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New Year, New You

Books to Change Your Life

It's January 1st ... the beginning of a whole new year, filled with hope, promise and the opportunity to bash yourself in the head for once again breaking every resolution you set for yourself the night before.

This year, instead of making resolutions, make changes.

Get Your Bearings

If, like most of us, you're floundering, aware that you'd like to enact change, but unsure of where to begin, Harold Bloom offers a creative compass with which to guide your quest. Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds is an encyclopedia of sorts, an encapsulated look at one hundred creative geniuses, mostly authors, all dead, all of whom were fiercely original thinkers. Select a mentor from a varied list that includes Proust, Kafka, Woolf, Dickinson, Cervantes, Chaucer, Paz, Borges and Hemingway, and get reading.

Stop Procrastinating & Start Moving

Before you can make real change, you'll need to get rid of the clutter, whether it be physical or mental. To remove the tangible debris of your former life, pick up Sink Reflections, a perky, yet useful, guide to getting your home and life in order. Marla Cilley, otherwise known as The FlyLady, offers tried-and-true innovations for gaining control of your home, room by room.

To clear less tangible clutter, try Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, a curious little book that likens unwelcome tasks to eating frogs -- if you do it first, you'll have the worst part of your day behind you. While both books are a bit on the cutesy side, a lighthearted tone helps soften otherwise dreary reading material, and the information is presented in a palatable enough format so that even if you cannot quite master the principles therein, you can at least tackle the guidebooks.

Become a Lady and/or Gentleman

Good manners are more than knowing which fork to use or when to write a thank-you note; they are key for gracious, stress-free living. Judith Martin's (a.k.a. Miss Manners) newest book, Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (For a Change), examines American manners as they evolved since the days of the founding fathers, helping readers better understand the importance of behaving well.

More practical is The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice, a hipster-chic guide to modern manly manners. Covering everything from dating to mating, booze, domesticity and dressing for dinner, The Modern Gentleman is an indespensible guide for men -- and the people who wouldn't mind if they smelled a little better.

Trim Your Waistline

How many times have the words "exercise regularly" appeared on your list of New Year's resolutions? Babar's Yoga for Elephants, Laurent de Brunhoff's newest book about the elephants of Celesteville, might help you finally keep your exercise resolution. A surprisingly comprehensive introduction to yoga, this book, while "intended for elephants interested in yoga," makes amusing the wretched task of getting into shape.


Exercise alone is great, but for life-changing results, you also need to alter your eating habits. If healthy eating is your objective, try Conscious Cuisine: A New Style of Cooking from the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff, a glossy tome by the executive chef of Miraval Spa. Lavishly illustrated with enticing photographs, this book is filled with simple, healthy easy-to-make dishes suitable for fine dining and everyday eating.

If your aim is to lose a few (or more) pounds, get on the Atkins bandwagon and try cutting the carbs: 500 Low-Carb Recipes: 500 Recipes from Snacks to Dessert, That the Whole Family Will Love will show you how. While the book doesn't contain pretty pictures, mouth-watering or otherwise, the fun, tasty recipes will vastly enliven the diets of the carb-free, who might be getting a little tired of meat, cheese and lettuce.

Get a New Look

Women who want to change their style will be amused (if not informed) by The Looks Book, a guide to style targeted at teenaged girls. The first half of the book details two valuable messages -- "every body is different" and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" -- lessons we would all do well to remember, regardless of our age or gender. The second half of the book defines a couple dozen different kinds of styles, from Goddess to Bad Girl, Chic Geek to African Queen, enabling readers to borrow a style if they're unable to come up with one of their own.

Beauty advice for adults can be found in Bargain Beauty Secrets: Tips & Tricks for Looking Great and Feeling Fabulous, a truly fabulous guide to dirt-cheap beauty. While aimed at women, men, too, can discover thrifty secrets for better hair, skin and nails. Our favorite tip: use Crisco as a bargain alternative to body moisturizer.

Explore the World

Before you get too comfortable with your life, take a few weeks (or months ... or years) to see the world. Avalon's updated guide to the ultimate traveling machine, Great American Motorcycle Tours, describes hundreds of doable rides across the US. Whether you're a Lone Wolf or part of the pack, you need to feel the wind on your face and the thrum of a hot motor between your legs ... and if not now, when?

Those who do not enjoy bugs in their teeth might prefer Anthony Bourdain's new book, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, an account of the notorious chef's global search for the perfect food. Although not a travel guide, Bourdain's book may inspire you to get off your duff and see the world -- or at least try Burmese food.

Get a Job

It's January, you live in the Bay Area and you need a new job. Face it -- you also need help. Fortunately, help is to be had in the newest editions of two industry staples, Cover Letters That Knock 'Em Dead and The Damn Good Resume Guide: A Crash Course in Resume Writing. Both books are reasonably priced and filled with solid, powerful examples of resumes and cover letters from which you can borrow key phrases -- just make sure you don't copy too closely!

If, after you've waded through one -- or all -- of these handy guides you can't quite motivate yourself to make any of the changes about which you've just read, don't despair. The truly glorious thing about browsing through books is that the act is valuable enough in and of itself. So what if you can't seem to lose ten pounds? You've just read ten books!

Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds
by Harold Bloom
Warner Books; ISBN: 0446527173; November 2002
Hardcover; 832 pages; $35.95

Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
by Brian Tracy
Berrett-Koehler Pub; ISBN: 1576751988; October 2002
Paperback; 144 pages; $12.95

Sink Reflections
by Marla Cilly
Bantam Doubleday Dell; ISBN: 0553382179; October 1, 2002
Paperback; 223; $14.95

Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (For a Change)
by Judith Martin
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393048616; November 2002
Hardcover; 224 pages; $24.95

The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice
by Phineas Mollod & Jason Tesauro
Ten Speed Press; ISBN: 1580084303; October 2002
Hardcover; 288 pages; $21.95

Babar's Yoga for Elephants
by Laurent de Brunhoff
Abrams Books for Young Readers; ISBN: 0810910217; September 2002
Hardcover; 48 pages; $16.95

Conscious Cuisine: A New Style of Cooking from the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff
by Cary Neff
Sourcebooks Trade; ISBN: 1570719268; October 2002
Hardcover; 352 pages; $35

500 Low-Carb Recipes: 500 Recipes from Snacks to Dessert, That the Whole Family Will Love
by Dana Carpender
Fair Winds Press; ISBN: 1931412065; October 2002
Paperback; 480 pages; 471 pages

The Looks Book
by Rebecca Odes, Heather McDonald, Heather Drill, Esther Drill
Penguin USA; ISBN: 0142002119; September 2002
Paperback; 160 pages; $17

Bargain Beauty Secrets: Tips & Tricks for Looking Great and Feeling Fabulous
by Diane Irons
Sourcebooks Trade; ISBN: 1402200080; October 2002
Paperback; 256 pages; $14.95

Great American Motorcycle Tours
by Gary McKechnie, Peter Fonda
Avalon Travel Publishing; ISBN: 1566914485; October 2002
Paperback; 419 pages; 95

A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines
by Anthony Bourdain
Ecco Press; ISBN: 0060012781; November 2002
Paperback; 288 pages; $14.95

Cover Letters That Knock 'Em Dead, 5th Ed.
by Martin John Yate
Adams Media Corporation; ISBN: 1580627935; November 2002
Paperback; 304 pages; $12.95

The Damn Good Resume Guide: A Crash Course in Resume Writing, 4th Ed.
by Yana Parker
Ten Speed Press; ISBN: 1580084443; October 2002
Paperback; 80 pages; $9.95