Newest Lifestyle Reviews

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Stuff Every Dad Should Know by Brett Cohen

4star.jpg Home and Family

For an object lesson in how important the little things are, consider this book's title. This is not one of those collections of trivia or whimsies for fathers to appear cool to their children (ten great variations on tag; 6,000 good records with which to ween your daughter off Justin Bieber), it's not that kind of knowledge on offer. Here instead is practical information on rearing your own little thing, and in a quiet way this pocket diary-sized volume has the cojones to expect to stick around being useful for a generation, as it starts at budgeting for children in the first place, and goes from the actual birth to marrying them off. Full review...

All in a Don's Day by Mary Beard

4star.jpg Autobiography

Mary Beard's latest collection, 'All in a Don's Day', of her assembled blog pieces from 2009 until the end of 2011, covers similar concerns to her previous selection, It's a Don's Life. Professor Beard is a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and became Classics Professor at there in 2004. She is also an expert in Roman laughter, an interest which she fully indulges in the pages of her TLS blog. In her latest collection she bemoans the parlous current state of both Education and the Academy, and makes witty observations on matters as various as television chefs, what and how to visit in Rome and the art and worth of completing references in an age when only positive things may be said about postgraduate job-seekers. Full review...

How to Be Selfish (and Other Uncomfortable Advice) by Olga Levancuka

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

It's strange how you come to read a particular book. A couple of days ago I was chatting to a dog-walking friend who retired about a year ago. He'd been surprised to find that the main problem in retirement was one which he hadn't anticipated: all his life he'd had to account for himself to somebody else and now he was struggling to discover what it was that he wanted to do. Then I found myself chatting to Olga Levancucka, author of How To Be Selfish - but she seemed like one of the most unselfish people I'd ever met. There was a book here waiting to be read! Full review...

When You're Falling, Dive by Mark Matousek

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

You never quite know what life is going to serve up next and even the happiest moments or saddest news can be turned around in a heartbeat. For the author Mark Matousek his down was learning he was HIV positive, while his up, a while later, was being informed that it wasn’t quite the death sentence originally imposed and that he had quite a bit of life left. In this book he looks at how you can find the good in the bad or, to quote the subtitle, the keys to 'Using your pain to transform your life'. The art of survival is an intriguing one. The same scale of trauma affects different people in different ways and this book seeks to draw on the wisdom of those who triumph in the face of adversity to share what they know and inspire the same behaviour in us. Full review...

The Hidden Geometry of Life by Karen French

2.5star.jpg Spirituality and Religion

The Hidden Geometry of Life aims to explore the esoteric and often mystical meanings contained in shapes and patterns [that] represent ideas and distil the essence of reality. This mystical angle was a little bit of a unpleasant surprise for this reader. I should have had a better look at Karen French's Amazon pages and previous work, but I was attracted by an exciting-sounding title, attractive cover and and references to author's art. Full review...

Feel Happy Now by Michael Neill

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Feel Happy Now is a dummy’s guide to happiness written by an NLP expert who Paul McKenna has dubbed 'The finest success coach in the world'. What makes this book stand out, perhaps, is the way the complexity is done away with, and everything is broken down to an accessible level without being too patronizing. Its expert concepts presented in layman speak and the result is a highly readable and accessible book regardless of your belief in the subject. Full review...

Make Yourself Immune to Heart Attack by Simon Oxford

3star.jpg Lifestyle

The older you get, the more likely it is that you will suffer from some form of heart disease or even die from it. Many deaths occur without warning in people who are apparently healthy - so it's not something that you can wait to be diagnosed and plan on doing something about at that stage. Whatever your age there's a real possibility that you can make a significant improvement in your health and improve the quality of your life. I came to read this book because family members of my generation were suffering severe heart problems and it was a wake-up call that was impossible to ignore. Full review...

The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

In decades gone by, educated workers in many industries could view their careers as an elevator – rising through the ranks of a company before stepping aside and settling into a comfortable retirement. In today's vastly different job market, with much less loyalty from both employers and employees, your career is more likely to follow the model of some promotions mixed in with frequent sideways moves to other companies and perhaps even completely different industries. Time, then, for a new guide to how to handle your employment prospects. Full review...

