email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
100 Things Guys Need to Know1001 Solution-Focused Questions101 Ways to Meditate17 Lies That Are Holding You Back29 Gifts8 Keys to Stress ManagementA Layman's Guide to Managing FearA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeAddiction and ChangeAddiction Recovery ToolsADHD Grown UpAdolescent DepressionAdvanced Sexual TechniquesAfter SuicideAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAnswers for AristotleAnxiety, Phobias, and PanicAre You Fully Charged?Authentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBe Honest--You're Not That Into Him EitherBeating the BluesBecoming OrgasmicBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Better Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBeyond AddictionBibliotherapyBinge No MoreBipolar DisorderBlinkBoomers Really Can Put Old On HoldBrain LongevityBrainstormBread Upon the WatersBreak Through PainBreathingBringing Up ParentsBuddhist Boot CampBullyBut I Love HimCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyCan't Eat, Won't EatCancer on $5 a Day* *(chemo not included)Caring in Remembered WaysChained to the DeskChange Your AgeChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeChange Your ThinkingChildren of the Aging Self-AbsorbedChildren of the Self-AbsorbedConceptual BlockbustingConquer Your Critical Inner VoiceConquering Postpartum DepressionConquering Shame and CodependencyCoping With Difficult PeopleCoping with Infuriating, Mean, Critical PeopleCoping With TraumaCreative Writing In Health And Social CareCrossing the Unknown SeaDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDaydreamingDe-Stress Your Life in 7 Easy StepsDealing with a NarcissistDefying DementiaDelivered from DistractionDematerializingDepression FalloutDepression-Free for LifeDivorce PoisonDoing ItDone With The CryingDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Weisinger's Anger Work-Out BookDying to Be ThinEasy YogaEmbarrassing Medical ProblemsEmbracing UncertaintyEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotional ClaustrophobiaEmotional Fitness for IntimacyEmotional IntelligenceEnjoying Guilty PleasuresEssays on Philosophical CounselingEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensExercise for Mood and AnxietyFailureFamily Desk Reference to Psychology Family FirstFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFatal FlawsFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFeeding Your ChildFinding Meaning in the Second Half of LifeFlow: The Psychology of Optimal ExperienceFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFlying ColorsForgive Your Parents, Heal YourselfFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFrom Sabotage to SuccessFull Steam Ahead!Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting ControlGetting over Getting MadGetting the Love You WantGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGetting Your Life BackGirl StuffGirlWiseGod Never BlinksGoddess WorshipGoing DownGoing Home without Going CrazyGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsGrieving Mental IllnessGuilt, Shame, and AnxietyHalf Empty, Half FullHe's Just Not That Into YouHeal & Forgive IIHealing ADDHealing through ExerciseHealthy AgingHonoring GriefHooking UpHot ButtonsHow Full Is Your Bucket?How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow Philosophy Can Save Your LifeHow Proust Can Change Your LifeHow Successful People ThinkHow to Change Someone You LoveHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Handle a Hard-To-Handle KidHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHow to Live Well Without Owning a CarHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Stay SaneHow to Stop Feeling Like ShitHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI AMI am PotentialI Saw It HappenI Wasn't Ready to Say GoodbyeI'd Rather LaughI'm OK, You're My ParentsIllness and the Art of Creative Self-ExpressionIn the Mood, AgainIntroduction to Qi YogaIt's Called a Breakup Because It's BrokenIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsJudo with WordsKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDLearn to RelaxLearned OptimismLearning Outside the Lines Letting Go of AngerLies! Lies! Lies!Life MakeoversLife StrategiesLife's WorkLifting DepressionLiving the TruthLiving Well with Pain and IllnessLiving with AnxietyLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLost in the MirrorLove & SurvivalLove Your Body, Love Your LifeLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It CountMaking a Good Brain GreatMaking ADD WorkMaking Your Mind MatterManaging Your MindManic DepressionMastering Anger and AggressionMastering the Power of Self-hypnosisMaui PilatesMeditation for Optimum HealthMeditation in a New York MinuteMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMind MappingMind-Body Workbook for AnxietyMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for Urban Depression: Tools for Relief from Stressful City LivingModerate DrinkingMotherstylesMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNapkin NotesNatural Healing for DepressionNew Hope for People with DepressionNo Enemies WithinNo More AnxietyNot Your Mother's LifeObsessive-Compulsive Disorder DemystifiedOne Last Hug Before I GoOrgasmOrgasmsOutsmarting DepressionOutsmarting OvereatingOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOvercoming Compulsive CheckingOvercoming Compulsive HoardingOvercoming DepressionOvercoming Obsessive ThoughtsOvercoming the Fear of FearOvercoming Your Difficult FamilyPain Free for LifePain Free for WomenParanoia of Everyday LifeParenting Children With ADHDPassionate VegetarianPlan BPlanning for UncertaintyPlato, Not Prozac!Position Of The Day PlaybookPositivityPotatoes Not ProzacPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPowerfully Recovered!PredatorsPreventing Misbehavior in ChildrenProcrastinationProcrastinationProtecting the GiftPsychology Moment by MomentQiGong