Monday, February 11, 2013

This blog has been combined with And Then Some Publishing blog:  Life... And Then Some!

All essays published on this blog are in the Life blog and you won't miss a thing.

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And Then Some Publishing, LLC

Monday, January 7, 2013

Retirementology: Rethinking the American dream in a new economy

By Gregory Salsbury

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

This is a terrific book for many reasons.  First, Salsbury does a great job covering his topic.  Both the breadth and depth of the information is impressive, and any one approaching or in retirement — especially those who are pre-retirement — will find a great deal of material here from which to learn.  The subject of the book is behavior economics — your conduct when it comes to matters regarding money.

The second reason this is a terrific book is the way Salsbury makes his points.  It is consistently outstanding.  He uses examples where he places his readers in the position of having to make practical decisions on subjects closely related to their everyday experiences.  He then extrapolates those decisions to the broader context of retirement and makes poignant points about their importance and relevance.  Let me give you an example from page 12 of his book:

        “Dr. Kahneman often uses this seemingly simple math problem in his lectures.  A bat and a ball together cost $1.10.  The bat costs a dollar more than the ball.  How much does the ball cost?
        “Your intuitive side may quickly tell you that the ball costs 10 cents.  Tempting answer, but wrong.  In fact, if the ball costs 10 cents, that would mean the bat costs one dollar more than that or $1.10, so the two together would be $1.20.  After you put a little more thought into the problem, you realize the ball must have cost five cents.  The point is, it is important to distinguish between decisions that should be made by intuition and those that require careful thought and calculation” (pp. 12-13).

He uses these kinds of simple, practical, relevant examples throughout the book that make the text both engaging and interesting.

The third reason that makes this a terrific book is the author’s writing style.  The book is extremely readable.  Not onl that, Salsbury has a delightful and contagious sense of humor.  True, he doesn’t use it a lot, but as you read, delightful anecdotes or comments come at you in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.  Also, he is continually coining new words that are inventive and humorous.  They are all included in the glossary at the end of the book which he labels, “Reterminology: The New Language of
Retirement” (pp. 205-210).  This book is fun to read.

There is a fourth reason, too.  He ends chapters with sections designed to help readers improve their Retirementology IQ.  These are different in each chapter; however, all of them are practical, advice-oriented, with specific suggestions to help readers who want to change their behavior and become better managers of their lives.

This may mark me as an academic (or, perhaps, as one accustomed to the old —more academic — style of writing books), but I enjoy having chapters that end with “Endnotes”—a fifth reason I liked this book.  I like to know where authors are getting their information or whom they are using to support their ideas.

Salsbury includes many, many footnotes — and they reek of credibility.  He has definitely done his homework, so, despite his own credentials, which I found at the website, Financial Times (FT) Press, his knowledge is thorough and impressive.

At the FT Press website, I found the following information about his background: “Salsbury received a master's degree in communications from the University of Illinois, and a second master's degree in communication technologies from the Annenberg School of Communications. He received his doctorate in organizational communication from the University of Southern California and is published in the areas of sales, marketing, employee motivation, behavioral finance, and retirement. From his work and experience as a long-standing executive in the financial services industry, Salsbury was uniquely positioned to craft a visionary view of retirement’s future. His landmark book, But What If I Live? The American Retirement Crisis, was a wake-up call for a generation of undersaved, overspent, and unprepared Baby Boomers.”

When I began reading this book, I could not put it down.  The information is relevant and timely, the approach is engaging, the examples and statistics are solid (numerous statistics are used to make his points), and the amount that I gained from the information is breathtaking, to say the least.  For pre-retirees, put this on your “must read” list.

Retirementology can be found at

Monday, December 31, 2012

Spousonomics: Using economics to master love, marriage, and dirty dishes

By Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Although appropriate, the title of this book may put people off because it makes the book appear, at first glance, gimmicky, light, superficial, and trite.  But the old aphorism holds true, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  The subtitle more accurately conveys the important message the authors have for readers.

I loved this book.  As in my reviews of other books that have to do with relationships, communication, listening, dealing with difficult people, or self-improvement, I claim that any book that offers advice and suggestions designed to improve people’s lives or relationships make a worthwhile and valuable contribution.  Admittedly, that requires that readers read the books, absorb the information, internalize it, and practice it in their daily lives.  Too often, I’m afraid, those who could benefit from the information the most are NOT those who read the books!

Having taught a course in interpersonal communication for more than twenty-five years, I discovered that the most interesting part of the course—according to student evaluations—was the section on relationship development, relationship evaluation, and relationship improvement.  It was an upper-level undergraduate course and seemed to come at just the right time when students were thinking about, planning for, or beginning serious relationships.

One of the basic principles I espoused, and one that I wrote about in my textbook, UNDERSTANDING INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION (HarperCollins), is that although the idea that a relationship is 50-50—perhaps, thought of as an ideal—it is a wrong concept and does NOT work in practice for two reasons: 1) 50-50 is a subjective assessment; thus, what is 50-50 in one person’s mind is not necessarily 50-50 in another’s, and it leaves a great deal of room for debate and disagreement.  2) 50-50 does not work in practice simply because most people do not fulfill their part of the agreement, and a relationship without full commitment cannot last.

To make a relationship work successfully, partners need to commit themselves to giving the relationship far more than a 50% commitment, even 60-75%.  The best approach is not to deal in percentages at all and simply say, “I am willing to give this relationship whatever it takes to make it successful.”

My wife and I have been married for well over 40 years (to each other!), and we have found that we each do everything we can (and, what needs to be done at any given time) to not just make our own life more satisfying and comfortable but to make life more satisfying and comfortable for our spouse as well.  The more satisfying and comfortable we can make life for the person with whom we are living, the better our own life is.  It is a joint effort, but it NEVER comes down to percentages or who is doing the most or giving the most effort.  So what?  We are both working for the same purpose—to make our relationship more satisfying.