The De-Stress Diet: The Revolutionary Lifestyle Plan for a Calmer, Slimmer You by Charlotte Watts and Anna Magee

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Most people will recognise that excessive stress is not good for you. It's the cause of depression, high blood pressure, skin problems and insomnia - to name just a few problems from a very long list. There's also mounting evidence that chronic stress is responsible for excessive weight gain and not just because there's a tendency (er, yes, I can testify to this...) to turn to comfort eating. Too many stress hormones in the body encourage fat storage - particularly in that obvious and very-hard-to-shift area around the middle. The aim of the De-Stress Diet is to bring about a slimmer, calmer person with a better quality of life. Full review...

The Library Book by Anita Anand, Julian Barnes, Bella Bathurst, Alan Bennett and others

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I had better begin by saying that I had a vested interest in liking this book since I am a chartered librarian myself and so am wholeheartedly in support of saving our nation's public libraries. But you don't need to be a librarian to enjoy this book. It is rich with anecdotes from some wonderful writers and makes a pleasant read whether you're keen to save libraries or not. Full review...

Shapely Ankle Preferr'd: A History of the Lonely Hearts Advertisement by Francesca Beauman

5star.jpg History

You might think the Lonely Hearts ad a trivial matter. You might think it should appear in lower case and not be capitalised, but you'd be in disagreement with Ms Beauman, who gives a big L and a big H to it every time she writes of it in her survey of its history. What's more, she gets to write about a lot more than just the contents of the adverts in this brilliant book. Full review...

The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live by Roman Krznaric

5star.jpg History

'How should we live?' asks author Roman Krznaric. To answer this ancient question, he looks to history. 'I believe that the future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past', he says. Creating a book which is as full of curiosities as a Renaissance 'Wunderkammer', he has a stab at the big questions: love, belief, money, family, death. The result is a pot-pourri of delights which left this particular reader stimulated and invigorated. Full review...

The Question Book by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Most of us have probably made at least one of those end-of-the-year lists of the best books, albums and parties we have been to in the previous twelve months. But can you, with some effort, locate the one you made in 1987? Have you ever constructed a graph of your ups and downs in a given period, and then decided to expand it by separating emotional, intellectual, sexual and financial aspects and colour coding them? Have you made a list of all your lovers, bosses or friends and then rated them from 1 to 10 on several dimensions each? Do you have one of the books that list 100 things to do before you die or 500 books to read in your life (and ticked off the ones you have done)? Did you ever spend a whole evening and half of a night filling in dubious 'personality' questionnaires on the Internet? Have you ever doodled something, decided that it beautifully expresses the deepest essence of your personality and then proceeded to draw such icons for all your friends? Full review...

The Little Book Of Perfumes by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

5star.jpg Lifestyle

I have always admired people who seem to know about scent, those whose dressing tables are littered with bottles none of which flaunt the name of a major (or increasingly, minor) celebrity. Some of the bottles might be works of art in themselves, but the general understanding is that they’ve been bought not for their vessels, nor for their exclusive advertising campaigns, special offers or celeb endorsement, but for their evocative scent. Perfumery is clearly an art and a science and if your skills aren’t as honed as they might be, this is a wonderful little book to sink your teeth into as you’re guided through the field by two people very much in the know. Full review...

How to Write and Sell Great Short Stories by Linda M James

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Having read any number of books about crafting great stories, I thought I had had my fill and that there were no more books left that could bolster my enthusiasm and help me to get on with my writing. In short, I thought the only thing left that could motivate me was, well, me. Full review...

Following Atticus: How a little dog led one man on a journey of rediscovery to the top of the world by Tom Ryan

4star.jpg Pets

Tom Ryan is a middle-aged, stressed journalist, running his own newspaper, the Undertoad in Newburyport in America. His life is full of political intrigues and mayoral elections, boardroom deals and subterfuge and his life is full of challenges. He doesn't need a dog. He doesn't even particularly want a dog, but when a miniature schnauzer enters his life one day, everything changes. Full review...

It Could Have Been Yours: The enlightened person's guide to the year's most desirable things by Jolyon Fenwick and Marcus Husselby

4star.jpg Trivia

In a world of diamond-encrusted skulls, gold-leafed iPhones and luxury yachts ten a penny, of blingy shit (or should that be shitty bling?) it's a relief to know people are still spending money on unique one-offs that are more worthwhile. The records for costliest photo, artwork, musical instrument and manuscript have all been broken in the twenty four months leading up to this book's release. Our collators have scoured the press for those and other, similarly noteworthy auctions, and found what other people paid for what you didn't know you would have wanted given the money. Full review...

