Self-Help / Relationships
by Tanaya Kollipara
Plot/Idea: Asian Americans have often been lauded as the "model minority," a damaging stereotype that does not leave room for anything but inhuman, robotic perfection, which can lead to harassment, hatred, and mental illness within the community. Kollipara artfully exposes this truth through research, storytelling, interviews, and her own insights from her lived experience. This book is as valuable as it is well-written.
Prose: Kollipara effortlessly combines thoughts, stories, research, interviews, anecdotes, and all else into a seamless, well-composed narrative. This book is simply incredible; the writing flows beautifully. The science is clearly laid out, and the voices she highlights are empowered and clear, while still being shared with delicacy and intentionality.
Originality: Unfortunately, the state of mental health of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is a topic often too largely ignored. Kollipara has taken it upon herself to focus on this truth, and done so expertly.
Character Development/Execution: The book is easy to understand, interesting to read, and is organized wonderfully.
by D TERRENCE FOSTER, MD
Plot/Idea: This is a book with a broad audience, and many might feel like it is needed now more than ever. The author is a medical doctor who offers forty-plus options for dealing with stress, regardless of the source. Ideas covered in the book feel fresh and insightful, making this an enlightening read.
Prose: Well-written and easy to follow, this book will be able to reach a broad audience and help eliminate stress for many readers. Providing the basics of stress processes in the first section, the author has kept themes simple and accessible, followed by a deeper dive into the physical and mental reactions to stress and how to cope.
Originality: Foster covers a variety of topics and triggers that can cause stress whether they are internal or external. External stressors that readers might not be aware of in today’s climate such as politics and religion are also considered and included.
Character Development/Execution: While giving compelling advice, Foster has included quotes throughout that help the reader cope or understand the ideas that are being conveyed. These quotes can be used as affirming mantras by the reader. The occasional chart or graph creates a helpful visual for the reader to fully understand the concept. The organization and straightforward approach to the subject will undoubtedly enlighten and ease the stress of many readers.
by Chloe Cullen
Plot/Idea: Although modern America often jokes about people "being OCD" or tells people to "stop being such a perfectionist," these phrases can fly under the radar of societal conscious, and people are largely unaware of how devastating true perfectionism is for those who experience it. Cullen has written a delightfully real book exploring the many facets of perfectionism, and has revealed her own inner workings as a case study in and of itself. The vulnerability shown within this text will cause readers to feel safe within these pages. Readers who know little about anxiety and perfectionism will benefit from reading this book, as it will allow them to better understand their loved ones who do suffer from this. And readers who do know the prevailing perfectionist plague will find Cullen's book a refreshing look into their own psyches.
Prose: The reader will greatly enjoy the prose and find it intellectually stimulating while also not difficult to grasp, and entertaining all the while. Occasionally the book can feel a bit stream-of-consciousness and even verge into rambling, which may have been very much intentional, as this book is all about delving into the mind of a perfectionist. Overall, the book is a joy to read, and will captivate readers with its diverse storytelling, anecdotes, and scientifically cited musings.
Originality: Cullen has cornered an unfortunately fairly empty part of the market. Although books on mental health abound, people generally seem to avoid writing books about anxiety, and especially the very specific type of anxiety associated with perfectionism. Cullen has written a revealing and important book that can be extremely useful for those wanting to learn about perfectionism, and for those who suffer from it.
Character Development/Execution: Cullen has produced an honest, occasionally self-deprecating, and often humorous look into America's obsession with perfection, specifically within the Millennials and Zoomers. Her frank prose regarding her own mental health and that of those who suffer from the endless need to be "perfect" can at times be uncomfortable, which, despite the icky feelings it can illicit, is welcomed. In a world that largely does not understand anxiety and how it affects those who are afflicted, it is wonderful to get a painfully accurate representation from not only one person who has been living with the plague of perfection, but many, as Cullen has provided numerous interviews and examples of perfectionism in modern culture, not to mention research from professional scholars and scientists.
by Neel Burton
Idea: Burton, who is an expert in working with supporting those with mental illness, has graced readers with an informative, spirited, and overall uplifting book regarding depression, both in its pain and its gifts. This book is likely a little heady for some, as he does not shy away from eloquent, erudite verbiage that would be comfortable in journal articles, but for many readers this writing style may be a breath of fresh air. Burton speaks matter-of-factly without being cold, and offers up ample suggestions and data to assist those who are depressed, or even those who merely want to learn more about the affliction. It is a lovely, fascinating, and introspective read!
