A review of Masters of Their Universe: Business (and Life) Secrets Taught by Four-Legged Professors by Robert B. Haas.
Tag Archives: hardcover release
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The receipt of ARCs, or finished books, in no way influences or has an impact on, the opinions expressed in the book reviews and other features posted on this site. All of the reviews posted on Joseph’s Reviews reflect the honest, personal opinion of the individual reviewer.
This disclaimer will be posted periodically. Pictured: Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other and the World. This memoir by Claire and Mia Fontaine, a follow-up to Come Back, will be released by William Morrow on July 17, 2012.
Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time by Paul Hammerness, M.D., and Margaret Moore, with John Hanc (Harlequin, $16.95, 272 pages)
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers (Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95, 304 pages)
Often the focus of self-help books is the reader’s feelings of discomfort, inadequacy or anger. That said, the two books reviewed here are pragmatic and filled with specific science-based ideas formulated by well-respected professionals in their respective fields.
The first book, Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time, was written by the team of Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Paul Hammerness, M.D., Margaret Moore, a certified wellness coach and cofounder of Harvard’s Institute of Coaching with assistance from John Hanc, an associate professor of journalism and communications at the New York Institute of Technology. The premise of Organize Your Mind is that daily stress is produced by too much to do and this overload, in turn, produces a sense of helplessness. The book looks at how your conscious actions can bring about a sense of mastery and control to daily life as well as assist in long-range planning.
Each area discussed is introduced by Dr. Hammerness in what he calls “The Rules of Order.” Each of the rules is about brain functioning and how it relates to ones’ actions and feelings. The six rules are followed by pragmatic action steps outlined by Coach Margaret. Accompanying each rule are highlighted sidebars filled with explanations and contextual comments that enhance the reader’s experience. Dr. Hammerness includes suggestions for readers whose issues extend beyond the scope of the book. He takes a kindly attitude and suggests that there are situations where professional help beyond that offered in the book is indicated.
The chapters and rules are cumulative which allows the reader to follow along and build skills. The tone of the authors’ writing is non-judgmental, realistic and yet not a buddy-buddy one. There are really good puns scattered in the text. Alas, this reviewer is not able to quote any of them as an advance uncorrected proof was provided by the publisher.
The second book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World was written by Sam Sommers, a remarkably young-looking psychology professor at Tufts University. Sommers is also an expert witness who is called upon to testify as to whether actions and statements are racially motivated or merely meaningful descriptors that may be admitted as evidence in court proceedings.
This book is an excellent complement to Organize Your Mind that can be best appreciated if read as a follow-up in the reader’s self-improvement strategy. Sommers makes good use of scientific findings to support his conclusions. However, his assertion is that introspection will not bring someone to discover the means to the life they wish to have. Rather, his focus is on the ways that environmental influences assert significant power over the decisions people make and the actions they take every day. Watchfulness and awareness of the context (location, group or ethnic background) in which one finds one’s self can lead to a significantly different outcome, such as summoning police assistance, questioning odd behavior or just realizing that people mindlessly parrot what they think is true. An excellent parallel can be made with reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, particularly Tipping Point. Several of the studies he cites are common to both books.
The chapter structure of Situations Matter follows that of a survey book. Sommers does tie back to his beginning hypothesis that we see the world as a “what you see is what you get” sort of place. (The computer shorthand is WYSIWYG.) He also makes good use of examples from his university classroom exercises. The tone of the book is friendly and it reads like a transcript from the psychology class you wish you’d taken.
Review copies were provided by the publishers.
Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You by Gina Amaro Rudan (Touchstone, $24.99, 203 pages)
Ready, set, GO! Professional development and training coach Gina Rudan can be a bit overwhelming as she enthusiastically offers up her philosophy for success. Summed up it is – Be the best you by mining deeply held inner goals while simultaneously exploiting people who may be able to assist your climb upward. Oh, and always maintain personal integrity by selflessly promoting the ones your are using.
That’s quite a challenge; however, Ms. Rudan offers herself as the poster child for this method. She jumped ship from the Fortune 500 employers of her past to begin a second career as a consultant. Clearly, the field of personal development is a crowded one that spans several decades. M. Scott Peck, Jack Canfield and David Shenk immediately come to mind. Dr. Shenk is listed because he too has written a book specifically focused on the topic of genius, The Genius in All of Us. His view of genius and ways to achieve it are expressed in a calm, well-considered approach. (A review of the book will be posted next on this site.)
Ms. Rudan’s target audience appears to be the 35-40 year old female who is at a point where she is stuck in her professional life. The spin for Rudan’s method is a bit titillating with “the Other G spot” and dating rules for those who can assist with a climb into practical genius status. She stresses the need for personal congruity – a balance of hard and soft assets. It is at the intersection of one’s marketable skills (hard assets) and personal passions, creativity and values (soft assets) where the Other G spot exists. Finding that spot and making it yours is the point of the book.
Each element of the process is thoroughly developed; however, this reviewer found the bouncy enthusiasm and perspective shifts in the early chapters a bit unsettling. Moreover, the rambling in some sentences makes the case for keeping it simple:
Expressing your practical genius is not about expressing the limitedness of our personalities or egos but more about expressing wonder of the depths of the oceans of who we are as complex multi-dimensional creatures.
The later chapters get down to business with boxed hints for the reader and lengthy descriptions or definitions of what Ms. Rudan thinks is the ideal mix of characters that will become the players in the reader’s life changing drama.
Given today’s legions of unemployed and underemployed persons, this book may have an audience in persons seeking more than just putting food on the table and a roof over one’s head. Then again, maybe it does not.
Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons (Grand Central Publishing, $25.99, 325 pages; Hachette Audio, $34.98, 8 CDs)
This eerie story builds on a solid foundation of family history and human passions. The crushing disappointments suffered by main character Thayer Wentworth, a genteel young woman with a proper southern upbringing, are offset by the nearly hypnotic story telling from Anne Rivers Siddons. While Ms. Siddons has written many best-selling novels, Burnt Mountain was a first for this reviewer. The audiobook was brilliantly narrated by Kate Reading. As with many other audiobooks reviewed on the site, the story was enjoyed in two-hour segments on the open road.
Thayer Wentworth is an easy stand-in for the author’s southern childhood and college years. After a bumpy adolescence, Thayer falls in love with a quirky college professor, Dr. Aengus O’Neill. Angus is from Ireland and has parlayed his native folklore into a literary career. Thayer has a chilly relationship with her mother and when she brings Aengus home to meet the family, it is her beloved grandma who feels a connection with him. While the connection is comfortable, grandma warns Thayer not to let Aengus drift into his own folklore world. Too bad Thayer doesn’t pay better attention to grandma’s advice!
It’s grandma’s behest of a lovely house to Thayer that sets up the truly quirky turn in the story line. No spoiler alert needed here as the plot becomes sufficiently convoluted to preclude an easy reveal. Although the plausibility of the story is definitely questionable, the basic entertainment value more than held this reviewer’s attention. Sometimes suspending reality can lead to an otherwise unanticipated adventure.
Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (Alfred A. Knopf; $28.95; 468 pages)
Robert Redford is a glamorous and gorgeous biography of a man the book’s editor viewed as “undervalued” as an artist. Callan fully makes his case that Redford is an actor, an artist, of substance. I have never before read an actor’s bio that makes me want to sit down and watch every one of the films mentioned within it; which is a measure of the seriousness with which Callan treats his subject.
Callan does three things that an actor’s biographer should do… Firstly, he explains how and why Redford went into acting, after originally considering a career as a painter or illustrator. Secondly, he goes to great lengths to help us understand how intelligent Redford, the man, is. In some cases, this involves using long quotes from Redford about acting or politics. No matter the subject, the actor-director’s comments are always deep and thorough. And thirdly, he helps us to observe a career in which the actor grew and began to hit his peak at the young age of 34.
Callan writes that Redford, at 34, became “a far more internal actor.” A director was to say of Redford:
“He surprised me. He was running around with me, doing all the production things… But then the shooting started, and he retreated inside himself. So much of it was mime. And to mime, you need some extraordinary composure because if you are going to be self-conscious, this is where it will show.
…honesty took him to this very, very calm place. Everything became minimalistic, very contained. I did not direct that pacing.”
Indeed, Callan makes the fine point that Redford established himself as an actor of silence, a man who left us wanting more from his character’s mouths but appreciating them as they were filmed. Think, for example, about the silences of Hubell in The Way We Were, or as the ballplayer Hobbs in The Natural. Then think about how different the role of Hubell would have been played by, say, Jack Nicholson!
Callan’s research is quite impressive except in one instance. At one point, while preparing to film the provocative film The Candidate (both California Governor Jerry Brown and U. S. Senator John Lindsay thought the film was based on their real-life careers), a writer proposed a scene in which the fictional candidate McKay – played by Redford – would don the gift of an Indian headdress. Redford absolutely refused to consider this, and Callan presumes it is based on the actor’s respect for American Indian tribes. It’s more likely that Redford was aware of John Kennedy’s vow, during his successful run for president in 1960, to never do either of two things: wear a hat/place anything on his head, or hold or kiss a baby.
Like Paul Newman and his vaunted Newman’s Luck, Redford has had great instincts throughout his long, successful career. Callan shows us how, early on, Redford elected to play an outlaw (an escaped convict) instead of an establishment figure. Making similar choices with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting was to cement his success later. Newman and Redford, we come to see, were both actors of skill who were also blessed with the best of luck. Perhaps they were both fated to choose the right roles in the right films at the right time.
Robert Redford: The Biography is, in its entirety, an excellent and valuable overview of Robert Redford, the man whose career has been one – in Michael Feeney Callan’s words – of “adventurous disinhibition.”
This book was purchased by the reviewer.
On February 12, 2011, we posted a review (“You Belong to Me”) of the recommended dystopian YA novel Matched by Ally Condie. The follow-up novel, Crossed, will be released on November 1, 2011. But you don’t have to wait until then to begin reading this YA novel; just click on the link below:
Do You Have a Cat? by Eileen Spinelli (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; $16.00; 32 pages)
“A cat who likes to caterwaul is better than no cat at all!”
There’s an old saying that dogs and their owners begin to look like each other. Well, I may be just a kitten but even I know that’s not true just for dogs… And this book, Do You Have a Cat?, proves me to be right. This book shows us – and especially the young humans in the reading audience – that 14 very famous people owned felines (that’s a cat, to you). And, guess what? These famous people looked just like their cats and vice-versa!
If you don’t believe me, just look at the swell drawings in this book. You’ll see that everyone from Cleopatra to Queen Victoria and Charles Lindbergh and Albert Schweitzer and President Calvin Coolidge owned very special cats, all of whom just happened to be the spitting-image of their home owners! And you’ll learn some very cool stuff, too, like the fact that President Coolidge went on the radio to tell the folks when his cat was lost. Luckily, for Cal, Tiger was soon found and returned to the White House!
So, I’m a young cat but I know good books. This one’s as good as a bowl of half-and-half!
Sasha (the kitten) Arellano