Self-Help Reviews | November 15, 2013

Babineaux, Ryan & John Krumboltz. Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win. Tarcher. Dec. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780399166259. pap. $15.95. SELF-HELP

Face it. How many of us actually succeed 100 percent of the time? Here career counselor Babineaux and Krumboltz (education & psychology, Stanford Univ.) celebrate failures, referring to them as learning experiences, and encourage readers to get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes. Although the authors spend some time discussing how to learn from one’s miscues, they also emphasize the importance of building curiosity, overcoming analysis paralysis, and taking small steps when trying new things. VERDICT A remarkably positive read that will inspire even the most risk- averse readers to act more boldly.

Berger, Allen. 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends: Finding Forgiveness and Self-Respect by Working Steps 8–10. bibliog. ISBN 9781616494469.

Conyers, Beverly. The Recovering Heart: Emotional Sobriety for Women. 228p. ISBN 9781616494377

ea. vol: Hazelden. 228p. pap. $14.95. SELF-HELP

These two titles from Hazelden, a well-known publisher of literature dealing with alcohol recovery, provide an expansion of the 12-step program advocated by Alcoholics Anonymous. Berger, a recognized expert in the field of recovery, focuses on the challenges that readers may encounter at steps eight, nine, and ten—the steps that require recovering alcoholics to hold themselves accountable for past actions and current behaviors. The incentives for going through this rather painful process, he points out, are restored trust and increased self-esteem, as well as the ability to recover and maintain integrity and to resolve ­unfinished business. Conyers (Addict in the Family) also delves into the recovery process, presenting guidelines for the unexpected pain and anger that many experience upon sobriety, as long-buried emotions are no longer medicated away. Both authors make use of case studies to demonstrate how others in recovery have developed inner resiliency. Targeting women in particular, Conyers offers counsel on improving communication skills, expanding the capacity for intimacy and trust, and reawakening one’s spiritual life. ­VERDICT Both books are highly recommended for individuals in recovery, therapists who deal with these issues, and intergroup libraries.

Cahn, Lu Ann. I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day. Perigee. Nov. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780399161674. $22.95. SELF-HELP

Using boredom as a prod to action, veteran journalist and Emmy Award winner Cahn started a blog chronicling her decision to try something new every day for a year. Experiences such as riding a mechanical bull, spending a day in a wheelchair, and going to the movies alone brought creativity and excitement back into her life. Cahn also lists some additional ideas to give readers further inspiration. Some of the activities are fairly ordinary, such as finding one’s way through a corn maze, but others (entering a high-heel race) are more daring. VERDICT A fun and accessible read for those looking to add excitement to their lives.

Cooper, Cary & Howard Kahn. 50 Things You Can Do Today To Manage Stress at Work. 183p. ISBN 9781849533423. pap. $10.95.

Green, Wendy. 50 Things You Can Do Today To Boost Your Confidence. 159p. ISBN 9781849534116. pap. $12.95

Green, Wendy. 50 Things You Can Do Today To Manage Self-Esteem. 158p. ISBN 9781849534055. pap. $11.95

ea. vol: Summersdale. Nov. 2013. SELF-HELP

This series presents easy, practical ways for any reader (young adults and beyond) to take small steps to conquer stress demons such as low self-esteem and lack of confidence. The books include self-assessment quizzes and scenarios for enacting change. In the title on managing stress at work, Cooper (organized psychology & health, Lancaster Univ.; Stress: A Brief History) and psychologist Kahn help readers cope with office politics, workplace discrimination, and everyday stressors such as computer malfunctions. The authors also delve into the areas of biofeedback and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Similarly, in the other two books, health project cocoordinator Green lays out tips for boosting self-esteem and confidence, explaining how they can be influenced by both external events and psychological factors. The material in both of Green’s books overlap and contain advice on the tangible (eating fewer refined foods, standing up straight) as well as the cerebral (identifying one’s strengths and using the power of self-talk). VERDICT Though little new information is provided, the material on offer here is simplified and will be accessible to early adult and ESL readers.

redstar Forward, Susan with Donna Frazier Glynn. Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters. Harper. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780062204349. $26.99. RELATIONSHIPS

Therapist and author Forward (Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them) provides validation and support for women who have experienced criticism, competition, damaged trust, role reversal, and other wounding behaviors from their mothers. The book thoroughly describes the various personality types of unloving mothers: narcissists, overly enmeshed mothers, control freaks, those who need mothering themselves, and those who fail to protect their daughters from abuse. Forward validates the reader’s feelings and presents effective coping mechanisms, offering suggestions on setting boundaries, negotiating for a better relationship, being assertive, and cutting off a parent entirely, if necessary. VERDICT Highly recommended for women looking to address problems with their mothers.