IllustratedQuantum Memory PowerRaising a Self-StarterRaising Kids in an Age of TerrorRaising Resilient ChildrenReady for AnythingReal Solutions for Overcoming Internet AddictionsRecovery from AddictionRelationship RescueRespect-Me RulesRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRomantic IntelligenceSabbathSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSelf MattersSelf-CoachingSelf-CompassionSelf-Help NationSelf-Help Stuff That WorksSelf-Help Without the HypeSelf-NurtureSeven Life Lessons from Noah's ArkSex and SpiritSex DetoxSex PositionsSex Q & ASextasySexual PleasureSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoulmatesSpiritually Healing the Indigo Children (and Adult Indigos, Too!)Spontaneous HealingStanding at Water's EdgeStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStaying Sane When Your Family Comes to VisitStop Arguing with Your KidsStop Caretaking the Borderline or NarcissistStop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself Stop OverreactingStop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco for Life ChangesStop Walking on EggshellsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStress ReliefStrong, Smart, & BoldSun SalutationsSunbathing in the RainSurviving a Borderline ParentSurviving Manic DepressionSurviving Sexual ViolenceTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaking Charge of AngerTaking Charge of Anger: Six Steps to Asserting Yourself without Losing ControlTaming Your Inner BratTeen Angst? NaaahTen Minutes to RelaxThank You for Being Such a PainThe 10 Best Anxiety BustersThe 5 Reasons Why We OvereatThe 7 Secrets of the ProlificThe Anger WorkbookThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe Art of Becoming HumanThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Breakout PrincipleThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Chronic Pain SolutionThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Consolations of PhilosophyThe Core Question: Who Am I?The Crowdsourced Performance ReviewThe Emotional Eater's Repair ManualThe Emotional RevolutionThe End-of-Life HandbookThe Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005The Essential KamasutraThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Game of TruthThe Gift of FearThe Gift of ShynessThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Happy Hook-UpThe Healing JourneyThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Healing Journey Through GriefThe Healing Power of PetsThe Identity CodeThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Intuitive WriterThe Irritable Male SyndromeThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever NeedThe Light of DiscoveryThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Yoga BookThe Magic of Thinking BigThe Making of Dr. PhilThe Male Stress Survival GuideThe Money WorkbookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Self-EsteemThe New Cancer SurvivorsThe New Rational TherapyThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe OCD WorkbookThe Passion PlanThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Pill Book Guide to Natural MedicinesThe Places That Scare YouThe Pocket Life CoachThe Porn TrapThe Power of FocusThe Power of Full EngagementThe Power of Negative ThinkingThe Power of PlayThe Power of Self-CoachingThe Pursuit of PerfectThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Secret of LifeThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Self ImprovedThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Self-Help SourcebookThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Stress CureThe Stress Less WorkbookThe Stress Owner's ManualThe Stress Reduction Workbook for TeensThe SuperStress SolutionThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Therapy for the SaneThe Truth About Chronic PainThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Van Gogh BluesThe Way of StretchingThe Way of the JournalThe Way of TransitionThe Weblog HandbookThe Why CaféThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival HandbookThere's a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemThings Might Go Terribly, Horribly WrongThink Confident, Be ConfidentThink NakedThink SmartThinking for a ChangeThis Is HowTotal PilatesTrain Your Brain to Get HappyTrain Your Brain to Get RichTransformation Trauma in the Lives of ChildrenUltimate SexUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUndoing DepressionUnhappy TeenagersUnlock the Genius WithinUntangling the WebVirtual AddictionWaking Up to What You DoWay to Be!What We Say MattersWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Holding You Back? When a Family Member Has DementiaWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen in Doubt, Make BeliefWhen Perfect Isn't Good EnoughWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhen Things Fall ApartWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhen Your Body Gets the BluesWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWherever You Go, There You AreWhy Can't I Change?Why Is It Always About You?Why Smart Executives FailWorried All the TimeWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting as a Sacred PathWriting in FlowWriting to HealYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!Yoga 4 TeensYoga as MedicineYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular Guys DVDYoga for the Young at HeartYoga on DemandYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYou Are Not AloneYou Are Not Your IllnessYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Speaks Your MindYour Brain on FoodYour Child, Bully or Victim?Zen Sex
Here's a best-selling book full of advice I would be well advised to take, yet I find it nauseating. But then, that's to be expected -- I and the people I like cannot take self-help books seriously. Is it just intellectual snobbishness, or maybe a matter of personal taste, or is there some reason for the people who want to buy this book to think twice?