Szuchman and Anderson have written a terrific book.  They are fine writers, their concepts are accurate and helpful, their case studies are fun and interesting, and their advice and suggestions are both constructive and instructive.  I delighted in the economic references, and it certainly gives the book a different slant than many others of the same genre.  

Not only did the authors offer 9 pages of notes (302 items), but they clearly stated their investigation and research methods on pages xiii through xv of the introduction.

I am totally unaffected by the fact that some of the economic applications made may not be totally accurate—as one reviewer at (Benjamin Van Kammen) pointed out—these are amateurs (and they admit it), and it is really unlikely, as Kammen lamented in his review: “I am afraid that amateurs will read this book and come away with misconceptions about the assumptions and applicability of ideas such as rationality, neoclassical economics, temporal discounting, and information asymmetry.”  Seriously?

What makes this book more readable than many others is the authors’ sense of humor.  Their “take” on the world is delightful and delightfully engaging.  You may not discover anything that is totally new to you (however, I would be surprised by that since most readers will never have considered the possibility of applying some basic economic concepts to relationships!), but you will not just find the case studies interesting, you will find Szuchman and Anderson’s deft touch and humor so captivating you may not want to put the book down once you begin reading it.

Spousonomics: Using economics to master love, marriage, and dirty dishes can be purchased at Amazon.   

Monday, December 24, 2012

How to click with people: The secret to better relationships in business and in life

By Rick Kirschner

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

The first thing I looked for when I opened this book was a section on “Notes,” or “References,” or “Other Readings,” or anything that would give you a clue that Kirschner reached outside of himself and his own personal resources to write this book.  There are none at all.  There isn’t even an index to the book.

The second thing I looked for when I opened this book—after finding no sources of any kind!—was the degree to which Kirschner’s information is accurate.  I think there is no question on this; however, I found most of what he said to be common sense and common knowledge.  Anyone who operates in the world today—in any capacity, I might add—knows and uses this information.  Do we need it codified for us?  Probably not.  Does Kirschner add anything to the communication world?  Not very much.

All that being said, did I find Kirschner’s suggestions for dealing with troublesome others to be valuable or even useful.  Yes, I did.  And I believe that any book, article, set of information, or advice that helps people get along well (or better) with others is worthwhile. This book is full of hundreds of practical, useful suggestions for getting along well with others.

In Chapter 7, “Clicking Electronically,” I found it interesting that Kirschner deals with clicking over the phone, clicking using e-mail, and clicking when using social networks, however, he never mentions clicking via texting.  Admittedly, many of the suggestions for clicking using e-mail would be useful and appropriate, but a separate section on texting would make the book more up-to-date.

What I appreciated throughout the book was Kirschner’s emphasis on the importance of listening.  Despite the context, everyone is likely to fair better if he or she begins with a listening perspective.  He reveals the importance of listening by offering “A Short Course on Listening,” in Chapter 3, then refers back to that information throughout this 254-page book.

This is a “how-to” book designed for beginners—those with little or no experience in the world of relationships, getting along with others, making connections, being successful, developing meaningful associations, and communicating effectively.

One of the keys to success is captured by Kirscher when he says, “Stumbling blocks can cause a lot of frustration, and removing the stumbling block may require patience, flexibility, and determination” (p. 218).  Patience, flexibility, and determination—no matter the context, issue, or people involved—is what effectiveness is all about.  Often, we demand instant success or instant results, and the world of getting along with others doesn’t usually operate at that speed.

How to click with people: The secret to better relationships in business and in life can be purchased at Amazon.   

Monday, December 17, 2012

The good among the great: 19 traits of the most admirable, creative, and joyous people

By Donald Van de Mark

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I have read many self-help books, many motivational books, and many books of support and encouragement.  I have even written a number of them myself, and my college textbooks on communication, in a sophisticated way, are like self-help, motivational books that offer students support and encouragement.  Van de Mark’s book is all of these in one.

Also, throughout my professional career, too, I have depended upon the work of Abraham Maslow, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs appears in many of my textbooks.  I have never read Maslow’s nineteen specific personality traits that make people exceptional.  It is these traits that provide the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings for Van de Mark’s book.  He offers readers one chapter per trait.

I have to admit that I begin reading books like this one with a great deal of skepticism.  Often, there is so much repetition between such books as these, and they reek of common sense and platitudes that offer little that is new.  That being said, however, I have often felt that any book or set of ideas that encourage people to become more creative and joyous—much less admirable!—is, automatically, useful and valuable.  Why not encourage people to improve themselves?

Well, let me tell you, this is really a very well-written book.  Although the nineteen traits (autonomous, loving, ethical, unaffected, private, detached, experiential, realistic, laid back, performance and process oriented, egalitarian, jolly, empathetic, dutiful, appreciative, creative, exuberant, joyous, and transcendent) are not earth-shattering, nor do they plow new territory, Van de Mark is a terrific story teller, and along with some well-known celebrities (Warren Buffet, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Charles Schwab, Robin Williams, and Steve Case, to name a few), the book reads easily, comfortably, and will hold your attention.

If you are looking for quick condensations of what he writes in each chapter, read the “Takeaways” he offers at the end of every chapter.  It is in those sections, especially, where the self-help orientation of the book is most pronounced.  There are always five or six ideas that readers can survey, adopt, internalize, and practice.

Yes, I was impressed.  It is clear that this is a well-constructed book.  The ideas are interesting, and if you are looking for support and encouragement in your attempts to improve your life, Van de Mark offers a great place to begin your search.

The good among the great: 19 traits of the most admirable, creative, and joyous people can be purchased at Amazon

Monday, December 10, 2012

The information: A history, a theory, a flood

By James Gleick

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

With 426 footnotes, a 26-page bibliography, and 426 pages of text material, this book if formidable for anyone, but the kind of information located here, too, is likely to attract only those with intense interest in the subject.  The book is excellent, well-written, and certainly well-researched, but I wonder how many people in the general population would find this book of interest?  It is technical, academic, and specialized.

