Self-Help / Relationships
by Shelli Chosak
Idea/Concept: Different parenting styles are discussed, as well as the implications of each, and how such approaches to raising children have invariably significant impacts on a child's psychological growth. The author invites readers to reflect on their own childhood experiences and relationships with their parents, in order to consciously shape their parenting styles.
Prose: The author utilizes clear, polished prose that speaks plainly to parental concerns, questions, and uncertainties, while communicating valuable insights and referencing abundant secondary sources. Anecdotal examples are relatable and endearing, while digestible paragraphs provide brief, but thought-provoking insights.
Originality: This book stands apart from other guides aimed at conscientious parents, through its broad-ranging and comprehensive content. The author strikes an effective balance between informational content and personal reflections, while self-assessments and questionnaires provide an interactive element.
Execution: The text is well organized and self-contained in such a way that it does not need to be read as a traditional book. Readers will welcome the ease of reading and the ability to zero in on particular topics of interest.
by Heidi Schauster
Idea/Concept: Nourish: How to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Self offers readers an empowering guide to eating mindfully, embracing body positivity, and practicing compassionate self-care.
Prose: Schauster's prose is warm, encouraging, and informed. She integrates secondary sources to further underscore her already well-supported ideas about re-framing relationships with food.
Originality: The concept of "ditching dieting" is an increasingly familiar one, but Schauster's advice for readers is enhanced with thoughtful analysis of societal messages about body ideals, as well as illuminating insights into the psychological underpinnings of disordered eating.
Execution: Schauster offers a valuable perspective on the role that food plays in our lives and the many ways that individuals' relationships with eating can be reflective of emotional traumas and negative associations.
by Lanae St.John, DHS, CSC, ACS
Idea/Concept: St. John, a sex educator and mother, offers a cogent, warm, and good-humored guide for parents preparing for the inevitable talk with their children about sex and sexuality.
Prose: The author ably strikes a balance between an assuring, casual tone, with one more informational and instructive. She relates to parents' uncertainties by sharing her own experiences speaking to her children about sex. In addition to addressing topics of body development and intercourse, she speaks candidly about how to navigate topics relating to pleasure, consent, and societal notions about virginity, among many other topics.
Originality: St. John wisely approaches the topic of the 'the sex talk' with the understanding that parents often need an education, too. Her work is sensitive, progressive, and highly readable.
Execution: This nuanced guide supplies parents with valuable factual information about human development and sexuality, along with genuine advice for parents on how to teach their children in a way that is honest and factual. In the process, St. John urges parents to address their own ingrained anxieties, misconceptions, and possible biases.
by Eileen Nauman
Concept/Idea: Nauman's Walking the Land advises readers on how best to connect and coexist with nature, particularly as wild spaces disappear. The author's guide is highly spiritual, and draws from her own Cherokee upbringing as well as numerous other spiritual, mythical, and metaphysical sources and traditions.
Prose: Nauman's prose is fast-paced, expansive, and passionate. She writes lyrically and energetically about approaches readers might take to become better attuned to nature and, in effect, themselves.
Originality: Nauman's primary focus is on providing readers with the tools they might need to connect spiritually with the wilderness and to broaden their senses and perceptions. Few titles are focused so expressly and extensively on the topic of becoming grounded in and communicating with nature.
Execution: The development of the subject is well-balanced. Nauman convincingly establishes herself as an authority on the methods she introduces, while offering readers engaging storytelling.
by Sally Powis-Campbell
Idea/Concept: The book is well-ordered, with fun and inclusive illustrations. The worksheets have plentiful space for answering the questions posed and their placement next to the relevant points allows for clarity and gratifying takeaways.
Prose: Although this work is sometimes repetitive in its diction, the author generally writes warmly and concisely, with helpful subheads and an even flow of information.
Originality: The topic of mindful or intentional parenting is gaining in popularity. This work stands apart from other titles through its explicit inclusion of fathers, diverse images and decorative embellishments, as well as a greater focus on practical, dynamic guidance.
Execution: The author focuses significantly on actionable practices designed to assist parents in improving their communication skills, reducing stress, and finding purposeful solutions. The lively, interactive format invites readers to sample different approaches to mindful parenting, while encouraging creative exploration.
by Denise Bossarte
Idea/Concept: In an eloquent and empathetic manual, Bossarte recounts her own traumatic experience with childhood sexual abuse before laying out a blueprint for other survivors to heal themselves. Emphasizing that the work is not a “tell-all” of her own abuse, but instead a helping resource, Bossarte offers tangible strategies for readers to reclaim their lives and move forward.
