Non-Fiction, Sociology, Psychology

Range by David Epstein

In March I attended my first book buyer’s retreat and was grumbling about the fact that all the publishers were sending me fiction books – didn’t they know that some book buyers really prefer nonfiction? Until, finally, the last book arrived before I made my way up to Rhinebeck, New York – Range by David Epstein. I was THRILLED. And it was even more exciting when the only author whose book we were sent to attend the retreat, was the man himself. Needless to say, I fangirled, hard. And then quoted his own Atlantic article at him without realizing it… thankfully I got the details right.

Synopsis

From the Inside Flap:
What’s the most effective path to success in any domain? It’s not what you think.

Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. Butt a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.

David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters, and scientists. He discovered that in most fields – especially those that are complex and unpredictable – generalists, not specialist, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

[…] Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepen their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will thrive.

Review

A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

While David doesn’t directly include the old rhyme in his book, it kept running through my head, every page I turned. For years, we are taught that if we want to excel at something, one has to start early and focus all of our energy into it. One cannot realistically decide to be a Olympian at 15, surgeon at 25, or an astrophysicist at 35 (as my dejected husband believes, his dream job, long story). Those lofty goals require years and years of dedication, or so we’ve always been told. But David starts off his book with a call back his first book, The Sports Gene, with the tales of 2 world class athletes, Tiger Woods & Roger Federer, the former a specialist, the latter a generalist, to turn society’s misconceptions on their heads.

Each chapter of Range covers a different topic, from sports to music, to mathematics instruction, emphasizing the underlying theme that those with a more general knowledge base are, essentially, able to problem solve better by using their disparate areas of knowledge to make connections between different scenarios and situations that benefit their ability to work and explore the world efficiently.

Some of the chapters focus on mastery of a particular skill within a larger field, i.e. trying lots of sports or instruments before focusing on one. And in these chapters, the examples offered are of people who found success in their chosen skill without having a known proclivity or outside influence encouraging them towards a particular activity or skill. Orphans in Italy who played musical instruments beautifully, those with no musical background taking quickly to the nuances of their instruments.

Conversely, he shows that how we learn greatly affects our ability to problem solve. Those who memorize, whether knowingly or not, have difficultly applying their knowledge across different types of problems and explaining their thinking or thought process (meta-cognition). He offers the example of chess grand masters who cannot adjust their thinking to asses a chessboard that has simply been rotated 90 degrees as well as mathematics students who appear to “learn” math skills but are really guessing until they receive the right feedback from the teacher.

I know the year is only half over, but Range is my favorite nonfiction book of the year and I don’t think there are many candidates for unseating it in my reading pipeline. I feel like it validates my life choices when it comes to what topics I pursued throughout my education as well as the employment opportunities I’ve taken. It’s difficult to shrug off your AP Stat teacher in high school when you drop his class for 2D Art and he tells you, the naive teen who wants to be a medical researcher what a big mistake you’re making. And it’s as if Range is looking back on teen me and saying, it’s okay. You made the right decision (it’s also been 12 years, I should probably just let it go at this point…)

From his discussion of sports (I played ice hockey), music (I’m a violist & composer), mathematics (I’m a math teacher who doesn’t shut up about number sense and mathematical theory when given the chance), am dual lingual (Wie geht es Ihnen?), and finished college with a history major focusing on American Legal History after having changed my mind half a dozen times (I started in biomedical engineering), and with 5 teaching certifications and 5 minors ranging from fine arts to chemistry.

I don’t say all of this with the intention of being a braggart, but because I’ve never really known what to do with all of my interests and which would be helpful in securing me a position/job/career. It seems every employment opportunity I’ve pursued, the organization (mostly schools) want specific areas of focus and experience. A generalized work history isn’t always what they’re looking for, but it is what I can offer.

And now I work at a bookstore, putting my vast general knowledge to use recommending books across a variety of genres and age ranges. And while I love it, staying in the same position is mentally taxing. It’s like I have a unique form of ADHD (along with actual ADHD…) And when my husband takes the jack of all trades rhyme to heart as well, it means that we have a house full of the spoils and accouterments related to all of our various interests – it was a necessity in our new house to have room for an art studio, space for a 1,000 book strong library with plenty of academic texts on everything from architecture and anthropology, and space for a motorcycle work shed out back.

