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Book Review: The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai book cover

By Jaye Marsh

In general, North Americans are stressed, overweight, stuck to our desks, and disconnected from the world we live in. With The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai attempts to help us address these issues by offering tools, including online resources and email support, to “hack” a more balanced lifestyle.

I really wanted to like this book, but it was a challenge. The writing style is the culprit here, not the content. I was pulled out of the messaging, and the information to be gleaned here, too many times not to mention it.

The Urban Monk reads as if the publishers are Millennials/Generation Y or whatever generalization is currently en vogue. Our supposed readers are the ever-taxed and ever-busy 30- to 45-year-olds replete with children, mid-career angst, mortgages, housing problems, and stuff problems, and are in need of a current version of Zen to help them find a way to sanity that allows for who they are rather than completely. To that end, this book has its place, but it ignores a huge segment of depleted populace in need of help: those who don’t live an urban lifestyle. None of the case studies offered in the book take place in non-traditional settings like freelancing, consider people juggling multiple jobs, or explore those facing financial struggles.

(more…)

Book Review: The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People by Pedram Shojai

Art of Stopping Time

By Emma Warnken Johnson

Mindfulness is everywhere these days. There seems to be an endless supply of books, articles, and apps touting its benefits. The practices vary, but they all seek to focus the mind on the present moment, shedding distractions and helping us appreciate the little things in our lives. I’ve been meaning to try mindfulness for quite some time, but never seem to be able to fit it into my busy schedule.

This makes The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People a timely book for me, and I suspect it will be for a lot of other busy editors too. Taoist monk and Qi Gong master Pedram Shojai adapts the 100-day Gong—a traditional Taoist practice—to create a mindfulness routine that can fit into a busy schedule. The book is divided into 100 short chapters, and each one describes a brief daily activity that promotes mindfulness and a healthier relationship to the way we think about and spend our time.

The activities vary widely. Readers are asked to do some breathing exercises, to stretch and relax their muscles, and to eat a meal without the distraction of other activities (like watching TV). Some days include simple activities designed to give your mind a short break, like going for a walk, taking a bath, or making a cup of tea—and several of these seem tailor-made for an editor who takes regular breaks to improve productivity. Other days are more reflective, asking you to think about how you spend their time and review your priorities. Reading through the activities, I found several that I thought I would enjoy and could easily integrate into my daily schedule. (more…)

Book Review: Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau

Side Hustle

(Crown, 2017)

By Jessica Trudel

Do you find your day job fulfilling? If you answered “no,” Side Hustle is for you. If you answered “yes,” Side Hustle is also for you.

That’s what author Chris Guillebeau gets across in the early pages of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. “Everyone should have a side hustle. Even if you love your job, having more than one source of income will give you more freedom and more options.”

Who doesn’t want the freedom that more money can bring? And if you could start bringing in more money in less than a month, even better.

Side Hustle outlines Guillebeau’s five-week program to launch a successful side hustle. Besides being a veteran side hustler himself, Guillebeau is also the bestselling author of The $100 Startup.

In his book, Guillebeau targets those people who want to want to make money as entrepreneurs but who aren’t prepared to fully commit to self-employment. Perhaps they like their day job and want to keep it, or perhaps they just aren’t ready to quit yet.

Side Hustle is an easy read. Guillebeau uses accessible language, not jargon, to emphasize that you don’t need an MBA to run a successful side hustle. He includes anecdotes in every chapter, telling stories of regular people who came up with an idea for a side hustle and took immediate action. None of his subjects sat down and wrote out a detailed business plan first.

Still, there isn’t much to learn in Side Hustle if you already have entrepreneurial experience. In fact, some of it may seem downright obvious. Regardless, it’s a good reminder that keeping things simple is often the fastest route to success.

Guillebeau’s writing style is entertaining and inventive. He cleverly transitions between ideas and anecdotes. For example, after sharing an anecdote about one person’s sweater-selling side hustle, Guillebeau writes, “Like sweaters, side hustles are not one size fits all.” He also commits to his metaphors, dedicating seven pages to “the recipe for hustling success” and wrapping it up with, “A recipe is only as good as the finished product you take out of the oven.”

I was impressed with the formatting and organization of the book. It expands on the typical table of contents by including a summary of the 27-day plan with short one-to-two-sentence teasers. These teasers reappear at the beginning of the corresponding chapter, to reinforce the importance of sticking to the plan.

