Archive for the ‘ Classic Books ’ Category

Oldie But Goodie: ‘Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful’

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Recently, my neighbor told me her 4-year-old was making her crazy. I was all like, “That’s her job!” After I advised her to buy ear plugs and a fifth of vodka, I thought of something else I could tell her.

An old book, part of a series, helped me tremendously through that age of outbursts, potty language, independence, defiance, earnestness and cuteness. I’ve had three 4-year-olds, and I found that sometimes old-school advice is the best. That’s where the book Your Four-Year-Old comes in. First published in 1976 (when I was 2), it has a groovy, John-Denverish tone. The deceased author, Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., must’ve been a relationship miracle worker. After reading her advice–which is basically all about empathy and kindness–I understood my wooly preschoolers and treated them better.

Here is some of my favorite advice:

1. Four loves many things, but his emotions tend to be definitely extreme. He loves a lot and he hates a lot…One can never be quite certain what it will be that will stimulate his hate, but whatever it is, his feeling should be fully respected, at least within reason.

2. Don’t feel that you should be teaching your four-year-old to read. [This is a big competition thing in my town.] Be sure that any interest in reading or numbers that may be shown is his and not merely your own.

3. The best way to calm Four down when some of his wilder ways (his profanity, his boasting, his supersilly way of talking) bother you is to ignore him…An opposite technique, perhaps equally effective, is to join in and enjoy.

Full of insight, this book fully explains why this age group behaves the way they do. The advice is so retro that it seems new all over again. My neighbor agreed when she returned the copy I lent her. She said, “Thank you. The ’70s were so much more relaxed. This was very helpful.”

Reading Your Four-Year-Old makes me want to sing the song, Sunshine on My Shoulders. And it made me–and my kids–much happier.



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‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon May Finally Hit Screen

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Finally! After 20 years, Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander series has a good chance of hitting the screen. What’s Outlander you say? Only the book you must pick up now if you never have. Forget that it’s 21 years old; it’s required reading for bookworms. It’s a wondrous swirl of history, romance, time travel, hot men, passion, deception, war, witchcraft, intrigue and more. This book does it all in 688 sharply written pages. I picked it up last summer and wished it would never end.  Luckily, the series contains seven books with an eighth, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, due out early next year.

Outlander is about a plucky nurse, Claire, who’s reconnecting with her doting husband after World World II in 1947. They visit Scotland on a romantic trip when she finds herself accidentally swept through a stone circle and sent back to 1743. The Highland Scots, embroiled in a bitter battle with the British, take Claire in. Then she meets on of the best male characters ever created: James Fraser. She is forced to marry him, and their fight to stay alive begins. The biggest question is, will she go back to 1947 when she has the chance? Oh, it’s delicious.

So yesterday Sony Pictures TV closed a deal for the rights to the series. Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ron Moore will write the adaptation, according to Deadline. The team will take the project to cable television networks this week.

This could be great. Who will play Claire? Jamie? And the evil Jack Randall? I hope the producers and writers can make this happen and do the series justice. They have taken on a daunting and magical task. This TV show could be fantastic–I’m not even going to think about the word flop.

In the meantime, seriously read the book. Here’s a fan-made trailer to give you a sneak peak into author Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant and fascinating Outlander world.

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Author of ’7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Dies While His Great Advice Lives On

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Stephen Covey, a man who taught millions of people to make their home and work lives better, died Monday at age 79 in Utah.

I bought The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, three times since college. Obviously, I need to work on my effectiveness–or at least my organizational skills. But I kept going back to Covey’s book because I needed the his influential, groundbreaking advice. Other people are revisiting this seminal work because overnight, since his passing, this title has once again become the #1 best-seller in the self-help category on Amazon. If you like Stephen Covey’s work, also check out Cheryl Strayed‘s (author of Wild) new advice book called Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

In the meantime, it’s always a good time to read Covey’s original and excellent 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

1. Be Proactive
Highly effective people make decisions to improve their lives instead of constantly reacting to external influences.
2. Begin with the End in Mind
Develop a personal mission statement and work on long-term goals based on your personal principles.
3. Put First Things First
Spend time doing what fits your personal mission. Prioritize your roles in life and make time for the important ones.
4. Think Win-Win
Try to find relationships and answers to problems that are beneficial to everyone involved. If you can’t come up with a win-win, don’t make a deal.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
This is the most important principle of personal relations. Listen to the other person’s perspective first, then put yourself in her shoes.
6. Synergize
Use everyone’s good ideas to come up with the best solutions.
7. Sharpen the Saw
Don’t just work, work, work. Take time out for physical, mental, social and spiritual development.

Covey will continue to help and inspire people for years to come. Advice this good lives on and on.

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How Fast Do You Read?

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

As a book reviewer, often critiquing two releases a week for Publisher’s Weekly, I started reading faster than a flame flash in a bonfire. Before all of that, I was a snail, easily taking a month to finish 300 pages. I liked it that way. I savored my favorites, ripe titles like Pride and Prejudice, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Help. My eyes relished beautiful and funny phrases like:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” –Pride and Prejudice

I highlighted favorite passages to go back and peruse them. When I adored a book (oh, Anne Rice and your Interview with a Vampire), I slowed down to make my literary love affair last longer.

Once I learned to speed read–by necessity–those laid-back book days were toast. But my romance with words remains white hot. I love books now more than ever because I get to enjoy so many of them. I have to concentrate–i.e. work–a little harder, but I retain as much emotion and meaning as I did before. Reading is just like holding yourself up in the plank position, or engaging in any other form of torture exercise. The more you do it, the better you get. I am fairly certain my eyes sweat.

Now I know how long a book will take before I start it. I can finish most of them in four hours or less–as long as they’re around 350 pages. I’m hoping to review Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing for you next week. The pages are large and the type is small, so it’s going to take about five hours. I’ll keep track.

In the meantime, I timed my reading speed with this cool app from Staples. My family and friends will not believe my score–I posted it in the image at left. They call me Piddle because I complete tasks like showering, eating and getting out the door at the steady speed of a sloth. I can barely get my kids to summer camp on time, but according to this website, I can read War and Peace in 20 hours. Where was this ability when I struggled through my lit classes in college? Just think of all the money I could’ve save on Cliffs Notes.

I’ll write another post soon with tips on reading faster. But for today, take the test. How fast do you read?

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