Book Review: Death Expands Us: An Honest Account of Grief and How to Rise Above it, by Stephanie Harris

cv_death_expands_usAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

On 6 April 2009 Stephanie Harris’ life was turned upside down when her thirty-three-year-old brother Brendon suddenly and mysteriously died. The first Stephanie knew he was ill was when her mother rang to tell her that he had been hospitalised during a business trip to Buenos Aires. The next morning she got phone call from her older sister Teresa to say he was dead.

The sudden death of a much-loved family member or friend brings all sorts of emotions to the surface – emotions that seem at times illogical and at times frightening with the intensity of these feelings.

I have read a number of self-help books the years where a close family member has died – sometimes expected and other times suddenly. I thought this book was well laid out with the grief process explained. Every person reacts differently to death and grief. No way is the right or wrong way. One book I read a number of years ago sprung to mind, Elizabeth Kulber-Ross’ On Death and Dying. The message is more or less the same but from a different perspective – of someone actually going through it. It bought all sorts of emotions back for me as I was reading it. I was able to rationalise how I had grieved at particular times through the sudden death of a much-loved family member.

I recommend this book as a tool in the grieving process. What I really liked about it was that even though Stephanie is a Grief Coach, she still sought help with her grieving. None of us like to think that perhaps there are times in which professional help is necessary.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Death Expands Us: An Honest Account of Grief and How to Rise Above it
by Stephanie Harris
Published by Lioncrest Publishing
ISBN 9780473388171

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Book Review: I Don’t Have Time, by Audrey Thomas and Emma Grey

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_I_don't_have_time.jpgIt took quite a long time to read this book, rather ironically, because it contains material that needs to be well thought over. It is written, according to Audrey and Emma, the authors, for ‘women of a certain age, splashing dramatically in a sea of self-inflicted over-commitment’ who need to realise that they do have time to do the things that will add satisfaction to their lives. The sub title of the book is “15 -minute ways to Shape A Life You Love”.

A quick flick through it offers some quick-flick ideas common to self-help literature, and this book fits into that genre. But a deeper reading reveals that Audrey and Emma have lived much of what they write about. It has an honesty about it which appeals and which prevents the material from being slick or glib. As some other reviewers noted, this is ‘a time management book for real people by real people.’

It’s a book that not only encourages us to look for ways to engage in activities that we enjoy, but gives us the motivation and energy to do so by recounting the success of others, detailing their efforts and their thoughts. It covers areas of life that matter most to us, exploring the excuses we make to keep us from achieving happiness and satisfaction. I enjoyed it even though I felt older than the intended readers (it is primarily, but not exclusively, written for the younger woman overwhelmed by the pressures and self-inflicted commitments of career building, child-rearing and home-making), because it enabled me to see how I’d managed my life through that time, and feel a little smug that I’d come through it reasonably well-adjusted.

Having said that, I enjoyed it also because of its approach. It appeals to the person we are, to the humanity we share and to the burdens and problems we suffer under, and it offers solutions that we can see will work.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

I Don’t Have Time
by Audrey Thomas and Emma Grey
Published by Exisle Publishing
ISBN 9781775593218

Book Review: 101 Ways to Live Well, by Victoria Joy and Karla Zimmerman

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_101_ways_to_live_wellDoes the world need another little self-care book? I’m not entirely convinced, although if you’d like something positive to dip into during somewhat turbulent times (Quakes! Deadlines! Trump!) this book might appeal.

The authors suggest that these bite-size tips are perfect for commute time, a lunch break, or even the checkout queue. There’s a tiny wee clock on each page indicating how long each activity is likely to take. Times range from 30 seconds – to take a deep mindful breath and refocus – to 2 hours to ‘watch a mindful movie’. Mix it up a bit: take 1 minute (to wash your hands and ‘win the germ war’!), 20 minutes, for a Sun Salutation yoga practice to ‘get the blood flowing…and awaken the whole body’, or a leisurely 30 minutes to listen to music to ‘improve your mood and confidence’. Most activities take around 5 minutes: realistic and manageable. My favourite tip? How to ease a headache by a gentle hair-pulling technique that reduces tension.

The page layout takes you straight to the point – a snappy title at the top of each page, followed by a summary of the activity or tip, within a circle. Below, a single paragraph telling you everything else you need to know. If you’d like to learn more about a particular topic, some pages have web links. Simple line drawings provide additional information about activities such as the yoga poses. (I wasn’t quite supple enough to master the Camel…)

There are several simple recipes (eg for smoothies, fruit and herb infusions, and ‘low-cal’ hot chocolate), as well as affirmations, encouragement, and acupressure advice. There are suggestions for improving posture, easing neck pain and even feigning self-confidence – and many other topics too.