Harley, Willard F., Jr. He Wins, She Wins: Learning the Art of Marital Negotiation. Revell. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9780800722517. $19.99. RELATIONSHIPS

Marriage counselor and author Harley (His Needs, Her Needs) here has created a model for marriage that allows both partners to get what they want. Each chapter discusses in detail common sources of marital conflict (friends and family, career and time management, finances, children, sex), applying the policy of joint agreement (the idea that both spouses need to be on the same page) to each situation. Harley sets guidelines for successful negotiations and emphasizes making the process pleasant and safe and identifying the problem from both perspectives. VERDICT This title provides clear strategies for developing and practicing a win/win mind-set; recommended for readers looking for advice on marriage or relationships in general.

Jain, Sanjay. Optimal Living 360: Smart Decision Making for a Balanced Life. Greenleaf. Jan. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781608325832. $19.95. SELF-HELP

Michaels, Chris. The Power of You: How To Live Your Authentic, Exciting, Joy-Filled Life Now! Tarcher. Dec. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780399162602. pap. $15.95. SELF-HELP

Both of these books offer readers a path to building happier and more fulfilling lives. Michaels (Ctr. for Spiritual Living, Kansas City, MO) shows how the concept of life currencies (time, labor, social, and monetary) can be melded into a standard decision-making process that maximizes return on investment. Using his own experience and case studies, the author demonstrates how readers can build self-worth, forgive themselves, and become more spiritual. Similarly, Jain teaches readers how they can make positive decisions, encouraging them to identify their core values (safety, physical, intellectual, relationship, economic, and spiritual), which they can integrate into areas of their lives that include health, money, leisure, sex, connections, and more. Although these titles overlap slightly, Jain’s style is instructional, focusing more on concrete concerns such as physical and financial health, whereas Michaels takes a more personal approach, concentrating on the spiritual. VERDICT Libraries would do well to purchase Optimal Living 360, while individual readers would benefit by choosing the book that matches their own style of life improvement.

redstar Languirand, Mary A. & Robert F. Bornstein. How To Age in Place: Planning for a Happy, Independent, and Financially Secure Retirement. Ten Speed: Crown. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781607744160. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781607744177. SELF-HELP

With millions of baby boomers getting older, retirement is a hot topic. As authors Languirand and Bornstein (coauthors, When Someone You Love Needs a Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or In-Home Care) assert, most retirees today wish to live as independently as possible, staying in their own houses and communities rather than in retirement homes. To assist in that desire, the authors have put together a comprehensive plan for seniors that addresses concerns such as financial planning, safe housing, proactive medical and mental health care, and opportunities for civic engagement. However, this book goes beyond the practical, presenting a philosophical vision that focuses on developing new attitudes toward aging and appreciating how older adults can contribute to society; it also discusses the creation of innovative models of elder care services that make aging at home economically viable for both the individual and society. VERDICT An excellent, much-needed resource for readers exploring their options as they approach retirement age.

LaPorte, Danielle. The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. Sounds True. Jan. 2014. 260p. ISBN 9781622032518. pap. $22. SELF-HELP

LaPorte (The Fire Starter Sessions) revisits the traditional list of objectives that people typically make (such as career goals or a bucket list), instead asking readers to consider the feelings they’re trying to experience as a result of attaining these goals. In the first half of the book, she describes how readers can achieve these feelings, while in the second part, she sketches designs for desire maps that encompass areas such as body and wellness, livelihood and lifestyle, creativity and learning, relationships and society, and essence and spirituality. LaPorte’s writing style is stream of consciousness, which would be distracting if not for the bolded highlights and large-type summaries. ­VERDICT Though this title isn’t for everyone, it would be ideal for women’s study groups.

Myles, Tamara. The Secret to Peak Productivity: A Simple Guide to Reaching Your Personal Best . AMACOM. Feb. 2014. 224p. index. ISBN 9780814433850. pap. $16. CAREERS

Certified professional organizer Myles gives readers some tips on making their work experiences as efficient as possible. According to Myles, levels of productivity are arranged in a similar fashion to those in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with “physical organization” (keeping papers and files sorted and arranged) forming the base of the pyramid and “possibility” (having broad, overarching career goals) at the very top. The other key bases for productivity consist of electronic organization, time management, and activity-goal alignment. At each stage, Myles provides action skills for readers, such as learning how to plan and prioritize. A particularly useful section describes how to set goals and align activities to enhance achievement, and Myles even discusses the “power office,” or her vision of the ideal workspace, with uncluttered surfaces and organized folder systems and files. VERDICT Though this book doesn’t offer anything all that new, it will be helpful for those who find themselves overwhelmed at the office.

