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Your self-help homework

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 27, 2010 05:00 AM

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For those who don’t remember, I announced a self-help book review contest last month. I said that the writer of the best one-line review/summary would receive a prize. They will.

Here are the reviews for your Friday reading pleasure. You'll see that some folks took the assignment seriously, some books never got reviewed, some books were added to the list and sent to readers who begged, some reviews were wonderfully sarcastic, some were kind, and most of you just can't cope with self-help talk.

Feel free to discuss your favorites.

"Meeting Your Half-Orange," by Amy Spencer; reviewed by JESSICA
Start visualizing how you want to feel in your dream relationship (rather than focusing on specific physical types), and through "optimistic magnetism," you will attract your perfect match.

"Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples About Lasting Love," by Charlie and Linda Bloom; reviewed by MD
The secrets are: talk, listen, and make grilled cheese often.

"How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy," by Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain; reviewed by BRITTANY
Full of all the caution, courage, and anecdotal ammo any runaway-bride-to-be would need in order to escape the altar -- divorce rates in the coming years are sure to decrease in direct proportion to the sale of this book.

"A Vindication of Love, Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century," by Cristina Nehring; reviewed by MARY
Allowing love and romance into your life should not make you feel inferior, duped, naive or beautiful; history's works of literature say so, or do they?

"To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First," by David Code; reviewed in haiku by CAT
Your kids don’t need your
Undivided attention --
Give more to your spouse.

"The Book of Love," by Laura Berman; reviewed by MARIE
To achieve intimacy, talk to each other about your needs, wants, hopes, and dreams...but if that doesn't work, check out all the naked pictures!

"The Right Decision: A Mathematician Reveals How the Secrets of Decision Theory Can Help You Make the Right Decision Every Time," by James Stein; reviewed by Elekktra
Being a creature of indecisiveness and no math scholar (probability, statistics, and gaming theory! oh my!), I studied, pondered and visualized the book’s small sampling of love’s attendant dilemmas, but all for naught-- because the author’s mathematically distilled “right” decisions are so appallingly dunderheaded that an arch of utter astonishment remains frozen on my freshly botoxed brow, proving beyond all uncertainty that you can’t hurry love, and baby, you can’t mathematize it either.

"101 Ways to Torture Your Husband," by Marcia Garcia-Kalb; reviewed by MICHAEL
You hate men, this man in particular, so why not make his life a living hell with these immature stunts; you may get what you deserve.

"The Newlywed's Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for the First Year of Marriage," by Caroline Tiger; reviewed by MAGGIEANDBEN
From throwing parties to cleaning, from cooking to eating - everything you thought you already know how to do, plus one (with helpful cartoon diagrams).

"This Is Not the Story You Think It is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness," by Laura Munson; reviewed by OLDERNOWISER
What worked well for the author as a succinct 2-page New York Times essay has not been well translated in this 337-page overblown, overwritten memoir, overflowing with rambling prose, narcissistic naval-gazing, and maudlin angst, all in an attempt to sound wise and spiritual (versus disorganized and incoherent) while palming off as an original thought the fact that "we create our own happiness" (duh!).

"Bounce, Don't Break: Brande's Guide to Life, Love, and Success," by former Playmate Brande Roderick; reviewed by STEPHANIE
This is a disorganized, ditzy, sexist advice book written for white, middle class, heterosexual women, and written by a self-absorbed, privileged former Playmate who tells us to stop envying models and to always curl our eyelashes before we go out, no matter what.

"Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex," by Hephzibah Anderson; reviewed by SALLY
Sex sells! (I would not buy this book).

"It's Either Her or Me; A Guide to Help a Mom and Her Daughter-In-Law Get Along," by Ellie Slott Fisher; reviewed by MAZBUG
This book will have you second-guessing every interaction you have with family members, soon-to-be family members, might-never-be family members, family members-who-are-hangers-on, family members-in-name-only, and family members-you-ought-not-to-really-care-about, and asking yourself, "Does it really have to be this complicated?”

"How to Keep Him on a Short Leash," by Jessica Rubin and Lindsey Musante; reviewed by REGIS
A co-dependent's complete guide to ensuring your (soon to be ex) boyfriend will have raging trust issues in his next relationship.

"Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently," by Marcus Buckingham; reviewed by HEPDOG
Admit it, ladies, you're miserable in your successful high-paying careers (it's all feminism's fault, by the way), so listen to me, God's-gift-to-the-universe-because-I-was-on-Oprah: if baking muffins is what makes you truly, truly happy, then, by golly, go ahead and bake muffins for a living already.

"The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men," by Jimi Izrael; reviewed by JYL
I learned Black men are angry about: dating (they believe values are too high, they get used, and black women always want to change them) and believe all black women have this ideal that their boyfriends have to be perfect like Denzel Washington; he's the ideal: sweet, well spoken, good looking, in shape, successful, has a job has money, good values, takes care of his family, a great smile and someone to take home to mom -- I mean the white girl’s version of this book could be The Edward Cullen Principle.

"Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In," by Laurie Puhn; reviewed by NATALIE
Regarding this book, here's my outlook: good ideas, lots of truth, reads like a 1950's spoof; what she gives is common sense, so I have to say that I'm on the fence- if you need to stop the hate, save yourself the money and just learn to appreciate.

"The Single Girl's Guide to Meeting European Men," by Katherine Chloé Cahoon; reviewd by RUBYROARK
Use blatantly obvious, transparently self-evident, mind-numbingly basic, so-apparent-that-if-you-need-to-be-told-this-you-probably-don't-know-how-to-read-in-the-first-place-so-just-use-this-book-as-a-coaster common sense when looking to attract men, and do it in Europe."

"For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage," by Tara Parker-Pope; reviewed by ROBIN
Science can improve everything, even the most intimate and emotional interactions between romantic partners.

"You Can Count on Cupid: Uncovering Love by the Numbers, from the First Date, to the Seven-Year Itch, to Forever After," by Luisa Dillner; reviewed by LAUREN
Scientific study proves that you two were made for each other, unless you read the other one that proves you two are destined for divorce court.

"Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal & Financial Challenges," by Janice Green; reviewed by CCHASE
If you have a spouse you don't want, and assets you do, this is a fine, step by step no-nonsense book; however, if you have a spouse you don't want but no assets, forget the book, and just leave.

"The Husbands and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group," by Laurie Abraham; reviewed by DEBM
Abraham's voyeuristic peek into the world of couples therapy witnesses the intimate deconstruction and rebirth of marital bonds, I laughed, I cried, it makes the roller coaster ride of marriage totally worth it.

"To Have and To Hold: A Personal Handbook for Building a Strong Marriage and Preventing Affairs," by Peggy Vaughan; reviewed by JOHN.
Step 1- Have a husband that cheats on you repeatedly; Step 2- Don't get mad , even or divorced; Step 3- Instead, write a fifth self-referential book trying to scare people into thinking it will happen to them; Step 4- Profit?

"The Body Language Handbook: How to Read Everyone's Hidden Thoughts and Intentions," by Gregory Hartley and Maryann Karinch; reviewed by FRANCES

Double-spaced with lots of pictures, the Body Language Handbook is 50% stuff I already knew, 20% stuff I knew unconsciously, and 30% interesting insight for learning the body as a foreign language—but no, it didn't make me psychic.

And the winners are (chosen by The Boston Globe's Northeastern and Emerson co-ops, who ignored bylines): Sally and MD. Prizes soon. Yes, our co-ops like short sentences, apparently.

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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