The Achievement Habit Review

The first line of this review is so hard to believe, but true!!

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life by Bernard Roth (HarperBusiness, $27.99 hardcover, 9780062356109, July 7, 2015)

Rarely can the audience for a book be accurately described as “everyone, at every age and stage of life” — but this is definitively true for The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth (professor of engineering and the co-founder and academic director of the at Stanford University). A professor for fifty-two years, Roth is a gifted teacher who shares what he has learned about creating a life with meaning.

His primary recommendation is to stop trying (which requires force) and instead take action (which is empowering) — and then Roth provides concrete examples and exercises for accomplishing any goal in any area of life.

In the spirit of Stanford’s, Roth challenges readers’ assumptions in order to reveal hidden possibilities.  He believes that achievement “…can be learned.  It is a muscle, and once you learn to flex it, there’s no end to what you can accomplish in life”(5).

He encourages readers to escape limiting excuses and become “doers” — by changing our language (moving from “but” to “and”), building resiliency (by reframing setbacks), focusing on the present moment collaborating with others and learning from personal experiences.

He recommends continually asking the questions “Who am I?” “What do I want?” “What is my purpose?” and allowing the answers (which will change over time) to dictate our intention and then attention.  By reframing problems into opportunities for growth, he believes true success is inevitable.  While many of these ideas are not new, Roth’s method for achieving them is fresh and applicable for all ages.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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Design the Life You Love Review

Design the Life You Love would be the perfect gift for anyone in a rut, at a crossroads, or about to embark on a new career path.

Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future by Ayse Birsel (Ten Speed Press, October 13, 2015)

From the opening line (“You Are Courageous!”) of Design the Life You Love, Ayse Birsel’s warm, affirming tone convinces readers that a deeply fulfilling life is possible.

Birsel, an award-winning designer and co-founder of the design studio Birsel + Seck, conducts acclaimed Design the Life You Love workshops and has now created a hands-on workbook to help people follow their dreams (although Birsel prefers the name “play” book, as evidenced by the cheerful cartoons and illustrations throughout.).

Birsel believes design is “about identifying and working within given constraints [i.e. – time, money, age, location] to arrive at new and better solutions.” To facilitate this, she presents a series of exercises that lead readers to first deconstruct their current lives, then shift their point of view to inspire change, and eventually reconstruct a new life that reflects their values and passions.  Each exercise guides readers, step-by-step, and uses both creative expression and linear analysis.

Birsel knows metaphor can be a conduit to visualizing new possibilities and provides many that have inspired changes in her own life.  Her personal experiences abound throughout Design the Life as she helps even the most literal to think figuratively — when inevitable self doubt creeps in, Birsel provides the perfect motivational story from her own life, as well as inspirational quotes from other great creative minds, to move readers through any blocks.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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Conscious Living, Conscious Aging Review

A great retirement gift, as well as a conversation-starter for book clubs enjoying retirement…

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter by Ron Pevny (Beyond Words, October 7, 2014)

Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. In Conscious Living, Conscious Aging, Ron Pevny provides concrete ways to make retirement an even more meaningful life stage than the years that came before. Pevny persuades readers that fulfilling emotional and spiritual needs is as important as tending to physical and financial security.

In his 50s, a number of events turned Pevny’s focus toward “conscious aging,” especially a request to create a program to help with the rite of passage into “sage-hood” and a heart arrhythmia caused by a tumor in his lung. The health crisis provided a sense of urgency and lead to him founding the Center for Conscious Eldering in 2010 in Durango, Colo.

Pevny believes aging can accentuate the best or the worst in an individual and helps readers clarify their purpose in order to live with intention rather than simply out of habit. Throughout, Pevny draws on well-established archetypes from Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung and each chapter focuses on a different entry point to this journey: experiencing nature, resolving regrets, asking for and accepting forgiveness, releasing the past, building a legacy, and so on.

At the end of each chapter, Pevny includes a “Story by the Fire,” highlighting how one individual successfully navigated the transition to retirement. In addition, concrete exercises and recommended resources guide readers to continue down the path begun with this book, which Pevny proposes is “not another academic work. Instead, I hope to offer you a guidebook to support your journey toward conscious elderhood.”

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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How to Love Wine Review


Great gift idea for wine lovers!

How to Love Wine: A Memoir and a Manifesto by Eric Asimov (William Morrow; July 2014)

Eric Asimov, the Chief Wine Critic of the New York Times, believes great wine is “made as a true expression of a terroir… [with] a story to tell about where it came from, both geologically and culturally, and about the people who shepherded the transformation of grapes to wine and that year in history.” How to Love Wine follows this same spirit and explores the influence of Asimov’s own “terroirs” — New York City; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and Paris, France — on his passion for food and wine and how he came to land his perfect job.

The actual memoir does not begin until page 50 and includes many detours: why he believes we are living in the Golden Age of Wine Drinking, why blind tastings, tasting notes, shelf talkers and scores are limiting, and why so many individuals are intimidated by something that should be purely pleasurable. He begins the work instead with an exploration of “wine anxiety” and why he hopes to replace this fear with a sense of ease and joy.

Asimov describes his memoir as “a gathering of impressions through experience” yet provides so much more to his readers, imparting confidence to freshman oenophiles with a concrete plan for learning to love wine. Just as the best wines reflect their roots yet resonate with the drinker, the best memoirs rise above one person’s experiences; How to Love Wine not only fulfills its titular promise, but is an engaging peek into a world so many already love.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for asking me to read and review this!

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Her Beautiful Brain Review

GREAT choice for a book club — paired with Still Alice, perhaps?

Her Beautiful Brain: A Memoir by Ann Hedreen (She Writes Press, September 16, 2014)

Unflinching, tragic, and compassionate all describe Her Beautiful Brain, Ann Hedreen’s memoir about how her life changed when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She begins in 1969 with the image of the typing class she took at age 12 — the mandatory “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” burned into the mind and fingers of anyone born before 1990.  This flashback transforms into an extended metaphor of gender, class, and identity as Hedreen muses about the secretarial destiny she and her mother shared at the start of their lives before becoming filmmakers, writers, and teachers: “For all the generations of women who typed to feed their children, to get through college, to survive, the words Quick Brown Fox said struggle and survival. They said that this life does not deserve to end in the jammed keys and black ink of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Hedreen then flashes forward to 1987, when she and her sister, as well as her mother, begin to realize during a trip to Haiti that her mother’s brain may not be working as well as it should.  Haiti becomes another metaphor of the “fourth world” Alzheimer’s forces her mother – and the entire family – to inhabit.

As Hedreen guides the reader through her mother’s illness, her use of metaphor and imagery is heart-breaking and powerful. Hedreen tells her own story first and foremost, but includes many vignettes from her mother’s life so the reader ends with a lasting and intimate portrait of her mother as well as the injustice of this devastating disease.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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