Is Dying. Central Recovery. Sept. 2017. 194p. bibliog. ISBN 9781942094494. $25; pap. ISBN 9781942094500. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781942094517. death/grief/bereavement

Garfield, PhD and founder of the Shanti Project, a widely acclaimed AIDS and cancer service organization, delivers a compassionate guide to help friends and families ease a loved one’s final days. Readers learn how to apply a series of commitments to the dying (e.g., promising to remember that person’s wisdom), which, according to the author, sustains emotional closeness and nourishes the relationship. Exercises on death personalization and empathy and outlined starting points for small but significant actions are included, with Garfield adding, “be sure to say goodbye.” VERDICT A comprehensive end-of-life guide with extensive resources to benefit both the living and the dying.

Howard, Elizabeth Meade. Aging Famously: Follow Those You Admire to Living Long and Well. Jefferson Park. Sept. 2017. 346p. ISBN 9780984992133. pap. $24.50. aging

Journalist Howard fills a gap in the role-model literature with this book of minibios of both little- and well-known people (e.g., actress Nanette Fabray, former New York City mayor Edward Koch, and actor Dennis Weaver) aged 60 and beyond. Gathering insights from scholars and scientists who have researched the aging process, the author features interviews with a number of subjects. Psychoanalyst Alma Halbert Bond followed her bliss by writing, while centenarian Holmes Brown continued to underwrite scholarships for qualified African American high school graduates to attend college. The common thread among these seniors is that all worked toward making the world a better place. VERDICT Enlightening for all readers.

King, Deborah. Heal Yourself Heal the World: Heal. Thrive. Grow. Atria. Oct. 2017. 256p. bibliog. ISBN 9781582705866. pap. $17.99. SELF-HELP

Spiritual leader King (Be Your Own Shaman) believes that everyone has within themselves the power to effect change through energy healing. Using her own experience as the basis for her instruction, the author teaches the process of cleaning out emotional debris, understanding chakras (energy fields), and removing sources of negative energy, walking readers through the levels of initiation that inevitably lead toward a gratitude for life and a desire to do good for others. Eating well, exercising, laughing, and connecting with nature are all part of daily healing, and examples of such practices are presented here in detail. King further explains how one can extend energy healing to others and pets. VERDICT One of the most useful books on energy healing tools available.

Lee, Laura. The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation. Black Dog & Leventhal. Sept. 2017. 272p. illus. by Linda O’Leary. bibliog. ISBN 9780316471954. $16.99. SELF-HELP

In this latest work from Lee (The Name’s Familiar), the author illuminates the scientific explanations behind 97 common aggravations, covering everything from crinkling wrappers at the movie theater and car alarms to paper cuts and receiving the automated response that “Your call is very important to us.” Lee describes why, for instance, aluminum foil reacts to dental fillings and the reason behind the preponderance of junk mail. Readers discover they are not alone in struggling with these stresses and also why they cause such frustration. VERDICT An entertaining volume, excellent for cocktail party conversation.

redstarLoverde, Joy. Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? Plan Now To Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age. Da Capo Lifelong: Perseus. Oct. 2017. 336p. bibliog. ISBN 9780738219639. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738219646. SELF-HELP

Loverde (The Complete Eldercare Planner) provides seniors with the resources to plan for and maintain a strong quality of life. She offers ideas for creating a support network, strategies to foster smarter decision-making, alternative ways to think about aging, and assistance with end-of-life services. Worksheets address dozens of topics such as downsizing, finding appropriate housing, and establishing channels of support in the community. Resources include YouTube videos, songs, TED talks, and further reading lists. ­VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone over 60 and their loved ones.

Marchant, Danielle. Pause: How To Press Pause Before Life Does It for You. Octopus. Sept. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781912023097. pap. $14.99. SELF-HELP

Executive coach Marchant warns against the dangers of keeping a continually hectic pace and urges readers to pause, or take time out to think and space to breathe so as to listen to their bodies, minds, and souls. With quizzes, meditations, and suggestions for guided miniretreats where individuals can ponder what’s working (or not) in their lives, what makes them thrive, and what aspirations they hold, the author also offers practical tips for eating, sleeping, and the use of technology. VERDICT A superb entry on this subject, providing a solid structure for productive downtime.

redstarMenakem, Resmaa. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Central Recovery. Sept. 2017. 306p. ISBN 9781942094609. $27.95; pap. ISBN 9781942094470. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781942094487. SELF-HELP

Community Care Counselor Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP, posits that racism is embedded in the hearts, souls, and reflexes of both blacks and whites in American society, and that the trauma (as he describes in depth) inflicted on many as a result of this fact is harmful to all. Menakem then helps readers get inside the black experience to encounter everyday threats and the responses of fighting, fleeing, or freezing in order to begin the healing process. The guided exercises and social commentary help to pave the way for understanding one another and building a stronger community that benefits everyone. VERDICT An exceptionally thought-provoking and important account that looks at race in a radical new way. For all readers.

Sutton, Robert I. The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2017. 224p. bibliog. ISBN 9781328695918. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781328695925. SELF-HELP

In this follow-up to The No Asshole Rule, Sutton devotes himself to questions left unanswered by that book and presents strategies for escaping from, enduring, and forcing out bullies, backstabbers, and jerks. The tips are shaped by scholarly research on demeaning and disrespectful people and include the art form of “ducking,” the use of mind tricks, a focus on the funny, and fighting back. In the final analysis, the author urges readers to be part of the solution, not the problem, and illustrates ways to bring out the best and stifle the worst in people. VERDICT Exemplary advice for dealing with difficult people in the workplace and in general.

Deborah Bigelow is an Adult Services Librarian, Dexter District Library, MI

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