The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman, 5/5
It took an effort to get past the cringe-worthy cover and subtitle, but this book is well-written and explores concepts that can apply to a variety of relationships besides marriage (such as between friends, family members, or people who are dating). Using common sense and many examples from his years of experience as a marriage counselor, Gary Chapman proposes that, while everyone needs to feel loved, each individual tends to recognize and express love in primarily one of five ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Two people with loving intentions who speak different “languages” can be left each feeling uncared for and confused as to why their expressions of love aren’t accepted as such. Chapman encourages people in relationships to notice which of the five categories their partner might belong to and adjust their own behavior accordingly. It seems to me that this could be a bit forced and awkward in some cases, especially if the other person knows you very well and notices that you start acting out of character. I think it makes more sense for everyone to learn each other’s love languages, not so that they can necessarily speak them, but so that they can appreciate love in its different forms. For example, if someone prefers to hear affirming words, they should learn to appreciate the love of a person who makes time for them or quietly does helpful things. Or if a person wants their partner to show they care by giving them gifts, they should also realize that a kind word or touch can be equally meaningful and heartfelt expressions of love.
Why I read it: One of my sisters said it was interesting and it is important to me that the people I care about feel loved.
Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, 5/5
The 10 points about creativity that form the backbone of this little book are deceptively simple (even unimpressive) at first glance. Happily, my first impression was wrong–the author uses this list merely as a starting point for an encouraging and inspiring discussion about artistic creativity. Reading this book first normalised, then challenged, many of the negative feelings that have caused me in the past to describe myself as an uncreative person.
- Steal like an artist.
It’s refreshing to hear someone creative admit that “every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas” (9).
- Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
- Write the book you want to read.
This is so much more inspiring than the advice to “write what you know.”
- Use your hands.
- Side projects and hobbies are important.
Having a wide variety of interests can be difficult and it’s sometimes tempting to feel like a loser for not focusing on just one. Kleon doesn’t make a particularly convincing case for his advice of “don’t throw any of yourself away” (68), but I do like the idea that “what unifies your work is the fact that you made it” (72).
- The secret: Do good work and share it with people.
- Geography is no longer our master.
- Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
- Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
It may not be living the dream, but having a boring day job can give you the financial freedom to pursue creative endeavors. Kleon points out that, contrary to instinct, “establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time” when it comes to being creative (124).
- Creativity is subtraction.
Why I read it: Imgur user morganic mentioned this book in a comment on a photography post.
This book contains some helpful, commonsense advice about communicating that I think would be especially useful for parents and other people in leadership roles. Of course, the author is a bit full of it and there are endless acronyms and 5-steps to this and 9-stages of that, but the big emphasis is on the concept of empathy and its related technique–paraphrasing. There is also a helpful list of “Eleven Things Never to Say to Anyone (And How to Respond If Some Idiot Says Them to You),” which includes my personal favourites: “Come here!” (usually shouted threateningly) and “Calm down!” (“BUT I AM CALM!!!”).
[Why I read it: Came across it while sorting through some of my Dad’s books.]
They say that opposites attract, in which case I suspect that I may be very similar to the author, who I found to be thoroughly grating. Perhaps it’s her approach to the topic, which is somehow both overly analytical and overly anecdotal, or perhaps it’s because studying how to make habits seems pointless to me (surely the hard part is deciding what habits to have, not how to keep them up?). I knew I was in trouble when Rubin’s first attempt (of many) to organize her readers into overly-tidy categories failed to resonate with me–am I an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Does it even matter? At any rate, I felt so little interest in this book that I had a difficult time finishing it and remember practically nothing about it now. It has joined the growing ranks of faceless self-help books that have made the New York Times Best Seller list but not an impression on me.
[Why I read it: my friend Joy recommended it to me.]
Losier is off to a bad start right from the subtitle of this unsubstantial book, which contains nothing scientific that can be used towards the patently ridiculous goal of creating “ideal” relationships. Starting with a hokey 15-question quiz to establish your communication style as visual, auditory, kinesthetic or digital, Losier quickly moves to generic descriptions of the styles and canned keywords and phrases for each that can be used to create “rapport.” Perhaps it’s a digital thing, but I’m pretty sure my brain intuitively understands that “how does this look to you?” “how does this sound to you?” “how do you feel about this?” and “what do you think about this?” all mean approximately the same thing. I highly doubt that I’d feel some magical connection with someone who has figured out my communication style and altered the wording of their question accordingly. The whole exercise is kind of self-defeating anyway–what happens if everyone tries to suit everyone else’s communication style? How could you figure out someone’s style if they were choosing their vocabulary based on what they think your style is?
As far as identifying nonverbal characteristics of the different communication styles, Losier often succumbs to that well-known “Facebook quiz” technique of creating generic descriptions that would apply equally to a variety of styles. I’m pretty sure it’s not just visual communicators who would be annoyed if you started and ended meetings late, or just auditory communicators who would prefer you not to speak to them in a harsh tone, or just kinesthetic communicators who would be hurt by feeling excluded, or just digital communicators who would like to be acknowledged for their contributions.
Since the book doesn’t contain much information about the concepts of neuro-linguistic programming in general, I checked out the relevant Wikipedia article and was not surprised to find it labeled a “largely discredited psuedoscience.”
[Why I read it: it was recommended to me by my friend, Joy.]
There’s no “I” in “Quitter,” my family has often joked…but according to Godin, there is and often should be. In this delightfully short book (which, at <80 pages, is the size most popular self-help books would be if they cut the B.S.), Godin makes a compelling case for the use of strategic quitting in the pursuit of the ambitious goal to be the “best in the world” at something. Godin advocates setting high goals, specialising rather than diversifying, persevering through the difficulties that weed out the competition (the Dip), and quitting dead-end/mediocre pursuits in order to avoid living the “sunk cost fallacy,” while freeing up resources for more successful endeavors. All this advice is little more than common sense applied with guts and the book does not pretend to provide some grand, fool-proof philosophy to get rich quick. Instead, it gives a little motivation and encouragement, while stimulating a thoughtful, courageous approach to business and career decisions.
[Why I read it: I think I came across it online or something…I can’t really remember. Anyway, the title caught my eye because I’ve always wondered if my aversion to quitting (and even aversion to starting things that I might be forced to quit at some point) limits my potential or is in fact a healthy approach to challenges. Godin has this to say on the subject: “Simple: If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start” (32), but I suspect that at that point, he’s writing more to serial quitters than to potentially over-cautious people. So the book was not completely conclusive on the subject, though it still definitely has something to offer both types of people.]
If only someone would write a self-help book for people who are too cynical and pessimistic for self-help books. Not that it would help.
Anyway, I skimmed through this but was feeling much too depressed to ponder any of the ponderous questions that lurked at the end of every chapter or to do any of the numerous thought-exercises. I know that makes this review about as legitimate as a review of a diet book that was read while eating Twinkies, but what can I say – when you’re not thinking positively, then “thinking more” (which is, practically speaking, the solution Robinson proposes) does not seem likely to help. Also, the book’s subtitle makes me want to puke. And the cover is too colourful.
[Why I read it: I ordered it from the library after watching an interesting interview with the author. However, it turned out to look a heck of a lot like your ordinary, bullshit self-help book and I was in a bad mood anyway, so I lost interest and only read it very late at night, when my brain was too tired to process the book on theoretical physics that I was also in the middle of.]