Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Happiness Advantage (Self-Help/Business Book)

Most self-help authors don’t bother to mention the fact that they did not actually steal a police car. But for Shawn Achor that personal fact becomes a vivid teaching point. His stories and metaphors make The Happiness Advantage memorable. His life experiences and academic credentials make the book credible. On top of that, The Happiness Advantage is very, very practical.

I have evidently been reading articles by Achor for years – O Magazine, Success, Live Happy – but, I did not really pay attention to him until I recently watched an episode of Super Soul Sunday. To me the idea of happiness seemed like so much fluff. Achor has a way of making us look at happiness in a new way, as a key ingredient to our personal and professional success. His credential are impressive. He has practical experience. He worked as a proctor in the dorms at Yale for twelve years and has consulted all over the world. Yet, he also has a degree from Yale and can draw on scientific studies associated with happiness. He has a knack for creating vivid images, describing such principles as “The Tetris Effect” and the “Zorro Circle.” In The Happiness Advantage he also gives easy to follow steps that we can take to be happier.

It is so easy to read self-help book after self-help book, feeling good for a time and changing nothing in or lives. The Happiness Advantage is filled with great ideas, but it is just another book unless the ideas are integrated into our daily lives. I think The Happiness Advantage, well, has an advantage over other books because it is so memorable.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The White Magic Five and Dime (Mystery)

I needed a break from all the power struggles and politics (Imaginer’s series) that I had been reading about lately. A trip to the New Book section at my local library netted me a fun and well-crafted novel, The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco. In some ways it reads like the breezy, guilty pleasures mysteries that I have come to love, yet The White Magic Five and Dime is a bit more. A solid backstory is woven into the book, giving perspective to the characters and their motives. Also woven into the story is a sarcastic interpretation of Tarot cards.

Briefly, Alanis, a very successful telemarketer, learns that her estranged mother is dead, actually murdered. The mother has left her some money, a car, and The White Magic Five and Dime, out of which her mother had been giving Tarot readings. Alanis takes some time off from work to go to the small town near Sedona where her mother lived and to settle matters. Despite her feelings towards her mother, Alanis feels compelled to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder. She finds plenty of suspects, including people whom her mother had conned and her mother’s teenage housemate, Clarice. In order to catch the murderer, Alanis decides to pose as a Tarot reader herself, which requires her to actually learn about the Tarot. Luckily, she finds an informative book, Miss Chance’s Infinite Road’s to Knowing.

The plotline involves more than a woman solving a murder. Slowly we learn why and how Alanis and her mother became estranged. As Alanis reads the Tarot cards and interacts with the townsfolks, we see a gentler side to the snarky, cynical Alanis. Near the end of the novel, Alanis wonders whether her mother gave her the money and store as a gift of kindness or as a long-con, an ultimate revenge. The ending has some wonderful little twists, and, of course, foreshadows new novels in the series. I may have found a new series to love.