Salzberg, Sharon. Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. Workman. Jan. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780761168997. pap. $13.95. CAREERS

According to New York Times best-selling author Salzberg (Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation; A 28-Day Program), one of the best ways to become happier at work is to practice meditation. While we can’t change the circumstances of our lives, she writes, we can change how we feel about them. Salzberg offers a series of five core meditations, such as letting go of thoughts and practicing loving kindness, and provides narratives and exercises in what she considers the eight pillars of happiness at work: balance, concentration, compassion, resilience, communication, integrity, meaning, and open awareness. Salzberg has walked the walk and is all too aware of the struggles of the workplace. VERDICT Ideal for those open to meditation and helpful for those ready to question their own strategies and responses to problems.

Schlosberg, Suzanne & the Quit for Life Team. Quit Smoking for Life: A Simple, Proven, 5-Step Plan. Prospect Park. Jan. 2014. 222p. index. ISBN 9781938849176. pap. $16.95. SELF-HELP

Veteran health writer Schlosberg (The Ultimate Workout Log; Weight Training for Dummies) and the 200 highly trained “quit coaches” from Alere Wellbeing, a Seattle-based company that helps smokers beat their nicotine habits, have put together a successful plan that makes cutting smoking out of one’s life achievable for all smokers. The authors use a multitude of case studies, focusing primarily on how readers can prepare to quit, fight urges, and control their environment. The strategies include “mini-quits” (or going without cigarettes for short periods of time), nicotine replacement medications, and self-talk. Endorsed by the American Cancer Society, this book gives readers a full range of options. VERDICT A straightforward guide for those looking for some help with smoking cessation.

Siegel, Bernie S. with Cynthia J. Hurn. The Art of Healing: Uncovering Your Inner Wisdom and Potential for Self-Healing. New World Library. 2013. 224p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608681853. pap. $17.95. SELF-HELP

Author and former surgeon Siegel (Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients) shares his techniques of alternative approaches to healing that restore not just the body but the mind and soul as well. Calling himself a Jungian physician, he practices a synthesis of individual and group therapy that uses meditation, creative visualization, drawings, dreams, and the exploration of feelings. Siegel helps readers address physical ailments through what he calls “carefrontation,” or safe and loving therapeutic confrontation that assists personal empowerment, healing, and lifestyle changes. Relying upon a discussion of symbols, drawings, and the role of intuition, Siegel gives readers the guidance they need to facilitate their own healing. VERDICT A strong title; recommended for those truly interested in studying alternative forms of healing and who are willing to put time and effort into understanding all the facets of Siegel’s work.

Sun, Howard & Dorothy Sun. Color Your Life: How To Use the Right Colors To Achieve Balance, Health, and Happiness. Tarcher. 2013. 240p. bibliog. ISBN 9780399165009. pap. $16.95. SELF-HELP

According to color therapists the Suns, color has psychological power and can be integrated into one’s life to spark creativity, treat physical conditions, and generally improve well-being. The authors describe how to perform a color reflection reading, interpret the results of these readings, and provide information on aura and chakra colors. They also discuss personality types based on the seasons and recommend the best colors for readers to incorporate into their lives. VERDICT Fascinating reading for anyone interested in self-assessment tools and Eastern disciplines.

redstar Young, Joel L. & Christine Adamec. When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart: Coping with Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and the Problems That Tear Families Apart. Lyons. Dec. 2013. 264p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762792979. pap. $19.95. SELF-HELP

Psychiatrist Young and author Adamec (The Encyclopedia of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse; How To Live with a Mentally Ill Person) address parents who suffer financially and emotionally as they try to save their adult children from dysfunctions such as committing crimes or alcohol and drug abuse. According to the authors, mental illness and substance abuse are at the core of most problematic behaviors, and so they focus on topics such as having a child forcibly committed, dealing with the criminal justice system, and coping with suicidal behavior. The authors also discuss setting limits, taking care of oneself, and the possibility of having to face reality and walk away. VERDICT A valuable book for parents of out-of-control young people.

Deborah Bigelow is the Director, Leonia Public Library, NJ



  1. Tina Bay says:

    Thank you for these reviews. I plan to get a couple of those to read on an upcoming business trip. You should review What’s Next? from Joy Chudacoff
    That is one absolutely exceptional piece of self improvement writing and hugely inspiring for women.

  2. Julia Snyder says:

    Another book that is fantastic is Evolving Towards Peace by Jalaja Bonheim. She is an amazing women that gives her time to Circlework and is very much a believer in healing your heart and becoming transformed. She is truly inspiring, jalajabonheim is her site. She is truly great!