The new year is traditionally a starting gate for fresh beginnings and second chances, a time to regroup and travel the roads not yet taken. Also, the new year can spark the resolution to learn things and apply them in real ways. With those high-minded concepts in the forefront, these titles might help get things going in 2016.
Let’s start with some practical fun: “Men’s Health: The Big Book of Uncommon Knowledge,” edited by Jeff Csatari (Rodale, $25, 304 pages) is a guys’ manual for “navigating life with skill and swagger.” Wisely, it begins with a timeless quote from Greek philosopher Socrates: “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”
Taking off from there, the editors of Men’s Health magazine explore the nooks and crannies of how-to knowledge to help us guys with the day-to-day, explaining in brief text and showing in illustrations how to cradle a baby, look good in a suit, catch a snake, thicken thinning hair, write a love letter, streamline a smartphone, score a hotel room upgrade, and so much more in so many categories.
Also: “10 Ways To Grow Gray Matter,” “How Beer Makes You Fat,” “How To Cook the Perfect Burger” and “How To Break Into Your Own Home.” Oh, and the one how-to for guys that is most appreciated by their wives and girlfriends: housecleaning.
“1,000 + Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently” by Marc and Angel Chernoff (CreateSpace, $27, 418 pages): As rah-rah and (sometimes) smugly definitive as their guidance can be, the husband-wife “life coaches” offer plenty of helpful perspectives and motivation well worth considering, all organized in bite-size pieces.
For instance, the “10 Things You Must Give Up To Be Successful” include “trying to be perfect,” “waiting,” “blaming everyone else” and “letting others decide what you can and can’t do.” Also, among the “20 Bad Habits Holding Good People Back” are “letting one dark cloud cover the entire sky,” “denying personal responsibility” and “expecting your significant other to be perfect.” The Chernoffs maintain a self-help blog, “Marc and Angel Hack Life” at www.marcandangel.com.
“Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk In a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle (Penguin, $28, 448 pages): Sociologist-psychologist, MIT professor and “media scholar” Turkle takes no prisoners in her well-documented perspective on the “e-life”: We are so involved with our e-devices and talking through machines that we’ve lost the art of conversation and, thus, our human connections with our co-workers, friends and families. The “new normal” really isn’t, she writes, and offers “guideposts” to help “reclaim places for conversation” and re-establish actual human-to-human interaction.
One paragraph about the “illusion of multitasking” is particularly revealing: “When we think we are multitasking, our brains are actually moving quickly from one thing to the next, and our performance degrades for each new task we add to the mix. We think we are doing better and better, when actually we are doing worse and worse.” Listen to her Ted Talk at www.ted.com.
Physicians Mehmet “Dr. Oz” Oz and writing partner Michael Roizen continue their super-informative and approachable “You” series with “You: Staying Young,” offering practical medical advice for “looking good and feeling great” (Scribner, $20, 432 pages).
Using non-threatening cartoon-like illustrations coupled with straightforward tips, lists and sidebars, the doctors identify and explain 14 causes of aging and strategies for avoiding or conquering them. No surprise that walking and getting enough sleep are still vital tools in the box. Oh, and there’s good news about dark chocolate: “Recent studies show it may help lower blood pressure.” Their two other books are “You: The Owner’s Manual” and “You: On a Diet.”