Time for a fresh start
Your holiday wish list is a mere memory: it's resolution time (yes, another list). So, grab your paper and pencil and crack open any of the following books for minty-fresh, unusual perspectives on retooling your inner and outer worlds.
Dream It. List it. Do It!: How to Live a Bigger & Bolder Life, by journalist Lia Steakley and the editors of 43Things.com, is list-mania at its most entertaining. Based on the popular social networking site, it features themed lists and short "I did it!" stories drawn from site users. There's inspiration for jotting down your own list and jump-starting your life: you may be emboldened to "ride naked on horseback" or, barring that, simply to "clean out your briefcase." Even if you are allergic to list-making, this is a fun book with 43 intriguing and practical goals—from "Develop Supernatural Powers" to "Be More Organized"—and the often wacky suggestions to help you achieve them. Dream It. List It. also gives 10 simple rules for using lists effectively, such as "document your progress." So plant that rooftop garden and reach for the stars.
Feeling adventuresome? Then pick up Keri Smith's How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum. This is an interactive field guide to exploring alleys, sidewalks, neighborhoods, your local library, mountaintops, kitchen cabinets or the garbage dump—wherever your life adventures lead. Smith (Wreck This Journal), an illustrator, offers a uniquely melded artistic cum scientific approach to observing, analyzing and documenting minutia—of ourselves and our manmade and natural worlds. His 59 quirky "explorations" invite readers to be curious; to investigate cracks, smells and splotches; wander aimlessly; and celebrate trees. Full of kicky photomontages and Smith's wobbly line drawings, this field journal can lead readers into brave new worlds.
Women and girls
There are bracing antidotes within the collected essays and aphorisms of Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All. This comforting book is the brainchild of editor Andrea Buchanan, who "curates famous quotes . . . snippets of phone conversation, ideas." In her touching introduction, Buchanan relates that all of her collected sayings had a backstory that might offer "joy and comfort and [an] occasional laugh." Thus this book was born, with well-told stories solicited from a diverse group of women, many of them famous. The essays address the "Big Three" of the book's title, along with "Life's Constant Complexities." Each ends with a Post-it-sized "note to self" summarizing the tale's core message. From an actress' humiliation on "Jeopardy," and a housewife's compassionate adoption of a family victimized by Hurricane Katrina, to an activist's grief over her son's tragic death, these stories hold wisdom bites to soothe and heal.
A Year in High Heels: The Girl's Guide to Everything from Jane Austen to the A-list is London fashion writer Camilla Morton's (How to Walk in High Heels) latest literary bling. While this follow-up doesn't exactly fall flat, it does stumble: intending to be a monthly calendar of to-do's for girly fabulousness, it is instead a strangely arranged encyclopedia of historical and cultural trivia with oddly clashing suggestions (January mandates include both detox and imbibing hot toddies!), which might induce migraines in the most determined fashionista. Each chapter opens a new month with an insouciant postcard from fashion pioneers such as Giorgio Armani and Manolo Blahnik, and features a "Muse of the Month" (e.g., Coco Chanel), a "Page Turner" (recommended reading) and a "Foot Note" (short history of a shoe style). Shoehorned in between are quips from Cleopatra, tips on moonwalking and letter-writing. Much of the history and dates to note are geared toward Brits (St. George's birthday), with the occasional sop thrown across the Pond (Mae West's birthday). However, there are universal lessons, such as how to job-hunt (wear heels) and how to be a collector (inherit money). This is a dizzy, often entertaining read—if perused with slightly raised (and well-plucked) eyebrows.
You, you, you
Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz present a new book in their YOU series (You: Staying Young; You: On a Diet, etc.), namely, You: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty. You: Being Beautiful has the authors' signature (if slightly juvenile) humor, and is a holistic approach to well-being that addresses looking, feeling and being beautiful. "Beauty," they say, ". . . is health." That said, this is not a beauty guide to supermodel makeup tricks; it is a roadmap to beauty via healthy physical and mental habits, starting with a "You-Q" test to measure inner and outer beauty. The narrative is peppered with self-evaluation exercises, informative sidebars and healing tools. Part one leads readers matter-of-factly through the biology of tip-top skin, hair, teeth, finger, toes and figure. Part two focuses on body-mind sensations: energy levels, pain management, mind maladies and work-money issues. The shift here from physical feelings to emotional is slightly clumsy, but serves the book's holistic vision. Part three tackles the biology of love, sexuality and happiness, wrapping up with the "Be-YOU-tiful Plan" to elevate gorgeousness, and an appendix on how to find a good plastic surgeon (just in case).
Something to think about
If your house is crammed with stuff, chances are your cranium is cluttered, too. Organizational guru Peter Walsh returns to clutter-bust your mind in Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You, coming in March. "If you have ever tripped and fallen on your own belongings," he says, "then imagine what the clutter in your head is doing to you." Walsh constantly sees that lack of clear vision causes chaos in relationships, careers, finances, health and spirits, and he preaches using imagination to create a vision of your desired life, to identify and clear obstacles and to realize that vision. Walsh includes a wealth of commonsense discussion; systematic support material, such as "you are not alone" stories; self-evaluation quizzes to pinpoint life goals and obstacles; and action-oriented checklists and tips. Often, we know what we don't want in our lives, but cannot focus on that which we do. Clear space, Walsh advises, for "if you don't clear room to walk, you'll never find the path to your dreams."
Saucy seafood bites back at life
Lady-killer crustacean, Pepe the King Prawn, dispenses spicy sagacity in It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp: Life, Love, and Living Large. If you're a Muppets fan (and you know you are), or if you need smooth talk on love, work and the social scene, Pepe's your go-to guy—um, prawn. A salute from fellow Muppet Kermit the Frog launches this raconteur's manifesto of living "La Vida Pepe" with chapters covering parties, love and money, family and friends, work, politics, therapy, style and stress. There's a slightly wicked how-to here for every eventuality, from using the perfect pickup line on "the womens" ("Is it me, or are you hot in here?") to coping with annoyances, like trips to the post office ("If you can't do the time, don't wait in line"). My favorite Pepe-ism extols meditation: "A deep spiritual experience or an excuse to take a nap. Either way you win, okay.