In the old days, I feel like I would be an academic – the ivory tower would be the only place that would know what to do with me. I’d be like da Vinci or Jefferson (though not really because I’m a woman…), pursuing all sorts of different interests simultaneous and sequentially, jumping from one to the other as the interest arose. Right now I’d love to learn how to fly a Spitfire. But regardless of what I do, what I continue to do with my life, I’ll know that I can at least hold up one book, and many examples, of how my life is happier and better off for the vast array of my interests and knowledge. (That’s my viola, Kerry, my heavily-Post-it-ed advance copy of Range, and my pink-laced hockey skate below).

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Available for purchase with free international shipping through Book Depository.

Non-Fiction, Psychology

Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight

I’ve always been a worrier, and in my adult life was diagnosed with anxiety and suffer from panic attacks. But, I try to find books to help me cope that are helpful, but not overly serious. Calm the F*ck Down seemed like it would fit the bill.

Synopsis

From the back cover:
Do you spend more time worrying about problems than solving them? Do you let unexpected difficulties ruin your day, and do “what ifs” keep you up at night? Sounds like you need to calm the f*ck down. Just because things are falling apart doesn’t mean YOU can’t pull it together. Whether you’re stressed about sh*t that hasn’t happened yet or freaked out about sh*t that already has, the NoWorries Method from “anti-guru” Sarah Knight helps you curb the anxiety and overthinking that our making everything worse. Calm the F*ck Down explains the four faces of freaking out – and their flipsides, How to accept what you can’t control, productive helpful effective worrying (PHEW), the three principles of dealing with it, and much more!

Review

Ugh. I like Sarah Knight, I like her sense of humor. And I broke my no bestsellers rule for this book. The entire book is summed up by its subtitle: “How to control what you can and accept what you can’t so you can stop freaking out and get on with your life.” Great – how do I do that? Sarah starts by talking about how she did it – moved to a Caribbean island. Thanks Sarah. Think I can pull that off? No.

Everyone’s anxiety is different, a point Sarah acknowledges. And I think if this book were my first trip to the anxiety self-help book subgenre, I’d react to what she’s writing a lot differently. I’d probably find bits and pieces of it helpful, but it really boiled down to the fact that everything she said I’d a, heard before, and b, contributed to making my anxiety worse, not better.

Sarah is not a fan of the current president of the US. That’s okay, I refuse to use his name and love Alyssa Mastromonaco so I think that should make my position quite clear. But please, I need help dealing with my anxiety over the disappearance of women’s basic rights and fear that we’re about to go to war with some of our most unstable enemies, I don’t need reminders of how much his presence in the Oval Office terrifies me. Don’t tell me to take a nap and deal with it tomorrow.

While Calm the F*ck Down reminded me a great deal of my all-time favorite self-help book, You’re Not That Great (But Neither is Anyone Else) and I appreciated Elan’s approach to dealing with disappointment and accepting that we are not all going to be the best at everything (especially when anxiety is triggered by a need for perfection). I feel like Sarah ran away from the causes of her anxiety, and then attempts to help other people from her tropical paradise, which undercuts her credibility in my eyes. Elan Gale might be a Hollywood producer, but I found his position much more relatable.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover – $19.99 – 9780316529150 – 304 pages – published December 2018 by Little, Brown and Company – average Goodreads rating 3.47 out of 5 – read in April 2019

Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology

So Here’s the Thing… by Alyssa Mastromonaco

I begged and begged our publisher rep for an advance copy of this book because I loved Who Thought This was a Good Idea? And when she didn’t send one, I was devastated, but of course, still read it when it arrived on the shelves for sale!

Synopsis

From the Inside Flap:
Alyssa Mastromonaco is back with a bold, no-nonsense, and no-holds-barred twenty-first-century girl’s guide to life, tackling the highs and lows of bodies, politics, relationships, education, life on the internet, pop culture, and spontaneous motorcycle trips along the Japanese coast. Whether discussing the future of diplomacy or high-profile dance-offs, working int eh West Wing or working on finding a pair of underwear that doesn’t make her look like a Teletubby, Alyssa leaves no stone unturned… and no awkward situation unexamined.

So Here’s the Thing… brings a sharp eye and outsize sense of humor to the myriad issues facing women the world over, both in and out of the workplace. Along with Alyssa’s personal experiences and hard-won life lessons, interviews with women like Monica Lewinsky, Susan Rice, and Chelsea Handler round out this modern women’s guide to, well, just about everything you can think of.