Prose: Bossarte writes with fierce candor as she shares her memories of her abuse and its enduring impact on her life. She freely expresses her rage, her feelings of confusion and loathing, and how the experience of abuse forever changed her. The book’s tone transitions into one more pragmatic, as the author shares tips and suggestions for readers to seek help, self-reflect, and pursue healing through a range of activities.
Originality: Books devoted to the topic of sexual abuse aren’t uncommon. Bossarte’s book is unique in that the author comes at her awareness through personal experience, which she openly shares with readers. Bossarte’s integration of questions for self-reflection invites readers to be proactive in their own healing process.
Execution: Bossarte’s advice for abuse survivors ranges from heartfelt assurances to more concrete suggestions for working through particular challenges. Bossarte gently instructs readers on confronting an abuser or family member who had knowledge of the abuse; dealing with triggering circumstances; and piecing together fractured memories, among other topics.
by Hank Quense
Idea: Quense's pitch with this book -- an author who has self-published many books writing a guide to authors looking to self-publish their own -- is sharply honed, and the resulting book offers exactly what its audience would be seeking. Quense anticipates the pitfalls and mistakes first-time self-publishers face, and he offers clear, concrete advice for avoiding them, bolstered by strong examples from his own career.
Prose: Quense's prose is unfussy and direct, just what is needed for such a volume. He's also to-the-point, never wandering off topic or attempting to pad the manuscript. Quense emphasizes the urgency of working on a manuscript with editors and sensitivity readers, and it's clear on each polished page that he practices what he preaches.
Originality: There are certainly other how-to books surveying the same field, but what's most original and helpful in Quense's volume is its dedication to offering writers a clear step-by-step guide to their self-publishing journey. Quense organizes the volume chronologically, describing the tasks an author should attend to five months before publication, then four months before publication, and so forth. This approach is unique and helps prevent the task at hand from being overwhelming. Another factor separating Quense's guide from other how-to books: Quense is frank about costs, and he makes no unrealistic promises about outcomes.
Execution: Quense is strong in explaining what self-published authors need to do and also demonstrating why these steps matter. Even authors averse to, say, establishing a social-media presence, are likely to find the advice here persuasive and manageable. Making it all "manageable" could be the book's greatest strength -- and it could only be improved in that regard with a more thorough table of contents or topic-driven index. The structure makes the book somewhat less accessible than it might be to authors who just want advice on one topic, like the difference between a publisher and packager or how to find an artist to design a cover.
Blurb: Concise and bursting with practical advice, How to Self-Publish and Market a Book delivers exactly what its title promises, with clear eyes and little fat.
by Michael Delman
Idea/Concept: Your Kid's Gonna Be Okay is a practical and engaging handbook for parents that provides guidance for parents on communicating effectively with their children. Delman offers thoughtful tips for promoting healthy social and organizational skill development.
Prose: The tone is conversational and accessible. Organizationally, the work flows clearly and is easy to navigate. The narrative balances genuine advice with concrete suggestions for practical application.
Originality: The book's originality lies in its holistic approach. Delman provides insights from the author’s own experiences as an educator, while drawing from and synthesizing existing research and resources.
Execution: Delman's book is very well executed, providing insightful knowledge for adults striving to nurture the growth and healthy development of their children. Delman writes with confidence and compassion, ultimately delivering sensible and relevant advice.
Blurb: A book of immense value to parents and educators alike.
by Cathy Wild
Idea/Concept: Wild offers a clear, compelling guidebook to understanding, channeling, and embracing creativity, as well as for connecting with internal personal truths.
Prose: The author's prose is balanced, straightforward, and layered with intriguing references to authors, artists, scientists, and other influential individuals. Wild writes about her own journey with candor, vulnerability, and clarity.
Originality: Wild takes a unique approach to the topic of creativity by integrating her personal experiences as both an artist and counselor into her far-ranging discussion.
Execution: This manual blends inspiring and thought provoking ideas with more hands-on, experiential exercises designed for readers to harness their own creativity. Solidly organized and highly readable, individuals who are in a creative slump or are on a quest for personal discovery, will find much to use and value here.
Insider's Guide to Quality, Affordable Healthcare: Practical Strategies to Navigate Our Complex System and Save Moneyby Jeffrey Foster
Idea/Concept: A pair of physicians draws upon all their institutional and practical knowledge to write a frank, comprehensive, up-to-date guide for patients navigating America's healthcare system, including many lists of vital questions patients should ask their care providers, and covering the ACA, COBRA, Medicaid, and other coverage options without including a trace of politics, proving to be an immensely helpful text. The book lays out with forceful clarity the many points patients should consider before selecting a doctor or hospital, electing to undergo surgery, seeking a second opinion, or being prescribed a medication; this is an urgently necessary book.