The reason I picked up this book is a simple one: my interest in language and the development of the word.  For over thirty years I have written college textbooks on the subject of communication, and each one (without fail) contained a chapter on “verbal communication.”  For the current textbook, COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY, 10th edition (McGraw-Hill, 2012), it is chapter 3.  These chapters on language always appear near the front of the book and provide basic knowledge and understandings about the whole process of communication.

I was especially impressed with the writer’s writing style and the way he wove together the wealth of research and facts he accumulated during his investigation.  Also noteworthy, is the way he made sense of it all for the reader.  For example, he writes on page 273, “His point was that in the microscopic details, if we watch the motions of individual molecules, their behavior is the same forward and backward in time.  We can run the film backward.  But pan out, watch the box of gas as an ensemble, and statistically the mixing process becomes a one-way street.  We can watch the fluid for all eternity, and it will never divide itself into hot molecules on one side and cool on the other” (p. 273).

Professor Donald Mitchell wrote this in his review of the book at “If you love books about the history of science that tie many ideas, theories, and developments together and aren't a scientist, you'll have a good time with The Information.”  Mitchell thought the book was too elementary for people who are in the field.

Samuel Gompers, in his review of the book at, really focused in one essential element that potential readers must know before pursuing this book: “Be advised however: this book isn't actually a history of information. It's a history of the scientists who deciphered the physical principles of information. And there is a definite difference. The former would be overly technical; the latter...Gleick's end result, is a nice and not too deep biography of the wizards who figured it all out.”  Perhaps, that is what I found so fascinating.  I thought the manner in which Gleick draws together all of the major developments throughout the history of information is spectacular, and makes this book a delightful, informative, and valuable addition to any personal library.

The information: A history, a theory, a flood can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Too many bosses, too few leaders: The three essential principles you need to become an extraordinary leader

By Rajeev Peshawaria

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I am totally unfamiliar with Peshawaria, but his short biography on the back flyleaf is impressive: [He is] “currently the Chief Executive Officer of the ICLIF Leadership & Governace Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  He was a founding member of Goldman Sachs’s leadership development program called Pine Street and served as Chief Learning Officer for Morgan Stanley and the Coca-Cola Company as well as Global Director of Leadership Development programs at American Express.”  That kind of a background is impressive and proves that Peshawaria has experience to share with readers.

I liked this book for the way Peshawaria writes and for the wonderful examples he uses throughout the book.  I loved his three essential principles: 1) clearly define your purpose and your values, 2) nobody can motivate another person because every individual comes premotivated, and 3) a leader’s job is to create the conditions that will galvanize the energy of others to facilitate sustainable collective success (pp. xvi-xviii).

I am not suggesting that this book is full of revelations or new discoveries, because it is not.  It is definitely for beginning leaders because the stories here are motivational, encouraging, and certainly full of useful (for beginning leaders) insights and observations.  I loved the author’s own personal experiences, and I believe his advice is spot on.  With a background like his (see paragraph one above), you would not only expect but respect his additional personal experiences.

Peshawaria writes directly to the reader: “As you read about these real features in more detail below, consider one more key point about employee motivation” (p. 5).  You really feel 1) Peshawaria knows what he is talking about, 2) has a real, sincere passion for sharing what he knows, and 3) wants readers to understand, learn, and absorb his lessons.  It is truly a delightful experience—one that makes you feel you are in the hands of a benevolent mentor.

Although I can’t compare this book with other similar leadership books—since this is not my area of expertise or reading experience—I do think Peshawaria has something significant and important to say to young leaders, leaders looking for an extra shot in the arm, or leaders who are simply looking for confirmation and reassurance that what they are doing is correct, and it is for these reasons that I recommend this book without hesitation or reservation.  Besides, he’s a good writer, and the book is a good read.

Too many busses, too few leaders: The three essential principles you need to become an extraordinary leader can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

The rough guide to psychology: An introduction to human behaviour and the mind

By Christian Jarrett

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I use psychological evidence and research in my writing on communication, and I have done so for well over thirty-five years.  I subscribe to the magazine PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, and I read it closely every month.  It is for these same reasons that I chose to read The Rough Guide to Psychology—a truly interesting book.

One thing you will note from the title and the spelling of the word “behaviour,” is that the book was written by an Englishman—the editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.  Jarrett has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology.  This is important for two reasons: 1) It adds credibility to the book and what’s written in it.  2) It reveals that the material is likely to be well researched, based on studies, and the evidence (studies) clearly stated.  Both are true.

Jarrett states on page vi: “This book contains frequent references to experiments and case studies, and, wherever possible, names and dates are provided to help you track down the original research online.”

I took psychology courses in college, and this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill textbook.  And, at the same time, it is not a book of psychobabble.  It is, however, a book designed for the above-average, well-educated, intelligent, and inquisitive adult reader.  With the exception of the part on “Resources,” there are six: “Welcome to you,” “You and me,” “Same difference,” “All of us, “Psychology at large,” and “Psychological problems.”  I guarantee that there will be a number of sections that you will find that interest you, because his swath of issues and ideas is broad.

More than the text material itself—which is interesting, to be sure—I found the additional sections (colored in blue) some of the most valuable material in the book.  Not only are there boxes on some of the leading psychologists (William James, Lev Vygotsky, Alfred Binet, Elizabeth Loftus, and Sigmund Freud, among others), but others are like self-help boxes on “Five ways to boost your brain power,” “How to visit the toilet in the dark,” “Six evidence-based ways to boost your happiness,” “Does brain training really work?,” and “Evidence-based seduction,” among many, many others.

The layout, coverage of topics, writing (a very informal, comfortable style), examples, and short, pithy sections, make this book incredibly accessible and likable.

 The rough guide to psychology: An introduction to human behaviour and the mind can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Barefoot in Baghdad: A story of identity—my own and what it means to be a woman in chaos

By Manal M. Omar

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

One reason I found this book interesting was that it provided a potential “Consider This” selection for the eleventh edition of my college textbook COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY (McGraw-Hill).  In my textbook I have a chapter called “Intercultural Communication,” and I am always on the lookout for possible “boxed” additions—that is, sections that provide student readers with additional, insightful, and informative material that enhances, explains, or illustrates what is written in the text.

