Monday, June 4

How to Live Smarter – James Parker

Parker's aim is to provide the kind of information that will immediately improve people’s lives, by discussing ways that we can not just work but live smarter. Divide thematically, chapters cover how to get people to do what you want them to do, how to successfully negotiate everything from a pay raise to a better rental deal, how to effectively increase your income (through better banking, jobs you can do to supplement your income, and gambling tips), excuses to get out of work/leave early/arrive late, time management strategies, public speaking tips, advice on picking good fruit and vegetables, directions for making great coffee and picking good wine, strategies to prevent hangovers, first aid kit suggestions, chess pointers, hints on when to suspect your partner is cheating and how to pick a liar, and a miscellaneous advice section.
I would have thought that a lot of the information was common knowledge (is there anyone who needed to be told that a wrinkled, bendable, shrivelled, soft, patchily yellow cucumber should be avoided?). On the other hand, I was surprised a Biggest Loser contestant didn’t know that package list ingredients in order of percentage (highest to lowest), and shocked that Maggie Beer didn’t know bananas become sweeter the longer they ripen (demonstrated by their brown speckles – she used to discard or freeze them as soon as they began the process), so maybe some of my common knowledge isn’t as common as I thought.
This is clearly self-published – there are a few typos, the web site addresses are all underlined, which interrupts the flow of reading, and some sentences are clumsily structured (eg “If they get a whiff of the fact that you are bluffing, your chances for them to concede to anything after that have just about plummeted.”) He also utilises one of my most hated hyperboles – that you can save “up to X or even more” – if you can save more then X isn’t “up to,” the second figure is.

The last chapter, a miscellany of advice, is fairly random and includes insights like “When it comes to relationships, the person who cares the least will always have control” and “The older you get the more you will come to realise this… that most people who work (wherever) aren’t particularly that great at their jobs. And nor do they care…” – the ‘and’ in “and nor” is unnecessary, I don’t know what’s with all the ellipses, and it’s hardly an earth shattering revelation that many people don’t care that they aren’t great employees.
These faults aside the book is generally worthwhile, in a hunt-and-peck fashion, and I don’t regret the purchase despite the fact that I once again broke my vow to refrain from buying new books. Shocking. Its purchase is justified (to me, at least) by the fact that I really will make my money back within a year – although I’m already frugal in some areas, this has made me look at areas of painless economy I hadn’t previously considered. I’m not looking for work at the moment, but I’ll certainly consult HTLS before my next interview and when I’m brushing up my CV, and I’ll be thoroughly reviewing the section on public speaking before my first conference presentation
later this year. – Alex

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