Prose: The authors write admirably direct, clear prose that's always grammatically sound and stripped of jargon, emotion, and ambiguity. They explain key terms at every step and guide readers with strong topic sentences, helpful summaries, and clearly labeled section breaks. The lists of questions to ask healthcare providers in various circumstances are practical and helpful, as are the many bulleted lists of steps or considerations readers should make when facing healthcare decisions or waiting in an emergency room. During some longer explanatory passages, however, such as the examination of the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" of the Affordable Care Act, the carefully dispassionate tone does nothing to enliven dull, technical material. Fortunately, most of the book covers practical, immediate concerns.
Originality: The authors' broad advice (assemble a personal healthcare record; seek second opinions; have a personal advocate) is familiar in outline, but "Insider's Guide to Quality, Affordable Healthcare" offers much that is unique -- and uniquely helpful. The authors prove especially adept at explaining, without finger pointing, why the healthcare system is the way that it is, and how within that often dehumanizing system readers can still find wats advocate for themselves or their loved ones. Finally, the authors cover many complicated real-life situations that other general health books might not, including sections with titles like "How to Stop an Impaired Elderly Parent’s Right to Drive," "What You Can Expect If You have a Prescribed Opioid," and "What Can Be Done to Decrease Your Risk?" with regard to bacterial antibiotic resistance.
Execution: Insider's Guide to Quality, Affordable Healthcare offers exactly what its title promises. The volume is shrewdly laid out for ease of use, and it bursts with both generalized and highly specific practical advice that will likely prove beneficial to any reader.
by Nathanael Garrett Novosel
Idea/Concept: Novosel tackles an enormous topic--no less than the meaning of life itself--and distills it into concepts and actionable steps that readers can personalize and embrace.
Prose: The author's prose style is quite clear and evenly presented. By organizing the guide into broad thematic sections, Novosel allows for an uncluttered and relatively brisk reading experience.
Originality: Questions about life's purpose lie at the root of a great many books, but few as concretely lay out a blueprint for discovering--or making--meaning.
Execution: Inevitably, Novosel's guide may be accused of oversimplification. While this may be valid, by positing that meaning making is an individualistic exercise--and providing thought-provoking questions and prompts for further self-discovery--Novosel delivers a gratifying path to fulfillment.
by Jacqui Letran
Idea/Concept: An adolescent may not understand the underlying reasons for self-defeating behavior, a topic this exceptional book explores in clear detail. The text is perfectly slanted toward teenagers, but parents of teens and distressed adults will also find this material worthy of pursuit.
Prose: Conversational, friendly, and approachable, the tone to this workbook/guide encourages a slow immersion in a self-discovery process that may be uncomfortable. This carefully implemented procedure sparks curiosity and desire to resolve all that is wrong in one’s psyche, though at times it repeats direction and relies heavily on hypothetical questions.
Originality: Self-help textbooks for adolescents may inundate the literary marketplace, but this outstanding title surpasses the majority in its creative yet uncomplicated presentation of life-altering advice. A winner stands behind this valuable toolbox, a gleaming treasure chest for anyone who needs a psychological boost.
Execution: In this second book of Words of Wisdom for Teens, the conscious versus subconscious mind is addressed in simple language suitable for goal-oriented youth. Topnotch analogies and real-life examples make complex functions of the brain easy to comprehend, allowing a troubled individual to use this newly learned information to solve problems.
by Kathleen Waddington
Idea: Waddington provides an extensive and personal account on the subject of single parenthood, with discussion of critical issues readers are likely to face, along with vital anecdotes, tips, and solutions on how to deal with them.
Prose: The author utilizes down-to-earth, warm, and accessible prose, which effectively serves the purpose of the book.
Originality: There are a great many books devoted to the subject of parenthood, but Waddington's focus on the challenges of being a single parent is unique. Her account is clear, personal, and refreshingly candid.
Execution: The book is structured in an organized and logical manner, exploring topics relating to child emotional and physical development, communication, discipline, and mutual security, among many others. While she doesn't integrate extensive research into her guide, she provides compelling and relatable examples.
by Roni Wing Lambrecht
Idea/Concept: With Parenting at Your Best, Roni Wing Lambrecht digs deep into her own life and experiences raising a family to share personal, hard-won advice about parenting. Tragically, the author and her husband lost their son Dalton in an accident when he was 15; Lambrecht's love for Dalton is the book's heartbeat, as she draws often on her memories of him and even her regrets. Far from the standard-issue guidebook its title suggests and that readers might expect, Parenting at Your Best is an act of love, healing, and memorialization.