Furniture with Soul: Master Woodworkers and Their Craft by David Savage

5star.jpg Crafts

David Savage is a master furniture maker and one of the artists featured in the book, so he is not – as he says himself – a neutral observer and nor can he be neutral in choosing who to include in the book. Having said that, the pictures alone will tell you that he has chosen people who create furniture of great beauty and – often – originality. It's the text that makes the book shine, though – as it seeks not to give a critical appreciation of each man and one woman's work, but to look at what makes them tick, what drives them on and how they have handled the good times as well as the bad. It is, if you like, ten in-depth biographies of artists who work in a common medium and ten shorter pieces about those we should look out for in the future. Full review...

Ssh! Lose Weight in 20 Minutes by Alex Buckley

3star.jpg Lifestyle

After years of limited exercise combined with a love of fine food, Alex Buckley was known to his friends as Fat Al. He followed a number of diet plans to no effect before coming up with his own solution, which is outlined in this book. His message is basically an extended version of the long standing sound advice that to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more. Buckley's suggestions break this broad truth down into achievable micro steps. He provides tips on ways of sustaining weight loss by very gradually changing your behaviour. The book does not offer detailed recipes or a programme of food exclusion. It is very much about advice on small day to day choices and gradual change, written in a straightforward and easily accessible style. Full review...

No More Bingo Dresses: Using NLP to cope with breast cancer and other people by Rosie O'Hara

2.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I'd love to meet Rosie O'Hara. She sounds like a full-on, earthy lady who has more than a few tales to tell about her life to date. Rosie is a professional neuro-linguistic programming trainer in the Highlands of Scotland, and has already published an NLP-based self-help book. At the beginning of 2009, a routine mammogram turned up 'a little breast cancer'. Rosie set out in her very direct and determined way to put the cancer in its rightful place as a challenge in her life rather than a defining disaster and this feisty diary is the result. Full review...

The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It by Anthony T DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen

4star.jpg Home and Family

Rather than running around outdoors, going for bike rides and building dens, lots of children nowadays end up spending hours watching TV or playing computer games. Play times in school are often very regimented and in some schools certain games like 'British Bulldog' and 'Leapfrog' and even 'Tag' have even been banned. Children are discouraged from physical play, for fear that they will hurt themselves and also through the fear that those responsible for them will find themselves facing a lawsuit if someone does get hurt. This book aims to support the thinking that very physical play is good for children; that unless they face risks in their lives and learn to assess those risks, or experience a few bumps and bruises and learn to get up and carry on, then they will lack vital life skills for their future adult lives. Full review...

Sex, Meaning and the Menopause by Sue Brayne

5star.jpg Lifestyle

Things change as you get older. As men – and particularly women – approach their late forties and early fifties they expect that there will be physical changes, some more permanent than others, but they're frequently taken by surprise by the mental changes which occur. Women expect that the menopause will bring the end of menstruation (some looking at this more gratefully than others...) but fail to appreciate that they are moving into a different stage of their life. Looked at positively this can be the most fulfilling period of woman's lifecycle – and I doubt that there's a husband who would object to that! Full review...

One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Diane Ackerman's husband, Paul West, had been in hospital for three weeks with a kidney infection and was just rejoicing in the fact that he was to go home the next day. As Diane watched , Paul suffered a massive stroke. The effects were catastrophic, but worst of all, the man who had been a brilliant wordsmith was robbed of his power of speech and lost his extensive vocabulary. It's eight years since this happened and the intervening years have been a constant battle to improve Paul's speech and restore some joy to his life. There have been ups – and many downs – but despite a brain scan indicating that Paul might well be a vegetable he has since his stroke written books. His vocabulary will never be back to what it was, but it remains impressive and, strangely enough, many of the words which he finds easiest to use are those which he encountered a number of years ago. Full review...

When Will I Sleep Through the Night? An A - Z of Babyhood by Eleanor Birne

4.5star.jpg Home and Family

When it comes to parenting, I have discovered that a lot of people lie. They lie about sleep, about tantrums, about feeding and nappies and the effects of a screaming newborn on your marriage. There are books galore, and Mummy blogs, and tweeters all happily proclaiming how marvellous it all is, first of all being pregnant, then giving birth, and then raising the baby. It's all glowing skin and sunshine smiles and meeting friends for coffee. I quickly stopped reading anything baby-related when I was pregnant because I was sick as a dog for 5 months, I had an awful labour and that first year with my little girl was almost impossibly difficult and totally consumed with the horror of a non-sleeping baby. Now, four and a half years on from giving birth and (mostly) sleeping all night long I felt able to open up this latest baby book, mainly because the title roused such familiar feelings in me. Full review...

