Sunday, May 2, 2004

A round-up of
‘how to’ books

IN OUR information glutted society, you can't turn around without bumping into someone eager to help improve any part of your pathetic life. People who possess such special knowledge can't wait for you to glean their pearls of wisdom. That is, for the price of their book.

illustration Along with literary classics, bookstore shelves are filled with tomes on how to be the best "you" that you can possibly be. I must confess, two books helped me be who I am today: dating back to my awkward high school years (and still in print) are Thomas Harris' pop-psych guide to transactional analysis, "I'm OK -- You're OK," and "What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters & Career Changers."

(Hey, I wanted to know what to do with my life, OK?)

Now I'm mature enough to confess my ignorance over The True Meaning of Life. But how about you? ARE YOU TROUBLED? DO YOU NEED HELP??

Fear not! In these times of quick-fix guides to a blissful existence, we offer the following "how-to" books for consideration. They may not help you clear up your skin, lose weight, lower your cholesterol, enhance your sex life, or make your relationships better, but they may comfort you with the notion you're not alone, and, at the least, bring a smile to your face:


I'm still in school

You'll be taking that leap into college. What fo' do? Authors Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht and Jennifer Worick write in the latest "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: College" (Chronicle Books, $14.95) that matriculation is "a time of noble pursuit of knowledge, intellectual development -- and unending peril!" You know, the practical stuff college kids face, like how to deal with less-than-ideal roommates, how to ask your parents for money, how to eat or get a free drink when you're broke, how to take a test when you haven't studied, how to survive a class when hungover, and how to tell your folks you've been expelled.

It's wisdom in bite-size pieces. Learn to make curtains from T-shirts. How to hide things in your dorm room. How to survive the dorm restroom (one option: date someone who lives off campus). How to avoid doing laundry (shower with your clothes on). And, most important, how to date three people at once.


I'm out of school

So you've decided to come back home and earn a living here. While back in your parents' house, peruse "How to Get the Job You Want in Hawaii" by Rich Budnick (Aloha Press, $14.95). This is a practical, no-nonsense guide that takes you through the whole process: resumé writing, job interviews, networking and keeping a level head during your job search.

Budnick also lists the state's 1,600 top companies and our newspaper's listed but -- auwe! -- with our old Kapiolani address. (Granted, the book wasn't revised since 1998, so, change that to 500 Ala Moana, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu, 96813.

The paperback of Maui resident Sam Horn's "Tongue Fu!: How to Deflect, Disarm and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict" (St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95) is covered with favorable blurbs, including one from this newspaper. Horn's book and workshops teach people how to deal with difficult situations in which verbal skills and a bit of empathy are needed -- the speaking equivalent of kung fu. Keep it close for potential confrontations in and out of the workplace.

And, knowing how much we love Vegas and lucky frog charms, why not combine both interests? "The Guide to Hawaiian-Style Money Folds" by Jodi Fukumoto (Island Heritage, $9.99) brings a local twist to the Japanese paper-folding craft with designs of flowers, lei, aloha shirt, slippers, ukulele, gecko and, of course, the frog. (Use only use new, crisp bills.) The instructions are clear and well-illustrated, and also include how to put the folded money into special envelopes, wraps and boxes.


When does it get better?

Maybe you haven't realized your true potential? Dare to dream!

"How to Be President: What to Do and Where to Go Once You're in Office" by Stephen P. Williams (Chronicle Books, $9.95) won't help you formulate your domestic and foreign policies after winning the election, but it will help you with the nuts-and-bolts of life in the White House. It tells you where to find the restroom, where to sit at a Cabinet meeting, how to read a TelePrompter, how to greet foreign dignitaries and when can you use Air Force One.

The easy-to-use book is filled with helpful illustrations, diagrams and maps so you won't feel like a klutz as you negotiate your way through your job when your handlers aren't around. There's even advice of how to deal with the press, giving away "10 all-purpose answers to tough questions," which are basically variations "No comment. Next."

If being president doesn't float your boat, maybe Myke Predko's "123 Robotic Experiments for the Evil Genius" (McGraw-Hill, $24.95) is more your speed. The book's strictly for electronic hobbyists who want to learn how to put together simple robots from humble materials -- not giant, destructive ones bent on conquering the world.

The experiments range from fun, simple ones in making your own "toilet paper roll mandroid," "pipe cleaner insect" and "LEGO mobile robots" to making more ambitious mobile robots with a help of a printed circuit board included with the book.

There's also a book for those well on the path to curmudgeondom. Karen Salmansohn's "How to Be Happy, Dammit!: A Cynic's Guide to Spiritual Happiness" (Celestial Arts, $14.95) offers up "44 life lessons to save you years of time, effort and humiliation." It claims to be the self-help book for people who don't buy self-help books.

It's an image-filled collection of thoughts culled from all the usual scientific and philosophical perspectives. The book has the attitude and sophistication of a well-planned ad campaign. Because of its design, it is a breeze to read through, the main message being, keep a pro-active approach in life without letting negativity cloud your thinking.

In closing, let us take to heart Life Lesson 18: "You must relax and enjoy the ride." May it be a relatively smooth one for you.


Magazine fronts are full of cover lines promising the same things every month. You'd think all we care about is how to be rich, thin, unstressed and beautiful.

This week, we attempt to answer life's most perplexing questions, which will free us to pursue more serious thoughts.

Here comes the disclaimer: We do not promise that any of the methods and practices contained within this issue will work universally. They are guidelines. As always, when seeking answers and advice, consult experts who can analyze your particular situation and come up with a custom solution.


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