Prose: Those well-versed in psychology or who are experienced in analyzing scholarly journal articles will be right at home with Burton's writing style. For more casual readers, Burton's writing may prove daunting.
Originality: Although depression self-help books abound, it is rarer to see one that speaks of growing through depression, rather than conquering it. Readers who have struggled with depression will find this book comforting; depression can be a useful tool in one's life, allowing a person the time necessary to slow down, take stock in their life, and make needed changes to be more comfortable in their existence. Burton offers up countless strategies for improving one's situation, and gives honest, thoughtful feedback about the efficacy of these interventions.
Character/Execution: The book is organized well, with relatively brief chapters, which Burton states was intentional, as he did not want his book to be overwhelming for those in the throes of depression. It is pleasant to look at, and the reader can easily pick up the book and turn to any page they like and find valuable insights.
by Britt East
Plot/Idea: This memoir is an engaging, relatable, and thoughtful read that integrates sound life advice for its target readership.
Prose: East’s warm and inviting voice is present throughout the guide. The author provides a graceful blend of narrative and instructive content.
Originality: This guide feels very original and has a personal touch. The anecdotes from the author establish a clear emotional connection to readers.
Character Development/Execution: This guide is effectively organized with seamless structural flow from one section to the next, and a self-assured, compassionate driving voice.
by Erik Bean, Ed.D.
Plot/Idea: As the internet becomes more accessible, the amount of false narratives, fake news, misinformation, and generally biased media that is circulating has increased immensely; therefore, Bean's manual could not have come at a more opportune time. Written with clarity, honesty, and transparency, his book is a must-read for all people who consume media, regardless of profession, age, or background. Every person holds their own biases, and every person can learn the tools to dismantle not only their own, but the biases of others.
Prose: Bean writes clearly and conversationally. His writing style is easy to understand without over-simplifying, and he provides resources and tools to assist the reader in further analyzing media for biases.
Originality: This book, although written about a pressing and necessary topic, remains quite unique, possibly because it presents the reader with a concrete formula for dissecting biases. Bean has presented it in such a manner that is simple to comprehend as well, so that it can be useful for all types of people from all walks of lives.
Character Development/Execution: Written in a clear manner, with an easy-to-follow format, and accompanied by interesting pictures that relate to the text and keep the reader engaged, this book has been put together purposefully and expertly.
Life Giving Dementia Care: Let's Talk: How to Bring Confidence, Compassion, and Joy Into Your Role as a Caregiverby Toni Kanzler
Idea: Through Toni Kanzler's own experiences, she has written a thoughtful, useful, and very human book that assists others in caring for those with dementia. Seen through her own eyes as she helped her mother during her last years of life, Kanzler has reached out her hand to assist the reader in one of the most challenging roles they may experience.
Prose: Near the beginning of the book, Kanzler states that she wants the reader to feel that she is their friend - that she is there, giving advice while they drink a cozy beverage. She has succeeded! Written thoughtfully and with care, Life Giving Dementia Care is a calm, gentle guide for those who are walking this difficult path.
Originality: Despite the prevalence of dementia in older adults, there are not many books that support those who care for people afflicted with it. Fortunately, Kanzler has filled that gap with her own very real knowledge and life experiences.