However, although the pages are numbered, there is no index. This may frustrate readers looking for a particular exercise or activity. And the Table of Contents is sparse – offering only a choice of Home, Work, Play, Relationships and Travel.

My impression is that the book is primarily aimed at office-based women in paid work. But not all readers will sit at desks all day, or need alternatives to ‘weekly office cupcake runs’. (Nor will everyone need tips claiming to ease menstrual pain and reduce PMS symptoms – or want to engage in a tickle battle.)

The cover is a tranquil aqua colour. It has folds at either side that could be used for bookmarking favourite pages.

The book would, perhaps, be a useful gift for a colleague, a recuperating friend, or a new parent – someone who’s time-poor but motivated to make small incremental changes to set them on a path to improved wellbeing.

Reviewed  by Anne Kerslake-Hendricks

101 Ways to Live Well: Mindfulness, Yoga and nutrition tips for busy people
by Victoria Joy and Karla Zimmerman
Published by Lonely Planet, 2016
ISBN 9781786572127

Book Review: Fitting in Standing Out: Finding Your Authentic Voice at Work, by Harold Hillman

Available in bookshops nationwide.cv_fitting_in_standing_out

I wish for many things in life – an abundance of money, the perfect wedding, my novels published and successful, good health, wealth, not necessarily in that order of course, but reading this self-help book by former American and now New Zealand citizen Harold Hillman has me wishing for two things:

  1. That I had read this influential work before leaving a job that just wasn’t working out, and
  2. That my former boss, the owner of that business I left, would read it and start utilising the exercises within to make my former workplace the unified success it truly could be.

Fitting In Standing Out, from the author of The Impostor Syndrome, is designed to help the reader whether employee, manager, owner etc, determine where they currently sit on the continuum of the workplace dynamic, and how to find the ‘sweet spot’, the place where your authentic voice at work is.

Using case studies, Hillman highlights four needs for business relationships to work effectively – Trust, Affiliation, Affirmation and Growth – those of the business, and those of the employees. The trick is learning how to both fit in and how to stand out. The ‘when’ is important too. And apparently, it’s all about the give and yake. Employees need to learn to be good at both, and so do the heads of any business. How well do you adapt and adjust when you start a new job? How well do you induct and introduce a new member of staff? Both are equally important in getting a workplace efficient and humming.

As well as case studies, the book comes equipped with activity sheets to help the reader work out where they stand in their current workplace and where they may need help to achieve what they really want to achieve in the workplace.

All in all, this is a great book. It truly is one that should be introduced into the workplace, starting at the very top with the owner or boss. Be authentic in your approach, walk your talk, and inspire others to do the same. Go out and get this book and make it part of your business practise today.

Reviewed by Penny M Geddis

Fitting in Standing Out: Finding Your Authentic Voice at Work
by Harold Hillman
Published by Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775538288

Book Review: Finding your Element, by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica

This book is in bookstores nowImage

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognised thinker.  I first discovered him when an animated version of a TED talk he gave was shown at a course I was attending, and I was seriously impressed – so I jumped at the chance to review his latest offering. The TED talk here is definitely worth a watch if you have any interest in the education system.

Finding Your Element is a companion book to an earlier publication, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, and has been written in response to feedback from readers to the first book – which seems to have been in the vein of “this is great – but how do I do it?”

Finding Your Element is a practical book, designed to walk you through the process of finding what makes you feel happy, fulfilled and has meaning for you – your own element, where your passions and aptitudes meet.  It’s perfect for anyone who is unsure of what their work future holds or who feels stuck in a rut – for anyone aged 18 -80, or beyond.  It’s not necessarily focussed towards career choices, although that is the most obvious application.

Robinson’s style is friendly and authoritative; he presents a large number of interesting case studies to illustrate the points he’s making, and there are regular exercises to complete to provoke your thinking and help you come to your own conclusions.  The exercises use a multitude of learning styles – this fits with Robinson’s own views on creativity and learning styles – so the book does not subscribe to a one-way-fits-all mode of self-discovery.

As someone who is already working within their current element, the book was more an affirmation of my own decisions and situation than an awakening.  Finding Your Element was definitely worth a read though; and the final chapter, “Living a Life of Passion and Purpose” is a fantastic recipe for living a good life, regardless of your age, stage, or where you are in terms of finding your element.

Review by Rachel Moore

Finding your Element
by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica
Published by Penguin
ISBN  9781846148071