I have found Omar’s explanation of her multiple identities instructive, and the fact that it gave her her “own secret superpower” a useful insight–especially in the variety of different ways she was able to make use of that power.

The second reason I found this book interesting is that I have engaged in a great deal of foreign travel, and Omar’s description of and personal insights about Iraq are simply fascinating.  Admittedly, many are personal—and she states that at the outset.  But, having lived in Bangladesh for 14 months, I agree and concur with her observations.

The third reason I found this book interesting is found in Omar’s stories.  They are captivating and heartwrenching, to say the least.   The story of the five Iraqi girls inside an American trailer in the Green Zone (pp. 137-163) was especially touching.

The fourth reason this book is interesting is that it (along with a number of other books) well advertises the plight of women in many parts of the world.  If you are a woman, and if you want to champion women’s rights any place on the planet, this would be a good book to read to establish the foundation for strong arguments and to gather evidence for convincing disputation.

These four reasons alone are sufficient to recommend this book highly.  It is interesting, insightful, and captivating.

Barefoot in Baghdad: A story of identity—my own and what it means to be a woman in chaos can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

The life plan: How any man can achieve lasting health, great sex, and a stronger, leaner body

By Jeffry S. Life

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Why did I pick up this book?  I am in excellent health.  I don’t smoke or drink.  I eat clean, get plenty of rest, exercise frequently (and actively), and I maintain optimal hormone levels (according to results of tests and regular doctor visits).  People like myself—people who stay in good shape—are always looking for a new angle, a new approach, or a way to add something new to what they already do.  Rather than finding something new, Life simply reinforces (through his Life Plan) the kinds of things that healthy people must do to remain healthy.

Incidentally, he includes 9 pages of excellent references, and for those who need it, he has a Baseline Health Record that includes the “Important Tests to Maintain Optimal Health and Lower Disease Risk.”  If you are like I am and maintain your health by regular exercise, good nutrition, healthy habits, and regular monitoring and doctor’s visits, I think you’ll find that most of these tests are unnecessary as are the hormone supplements Life recommends.

If you are in poor health, however, it’s a different story: “By adhering to the diet and exercise programs, you are ensuring that not only will you lose weight and gain muscle mass, but you will improve your heart health.  If you follow the supplement program, you’ll find that your energy levels will return.  And if you carefully monitor your hormone levels, you’ll find that in no time at all, you’ll be looking and feeling younger” (p. 323).

I found the writing of the book excellent, the suggestions terrific, and the overall content  superb.  There is a lot of information in this book.  A lot!  His Life Plan Recipes (e.g., pp. 105-109) offer wonderful alternatives and ideas.

Also, I appreciated Life’s honesty.  For example, when he answered the question, “Do I Need Sports Drinks?” he said, “The truth is, there is nothing magical about any of these beverages.  They all contain carbohydrates, which have been clearly shown to be beneficial during exercise. . . . Research has show, however, that carbohydrate ingestion is beneficial only during prolonged exercise. . . . In fact, when we ingest carbohydrates during short-term exercise, it simply increases the calories we take in and inteferes with our efforts to get rid of body fat” (pp. 126-127).

I loved the personal examples Life includes.  For example, “My wife, Annie, has made dieting effortless for me.  She has come up with her own creation, and it has revolutionized my ability to stay on track with my nutrition program. . .” (p. 103).

I have to say that rather than simply a daily guide or a list of suggestions for diet and exercise, this is a reference work to which one can refer on an ongoing basis.  There is just too much here to digest and use without a plan of returning to the book over and over again.

I highly recommend this book for its direct, easy-to-read and understand approach, for Jeffry Life’s willingness to illustrate most of the exercises he recommends, for the numerous charts, for the personal, interesting examples (as well as the individual stories/testimonials distributed throughout the book), for the comprehensiveness of the coverage, and for the encouragement provided throughout for sticking to it, following through, creating realistic goals, and rewarding yourself for accomplishment.

It is true that any approach like this requires incredible willpower and self-discipline, but any change we want to make demands these same elements.  This is a book that is specific and to the point, so if you are looking for instructions along with motivation to get going, this is a great place to start.  I absolutely loved this book.  Five stars!

The life plan: How any man can achieve lasting health, great sex, and a stronger, leaner body can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

27 powers of persuasion: Simple strategies to seduce audiences and win allies

By Chris St. Hilaire with Lynette Padwa

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There are 27 chapters and 198 pages which means, on average, 7.3 pages per chapter.  Chapter titles include the techniques St. Hilaire and Padwa advocate: 1) Focus on the Goal, 2) Evaluate Egos, 3) Soothe or Sidestep Other Egos, 4) Manage Opposition by Giving It Nothing to Oppose, 5) Make Your Weakness Your Strength, 6) Find One Thing to Like About Everyone in the Room, 7) Use the First Five Minutes to Make People Feel Safe, 8) Stay in the Present, 9) Recognize Their Reality, 10) Make It About Choice, Fairness, and Accountability, 11) Keep It Simple, 12) Own the Language, 13) Use Emotional Language, 14) Make Sure Everyone’s Invested, 15) Get Third-Party Validation, 16) Get a Couple of Numbers, 17) Arm Your Advocates, 18) Aim for the Undecideds, 19) Avoid Absolutes and Hypotheticals, 20) Learn How to Use Silence, 21) Get Physical, 22) Don’t Say No, Say ‘Let’s Try This,’ 23) Release Bad News Quickly and Good News Slowly, 24) Challenge Bad Ideas by Challenging the Details, 25) Play Devil’s Advocate, 26) Don’t Change, ‘Adapt,’ 27) Be Your Own Pundit.

Okay, the point of listing the titles is, basically, that these are the persuasive techniques these authors advocate.  Do any of them surprise you?  If you have engaged in persuasion yourself, do they look familiar?  For those with no speech-communication experience, I can see how they might welcome a basic, persuasive primer like this, and I can certainly see how they would review the book positively.