Green Living Guide by Hugh Bowring

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

The 'Green Living Guide' is a Magbook - so the format is like that of a magazine - and although it initially seems a little expensive for something that looks just like a magazine you quickly find, on opening, that it contains an enormous amount of interesting and useful information. Even already determined eco-warriors should find something of interest in this wide-ranging guide. Full review...

The Sex Diaries Project by Arianne Cohen

4star.jpg Lifestyle

It's often said 'there's nowt so queer as folk'. Surely this should be qualified as 'there's nowt so queer as folks' sex lives'. Arianne Cohen has made a major online database of testimony from people about their thoughts regarding sex - having it, not having it, having it with whom they're with, having it with those whom they're not with. And in every sense, the results can be exceedingly queer. Full review...

Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana

4star.jpg Lifestyle

Kama Sutra, then... What could I possibly say to introduce it that you don't already know or think you know?

For all that Kama Sutra is, it's no longer a guide to the art of pleasure. It's a fascinating historical document, and undoubtedly influential, but it's very much of its time and of its society. Try to follow all its suggestions and at best you'd never get laid again; at worst, you'll be up on a rape charge within a week. (After sending the nurse's daughter away, he takes the girl's maidenhead while she is alone, asleep and out of her senses...) Full review...

The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age by Jane Shilling

5star.jpg Autobiography

Middle-aged women disappear. They are not see on television, their lives do not appear in newspapers, the legions of novels that are written each year rarely feature them. At least, that is what the author Jane Shilling believes as she wakes up aged 47 to find the narrative of her contemporaries and their lives which she has been reading about and living in parallel with since leaving university has vanished. She looks in the mirror and sees a face she does not recognise. Even with a punishing regime of early bed, no alcohol and litres of water, it refuses to regain its youthful bloom. So she decides to take a magnifying glass to this particular moment in time, this journey between youth and old age. Full review...

Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, James Salter and Sian Reynolds

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

Translated from French this beautifully presented little book takes the reader into homes boasting book collections, large and small. Studded with succinct and appropriate quotations such as 'there is no better reason for not reading a book than having it' by Anthony Burgess. Full review...

The Longest Journey: Nine Keys to Health, Wealth and Happiness by Sandy Donaghy

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

How many self-help books have you read where the ideas all seem very good, but they've not been tested in the fire, so to speak? The end result seems good, but you suspect that the starting point wasn't all that disadvantageous and more to the point, the cynic inside you wonders if the motivation for writing the book was financial gain. Has it made you shy away from such books? Now, I want you to drop the cynicism, because what we have here is a book that's written from the heart and not the wallet and the only motivation in writing it was to help people. Unusual? Yup; it is. Full review...

Garlands, Conkers and Mother-Die: British and Irish Plant-Lore by Roy Vickery

5star.jpg History

For many centuries, plants have not only had practical uses as food, remedies, textiles and dyes, but have also symbolic and folkloric meaning in many different cultures. The term plant-lore has been coined to describe the profusion of the customs and beliefs associated with plants, and this book gathers together many of the plant-lore traditions of Britain and Ireland. Full review...

Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

Many many years ago, a man who was far too young to be the fusty, dusty RE teacher he was shaping to be, asked my best friend and I why we were each having sex with our girlfriends. Even aged fifteen I thought something along the lines of 'well, if he doesn't know by now, he never will', and listed that it was great fun, a very enjoyable sensation, showed an appetite for the relationship, and that sex proved the ultimate in bonding - how much closer, to be blunt, could you be to someone than actually inside them? I'll come clean now and admit said girlfriend was not real, but several have been since, and I have had heaps of fun finding out how - and perhaps why - women have sex. I was never to know, until now, there are 237 reasons for it. Full review...

Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey by Karen Wilkin

4star.jpg Lifestyle

I'm all in favour of Edward Gorey becoming a bigger name, especially here in the UK, where his output is certainly less lauded than in his native USA. It's evident from the bright, glossy pages here that he was an extraordinary talent. Polymath and know-all in real life, in his ink drawings he can show the complexity of someone like Dore, while using his draughtsmanship to pen macabre whimsy, like an old-fashioned love-child of Mervyn Peake and Edward Lear. Full review...