Character/Execution: Kanzler's book covers all the grounds of dementia that a person may experience as they are caregiving, and does so with useful, colorful diagrams, as well as call-outs that are from the perspective of the person experiencing dementia. Overall, the book is beautifully written and executed.
by Jane Ilene Cohen
Plot/Idea: Cohen's book will speak to a specific group of people who are open-minded and willing to try alternative therapy methods. It is beautifully and clearly written with vivid metaphors, examples, anecdotes, and imagery. However, it may not appeal to some readers, just as the 12-Step Program does not, because it heavily relies on giving into a greater power—in the author’s words, a Source. That said, this book is very helpful in giving clearly laid out plans for deconstructing one's negative thought processes and self-reflection.
Prose: Cohen is well-read and eloquent; her prose flows easily, and the brief, anecdotal stories presented to the reader are vibrant and drop the reader momentarily into that world. Often books that refer to God or other higher powers can be very flowery and difficult to follow, but Cohen has managed to avoid that common pitfall.
Originality: Although the number of self-help books present in the world seems to be never-ending, Cohen's book is uniquely informed through her personal experiences and education. It also employs lovely imagery and actual pictures that can assist in guiding the reader's understanding. Many self-help books can ramble and be without a clear process to follow, but hers is built upon clear and simple scaffolding.
Character Development/Execution: The book is pleasant to look at, and as a whole product is very well put together. The fonts are appealing to the eyes, as are the pictures; Cohen has broken up the paragraphs with bullet pointed lists, stories, and pictures, which make the book easier to comprehend. Her headers for paragraphs and sections are also nicely laid out and provide a clear map for the reader.
by Michael Floissac
Plot/Idea: With its strong purpose, this book will strike a chord with readers looking for ways to embrace a positive outlook and show gratitude, particularly as the pandemic continues into the start of a new year. Dividing the book into three universal themes is ideal for those wanting to choose a daily affirmation that appeals to them and their state of mind on any given day.
Prose: Concise writing helps make this an enjoyable read. Each idea is well-composed and well-thought-out. The author uses everyday language and an approachable tone that will appeal to everyone.
Originality: Applying testimonials to each concept is refreshing to read and allows the reader to apply this advice to their own life through thoughtful, written reflection.
Character Development/Execution: The book is well-organized, with three overarching themes with ideas of gratitude under each such as random acts of kindness, friends, relationships, and time. If the reader invests in the ideas and concepts here, the payoff will be worth it.
Blurb: Thoughtfully written with a healthy dose of positivity.
by Rhoda Redleaf
Plot/Idea: Redleaf's charming and educational series of walks offers fun for both children and caretakers with low-to-no-cost adventures that can be done anywhere.
Prose: Redleaf's prose offers simple and clear instructions that make all of the elements of the walks feel manageable.
Originality: Redleaf's guide stands out by creating activities that cover a wide range of subjects suited for older and younger children, and it pays special attention to pre-walk and post-walk needs to make for a satisfying experience.
Character Development/Execution: This guide may have been written for adults, but it is also well-organized enough that any child who happens to pick it up will be able to learn and have fun on their own.
by Susy Lee
Plot: This highly practical parenting resource offers unique tools for the whole family to take part in. Susy Lee’s overall goal is to “grow a family culture of open communication and purpose” in order to raise kids that will create a better society. She focuses on familial relationships, culture and tradition, inner selves, and helping the world by discovering purpose.
Prose/Style: Lee’s writing is direct and to-the-point, backing her opinions with research. Along with noted works, readers will find natural pauses for discussion and space for writing. The guide is formatted in an orderly manner with similar structure to each chapter.
Originality: Lee focuses her parenting education and skills on things she cares about, including social justice and environmental impact reduction. The questions and conversations Lee offers are poignant points of reflection for all family members to make, young and old. She advises that children direct some of the work.
Character Development/Execution: Lee displays her expertise in the fields of education, peace and conflict studies, and community development. She uses her research and anecdotes from her own family to present how the content of her parenting program works. There are Christian influences throughout, and Lee has conducted a lot of her work in churches.
by Said Hasyim
Idea: The author hits upon a nearly universal challenge we all face as we age, namely how to ensure that our brains function at as high a level as possible. The approach here is interesting, highly applicable, if not to the reader directly then to someone they know, and full of useful information.