From where did these ideas come?  Not from research.  The four pages of notes (pages 199-202) include 37 notes, and they are Internet sources, media interviews, or other resources that would not be considered “research” even if the term was interpreted in its widest possible latitude.   St. Hilaire and Padwa write: “For the past two decades I have observed how my clients—politicians, CEOs,trial attorneys, and marketers—practice the art of persuasion.  I’ve watched the best and worst of class in these professions, observed their communication styles, listened to their spoken language, tuned in to their body language.  And I’ve seen that certain patterns always hold true” (p. xiii).  The 27 techniques are based on observations only—one person’s observations.

Oh, not on observations alone.  Catch this: “ . . . the powers are informed by the observations and wisdom of my Buddhist teacher, Master Hang Truong, a man I have come to respect as much as anyone I know” (p. xxix).  Does this increase their credibility?  Their reliability?  Their validity?

I am not for one minute suggesting that the techniques (St. Hilaire and Padq call them “27 powers”) are wrong, weak, poorly chosen, or otherwise inept.  I am simply saying they are based entirely on observation—not on research; thus, they become one person’s suggestions.  If they work for you, great, but if they don’t, so be it.  In my mind, as I observe the “27 powers,” I find them common sense.  Anyone with any experience in speech communication (or not) would discover these on their own.  Just think about it.  That is all that is required.  Think!  (I award this book 1 star out of 5—less, maybe even zero out of 5!)

27 powers of persuasion: Simple strategies to seduce audiences & win allies can be purchased at Amazon.   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book 1: Stand and deliver: How to become a masterful communicator and public speaker, and Book 2: Make yourself unforgettable: How to become the person everyone remembers and no one can resist

By Dale Carnegie

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

The Dale Carnegie books were available (and popular) when I was a student in college.  I never thought much about them until I became a speech-communication major.  They were easy targets of disdain at that time; after all, we were gaining a college education in the very topics Carnegie addressed.  Besides, people were quick to point out, his books carried no footnotes, references, or bibliography and were often perceived to be “a pedestrian approach to communication.”  Once again, in college you get the sources for the ideas you espouse, therefore, it is thought, the ideas are of “higher quality” because they can be supported with credible references.  Whether you accept this idea or not is irrelevant; the only point I am making here is that as a young college student, I knew of these books but never took them seriously.

Both books appear like first-time editions with a 2011 copyright date and no acknowledgment of previous editions.  In the introduction, those who put together this book excuse the use of old examples in this way: “Stand and Deliver frequently draws on incidents and personalities from the not-too-recent past.  True, events such as the first Kennedy-Nixon debate have been discussed before.  But it would be a mistake to turn away from one of the all-time best examples of public speaking issues just for the sake of the calendar” (p. x).  The quotations/examples used throughout the book wreak of old age: Earl Nightingale, Harold Macmillan, Winston Churchill, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, William James, W. Clement Stone, Henry Ford, Edwin Land, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, J. Pierpont Morgan, Carl Sagan, and Woodrow Wilson, to name a few.  Sports personalities cited include Knute Rockne, Lou Gehrig, and Vince Lombardi among others. That said, the book has been updated and includes, too, more recent examples.

The nuts and bolts of public speaking, if that is what you are looking for, are presented in the book Public Speaking Rules!  All You Need for a GREAT speech! which offers the basic essentials in an easy-to-read 170 pages.

If you are looking for a straightforward advice book about public speaking with numerous quotations and supporting examples, Stand and Deliver delivers the goods.  It is cogent, accurate, and reads quickly and easily.  For each chapter there are three quotations on a page followed by a blank page.  The quotations are interesting but not necessary, and their elimination would reduce the size of this 240-page book by at least 20 pages.

Make Yourself Unforgettable is a much denser book than Stand and Deliver.  Many of the examples/quotations still wreak of old age, and the advice contained is a great deal of common sense.  The advice is competent; however, reading 224 pages of fairly dense text about relationships and self-presentation may be too much for some people.

The information in the book Relationship Rules: For Long-term Happiness, Security, and Commitment can have the same satisfying results; however, this book is easier to read, digest, and understand—and the information contained here isn’t as dense as Carnegie’s.

For over twenty years I wrote a college textbook, Understanding Interpersonal Communication, 7th ed. (HarperCollins) which covered much of the same information as that in Carnegie’s Make Yourself Unforgettable, and I have to say that his material is accurate, interesting, and useful.

I thought his advice on self-improvement is priceless: “Investment in yourself is absolutely the best investment you can make for securing your future.  Yes, it takes some of your free time and energy, and you will have to prioritize.  But you’ll meet new people, you’ll make new friends, and you’ll learn something.  It’s an excellent bargain” (p. 191).

These books deserve re-publication in this new form.  The information and advice is timeless and valuable.  Any book that is specifically designed to help people better themselves, understand others, and make a valuable contribution to community and society merits attention.

Book 1: Stand and deliver: How to become a masterful communicator and public speaker can be purchased at Amazon.  And Book 2 :  Make yourself unforgettable: How to become the person everyone remembers and no one can resist can be purchased at Amazon too.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Amish way: Patient faith in a perilous world

By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

The authors (each with a Ph.D. and professors at various colleges) are great writers and researchers and have a deep understanding and appreciation of Amish life and ways.  There are 14 pages of notes and 6 pages of references.

I found several things appealing in this book.  The first thing, the authors talk about in the preface: “We talked with a host of Amish people in the course of writing this book, and we quote many of them in the following pages” (p. xv). These quotations offer in-depth insights, revealing windows into Amish feelings and experiences, and an amazing reading experience.

The second thing I found appealing is how the authors emphasized throughout the book how Amish spirituality gives all members of their community “a framework for making decisions about marriage, family, work, and play—indeed, a framework that helps them face all the pleasures and uncertainties that human life entails” (p. xiii).  I find the power of their spirituality fascinating.