Guillebeau admits that he’s a bit indecisive. “If you’re like me, you may sometimes have trouble choosing among all your different side hustle ideas,” he writes. It feels as though Guillebeau couldn’t decide if he wanted Side Hustle to be a workbook or a textbook. Side Hustle includes a few workbook features: he leaves some room to make notes or answer questions in five places within the book. Since Guillebeau touts that most of the planning in his system can be done “on the back of a napkin,” it seems that he could have made room for planning in every chapter. It would have also been okay for him to leave no room for planning at all. Just make a decision, Chris!

Many editors with day jobs think they have a successful side hustle, but Guillebeau wants readers to understand that a truly successful side hustle brings in “passive income.” Editing is labour-intensive; typically an editor is only paid per hour or per word. Passive income is earned if, for example, you write a book about editing that continues to sell without your ever having to write another word. Guillebeau would encourage a side-hustling editor to find a way to make their hustle more self-sufficient.

Ultimately, Guillebeau’s message is this: “A good side hustle…can help support your life, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life.” I think all of us who dedicate almost every waking minute to writing and editing can all take a little wisdom from that.

Jessica Trudel has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006 and is an outspoken advocate for the arts in Northern Ontario. A mother of four girls, she is also on the board of directors of her local writers’ guild. She recently began hosting LitBulbs on YouTube.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

Book Review: Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin

Boss Bitch

(Crown, 2017)

By Alethea Spiridon

 

Nicole Lapin knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wildly successful career woman who has blazed a path for herself as both a businesswoman (launching the CASH Smartwatch) and as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC. A boss bitch is the “she-ro” of her own story, Lapin writes on page 1 of the book: “She is the heroine who doesn’t need saving because she has her own shit handled. I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a ‘boss’ in all aspects of the word.”

 

That opening sets the tone and pace for this marvellous book that will no doubt empower women who need a nudge, or even an all-out kick in the butt, to take their career—and life—to the next level, and to be as successful as wanted and needed. Lapin’s tone is forthright and honest, and girlfriend to girlfriend, something she says at the outset is exactly how she intends it to be.

 

Her voice and approach make the content relatable and easy to digest; it’s like going for drinks with a great friend who has your back, but calls you out on your nonsense because all she wants is the best for you. Lapin has plenty of insights to share that can really help women get back on track or consider what track to finally take to become the Boss Bitch in their own lives.

 

Though the book promises a “12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career” it really isn’t a 12-step approach because not all steps will apply to all women. The steps are divided into three sections: Being the Boss of You, Being the Boss at Work, and Being the Boss of Your Own Business. This is the book’s only failing. Although many women will fall into one of these categories, it seemed as though there would be a 12-step outline you should follow to become a Boss Bitch. But no. This is a little misleading, but not enough to condemn the book as a whole. Boss Bitch contains hidden gems of advice given throughout and offers much valuable insight and advice for every woman at whatever stage of her career she is in.

 

One of the book’s best aspects is what Lapin calls the “Bottom Line”, offered at the end of each chapter, tackling a piece of conventional wisdom, then giving it her spin on the “Real Deal.” The real deal is her no sugar-coating take on the situation presented, and she shows how the conventional wisdom of the topic at hand may or may not be accurate. For example, one piece of conventional wisdom is that assertive women are overbearing. Her first response to this, her Real Deal reply? “Hell no.” These insights alone, as well as the Bitch Tips and Confessions of a Boss Bitch sprinkled throughout each chapter, are worth the price of the book alone.

 

She holds nothing back, from revealing her salary level along the course of her career, to personal anecdotes of failure, to how she got back up and learned from those experiences. Her strength of character and steadfastness in her desire to succeed is utterly infectious and is sure to inspire the women who take the time to invest in themselves by reading her book. Boss Bitch is a manifesto of sorts on how to achieve your best self and best life without compromising your values, ethics, and true desires.

Alethea Spiridon is a writer and editor in Southern Ontario. Her first book, Kissing Strangers: How to Online Date Like a Boss is out now and available on Amazon. [www.freelanceeditor.ca]

This article was copy edited by Nicole North.

Book Review: What Next? by Dr. Barbara Moses

What Next?

by Karen Kemlo

Dr. Barbara Moses, known as “Canada’s career guru,” is a leading expert in work satisfaction and career success. This updated third edition of her best-selling book What Next? has something for anyone who is at a crossroads in their career or work life.

From millennials starting out in their job searches to more mature workers changing careers, this is a great step-by-step guide to making the next move. But be warned—it’s a big read with lots of homework in the form of self-assessment questions. Although likely meant to instill greater self-reflection, the detailed questions often bring the book and the reader to a full stop.

The early chapters discuss the notion of identifying one’s “core motivators” for seeking certain types of work. Based on her research, Moses has identified eight motivational types: sociability seekers, career builders, authenticity seekers, personal developers, novelty seekers, entrepreneurs, lifestylers, and stability seekers. The challenge, according to Moses, is “to find a work environment that provides the best possible match.”

