A useful grief guide with groundbreaking ideas, expert advice and a compassionate tone.

THRIVING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES

EIGHT CROSS-CULTURAL STRATEGIES TO NAVIGATE LIFE'S ORDEALS

Combs offers a practical guidebook for coping with setbacks and loss.

Combs (Worst Enemy, Best Teacher, 2005, etc.) uses her extensive experience with cross-cultural conflict resolution to explore ways to survive tough times, even if they feel like conflicts “with the gods.” Although her expertise is evident, she avoids unnecessary jargon and offers down-to-earth, realistic advice that can be used in most difficult situations. Her humor and the sensibleness of her suggestions elevate this work above many in the self-help genre; not only is it useful, it’s a pleasure to read. Combs makes the innovative argument that people may be using excellent techniques to cope with grief, but they’ll still likely fail if they’re using those techniques at the wrong time. Thus, the organization of the book divides difficult times into four seasons, emphasizing that the best coping strategies for one season are not necessarily appropriate for the other seasons. The cycle begins with autumn, when things that have been cherished or people who have been loved “fall” away. Autumn is also the season for envisioning positive consequences, perhaps using a mantra or prayer to increase focus on those potential outcomes. And although American culture emphasizes action and confronting problems head-on, Combs cautions that during winter, people need to rest and gather strength. In spring, celebration and ritual are important in order to mark the ending of one phase of life and the transition to another. Summer represents the cycle’s end, when people are ready to move forward from their difficult circumstances and re-engage fully in life and relationships. In her discussion of each season, Combs offers specific recommendations for how to best cope with the emotions and tasks of that season. She provides multiple examples from countries and cultures, and she enlivens the text further with quotations from people of various ages, ethnicities, eras and professions. The uplifting conclusion is both a summary and inspiration.

A useful grief guide with groundbreaking ideas, expert advice and a compassionate tone.

Pub Date: July 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466202993

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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