The third thing is the influence/domination of community.  A good example of community is explained on page 33: “A mother knows that if she is hospitalized, her congregation will help pay the bills, care for her children, and do the household chores until she recovers.  The local church swings into action with meals and moral support after any sort of misfortune, from a catastrophic barn fire to a broken arm” (p. 33).

Perhaps one of the most astounding ideas is how they reject anything that smacks of activism.  Not only do the Amish not concern themselves with world affairs, they do nothing (ever!) to try to change the world.  It is not the Amish way.  (Some might appreciate this approach and this simplicity.  I do not.)  

There is a great deal of information packed into this 192 pages of text material.  There are three appendices, and in addition to the notes and references, there is a complete18-page index.  With a tight organization plan, the book reads easily—especially because there are so many examples, and the sections within each chapter are short, vivid, revealing, and to the point.

Having directed a master’s thesis on the Amish in Ohio, I already had a good background of and interest in this topic; however, that being said, I found a great deal of new information in this book.  Of all the books on the Amish I have read, this is by far the best of the bunch.

Whether you have an interest in the Amish or not, this book offers wonderful insights into one of America’s most interesting co-cultures and a truly American phenomenon.  If you are simply looking for a great book that is entertaining, informative, and engaging, this is a fabulous choice.  Five stars!

The Amish way: Patient faith in a perilous world can be purchased at Amazon.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blur: How to know what's true in the age of information overload

By Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Any book that seeks to assist readers in becoming more discriminating consumers, whatever the marketplace involved, should not just be commended, it should be welcomed, hailed, and widely read.  This is certainly one of those books.

Over many years (over thirty now), I have been trying to encourage students (whether through lectures or textbooks) to critically analyze information from the Internet or material available via any media source.  How successful I have been is always questionable, especially since people tend to believe that if it is in print or if it appears on an Internet site, it has credibility.

Their chapter titles clearly reveal their intent: 1) How to Know What to Believe Anymore, 2) We Have Been Here Before, 3) The Way of Skeptical Knowing The Tradecraft of Verification, 4) Completeness: What Is Here and What Is Missing? 5) Sources: Where Did This Come From? 6) Evidence and the Journalism of Verification, 7) Assertion, Affirmation: Where’s the Evidence? 8) How to Find What Really Matters, 9) What We Need from the “Next Journalism.”  The Epilogue is entitled, “The New Way of Knowing.”

The authors of the book are both journalists with a great deal of experience, and they are clearly great writers.  The narrative flows easily.  Their numerous examples are interesting and engaging.  Central to their thesis, are the questions they raise at the end of chapter 1: “How will we as citizens learn what is true?  How will we find out what information we can trust in an age in which we are all our own experts and power has been ceded to everyone” (p. 11)?  At the end of Chapter 2, they raise the question, “How so we identify, with our new tools and options, what information is reliable” (p. 25)?  In Chapter 6, they ask: “How do we, as consumers, arrive at meaning in news?  How well do we navigate the borders between fact and belief, between empiricism and our own preconceptions” (p. 115)?

Incidentally, I always enjoy the use of the scientific method as a way to develop discipline and sanity in testing hypotheses.  In pages 116-119, the explanation is clear and precise—although I am skeptical that the average reader will understand all of its perameters or adopt the method in everyday life.

Unfortunately, the people who really need to read this book won’t, and I’m afraid that the predominant attitude regarding information that is printed (whether in newspapers, magazines,  books, or on the Internet) is likely to be believed without analysis, question, or challenge.  That, after all, is the status quo, and changing in any degree from what is known, accepted, and habitual is unlikely.

Just as speakers who deliver their ideas effectively (despite the worth, value, or ethical underpinning of the ideas themselves) tend to be believed without challenge, words in print often have the same effect.  It would be great if it were otherwise, but it is not nor will it ever be.

At the end of Chapter 3, the authors delineate what I see as the major hurtle that must be overcome to increasing skepticism when it comes to information (especially that available on the Internet): “Identifying what you are reading is not simply a matter of buyer beware.  You must learn to discriminate, to know what kind of journalism it represents, to discover the norms and motives lurking in the work—what the journalists are trying to do.  It is the first step, but a critical one, in knowing what to trust.  Once you have done this, then comes the work of knowing how to navigate, of walking the other steps of the skeptical way of knowing” (p. 56).

One thing the authors ought to consider is reducing the size (or focus) of this book to the process of verifying evidence.  They already have all the information, and it could be condensed, organized effectively, and all the advice they provide and suggestions they offer, could then be sold (in a different package, of course) as a way to improve communication, increase citizen potency, and heighten information credibility—all to the benefit of a more responsible democracy.  The problem of this book (for some readers) is that it is too long; there is too much information; and the needed advice, although obvious and available, may not have the effectiveness necessary.  (I say this and yet enjoyed all the examples the authors supply that make this book illuminating.)

I especially loved Chapter 8, “How to Find What Really Matters,” for its practicality, directness, and sense.  Their advice in answering the question, “Am I getting what I need from the news” (p. 165)? is spot on (pp. 165-169), and will make every reader a more capable consumer of news.

This is really an outstanding book that is incredibly enjoyable to read.  The authors have done an outstanding job in delineating the problem and suggesting specific methods for solving it.

Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong

By Alina Tugend

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

This is an excellent book.  Not only is it well-written and well-researched, but the narration flows smoothly, and the research is incorporated easily and unobtrusively.

In seventeen pages in half the font size of the text, she includes a wonderful and quite extensive set of notes.  Her bibliography, in the same reduced font size, extends for eleven pages.

Tugend truly knows what she is talking about, and not only does she offer examples with which all readers can identify, whether it is in raising children, in the workplace, medicine, aviation, genders, cultures, or individually, her insights and conclusions are on the mark.

