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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Sholes, Lynn; Moore, Joe: The Hades Project | Main | O'Keefe, Dan: The Real Festivus »

Niesslein, Jennifer: Practically Perfect in Every Way

  

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Putnam © 2007, 343 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

Jennifer Niesslein has reason to be content. She lives with her husband and son and two dogs in a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is reasonably young (in her early thirties) and reasonably successful (Niesslein is the cofounder of Brain, Child magazine), reasonably happy (her "average" happiness is in fact a 6 out of a possible 10) and reasonably well-to-do (having married into money). She is also a more than reasonably good writer. Still, Niesslein thought her life could stand some improvement....

[INSET TEXT: Watch while the author reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, say, or spends a year cooking Julia Child recipes.] Practically Perfect is a type of book we seem to be seeing more of these days (unless I'm just noticing them more): the author undertakes a project of some kind--outlandish or unusual in some way--and invites the reader to come along for the ride through the magic of creative nonfiction. A sort of travelogue without the travel. Watch while the author reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, say, or spends a year cooking Julia Child recipes. It's a conceit, of course, but one for which I have a particular weakness. With the appearance of each of these new books I kick myself for not having come up with the idea myself.

For her book, Niesslein--why didn't I think of this?--immersed herself for two years in the advice of an assortment of self-help experts, from Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura, from Cosmo to Oprah to Dale Carnegie to Dear Abby. She divides the spectrum of self-help possibilities into seven general areas--house, finances, marriage, mothering, community, health, and spirituality--and approaches these topics serially, exploring the programs of a number of different experts on each topic. Niesslein does not follow the various gurus' advice slavishly, but she is more serious about adopting their programs than most readers probably are. She journals her feelings for Dr. Phil, religiously cleans the "hot spots" in her house per the advice of her cleaning expert, and she exercises for 8 minutes every morning because Jorge Cruise told her to.

There is a practical benefit to reading this book. Readers are introduced painlessly to a host of different self-help programs. Like me, you may find yourself Googling some of them to find out more. But with books like this I'm really just in it for the ride. I want to spend time with an interesting character who can entertain on the page: check, and check. Niesslein's personality is spiced with a dollop of misanthropy (which, frankly, I find attractive):

"Just because I learned some tips on how to interact better with people doesn't mean I find it enjoyable or even worthwhile."

She is wont to be riled by petty grievances:

"One evening, Brandon walks into the kitchen and catches me, while I load the dishwasher, playacting the scene that will happen when the recycling bin thief is confronted. You had to have known that that wasn't your recycling bin, I snap. That nasty-ass green one is. My ire is contagious, and soon Brandon and I have, together, painted a devastating picture of the perpetrators' moral vacuum."

And she writes well. It's a winning combination. My only complaint is that the book could use an index--for help with all that self-help Googling the book inspires.

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Comments

1.

Hehe... this book sounds surprisingly fun.

2.

It's a great idea for a book.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.