It’s a unique approach to career guidance, something I wish I’d known about when starting out in the work world. Perhaps it would’ve focused my early job and education goals sooner. It might have also saved me the horror of dead-end and minimum-wage jobs. But I also know that my 20-year-old self would never have taken the time to fill out all of the questionnaires in this book.

Given the current job market, and the rise of part-time and precarious work, it seems unrealistic to assume that all workers will always have the ability to choose. Sometimes you have to take jobs and work with difficult people, simply in order to pay the bills. Life challenges, such as downsizing, divorce or illness get in the way of career goals.

What Next? is still a great resource for people at different stages in their careers and touches on some of the issues that everyone has to deal with at some point: how to overcome job burnout, how to deal with difficult bosses, what to do if you’re fired, how to write a resumé, and the benefits of networking. These chapters are shorter and less detailed than the ones on self-assessment and motivational types. As a consequence, the author—and the reader—spend more time inside the world of ideas and ideal jobs than in the real world of work.

Karen Kemlo is a freelance editor and writer in Toronto. 

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer

Book Review: Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar by David Crystal

Crystal against crystallization

by James Harbeck

(Oxford University Press, 2017) MAKING SENSE

How can we have crystal-clear language spoken by people with a crystal-clear understanding of how it works? For one thing, don’t try to crystallize it—just Crystal-ize. Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, by David Crystal, is for anyone who wants to get Crystal clarity on the function and uses of English. Crystal is a world-renowned British linguist, academic, and author. He is one of the leading lights of popularizing linguistic understanding; he has written, co-written, or edited more than 120 books, including the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, The Stories of English, Language and the Internet, and, most recently, a series of books beginning with Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling, continuing with Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, and now adding Making Sense, which gives us what is effectively an introductory course in English linguistics—syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, and history—written for people who want something readable and usable. And he adds some extra details that you’re more likely to get in a course in effective writing.

It can be difficult to review a book that has nothing wrong with it. Honestly, in real life I would normally just say, “If you’re interested in grammar, read this book; if your work in any way involves grammar—and of course it does—read this book; even if you know a lot about grammar already, it will still be worth your time.” But let me give you some more details so you know why I’m recommending it. (more…)

Book Review: The Story of Be: A Verb’s-Eye View of the English Language by David Crystal

STORY OF BE by David Crystal

(Oxford University Press, 2017)

By Christine Albert

Some words are so familiar that it feels as though we instinctively know what they mean. And when we don’t, we use a dictionary to read its definition and determine how it can be placed alongside other words to form cohesive narratives. But how often do we think about the history behind the word itself, the changes it’s gone through and the nuances it provides the English language and the topics being discussed?

In The Story of Be: A Verb’s-Eye View of the English Language, David Crystal examines the verb to be, highlighting the meanings created and used throughout its long history. A linguist, editor, and prolific writer, Crystal is well-known for his research in English language and has published over 100 books and almost 500 articles on topics such as religious language, Internet language, and clinical linguistics. Each chapter of The Story of Be is dedicated to a specific function of the verb, ranging from the more philosophical (“existential be”) to the scatological (“lavatorial be”). In the latter chapter, for instance, Crystal muses on the origins of the saying “Have you been?” to denote using the washroom, delving into past literature to see when this phrasing began. Alongside these explanations are numerous examples from a variety of sources, including literary, pop culture, religious, and technological. And sprinkled throughout the book are text boxes that focus on the history of the word’s various tenses, showing their development from Old English to modern times and their regional uses. (more…)

Book Review: Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin

Boss Bitch

(Crown, 2017)

By Alethea Spiridon

Nicole Lapin knows what she’s talking about. She’s a wildly successful career woman who has blazed a path for herself as both a businesswoman (launching the CASH Smartwatch) and as a news anchor for CNN and CNBC. A boss bitch is the “she-ro” of her own story, Lapin writes on page 1 of the Boss Bitch: “She is the heroine who doesn’t need saving because she has her own shit handled. I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a ‘boss’ in all aspects of the word.”

That opening sets the tone and pace for this marvellous book that will no doubt empower women who need a nudge, or even an all-out kick in the butt, to take their career—and life—to the next level, and to be as successful as wanted and needed. Lapin’s tone is forthright and honest, and girlfriend to girlfriend, something she says at the outset is exactly how she intends it to be.

Her voice and approach make the content relatable and easy to digest; it’s like going for drinks with a great friend who has your back, but calls you out on your nonsense because all she wants is the best for you. Lapin has plenty of insights to share that can really help women get back on track or consider what track to finally take to become the Boss Bitch in their own lives. (more…)