I have used the research (the five dimensions) that Geert Hofstede, the Dutch psychologist, “has done over the years to identify and explain variations among societies” (p. 203), in my textbook, Communicating Effectively, 10th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2012) for many years, and I was pleased to see Tugend’s endorsement of them.  She said, “Nonetheless [despite his dimensions being “critiqued for failing to take into account minority societies within a dominant culture” (p. 205)], his work has proved very useful, and has withstood the test of time, in helping understand important cultural differences” (p. 205).

His examples of Hofstede’s dimensions are clear and helpful, and I plan to use one of them (with permission, of course), as a “Consider This” box or as an “Active Open-Mindedness,” or “Another Point of View” supplementary box.  That is how good her material is.

I also appreciated Tugend’s continual reminders about how we (her readers) can successfully deal with mistakes, or how they can be dealt with in the various areas she writes about.  In her “Conclusion,” she summarizes her advice by saying, “We all make our share of those [a faux pas or blunder], and that’s okay also.  But if we can all forgive ours and others’ errors more often, if we can acknowledge that perfection is a myth and that human beings screw up on a regular basis—and we can either simply feel bad about it and find someone to accuse or learn from it—then swe are on the right track.  Make no mistake about it” (p. 252).

This book is a “must read” for everyone.  There are “unexpected benefits of being wrong” that all people need to read.

Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Being happy: You don’t have to be perfect to lead a richer, happier life

By Tal Ben-Shahar

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There are a number of reasons why I liked this 228-page (of text) book, the first of which is that it is very well written.  Ben-Shahar is an engaging writer.

Second, I found the book educational.  Ben-Shahar includes six pages of references, then his four pages of notes are abbreviated, and all his notes come from his references.  The way he incorporates his sources throughout the book is smooth and comfortable—not the least bit awkward.  It will not take you, as a reader, long to discover that Ben-Shahar is not only well-educated, but the breadth of his knowledge is impressive as well.

Third, I enjoyed his personal insights, stories, and references because they offer additional depth to the book.  I thought the idea of moving from a perfectionistic point of view (or approach to life) to an optimalist is reasonable.  Also, it is a move that people can accomplish with dedication, patience, and persistence—requirements, obviously, for anyone who wishes to make changes in his or her life.

Fourth, I identify with Ben-Shahar.  It is clear that he is a teacher, and I thought his “Time-In” sections and end-of-the-chapter exercises were spot-on.  Anyone with a serious desire to shed his or her perfectionistic tendencies to become happier and more fulfilled, will find ideas in this book that will help them change—to move in more positive directions.

I am not suggesting by my comments that Ben-Shahar’s material is all new, that it is revelatory, that it is earth-shattering, or involves huge changes in one’s life.  There is a great deal of common knowledge and common sense here.  Often, those who are seeking changes in their lives need assistance.  

Reading this interactive book is a little like walking with a mentor’s hand on your shoulder.  The mentor is offering assistance through suggestions, advice, and warm counsel.  He, like a good teacher, is encouraging, motivating, comforting, supportive, positive, and reassuring.  If that is an approach you appreciate, then this book is a great choice.  To keep it handy is like having a counselor or tutor at arm’s length.

Being happy: You don’t have to be perfect to lead a richer, happier life can be purchased at Amazon.   

Monday, September 24, 2012

The big thirst: The secret life and turbulent future of water

By Charles Fishman

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Charles Fishman has written an absolutely superb book!  Judge it from any perspective whatever, and it wreaks of excellence.  If the five-star scale went to ten, it would be ten out of ten!

First, he is a wonderful, captivating, engrossing, and entertaining writer.  His language use is delightful.  As the flyleaf says, he “brings vibrantly to life in this surprising and mind-changing narrative, [how] water runs our world.”

Second, he is a terrific story teller.  “Story” suggests that he makes up information, which is not the case.  He provides superb examples and illustrations, and the details he offers make them riveting.

Third, he includes 55 pages of notes (in a small font) in this 313-page (of text material) book.  His sources are superior; his research is excellent; and the support he offers for all of his information is without comparison.

Fishman offers excellent statistics regarding household water use that are shocking.

How Las Vegas uses, saves, and then returns much of the water it borrows from Lake Mead is astounding.  The specificity of his examples are wonderful.  For example, his description of Poland Spring water from Poland Spring, Maine, is both delightful and insightful.  His stories of Atlanta, Galveston, Australia, India, and so many other places are breathtaking.

Fishman’s conclusion, as explained on the flyleaf of the book, is: “We have more than enough water.  We just don’t think about it, or use it, smartly.”  How companies like IBM, GE, and Royal Caribbean are now making important breakthroughs in water productivity are fascinating to read.

This is clearly a book that everyone should read.  The back flyleaf of the book is accurate when it says that the book “will forever change the way [you] think about water, about [your] essential relationship to it, and about the creativity [you] can bring to ensuring that [you’ll] always have plenty of it.”

The big thirst: The secret life and turbulent future of water can be purchased at Amazon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Self empowerment and your subconscious mind: Your unlimited resource for health, success, long life & spiritual attainment

By Carl Llewellyn Weschcke and Joe H. Slate

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Yes, I should have realized what this book would be about when I read that Weschcke has been called “the father of the New Age for his public sponsorship of metaphysical subjects,” and that Slate’s previous books included “a variety of metaphysical subjects, from astral projection and aura energies to nature power to psychic vampires, reincarnation, and rejuvenation” (from the back cover).

Why did I pick up this book?  I am always interested in new perspectives, alternative ways of thinking, and counter-intuitive modes of analysis.  Curiosity, pure and simple!

Before offering several reactions to this book, you have to know that I was raised by parents immersed in science (one taught science and the other was a professor who co-authored a textbook on biology), and I was in pre-medicine from junior highschool through my second year of university work at the University of Michigan. It was total immersion in scientific or science-related courses for six years of my life.   I am not a scientist, but I read extensively about science and scientific subjects because they interest me and have always intrigued me.

The text of this book is only 151 pages in length after which there is a 13-page appendix, “Self-Empowerment and Self-Hypnosis,” followed by a 56-page “Glossary and Suggested Readings.”