Review

I love Alyssa Mastromonaco. I did not love So Here’s the Thing… Which is upsetting to me. As a bookseller, my goal is to bridge the divide between readers and authors and also help to expose readers to something new and different. When I loved Who Thought This was a Good Idea? so much, I shared it with a middle aged woman who once walked into the store wearing a MAGA hat. She loved it. Bridging the divide, one step at at time. When she asked for So Here’s the Thing… I had to think long and hard about whether I recommended it or not.

The publisher’s marketing is misleading. Alyssa spends the first quarter of the book rallying against our president. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I wouldn’t be such a big fan if I didn’t find myself often agreeing with her. However, I feel there is a time and a place for such rhetoric. And based on the marketing of this book, I felt the publisher tried to hide the truly divisive language found between the front and back cover.

Additionally, the non-political parts felt like a rehashing of anecdotes from Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? I loved it, but this felt like the fat that was trimmed from the first one. And trimmed for a reason. I understood the point of the book to be on offering helpful advice to twenty-first century women, and while I still respect Alyssa and look forward to any further books she may write, I was left incredibly disappointed by So Here’s the Thing…

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $27.00 • 9781538731550 • 240 pages • published March 2019 by Twelve • average Goodreads rating 3.92 out of 5 stars • read March 2019

So Here's the Thing

Non-Fiction, Psychology

Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

As my husband and I have started house hunting and I may have a bit of a… collecting problem, I figured it was high time I got my butt in gear and started working on developing useful and effective cleaning and organizing habits!

Synopsis

From the Back Cover
Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems. The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world!

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, the philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

Review

I’ve never been good a cleaning or keeping my room/dorm/apartment particularly tidy. I love to organize, but I’m not always so good at maintaining said organizational systems. I struggle with anxiety and I often will retreat into bed rather than clean. So needless to say, I could use some help, some real help, not my mother-in-law wanting to throw everything away.

I started listening to Unf*ck Your Habitat one Sunday afternoon while my husband and I were cleaning and I spent all of my allotted cleaning time doing the dishes. One should not have to spend and hour doing dishes. And that is when I finally admitted I had a problem.

I appreciate Rachel’s approach of adopting small changes over a period of time and not expecting yourself to develop a whole new cleaning mentality overnight. Her dissuasion from marathon cleaning also makes a great deal of sense. The chapters are laid out sensibly and also include ways to handle organizing your space for a variety of different living situations.

Additionally helpful is the chapter on emergency cleaning (which I find myself doing before my MIL comes over) as well the chapter on how to set up fresh cleaning habits when moving – and given that we have just put an offer in on our first house, it is incredibly helpful. So if you’ve watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and feeling overwhelmed, give Rachel’s Unf*ck Your Habitat a try. And even if you don’t want to dive right into the book, I found her website tremendously helpful as well.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $16.99 • 9781250102959 • 224 pages • published January 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin • average Goodreads 3.79 out of 5 stars • read in February 2019

Unf_ck Your Habitat (2)

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

Self-Help January continues! This book originally came out in November 2017 and I still have an advance reader copy… I’ve been sitting on it for almost 2 years and decided now was finally the time to read it. I love Iliza, so much so that I decided to use her book for my first “bookface” picture!

Synopsis

From the Back Cover:
Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?

That last one’s just me? All right, then.

But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.

The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.

Review

Last week I wrote about what I call “Self-Help January” and my doubts about how helpful self-help books written by middle class female white millennials can be. And I came away without a clear answer to my question. And now I’m back with another white female middle class (elder) millennial written self-help book. As this is my primary demographic, it is the subset I am most drawn to for self-help, but I also want to find books to review and recommend that are applicable to those outside this narrow subset as well. And Iliza, how I love you, seems a bit more helpful than last week’s Adulting.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Iliza, allow me to introduce her to you. She is a stand-up comic (but so much more!) and she won Last Comic Standing – the youngest and first woman to ever do so. She has a handful of Netflix specials, two (short-lived) television shows, Forever 31 on ABC and Truth and Iliza on Freeform. Her most recent Netflix special, Elder Millennial, is her best thus far.

