by Joanna BrichettoJanuary 2012
Getting along in the world
In Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?, investigative humorist Henry Alford tries “to hold up a magnifying glass to unattractive habits that I stumble upon, be they my own or others’.” His piercing gaze is aided by etiquette experts like Miss Manners, Tim Gunn and Dr. Ruth as well as everyday folks: a cab driver, a librarian, a former prisoner and many others. What exactly are manners, these days? It depends: Cultural context is everything—and, as it turns out, extremely entertaining. Alford’s wry and nimble wit escorts readers to Japan, a Manhattan newsstand, restaurants, office cubicles, playgrounds and bathroom stalls, plus your smartphone, email inbox and Facebook wall. He also has a go at being an online etiquette coach, with mixed (and fascinating) results. Whatever the ideals may be, most of us can agree decent manners are a good idea. Thanks to this handbook, we stand a better chance of complying.
What’s a Homeowner to Do? starts with the generous assumption that “the average person can learn how to care for a home and handle its everyday problems.” This includes what we can do ourselves, what we can safely ignore and what will require professional help. Authors Stephen Fanuka, a DIY Network star, and Edward Lewine, a home-repair columnist for The New York Times Magazine, are the resident experts who explain these distinctions and the “442 things you should know.” The layout is clear and friendly, and nearly every entry adds a “trick of the trade” with insider info, such as the invaluable phrase “righty tighty, lefty loosey,” which describes how to tighten and loosen “everything from screws to lightbulbs and faucets.” The book covers every aspect of maintenance and repair, inside and out, from the basics of a home toolkit to safety and security, and even gives advice on how to hire a contractor.
TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm is that rare thing: a parenting book that is a pleasure to read and doesn’t make you feel utterly substandard. Journalist and “curious mom” Mei-Ling Hopgood has an international background herself, and is a companionable guide for a tour of wildly disparate models of child-rearing, including common struggles with potty training, behavior issues, sleep problems, discipline, you name it. The point is not necessarily to persuade us to live without strollers (as they do in Nairobi) or feed toddlers fish eyes (like the Taiwanese) or advise dads to faux-breastfeed (believe it or not, de rigueur in the Aka pygmy tribe), but rather to glimpse how the rest of the world does the things we do. No doubt some details will be too enticing not to try, like recruiting the whole family for meal preparation and training young children to take responsibility for simple tasks. Ultimately, this absorbing assemblage of perspectives will help widen our own.