Put down your phone! Step away from your computer screen (after you’re finished reading this book review roundup), and catch up on your reading. There’s been a lot of discussion on social media lately about how boring it’s become. Nothing takes the place of a good book. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, information, education or inspiration, books bring it all to you in a way that endless selfies, doggie noses, and InstaStory videos no one wants to see, never will. Get out of the “snore zone” and read something wonderful. Here are some of our picks for early Spring 2018. (Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com)
Learn Some Manners
Is our society less civil than it used to be? Maybe not, if you know how to mind your manners. Read Manners That Matter Most: The Easy Guide to Etiquette At Home and in the World by June Eding/ forward by Nora Lalor (Hatherleigh Press 2014) and realize that mannered people approach formal events or stressful meetings with less anxiety and more confidence. Manners are much more than knowing the right thing to do in situations you’re not comfortable with. Good manners can make life easier more successful and more fun. They make you a refined, elegant, civilized human being . this particular etiquette book is basic, but it’s an easy first step to learn how to be better (if not well) mannered in today’s world, The suggestions are backed up with quotes from important people. As Norah Lawlor mentions in her intro, in an era where modern cities are full of people from different nationalities and cultures, having good manners helps avoid social errors and issues. Since the book is organized well, you can skip to the situation or section you need. If you were brought up with manners, you already know these things and some of them may seem insultingly simple, but it’s those simple gestures and words that make the world a better place, so refresh your knowledge of them.
Much More Than a Pot
I remember my grandmother’s pressure cooker. IT was an old metal thing that was downright scary when it made an ominous whistle. I always thought it would explode! But now, pressure cookers are smart, pre-programmed for popular foods, and some of them can even bake a cake or make yoghurt. . For anyone with an Instant Pot, Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast Fresh and Flavorful by Laura D.A. Pazzaglia is a must (Saint Martins Press 2014). Inside this hard covered book are 200 recipes designed to work in the Instant Pot, electric pressure cookers, multi-cookers with pressure programs, and stovetop pressure cookers, too. I like the fact that the author tested the recipes on all manner of devices, so no matter which pressure cookers or slow cooker you have, you will get good results. I also like her first chapter with what pressure cooking is and the basics of it. There is really a lot of information here, and wading through it might take a while, but it’s well worth the effort to read it from cover to cover.
How To Go, Gray,
About 75% of women color their hair in some form, be it highlights, a rogue stripe, full unicorn, or something close to a natural color. However the trend towards being “simply silver” is growing. A new book by Lorraine Massey with Michele Bender called Silver Hair: A Handbook(Workman Publishing February 2018) tells you how to say goodbye to dye and embrace your natural gray. The authors have gone silver and are also the authors of another popular hair-centric book called Curly Girl, focusing on curly haired beauties. Gray hair isn’t just one color. It can be salt and pepper, platinum white, or something in between. If you decide to ditch the dye it’s a process to get back to natural color and discover what nature had in mind for you. The book has lots and lots of photos of the “before, during and after” growing out process (Ms. Massey is the founder of Devachan Salons and co-founder of Devacurl products, so a lot of models seem to have curly hair). There are also lots of personal stories of dozens of women who have successfully made the leap from dyed to natural. It also gives the reader ideas of how to do it with the last amount of awkwardness. Finally, there is a lot of advice on how to care for gray hair, as it has specific beauty issues. While gray hair isn’t flattering to everyone if you’re tired of investing so much time and money at the salon or at home, you’ll find this an indispensable guide that gives you the information you need. And, if you hate the way it looks you can always dye, dye again.
The Book of Highs: 255 Ways to Alter Your Consciousness Without Drugs by Edward Rosenfeld (Workman Publishing April 17, 2018). With psychedelic cover art I assumed those “altered states” would be pleasurable. But, in fact, this book is not really a book of ‘highs” as much as it is a compendium of altered states of mind with as many suggestions for negative ways to do this (e.g. suffering, pain, sleep deprivation and involuntary isolation) as well as more positive techniques such as chanting and mantras,. spinning, and meditation. The book is organized into 3 parts. Part One: Just Your Self, the things you can do alone. Part Two: Help From Others is more about different therapeutic approaches but not necessarily those that alter your consciousness in a direct way, with such as character analysis and general semantics. Part Three is a review of non-electric, electric and biofeedback devices and machines. In my opinion, the author is really stretching the boundaries here with the suggestion of incense and intensive instrument playing among many other ideas. However, this quirky paperback book does have 302 pages of ideas to make life more interesting and take a personal journey without the use of drugs. It’s kind of fun to read and a very extensive list of things to try to get “high” even though some of the suggestions are waaaay out!