Prose: Lambrecht's prose is savvy and casual, unfussy as can be, loose and conversational but always clear. In this book (and two others she has published) Lambrecht champions the practice of writing frequent notes to family to be read by them now -- and also of journaling about memories and milestones to be shared in later years. There's no doubt, reading the personal stories and clear-eyed advice in Parenting at Your Best, that she has poured herself into her book just as she would into her missives to family.
Originality: Lambrecht distinguishes Parenting at Your Best from the self-help pack by focusing on her own unique, self-generated parenting advice, always illustrated with compelling, often affecting examples from her own family. Even somewhat familiar relationship advice -- lead by example; establish expectations in a family; establish and respect traditions; learn to ask “Are they asking me a question, or are they just asking to be heard?” -- here is freshened up by Lambrecht's thoughtful, heartfelt, personal approach. Besides that warmth and practicality, the book is set apart by its frank, moving handling of grief and loss, as Lambrecht shares family photos and memories and even describes how her journal about Dalton might have saved her marriage after her son's death.
Execution: While Lambrecht's writing is inviting and touching, some chapters face a rawness of grief that can be surprising. Some readers might not be eager for a reckoning with loss and grief in a book about raising their own children. Parenting at Your Best could signal more strongly on its cover and in its title that death is one of its throughlines. That said, passages about topics like establishing nightly "cuddle time" or sharing a family business plan boast rare feeling and urgency, as it's impossible to forget that our time with our loved ones is always limited -- and we never know when it might end. A couple of chapters (on hugging, dancing, and family game nights) are too short to offer much insight or inspiration.
by Pete Alexander
Idea/Concept: An unusually flexible and helpful self-help book, Alexander's Lighten Your Day offers dozens of stress-management tools and exercises for readers to experiment with and adapt to their individual needs, from facing imposter syndrome to taking "microbreaks" to learning to "declipse" worries. While centered on Alexander's own trademarked "LIGHTEN" model, the book at heart is an inviting treasury of techniques. This approach -- and Alexander's upbeat coaching -- results in a book that's much more practical than many of the more prescriptive and dogmatic titles in its genre.
Prose: Alexander's writing is at its clearest and most persuasive when the author is detailing the many stress-management exercises that are this book's heart. He excels at offering unambiguous instructions, at demonstrating the utility of each exercise, and at emphasizing at each step that the readers are the true arbiter of whether or not these techniques apply to their lives. Elsewhere, the prose tends toward passability rather than inspiration. His introductions and personal anecdotes are less crisp, engaging, original, and polished than his exercises.
Originality: While many of Alexander's techniques and exercises are familiar (he suggests affirmations, reflections, reframing negative thoughts, tips for decision making, and unplugging from social media) his curation and promotion of stress-management tools is inspired. The book bursts with positive, calming advice. Sometimes, Alexander even recontextualizes our curious habits as vital self-care: He convincingly positions watching silly animal videos online as a stress management technique rather than an idle time killer. The author's "Lighten" model (rendered in a memorable illustration as "the hairy light bulb") is unique, intuitive, and crucial to the organization of the text's many stress-management techniques.
Execution: Thorough, friendly, upbeat, and well-organized, Alexander's Lighten Your Day is a cornucopia of stress-management techniques. It offers more tools than any one reader could ever use ... and also is so rich in tips and exercises that even the most cynical reader should find something helpful. (Disarmingly, Alexander gets apologetic, more than once, when his exercises take on the whiff of "woo-woo.") Early on, Alexander attempts to draw lines between failures of stress management and actual medical diagnoses received by him and a dear friend; the author is shrewd enough not to insist that stress causes cancer, but the text allows for readers to infer a clear relationship, without incorporating clinical studies or the views of medical professionals.
by Sidney Mazzi
Idea/Concept: This playfully esoteric guide pivots on an intriguing concept: Mazzi invites readers to imagine that they are hunters in pursuit of human prey. Far from sinister, Mazzi's work ultimately offers commentary on the oddities, perplexities, and inconsistencies of human behavior.
Prose: The author describes human beings as if through the objective lens of an outsider species, or as written in a mock field guide. Mazzi admirably maintains this conceit throughout, though the voice has a disembodied quality that can leave the work without a clear sense of urgency or purpose.
Originality: Mazzi's approach to behavioral analysis is highly original. The work defies easy categorization--a credit to the author's creativity, but a potential detriment to marketability.
Execution: As a light exercise in satire, Mazzi delivers, but readers may crave additional references to back up the largely general observations. Additionally, the book may benefit from a clearer depiction of the outside observer who narrates.