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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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.