Grow With Love
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
It’s appropriate to start off with this quote from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens to describe two gift books from Workman Publishing:
I’m a strong believer in affirmations, and also in offering little pick me ups to those I care about when they really need it. The perfect little pick me up gift is Everything Grows with Love: Beautiful Words, Inspiring Thoughts by Irene Smit and Astrid
Everything is the Worst: A Book for People Who Just Can’t also by Irene and Astrid (Workman April 2018) is a new book that proclaims the opposite: life sucks so why even try? Of course, this is meant to be funny, not taken seriously. This colorfully decorated gift book is also square, but larger and thinner than the positive affirmation book with silly sayings such as “Pretty Much Hate Everyone”, or “Leave Me Alone.” I’m not sure why the authors felt they had to produce a book with negative thoughts, at least one of which probably run through most people’s minds at some time during the day. IT would have been even better if the pages were perforated so you could pull out the appropriate sentiment, put in on an easel, and let your co-workers, friends, family know just how you are feeling!
I’m including She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by r.h. Sin (Andrews McMeel Publishing April 2018) A slim poetry paperback newly minted for Spring 2018 after Sin’s Planting Gardens in Graves in February. There are moments when the heart no longer wishes to feel because everything it’s felt up until then has brought it nothing but anguish. In She Felt Like Feeling Nothing, the press notes proclaim: ” self-discovery and retrospection. With this book, the poet intends to create a safe space where women can rest their weary hearts and focus on themselves.” I really didn’t get that. What I did see what a collection of seriously sad and depressive notes on the author’s life or of the lives of women. But ironically, the author isn’t a woman at all, he is a happily married man. Wherever he’s from, however, it is a “place where a life of pain is the norm and destruction is a constant.” Yes, I get it.
Do you believe in being “green?” Then Simple Acts to Save Our Planet: 500 Ways to Make a Difference by Michelle Heff (Adams Media) is for you. Most of us already are aware and practice a lot of these suggestions. Not everyone can plant a tree at their home site or hang a bird feeder. For the most part, the basics about how to reduce, recycle and re-use are now a part of an American lifestyle. When I worked at the New York City Department of Sanitation setting up voluntary programs prior to mandatory recycling laws, the first thing I realized is that some people don’t care and won’t do, no matter what is expected or required. But for those who want to do better, there are plenty of ideas, some practical and some not. This might be a nice little gift for someone starting their own home for the first time, or for a teenager who wants to make an impact but doesn’t really know how.
Those who survive war have interesting stories to tell if they are brave enough to tell them. Bring Out the Dog. Stories by Will Mackin (Random House 2018) . The author served in the US Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan. His stories are often raw, with language and acronyms that are sometimes difficult to read, but in the end, obviously authentic as he remembers these experiences. Through the stories which are often gritty, you get an understanding, at least a little bit, of what it must be like to be a soldier at war. The re-telling of the incidents and the dialogue aren’t elegant, but it comes through as powerful. I didn’t feel that I got enough flavor of the main characters to feel an emotional reaction to them, but I certainly felt a tiny bit of what those soldiers experienced in battle and in boredom These, are well documented. It’s still a very interesting book.
The Other Side of Impossible: Ordinary People Who Faced Daunting Medical Challenges and Refused to Give Up Paperback by Susanna Meadows (Random House, February 2018) is one of those books that fascinates you but also makes you wonder about what the author’s motivation was in writing it. This book of true stories of people who had incurable diseases but found ways to get better (or at least live with it) was motivated by Meadows’ three-year-old son and his first signs of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. She worked to help him through traditional and alternative medical techniques. And that’s where my issues with the book begin. Like the tiny disclaimer on pharmaceutical ads, the heartwarming and almost miraculous results are not typical for most people. Reading this book you might just believe that anything, anyone, anywhere could find a way to be cured with diet or holistic medicine. A healthy or specific diet can help you live a good life, but diet alone is usually not a cure-all. The author continually pushes it heavily. The actual writing and the far-from-typical stories are entertaining, but the author is not a doctor or even in the medical field. Read it because it’s interesting reading, admire the courage, creativity, and persistence of the books’ subjects. Just be wary about the medical treatments themselves.