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UnknownWhat’s it all about?

Who survives when disaster strikes and why. A journalistic investigation into man-made and natural disasters with first-person narratives and discussions with researchers about what makes some people more likely to survive than others

Why did I want to read it?

The Book God and I watched a couple of episodes of a series whose name I have now forgotten (Perfect something or other) on one of the satellite channels tucked away somewhere far down the TV listings (I want to say the Hitler History Channel but that may not be right) which gave dramatic reconstructions of disasters through the ages, e.g. the Lisbon earthquake, the hurricane that flattened Galveston and so on. The acting was pretty awful and the narration overly portentous but the one bright spot in each programme we watched was Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkablewho was able to give some insight into how people behave in these situations. So I got the book for my Kindle app.

What did I think about it?

Very easy to read, quite fascinating in places, written int hat breezy American journalistic style that I quite enjoy, assertions supported by proper evidence and a solid set of footnotes. Good author’s note where she goes through her methodology in detail so you can have some  confidence in her work. She also gives some practical tips on how to improve your chances. Really interesting.

IMG_0123What’s it all about?

The subtitle of Oliver Burkeman’s book gives us a clue: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done. It’s basically a collection of newspaper columns that he wrote for the Guardian about the problem of human happiness (his words) where he began to delve into

self-help, happiness studies, life hacking, and other ideas with an emphasis on practical implementation by a mass audience

Why did I want to read it?

I heard Burkeman being interviewed on the Guardian books podcast a couple of years ago and he sounded so interesting and non-judgemental that I thought this was worth a look. And there’s also a tiny part of me (which I try to disown) that thinks there might actually just possibly be a simple answer to life, the universe and everything and that this could possibly just be found within the pages of a self-help book.

What did I think of it?

It is a really fascinating book, very funny in places and extremely quotable.  For example:

  • he talks about journalling, and the fact that though focussed writing can be very positive, people who journal a lot to tend to wallow a bit and tell the same story over and over again (I am ashamed to say that I recognise this in myself which is why my diary is not something sensational to read on the train as Gwendolen Fairfax would have it but a fairly boring repetition of the same whinges – though I may be being a little hard on myself there);
  • in talking about stress, he asks whether rather than doing things that avoid triggering our stress response we should try working on our response instead;
  • that the best thing to do when you get an unwanted invitation is just to say no and not try to come up with a justification or elaborate excuse (he suggests Emily Post’s “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” can’t be beaten);
  • that meetings should be abolished;
  • that you won’t transform your life in seven days, but you won’t do that by reading books called Transform Your Life in Seven Days either.


Well worth a read if you are at all interested in any aspect of the self-help industry.  I enjoyed it very much.

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday


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December 2013