Fragmented Book Reviews: Part Two

As I figured, reading with a Kindle makes the reading of small and free e-books very feasible, but rather than flood my blog with a lot of book reviews of these short books, I thought it would be worthwhile to write another group of fragmented book reviews to go along with my previous one [1], since these books are not particularly lengthy or complicated and merit a smaller review than is customary for me.

Habit Stacking: Small Habits That Combine To Transform Your Life Into A Success, by Bill McDowell

In order to understand this review fairly, let me begin this review by providing a paragraph taken at random from this book that models some of the issues that this book has:

Just try it. If you meet closest to a problem immediately, focus on it to solve it under this scheme. Disable a drill in the past and issues. Now look for solutions. People – often retirees – have a scheme negativistic thinking. Well it was and everything that happens is just another mortal vissitudes of life. Lot of time to devote to things that cannot be influenced.”

This book purports to be a self-help book to encourage people to take responsibility and overcome their bad habits by building the habits of success, many of which are stated in a very authoritative wording whose credibility is undercut by the fact that the author appears to be entirely incompetent at using the English language. In fact, this book may be the most horribly written book that I have ever read, and I certainly felt a little dumber at trying to wrap my head around the pitiful word use and sentence construction and misuse of punctuation that this book is full of. This book may have been more coherent if it were written as by an articulate non-English speaker and then translated through Google Translate. Then again, “Bill McDowell” may be a nom de plume in order to encourage someone to read this book, because calling the level of English mastery pidgin is an insult to pidgin languages for a work that is guilty of some major word crimes [2].

Given that the author appears to want to be taken seriously as a model of success for readers, I will provide some helpful advice to him and anyone else who might want to write a self-help book to encourage others. First, make sure that you know what you are talking about before you seek to help others. Although this author has some clever things to say (including an interest in the bacteria transfer that can result from chewing on your fingernails or picking your nose, and some commonplace advice on getting enough sleep), the fact that this book does not cite sources means that the author’s credibility depends on his rhetorical excellence, which is hindered by the fact that this author has not even mastered the rudiments of grammar, making this book embarrassing to read. If one reads this book and is not a friend or relative of the author, it will probably only give enjoyment to the extent that one can laugh at the pretensions of someone to be an author who is wholly unfit to the task. The author should donate any proceeds from his books to literacy campaigns and learn how to write basic English before attempting any further writing efforts.

The Sleep Ritual – How To Fall Asleep Fast: The Most Effective Ritual To Fall Asleep In Less Than 15 Minutes And Stay Asleep All Night, by Charles Elias

This particular e-book has a very lengthy title, but one that explains its contents very well. Readers of my blog will know that I often complain about my problems with sleep [3], and so this book is certainly a practical one for me. In some ways, the title of this book is a bit of a tease. The book is designed to help people develop a ritual for sleep that will help them to avoid insomnia, a ritual that takes about an hour or so to do (two hours if you include eating dinner as part of the ritual, making sure to do it at least two hours before sleep), even if one is supposed to fall asleep within fifteen minutes of attempting it. Also, the author of the book is a proponent of monophasic sleep, urging people to get their sleep in around 8 hours (or more) at a time, only recommending naps for children or the elderly, even if biphasic sleep with a noon siesta and a longer (but not eight hour) period in the night is a common habit in many tropical countries where the heat makes any work in the middle of the day unproductive.

The ritual this book advises is straightforward, but a challenge worthy of attempting. It urges a winding down period that begins with stopping any coffee drinking 6 hours (or more) before sleeping, exercising about five hours before bed (but not right before bed), ceasing one’s online conversations and e-mails and texting and serious thinking about an hour before bed, and then after one has wound down, perhaps had a hot non-caffeinated drink (the book recommends milk, which would obviously not apply to those who are lactose intolerant, who might enjoy some hot apple cider or something like that better), going to bed ready to sleep for quite a bit of time. The book even encourages reading for those who are having trouble getting to sleep, which is something I have often done, and gives the wise recommendation of only using the bed for sleeping, to make sure that going to bed is associated with sleeping. Although this is an exceedingly brief book, it is definitely a worthwhile one for the many insomniacs I happen to know.

876 Ancient Greek Quotes: Classic Wisdom, by Chris Collins

In one sense, this sort of book is among the easiest to create, collecting a lot of readily accessible quotes, providing a very short one-sentence biography of the person who gave the quotes (most of whom are familiar to audiences who are fond of Greek philosophers and playwrights) and then providing the quotes themselves at a rate of 8 to 10 a page or so. It should be noted that these quotes are not cited or included in any kind of context, but are rather provided as free-standing statements, which opens up some of the quotes to questions about what sort of nuance they may have contained that cannot be understood when they are viewed baldly. Some writers, after all, will make a statement that is somewhat bold and provocative and then hedge it about with limitations and qualifications such that the statement applies in a specific context and situation but not across the board. This sort of treatment makes that understanding impossible, and likewise it is heavily skewed towards a few familiar people like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates (who is best known, of course, from the writings of Plato).

Even with these caveats, though, this is a book that is worthwhile, not least because having a ready supply of learned epigrams. Knowing that “we often give our enemies the means for our destruction” is a commonplace that is elevated by knowing it is from Aesop. Likewise, if Aristophanes can say something cynical like “a man’s homeland is wherever he prospers,” it makes us feel less cynical for saying it of ourselves if it applies to our lives as well. The same is true of Diogenes’ cynical statement “The great thieves lead away the little thief,” which is a sad statement but an accurate one about so many human institutions and governments. A lot of the advice seeks to keep that golden mean between irrational exuberance and excessive melancholy, like Euripides’ quote: “Human misery must somewhere have a stop. There is no wind that always blows a storm.” Although the quotes are front-loaded towards the front of the alphabet (there are few quotes from Xenophon and none from Themistocles or Thucydides, who were both excellent and highly quotable Greeks), nor are there any of the majestic Greek quotes that form part of the scriptures. Nevertheless, despite the fact that this book could easily have been much longer and required much more labor on the part of its editor, it is a worthy little volume to have to give appropriate and brief quotes about life. This book aims modestly, and achieves its modest aims. One cannot fault it too much for a lack of greater ambition.


[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Fragmented Book Reviews: Part Two

  1. Pingback: An Honest Man Is Always A Child | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Fragmented Book Reviews: Part Five | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Sleep: An Over-Determined Problem | Edge Induced Cohesion

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