Her honest and confident approach to life make her a role model for all young women, as well as her peers. And she freely admits that she doesn’t have everything sorted out – that her life is still a work in progress and her success is not a measuring stick for others’. The topics she covers in Girl Logic stem from the female-centered topics of her stand-up and focuses on three primary relationships: the relationship with have with ourselves, with other women, and with men.

The relationship with men section entertained me, but as someone who’s been in a relationship for the entirety of my twenties, I didn’t find much to relate to there but I know a lot of my friends who have also read Girl Logic found her advice here to be most helpful. For me, I have had a crappy on-off relationship with my body it feels like. I hate it, I love it, I’ve starved it, coddled it, over-fed it, under-exercised it, etc. It is always helpful to hear about other women’s similar struggles, if only for a reminder that it’s something we all do and our inner-monologue (aka Girl Logic) is both helpful and harmful in this relationship.

Iliza’s last point starts with a bit of an apology in regards to her previous acts – acts where she hasn’t always been as kind to other women as she would like. And that particular section is tremendously helpful. Women should support other women, but not blindly follow them just because they are women. But lead with kindness and respect – that’s really all that matters. You don’t have to be friends, but with mutual kindness and respect, life will be a lot happier all around.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781602863347 • 256 pages • first published November 2017, this edition published November 2018 by Hachette Books • average Goodreads rating 3.90 out of 5 • read January 2019

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Non-Fiction, Psychology

Adulting (Updated Edition) by Kelly Williams Brown

I’ve started referring to January as Self-Help Month. I know it’s really in the summer, or something like that, but if working in a books store for the last 4 Januarys has taught me only one thing, it’s that the best selling section of the store this month is Psychology/Self-Help.

Synopsis

From the back cover:
“Adult” isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t fake it ’til you make it. ADULTING, based on the blog that started a movement, makes the scary, confusing “real world” approachable, manageable – and even conquerable. This guide will help you to navigate the stormy Sea of Adulthood so that you may find safe harbor in Not Running Out of Toilet Paper Bay. Along the way you will learn:

  • How to be a better person in today’s often-crummy world – It involves the intersection of NPR and hair-straightening.
  • What to check when renting a new apartment – Not just the nearby bars, but the faucets and stove, among other things.
  • How to avoid hooking up with anyone in your office – Imagine your coworkers having plastic, featureless doll crotches. It helps.

From breaking up with frenemies to fixing your toilet, this comprehensive handbook is the answer for aspiring grown-ups of all ages.

Review

First me, then the book. I’m a millennial. A stereotypical, I suck at adulting, type of millennial. On my next birthday I’ll be the big 3-0 and while my goals for the 25 year mark pretty much went ignored, there are some aspects of my life I hope to have sorted out by 30. Some aspects of my life may make me seem like more of an adult in most people’s eyes (full time job, married, self-sufficient, school loans paid off, etc), I still feel like a hopeless failure when it comes to most measures of adulthood success.

I have a great job, but it’s not what I went to college for, it’s not even what I went back to college for. I should be a lawyer or teacher if I were putting my degrees to use. I’m now frequently mistaken as an English major and that bothers me for some reason. I struggle to appropriately handle awkwardness, I can be a right terrible friend at times because I fail to communicate effectively, and, while my coworkers (and mom) tell me I’ve matured a great deal in the last few years, I just don’t feel like an adult.

I was reading an article a few days ago, I wish I remembered where, but it mentioned that the new threshold for finally “feeling like an adult” for millennials has been set at “having your own kids.” Once you are a parent, you are officially an adult. It isn’t a steadfast threshold, but one gleaned from conversations and interviews with members of my generation. And I would say, I agree. Whether or not I’ll be having kids is still in the air, but if I don’t, will I ever feel like an adult?

Now the book. I’m here seeking advice from one of my peers about adulthood. Which is fair. I probably wouldn’t listen to an old rich white dude mansplain being an adult, which, he probably wouldn’t actually do, but instead tell me to stop whining and suck it up. But Kelly I can relate to. Her unique white female millennial problems are my white female millennial problems. Which is problematic.

This book is great for me. And other suburban-middle-class-raised millennial women. While there is a tremendous amount of helpful (and some less than helpful) general information in Adulting, ranging from relationships with other people to relationships with your houseplants, there’s an inherent bias that I’ve come to find exists in most of the self-help books that I’ve read. I pick up the ones that I do because either a, they’re funny, or b, the girl on the cover looks a bit like me.

