Black, with a dash of red
Cathie Black, the president of Hearst Magazines, wants to help you lead the 360&anddeg; life a balanced existence in which personal happiness isn't trumped by the pursuit of professional success. Black is an excellent resource for such advice: During her 40-year (and counting) career, she's been the first woman publisher of New York magazine; president and publisher of USA Today; president and CEO of the American Newspaper Association; and is now overseer of 19 big-name magazines, including Esquire, Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her insight will prove useful even for those with less extensive resumes. She shares personal stories including ones about her own missteps and career counsel in Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), and urges the reader toward a focus on a happy life vs. the largest paycheck, the nicest office or the most power.

Magazine-philes will delight in insider information about the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Tina Brown and Atoosa Rubenstein. There are strategies for handling criticism and adjusting to staffers' individual styles, plus job-seeker how-to sections that offer useful if not groundbreaking advice (use spell-check, don't lie on your resume, invest in quality paper). Basic Black is a clever hybrid of autobiography and career guide; the author's straightforward, knowledgeable voice makes it an engaging read and a valuable resource. Another nice touch is the use of red ink throughout for chapter headings and major points it's a perfect expression of the flair Black brings to the boardroom.

The dangerous book for career girls
Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio waste no time in The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear. On page one, they cite a 2005 Harris Interactive poll that indicated 41 percent of U.S. workers were dissatisfied with their jobs. Their prescription for joining the other 59 percent? Acknowledge that you deserve a fulfilling career and start planning for it now. The authors, who also wrote The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business and The Girl's Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch), are the founders/principals of public relations firm YC Media. Their media savvy provides a strong foundation for their message: It's time for readers to conduct their own promotional campaigns by mapping out a plan, networking and increasing awareness, and keeping an eye out for new opportunities. The authors' advice is attuned to current trends in addition to typical interview-preparation tips, they suggest careful editing of MySpace profiles and recommend covering up tattoos. Real-life tales feature women in all sorts of jobs; quizzes and lists help with soul-searching; and the confronting coworkers will not kill you section should prove invaluable. One caveat almost all the profiles are of women who work in or near Manhattan. If readers can get past the city-centrism, they'll find lessons that apply to workers nationwide.

You may just want to quit
Brian Kurth's Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love is excellent for dreamers looking for ways to become doers. Kurth went through his own career transformation when, in 1999, he realized he was a living, breathing Dilbert. Although he enjoyed his job and was paid well, it wasn't exciting anymore but starting a company for people who wanted to try out their dream jobs certainly was. Today, Vocation Vacations is in full swing; clients spend one to three days with mentors in jobs ranging from cheesemonger to sword-maker (there are more traditional jobs, too, such as architect and veterinarian). Test-Drive Your Dream Job is both an engrossing chronicle of Kurth's journey to creating his own dream job and a sourcebook for those who can't afford a mentoring fee or would prefer to set up a test-drive themselves. The book delivers by offering lists of questions to ask potential mentors; charts to help in establishing an action plan; and reality-checks about money, health insurance and the impact a life-change might have on your relationships. Anecdotes about successful dreamers are inspiring, while profiles of those who needed a dream-adjustment demonstrate the importance of taking action: Regardless of the result, you'll have useful experience and information. Kurth notes that many of us accept the ordinary because we've been conditioned to, but it's OK to want something different or better. Really.

What if your job is boring and your coworkers are annoying? You've got security and a steady paycheck, right? Think again, Dan Miller says in today's volatile workplace, there are no guarantees. And, he explains, the moment you realize that meaningful, purposeful and profitable work really is a possibility . . . all of a sudden, complacency and Ôcomfortable misery' become intolerable. The author of 48 Days to the Work You Love also works as a career coach, speaker and Internet radio-show host. He made mistakes en route to the busy business-life he enjoys now, and shares an important lesson: You have to create your own definition of success, or you're not going to be happy for long. To that end, he offers probing questions, Revolutionary Insights, anecdotes about passion-pursuers famous and unknown, and a healthy dose of tough love in his latest book, No More Mondays: Fire Yourself and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work. Might you have overlooked an opportunity while you were waiting for the perfect situation to find you? And who's making you stay at that job you hate, anyway? (Hint: look in the mirror.) There are strategies for readers who don't want to quit their jobs just yet, and straight talk about finances. Establishing a timeline is key, as is doing lots of reading the books, websites and articles in his Resources section are a good start. Approaching the usual in unusual ways can lead to solutions, Miller writes, including, presumably, eradicating the dreaded Monday blues.

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