Self-Help Reviews, November 15, 2011

Bancroft, Lundy & JAC Patrissi. Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can‚ and Should‚ Be Saved. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Nov. 2011. c.400p. index. ISBN 9780425238899. pap. $16. SELF-HELP
Writing with the abused woman in mind, domestic violence specialists Bancroft (Why Does He Do That? ) and Patrissi (founder, Vermont Victim Assistance Acad.) have written a comprehensive book that readers in troubled relationships can use to assess whether to stay or leave and steps for getting out. The authors help readers analyze the root issues‚ immaturity, addiction, mental health‚ and determine the gravity of the problem. They then guide them through setting rules for changing a salvageable relationship and even prepare them for what to expect when the relationship improves. The last section of the book details how to begin a new period of freedom, choose a new partner, and create a new relationship. Excellent guidance from respectable sources.

Brizendine, Judy. Stunned by Grief: Remapping Your Life When Loss Changes Everything. BennettKnepp. 2011. c.296p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780983168812. pap. $18.95. SELF-HELP
Brizendine’s description of her book as a fellow traveler’s down-to-earth approach to grief is apt. A former market analyst and interior designer, she found her world turned upside down when her husband died. She uses her own experience combined with the advice of psychologists, grief counselors, the Bible, and fellow mourners to provide a sort of roadmap for the unwelcome journey of grief. In bite-size pieces, she covers the progression of grief, the intrinsic anger and guilt felt in the process, and the possibility of dealing with and planning a new future. She observes that grief changes people and that it will not just go away‚ time does not heal all wounds. This book will comfort and support anyone new to grief and will serve as a companion in times of loneliness. Realistic, practical, and highly recommended.

Bulik, Cynthia M. The Woman in the Mirror: How To Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are. Walker. Jan. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780802719997. pap. $16. SELF-HELP
To disentangle self-esteem from body esteem, according to Bulik (psychiatry, Univ. of North Carolina Sch. of Medicine), women need to identify and control their negative self-talk and treat themselves with respect. This is no easy task: society pushes the idealized role of princess onto girls, extols impossible images of perfection such as youth and thinness, and engages in appearance bullying. The problem is compounded because women also tend to play out power struggles and achievement on the appearance battlefield. Bulik helps women identify the cues and triggers for self-criticism and set up fat-talk-free zones. In the last chapter, she emphasizes taking steps to build the self-esteem of girls. Bulik has a life-changing message for women and delivers it well.

Bush, Ashley Davis. Shortcuts to Inner Peace: 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA).
Nov. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9780425243244. pap. $15.
Hawn, Goldie with Wendy Holden. 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children‚ and Ourselves‚ the Social and Emotional Skills To Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives. Perigee: Berkley. 2011. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780399536069. $24. SELF-HELP
The beauty of both of these books is that they help readers relieve stressful situations with simple, tailor-made exercises. The difference is in their intended audiences: licensed psychotherapist Bush writes for adults, and actor Hawn writes for parents guiding children. Bush offers 70 short exercises for when readers are stopped at a red light, taking a shower, or waiting in line. She reminds readers to roll out goodwill to fellow travelers, remember what matters in life, and release current worries by visualizing them going down the drain. Bush is masterful in explaining triggers and putting forth tools without the usual paragraphs of verbiage that weigh down books of this sort. Hawn uses scientific principles to help parents and children develop mindful awareness and live in the present moment. While she writes from experience and from the heart, Hawn spends too much time justifying the approach and lingering on personal experiences. Her advice is still worthwhile as she helps parents model kindness and express authentic sadness, empathy, and optimism. Adults and children will be well served by both of these titles. [10 Mindful Minutes, see Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]

Covey, Stephen R. The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems. Free Pr: S. & S. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781451626261. $28. SELF-HELP
In his latest book, Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) presents a novel approach to conflict resolution. Essentially, he proposes a method of debate wherein nobody loses and everybody wins. The author calls this synergy and illustrates its process in a number of fields including business, the family, and politics. He offers a new paradigm, positioning an adversary as merely someone with whom to build a new reality. Although this is not a book that can be skimmed, it should be shared and discussed. Covey may at times seem idealistic, but his basic tenets of finding a meeting place are sound and worth consideration.

Current, Tiffany. How To Move in with Your Boyfriend (and Not Break Up with Him). Hunter House. Feb. 2012. c.144p. ISBN 9780897935746. pap. $12.95. SELF-HELP
In an effort to prepare women for cohabitation, screenwriter Current gives her readers the skinny on the ins and outs of moving in with a lover. Based on her own and others’ experiences, the book discusses the impact of bad habits, salaries, fights, and so forth, and asks important questions that might be overlooked while undertaking this relationship quantum leap. Current thinks of everything, from who can touch the video game system to the diminishing excitement of sex. Like many of the books also reviewed in this column, this title is written by someone who speaks from experience; Current fosters camaraderie with her audience while she imparts her valuable advice.