I found the authors’ explanation of the Great Pyramid model of Personal Consciousness, presented in their chapter one, when they described the Queen’s Chamber, its foundation upon the Earth as well as its connection to the Subterranean Chamber in the earth, and then the King’s Chamber and the area above completely absurd.  Even silly.

To give you just a quick introduction to the nature of this book, this is what the authors say in the section, “Psychic Skills and Paranormal Phenomena”: “The conscious mind, working through the subconscious mind, is able to manage these abilities that include clairvoyance, mind-to-mind telepathy, spiritual healing, automatic writing, psychokinesis, spirit communication, dowsing, astral projection, precognition, remote viewing, past-life regression, personal rejuvenation, psychic defense, and more.  Our goal is to intentionally make use of psychic skills for our practical benefit . . . “ (p. 69).  If you, as a potential reader of this book, believes in, supports, or truly endorses any of these activities or behaviors, then this book is definitely for you.

This is what the authors say in the section, “The American Middle Pillar and “Auric Energizer”: “The psychic centers themselves are not to be visualized as images or symbols, but rather as colored spheres of intense light, each about one and one-half inches in diameter, located—as indicated—either as a full sphere external to the body, or as a half sphere partially within the body and partially projecting out in front of the body” (p. 143).  If this isn’t nonsense in the extreme—psychic, supernormal, extrasensory, or mystical—I don’t know what is!

This is a totally ridiculous book—preposterous, ludicrous, farcical, irrational, nonsensical, and laughable.  If you enjoy farce, if you like charade, if you don’t mind wasting your time, then this book is for you.  It is harebrained, cockamamie, foolish, and stupid.  I award the book zero stars out of five.  If I could award a negative number of stars, somewhere between negative five and ten might not even begin to capture my assessment!  What a sham!  How is it that authors of the absurd can even find a legitimate vehicle to publication?  This book is not worth the paper it is printed on!

Self empowerment and your subconscious mind: Your unlimited resource for health, success, long life & spiritual attainment can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

To a mountain in Tibet

By Colin Thubron

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I have read no previous books by Colin Thubron; thus, this was my introduction to the author and his writing.  I was thoroughly impressed.

There are a number of caveats in my assessment of this book.  First, I am an active traveler.  Second, I love being out in nature.  Third, I have traveled in many foreign countries, and I’ve experienced isolated villages and desperately poor people. Thus, it is easy for me to identify with Thubron’s ideas, feelings, and insights.  Fourth, I love to read beautiful language (spectacular imagery) — especially when words create visual images that can easily be perceived.  In this book, it is as if you, the reader, are part of the author’s traveling party.  

There is another reason, too, that prejudices my assessment of this book.  Fifth, I truly enjoy entry into thinking-people’s thought processes.  This book is a thinking person’s spiritual journey, and the way he weighs and develops his ideas is not just remarkable and riveting but outstanding. The way this author transitions smoothly between descriptions about the people he encounters, the natural environment he experiences about him, his own thoughts and ideas about his history and his family, and even the history, religion, and background of the places he happens to be are wonderful in their richness and  vividness.  Again, just allowing his words to immerse you, bathe you, even soak you in their radiance and intensity is a warm, deep, penetrating experience.

I easily, comfortably, and accurately award this book five stars out of five for its dramatic, colorful, fascinating, intensity.  If you want to read about what the book covers or even the passages that stand out in others’ minds, read the reviews at  

To a mountain in Tibet can be purchased at Amazon.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

As China goes, so goes the world: How Chinese consumers are transforming everything

By Karl Gerth

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

The author teaches modern Chinese history at Oxford University and has written one previous book on China.  The 205-pages of text of the book As China Goes . . . is followed by 29 pages of notes, three pages of further readings, and a complete index.  The notes section is thorough, comprehensive, and extremely competent.

The book is not only well-written, it is well-researched, too.

Having recently visited both Shanghai and Beijing, I was interested in the author’s perspective of China, and that is why I sought out this book.

His eight chapter titles reveal, in part, what this book is about: 1) No Going Back?  2) Who Gets What?  3) Made in Taiwan.  4) Standardizing Abundance.  5) Branding Consumer Consciousness.  6) Living in a World of Fakes.  7) Extreme Markets.  8) Environmental Implications.

I thought the continuing contrast between the past and the present throughout the book was interesting and stark.  Having been there recently, I was able to witness the characteristics Gerth offered about present-day China.  Having lived and worked in Dacca, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) for nine months, it is not difficult to visualize the China Gerth knew when he went to school there, and the China with which he contrasted the present.

This is a well-written, well-researched, well-organized, and well-presented narrative that offers an accurate picture of China both then and now.  Gerth’s examples—whether personal, from contacts, or from his research—are interesting, useful, and certainly help advance his narrative.

I found this information both accurate and informative: “If global consumers are concerned about the safety of such Chinese imports as toys, paint, and drywall, imagine what it’s like to be a consumer in China, where the authenticity and quality of everything in your life is suspect: the food you eat, the water you drink, the pills you put in your body, the building you live in, the computer you use, the airplane you fly in—right down to the ‘Mont Blanc’ pen you may use, say, to write a book manuscript.  The uncertainty created by Chinese counterfeits is making sonsumer life in China unpredictable . . .” (P. 155).

This quotation reveals Gerth’s writing style, the accuracy of his observations, and the kind of information he has for readers.  This is a wonderful book, full of excellent, insightful information.  Whether you are planning a China trip, have been to China in the past, or if you have an interest in the development of the Chinese economy.  It isn’t just the development of the Chinese economy either, it is the reciprocal influence between China and the United States.  In his conclusion’s final paragraph, Gerth says, “. . . what happens in China is also deeply influenced by the actions of other countries, particularly the United States, and a similar case could be made that as the American consumer goes, so goes the Chinese consumer and the world. . . .(p. 205).”

This is an excellent book full of 205 pages of useful, well-researched information.

As China goes, so goes the world: How Chinese consumers are transforming everything can be purchased at Amazon.