Which leads me to my biggest theoretical question, is the pop-psychology style of self-improvement a luxury of the privileged? I’ve taken stock of the customers at the bookstore this past holiday season who have been asking for Girl Wash Your Face, the bestseller from Rachel Hollis, and I have discovered that they are mostly middle-aged, white, stay-at-home moms.

I’m not entirely sure of the answer to my question, but if you are really seeking to make a great change in your life, one that will require actual effort and perseverance and will have an outstandingly positive impact on your life, skip this book. If you’re a middle-class millennial woman who really just needs someone to tell her how to clean her kitchen like me, go for it. Knock yourself out. There’s some helpful bits.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781538729137 • 352 pages • originally published May 2013, updated and published March 2018 by Grand Central Life & Style • average Goodreads rating 3.74 out of 5 • read January 2019

adulting

Essays, Non-Fiction, Psychology

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

I have long been intrigued by The Tao of Pooh and decided the holiday season was a good time to read it to try to keep myself settled and focused.

Synopsis

The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh! … in which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese… or a venerable philosopher… but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is. And that’s a clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.

Review

I was a Winnie the Pooh kid. I grew up having the stories read to me, had stuffed animals of all the characters, and developed a particular fondness for Eeyore (the Eeyore pictures is my winter ice skating Eeyore and I have many more!). I was thrilled that all of my favorite friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood make and appearance in The Tao of Pooh.

Told in a series of short vignettes, written as though the author, Benjamin Hoff, has walked into the Wood to have a conversation with our beloved friends, The Tao of Pooh offers a glimpse not into mindfulness, as many popular books today do, but simply the art and way of just being. Living and thinking without over thinking or dwelling on how the world works. While it is important to understand the world around us, sometimes we need to let the minutiae of everyday life go and be more like Pooh.

A beautiful little gift book, it is worth a read for anyone who is feeling stressed about the little things in life and could use a bit of peace and sound mind. I would recommend The Tao of Pooh over Peace is Every Step.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.00 • 9780140067477 • 176 pages • first published April 1982, this edition published July 1983 by Penguin Books • average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 • read in December 2018

tao of pooh

Non-Fiction, Psychology, Sociology

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

My coworker Jennifer picked this book as her staff pick a few weeks ago and I was curious. When it popped up as an available audiobook on my library app, I figured I would give it a try.

Synopsis

In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment. World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him, a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to “mindfulness” – the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now.

Review

Working in a bookstore, I frequently am asked for books about mindfulness these days. It seems anyone with a brain is trying to get theirs to settle down and not get too riled up by the state of the world. As a general skeptic to all things that one could even remotely label as “new age,” I’ve stopped short of picking a mindfulness book up myself, despite my anxiety which I’ve seemed to quell it on my own in the last few months. But as Jennifer swore it was helpful, I figured, Why not?

When I first started listening to Peace is Every Step, I forgot that it is over 25 years old, written in an age before the internet and various electronic devices ran most of our lives. Most of the points made still resonate today. Whole Peace is Every Step lacks what some might consider concrete and specific steps, it focuses more on changing your perspective and thought process. I’ve come to know understand that this is what mindfulness really is, it’s about thinking through how behaviors and actions affect not only yourself, but other people and the world as a whole. Love and kindness will get you further than anger and hateful rhetoric, and similar sentiments make up the bulk of the book.

I recently had an interaction with a family friend that left me hurt, upset, and confused. And I realized that my reactions, and actions, in response to this encounter, allow me the opportunity to put what I’ve recently read into practice. I could yell, scream, and burn a bridge, or I can sit back, reflect, and try to empathize and put myself in this person’s shoes. Choosing the latter, is choosing the mindfulness approach. And if this settles my anxiety in regards to the matter, then I think, just maybe, Jennifer was right.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.00 • 9780553351392 • 160 pages • published March 1992 by Bantam • average Goodreads rating 4.34 out of 5 • stars read in August 2018

Peace is Every Step on Goodreads

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Business, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Psychology

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

#Girlboss has been sitting on my staff pick shelf at the bookstore for ages now. It’s not often I recommend a book that I haven’t read, and if I do, I generally admit that I haven’t actually read it. #Girlboss is an exception. I rarely, if ever, can tell you that I will definitely like a book before reading it, but I knew that I had to read #Girlboss when I was ready to – when I was considering what the next phase of my life might look like.