Prose: The author is a capable writer, able to explain brain-related concepts in an accessible and engaging manner. The author works hard to make this subject relatable, and the examples provided go a long way toward making that happen.
Originality: Achieving and maintaining mental acuity is not an uncommon topic of exploration, but the author makes the subject matter uniquely accessible to readers.
Character/Execution: Hasyim offers an engaging blend of informative material with actionable suggestions, tips, and strategies to empower readers concerned about their brain health and mental stanima.
by Jen Nash
Idea: In a time of social divisions, inclusiveness, and lockdowns, Jen Nash has written an excellent guide to getting out there and building connections, no matter how minute. The art of talking to strangers is something that has fallen off in the digital age, and Nash has brought it back full force.
Prose: Written like a conversation with someone you just met, Nash talks the talk and walks the walk. She is concise, fun, and interesting - and also is able to get her point across through easily digested bullets. It is this modeling of this type of communication that makes this book an excellent resource.
Originality: Although self-help books on developing and maintaining relationships are common, it is more unique to come across one that encourages communication between those that you barely know and may never see again. This book does just that, and does it effectively.
Character/Execution: Organized in an intuitive fashion, the work provides gratifying and illuminating instruction.
by Leeanne R. Hay
Plot/Idea: Hay has written a necessary book to help those who have discovered through DNA tests that their biological father is not the person they considered to be their father. This is a shocking discovery that can break apart families, cause internal angst, and lead to depression, fear, confusion, and a whole other slew of difficult emotions.
Prose: Occasionally there are some awkward sentences, and sometimes Hay has exchanged the intended name for another, which could be clarified in a proofread. Nonetheless, this book is wonderfully written – a balanced blend of storytelling, advice, and resources. Hay writes honestly and with deep emotion.
Originality: This book is highly original in its focus. Hay presents difficult themes kindly, with the necessary empathy that people in this position would demand. Countless readers will be assisted in their life journeys of self-discovery by reading Hay's lovely book.
Character Development/Execution: The book reads smoothly and clearly, and is divided between stories, resources, advice, and other aspects so that the reader stays focused and interested.
by Rosemary A. Schmidt
Plot/Idea: The Happy Clam presents the reader with a lifetime's worth of wisdom regarding happiness, changing one's perspective, and generally how to achieve a more content and comfortable existence. Schmidt is honest and vulnerable with the reader regarding her own struggles, and provides advice backed up both by scientific studies and anecdotal evidence. During a time when the whole world is feeling quite down and lost, a book such as this is welcomed with open arms.
Prose: Schmidt has a way of meandering through her thoughts cohesively and eloquently. Although her ideas blend together to a degree, they do so in an intentional fashion, stitched together with facts, citations, quotes, poetry, and recipes.
Originality: The Happy Clam is a self-help book about finding one's inner happiness and contentment – a topic that has been well traveled. However, Schmidt has the ability to tread these waters with a unique perspective, and successfully manages to take a tired subject and breathe new life into it.
Character Development/Execution: The typography of the book is pleasant to look at, with the poetry, recipes, and other non-prose elements formatted thoughtfully and in an organized manner.
by Brenda Billings Ridgley
Plot/Idea: The main ideas here are well-executed and insightful. The author uses her own experience, in addition to research and surveys, to capture what friendship means to women. Her words of wisdom will resonate with readers – particularly the section about reasons, seasons, and a lifetime.
Prose: The conversational tone throughout is easy to follow. The ideas are well-organized, and allowing the reader space and opportunity to reflect throughout is helpful.
Originality: The author provides interesting insights about women and friendship, avoiding depicting women at odds and instead indicating that they should find ways to support each other. Including information about social media will draw a younger audience to this piece of work.
Character Development/Execution: Initially it feels like the information shared is repetitive; however, once the author dives into her insights, readers will find themselves in agreement and even rereading and jotting down notes. Readers will stick with this to the end to unearth the wisdom between the pages.