Denholm, Diana B. The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook: Compassionate Strategies, Stories of Success. Hunter House. Jan. 2012. c.168p. ISBN 9780897936057. pap. $14.95. SELF-HELP
Practicing psychotherapist Denholm uses her own experience and that of other caregivers to provide direction for handling the myriad problems involved in the life-altering position of taking responsibility for a spouse’s health. This comprehensive book covers a wide variety of topics, including methods for raising difficult questions, coming up with understandings to share with one’s partner, which roles to take on and which to avoid, what’s normal in terms of feeling and thinking, and specific dos and don’ts that will make life easier. Denholm discusses financial and legal matters as well as how to handle difficult social and familial issues. Not only will those in caretaking positions find practical suggestions from this book, they’ll discover they are not alone in their struggle.

Ford, Arielle. Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships. HarperOne: HarperCollins. Feb. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780062003751. $24.99. SELF-HELP
Ford (The Soulmate Secret) develops the Japanese aesthetic, known as wabi sabi, of finding beauty in imperfection into a relationship model where couples are taught to focus on what’s right with the other person and not what’s wrong. Ford argues that though all couples have irreconcilable differences, they can use the wabi sabi method to embrace rather than try to eliminate the tastes, opinions, and unique viewpoints of their partner. In other words, vive la différence! This is certainly easier to say than to do, but Ford provides numerous examples of couples who have accomplished this ideal. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone in a relationship.

Mindlin, Galina & others. Your Playlist Can Change Your Life: 10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness, and More. Sourcebooks. Jan. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781402260247. pap. $14.99. SELF-HELP
This distinctive book comes from the coordinated efforts of Mindlin (psychiatry, Columbia Univ.), Don DuRousseau (executive director, PEAK Neurotraining Solutions), and Joseph Cardillo (Be Like Water: Practical Wisdom from the Martial Arts), who propose that readers can use music to relieve anxiety, increase alertness, feel happier, and sharpen memory. The process involves picking songs you like, taking note of how the songs work, and then using them to create a particular mood or spirit. The authors provide numerous exercises, personal examples, and sample play lists for specific moods (e.g., getting rid of the blahs, relaxing before tests, and revving up lunch breaks). Although many readers have already found that playing Johnny B. Goode can transform washing the kitchen floor into dancing at a night club, this title lends a psychologist’s perspective to a common behavior‚ well worth the purchase.

Pillemer, Karl. 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. Hudson Street. Nov. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9781594630842. $25.95. SELF-HELP
Who better to teach lessons on living, asks Pillemer (human ecology, Cornell Univ.; director, Cornell Inst. for Translational Research on Aging), than the thousands of Americans over the age of 65 who have successfully navigated the territories of marriage, career, money, and aging? By conducting innumerable interviews, Pillemer found that their advice upends contemporary wisdom: they suggest marrying a person like oneself, choosing a career for intrinsic rewards, and spending more time with one’s children. The author skillfully weaves a prevailing theme (e.g., parenting, aging fearlessly) with self-disclosing statements from interviewees to create a compelling, inspirational book. One of the best of its kind.

Sommers, Sam. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2012. c.304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594488184. $25.95. SELF-HELP
Just as a frame in an art museum accentuates aspects of the painting it surrounds, so do ordinary situations impact the way people act and think. So posits Sommers (psychology, Tufts Univ.), who won the Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Excellence from the American Psychology-Law Society, as he tries to help readers better understand human behavior and become more effective in relationships with others. He uses familiar sitcom characters, advertising campaigns, and the universal experience of sitting in a traffic jam to explain how expectations and stereotypes affect behavior. He advises readers to look past labels and snap judgments and find what people have in common. Sommers here provides captivating insights into the human psyche.

Woodward, Woody. Your Emotional Fingerprint: 7 Secrets That Will Transform Your Life. Wiley. Nov. 2011. c.272p. bibliog. ISBN 9780470640111. pap. $19.95. SELF-HELP
According to Woodward (Millionaire Dropouts), all people have an emotional fingerprint that operates in much the same way as DNA. Through a series of questionnaires and guided exercises, Woodward helps readers understand what kinds of actions make them feel important, whether it’s developing relationships, providing for others, or overcoming challenges, and so forth. Once they understand their own unique emotional fingerprints, they can work to craft their thoughts and behaviors to be congruent with their values, which will help them become more effective and successful. Working through Woodward’s entire program will require a good deal of time and self-discipline, but it may provide the necessary momentum for someone feeling stuck in life.