Synopsis

Sophia Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school – a job sh’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.

Flash forward ten years to today, and she’s the founder and executive chairman of Nasty Gal, a $250-million-plus fashion retailer with more than four hundred employees. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #Girlboss for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to succcess, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#Girlboss proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.

Review

One of these days, I’m going to go back to teaching full time. I don’t think I’ll ever really leave the bookstore, or the book world, but unfortunately, short of opening my own bookstore (which I’m not completely ruling out), there is very little opportunity for growth, or new challenges. And my brain gets bored and stale if I don’t have new things to with it.

While most bookstores would shelve #Girlboss in business, it is really for anyone looking for a life/career change, not just for people looking to start their own business as Sophia did. What I really appreciate about #Girlboss is the fact that Sophia offers advice without sugar coating any of it. It is practical and useful – when she talks about everyday magic and putting positive thoughts out into the universe, she delves deeper than You Are a Badass and The Secret. While those two books focus just on happy thoughts, Sophia presents practical ways to follow through on those positive thoughts.

One thing that did concern me, prior to reading, was whether or not I would think differently of Sophia’s advice knowing that she left Nasty Gal and the lawsuits and bankruptcy that plagued the company over the last few years. The good news – I did not. Sophia never claims to be an expert, quite the opposite in fact, and approaches #Girlboss with an attitude of “this worked for me, it might work for you” which I greatly appreciated. And if you’ve seen the Netflix show of the same name, well, it’s an interesting television choice – turn a business book into a narrative show – but it’s not half bad.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9781591847939 • 256 pages • first published May 2014, this edition published September 2015 by Portfolio • average Goodreads rating 3.7 out of 5 stars • read in April 2018

Girlboss Website

#Girlboss on Goodreads

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138-#Girlboss

Non-Fiction, Psychology

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Funny story. This is one of the top selling books of the year at the bookstore I work at. We’re even sponsoring an event with the author in a few weeks in Philadelphia. I did not know this when I started ranting to my boss about how much I hated it. Oops.

Synopsis

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bitesized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, Create a life you totally love. And create it NOW. Make some damn money already. The kind you’ve never made before.

Review

Maybe I just don’t get it. I haven’t read too many self-help books, but my general understanding of the genre is that they are supposed to make you think critically about your life and make suggestions on how to change it. Please, anyone with further insights, please correct me if I’m wrong. I was so afraid I wasn’t “getting” You Are a Badass, and that I was perhaps getting unjustifiably angry, when I was about halfway through that I did something I never do mid-book – I looked up other people’s reviews on Goodreads. I’ll do it before I decide to read something and after, but not during. But I have to say after doing so that I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Now, if You Are a Badass has worked for you, I’m going to suggest that you stop reading right here. If you are looking for a practical self-help book and you are considering purchasing/reading You Are a Badass, please take the following with a grain of salt. Everyone is unique, and if you think this book will work for you, please disregard the following rant.

Gripe #1: How You Are a Badass handles anxiety. I have anxiety. If you wish to see the details, check out my review of Furiously Happy. And it is not something that I would say I have already overcome. I am in the process of “dealing and healing” as my husband puts it and anyone who tells me to just “get over it” as You Are a Badass does, well, let’s just say I don’t respond as well as I should.

Gripe #2: Lack of practical and usable advice. I’m sorry, I apparently don’t know how to connect deeper with “source energy” or change my vibration level to match that of what I would like to attract to my life. Putting out positive thoughts only works so well, and the author, in my opinion, has just been lucky.

Gripe #3: Assertion made by You Are a Badass: You are annoyed by other people’s behaviors because it reflect that which annoys you about yourself. Uh, no. People who almost hit me with their car while I’m crossing the street? No. People who ignore warnings on doors and walk right up to me with their dog and give me an asthma attack? No. People who talk loudly on their cellphones in public places? No. People who treat retail workers poorly? No. Moving on.

Gripe #4: Author freely admits that she wrote You Are a Badass very quickly and on a short deadline. It shows.

Two of my coworkers absolutely love this book. And good for them. I’m glad that they have found a book that speaks to them. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t speak to me.

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback $16.00 9780762447695 254 pages published April 2013 by Running Press Adult average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 read in January 2018

Jen Sincero’s Website

You Are a Badass on Goodreads

Get a Copy of You Are a Badass

You are a Badass