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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2011
If the title (or the cover) makes you smile, then you will enjoy the book. For not only is this a sober review of self-help (personal and professional) literature which also sits well in the genre it is mocking, but it is also a funny book.

HELP! addresses most of the areas covered by self-help, pop psychology and pop business books such as Productivity, Wellbeing etc. My favourite chapter title has to be "Follow Me: Gurus, God-Men and other questionable characters." This chapter starts with the author's visit to the Church of Scientology and continues with his observations on concepts and books such as Emotional Freedom Technqiues, "The Secret" and numerous ones built around the number seven.

Oliver Burkeman might well be preaching to the converted, but he manages to extract the most achievable methods and those concepts based around common sense. Here are my favourite.

FORGET ABOUT PASSION

Is looking for your "passion" more hassle than it's worth?

I'm very lucky that I have built my professional career around things that I care about and enjoy. Many people say I'm passionate - perhaps what they mean is that I am over-excited too often. I know many people who just really like their work; or some who are just happy there; and some for whom work is a means to an end. They are all happy, yet none of them are following their "passions".

Burkeman goes even further and warns of the dangers of always searching for passions that are out there, rather than exploring different ways of doing what you're already doing that will bring you satisfaction. In any case, he much prefers Csikszentmihalyi's concept of "flow", the complete immersion in an activity that makes time whizz by. I agree. I can't say that I am passionate about spreadsheets but time never seems to go as fast as when I'm tackling my accounts. And you know what? I do enjoy it.

"We don't need new information on how to be happy anywhere near as much as we need a dose of perspective."

NOT BEING A SPECIALIST IS O.K.

This one is very close to my heart. I have so many professional interests... I am quite good at some, o.k. at most and I have acknowledged that I'll never be any good at the others so have adopted them as hobbies.

So why shouldn't I celebrate that I have a broad range of interests and skills? Well, for one, it makes it really difficult to talk to people about what I do. It's makes it difficult to market my services. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in what I'm talking about (some would say "passionate") and I run the danger of coming across as unfocused.

So I was glad to be reminded, that, actually, it's o.k. not to be a specialist. Having a conversation about this the other day, someone said: "But surely having a broad range of careers is the way forward, Charles Handy talked about a portfolio career." Yes, he did and I welcomed it ten years ago. What he didn't mention is that sometimes you have to hide some portfolios and choose which to show to whom. Only sometimes though.

THE SECRET IS OUT:

"Psychological studies support [...] that the people we follow as leaders are the ones who decide they've got what it takes to lead."

Enough said.

INDIVIDUALS: TAKE CONTROL.

Lastly, I also welcomed the reminder that, even though the world seems to have gone a bit mad and information is constantly demanding our attention, we are still in control (or at least, can still be in control) of whether we process it or not.

"Information overload" is a questionable complaint: if we couldn't handle vast amounts of information, we'd have a breakdown each time we stepped into nature or a busy street. The real trouble is that we have defined too many things as worthy of having the power to distract us. The best time-management strategies are about reclaiming this power.

Recommendation

This book might not change your life, but then, that's not what it promises. However, it will remind you of the need to question those who promise to turn your life around in 200 pages. Furthermore, it can also serve as a pointer to plenty of other interesting stuff and, after consideration, you might even find that some of the ideas can indeed help you to "become slightly happier and get a little bit more done."

Above all, I hope it will make you think and I hope it will make you smile.

P.S. Thanks Amazon, for your Kindle Daily Deal - otherwise I wouldn't have come across or purchased this great title.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2010
I read Help! in one day and now keep going back to different chapters often. A very thought provoking, entertaining and interesting book written in an easy to read style It is also quite funny in places. Perhaps could be termed a self educational book although it is not written in that style. Have now purchased copies for all my children and grandchildren as I know it will be of Help! to them.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2011
Having read just about every self help book that's ever been written over the last thirty years or so, I'd realised eventually that none of them had "the" or even "an" answer. A good sort out and a trip to Oxfam left me with the very few that I would need to "dip into" or read again with care. I'd resolved to buy no more.

However, Oliver Burkeman's "Help" was irresistible. I always read his column in the Guardian Magazine and find it amusing, wise, and helpful in a practical way. He isn't cynical or pretentious but he is clear sighted and able to see to the heart of the matter.

I've learned a great deal from all the self help books I've read. Whether I agreed, or disagreed with them they've helped me find a way through 65 years of living and many have had insights that have stood the test of time. I think Burkeman's book is crammed with these and, unlike many of the others, will remain on my shelf. It's a keeper
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2011
Good chapter headings and content but a little too research based for me. This is just my personal opinion but may suit others well - I was hoping to be able to dip in and out a bit more, that's all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2012
Recommended by a friend and well worth a read. It actually got better as it went on. Its the sort of book that mocks lightly at the pop psychology of the 20th and 21st C, while giving some great tips and evidence based information. Entertaining, informative and just common sense. Bad Medicine by Ben Goldacre is another sensible approach to this sort of stuff.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2011
Judging by the other reviews here, most people quickly fall in love with Burkeman's warmth and self-depreciating style. His writing quickly draws you into the subject - even the ideas which might normally provoke your cynical self to go on high alert. His ability to take ideas from business, psychology and science and provoke us to think about their relevance to our lives is truly wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2013
The fact that this is a collection of newspaper columns accounts for breezy, sometimes a bit clever-stick (but often laugh-out-loud) comments but the substance is serious and worth serious attention, especially given the collective malaise in our society combined with the increase in quick-fix solutions whether drugs or self-help.

I've had this out of the library for a very long time (having just picked up after spotting it on a returns trolley) and am about to return it but also order my own copy as I keep going back to it. I have a professional interest in health and well-being and what's great about this book are the suggestions for further reading and the proper bibliography - which you seldom get with a typical self-help book.

Loved it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2011
Burkeman sorts the self-help wheat from the chaff, highlighting genuinely helpful ideas while spooning acerbic scorn onto those writers who have fooled a lot of the people for a lot of the time. A collection of articles that mix psychology with philosophy, economics and history to challenge and entertain. A great compendium, with a myriad of links and references. Only the stupidly cocksure would find nothing in here of benefit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2014
...is a headline that would doubtless make the superficially cynical Mr Burkeman squirm, being just the kind of trite, insincere review he would himself take issue with.

Clever, witty and actually based on real scientific research, much of its findings and advice would initially seem counter-intuitive. But in fact it offers insightful advice particularly on how expectations management and shifting one's perceptions can hop one, indeed, feel slightly happier. It also includes some great observations which I shall be appropriating into my own conversations....not least that those with the highest opinion of their own abilities tend to be the most deluded. Brilliant!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2011
I read this book right after "Irrationality" by Stuart Sutherland, by coincidence, so was a bit surprised that both books cover much of the same ground and use many of the same examples, but draw rather different conclusions.

Burkeman's book has quite a nice style, and is quite funny and a little irreverent, without actually being rude. It's an interesting read, but I doubt it will make you even slightly happier or help you get a bit more done! it's far more a parody of self help books - and interesting for being so - than any kind of guide to life.

However it's quite a nice read and doesn't feel like a waste of time. Just be aware that the same experimental evidence can be interpreted far differently, as in Sutherland's book, so nothing is really being proven.
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