First, what's good about Life Makeovers?
Most importantly, it encourages people to interrupt their lives and think about how they are living. It encourages self-awareness and questioning. Here's a typical passage.
"At the risk of sounding dramatic, it's important to remember that when we put the needs of our business or company before our personal lives, we put our lives at risk. Not only do we put our emotional and physical health in jeopardy, we put our relationships with loved ones at risk as well. And of course, we damage the most important relationship of all -- our relationship to ourselves." (p. 50)
Richardson can't be accused of telling people to just accept the world as it is. She focuses on making life more meaningful. She highlights the importance of spontaneity. She calls her approach, "extreme self-care." The fundamental idea is that "in order to be there for others in a healthy way, you must first be there for yourself." (p. 87). She argues that far from being selfish, this approach will in the end enable one to help others more. She suggests that most of us, most of the time, engage in inefficient ways of working and living with confused priorities. By self-examination, we will be able to sort out our priorities and live far more efficiently.
Furthermore, Richardson is not snobbish. She writes very clearly, without jargon, for a wide readership. She has appeared on Oprah, and so has influenced millions of people. Her approach is simple: the book is set out into 52 chapters, one for each week, although most people will read the whole book in a few days or less. Each chapter ends with a "Take Action Challenge" and a list of resources that may help the reader to start working on the advice Richardson gives. She talks about problems that most people will have experienced: fear of the challenges we face at work and home, a sense of isolation and the need to connect with others, clutter in one's home and office, lack of exercise, sleeping badly, and so on. She has many helpful hints about how to deal with those problems.
What is problematic about this approach?
Richardson makes awfully big promises in the Introduction--that one's life will start to unfold in wonderful ways and become "pretty amazing." It's possible that some readers will benefit profoundly from reading the book, but I imagine that most readers will end up taking just one or two ideas from the book. That might be enough to make it worthwhile, but it will hardly be a radical transformation of one's life.
Some of the advice is banal and annoying. It's a great idea for people to have fun, but to advise making a sign that says "AM I HAVING FUN YET?" and hang it in your home or office smacks almost of self-parody. My wife says if I did that, she would wonder who had given me a lobotomy. Some of the suggestions for resources at the end of each chapter are useful, but many of them are all-too-revealing of new age sensibilities: New Age Magazine, the music of Kenny G and Yanni, Hallmark cards, and Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work. This fuels my suspicion that this approach is for people without any edge or taste, too ready to immerse themselves in warm fuzzy feelings and nonsense about spirituality.
Another aspect of Richardson's approach that I find off-putting is her apparent assumption in her suggestions that she is talking to successful, affluent people. She herself, as well as being a successful writer and speaker, is a personal coach. I don't know how much personal coaches charge, but I don't think I could afford one, and I don't know anybody who could. Since this book draws from her own experience and her experience with clients who can afford her services, it may be more specialized than readers expect. And although this is obvious, Life Makeovers is not for people starting out in their jobs and careers: it is for people who are some way into their lives and who have started to get stuck.
Richardson would probably say that her central idea of extreme self-care is potentially useful to everyone. Most of the resources she suggests are not very expensive, it's true. Maybe we can't afford a weekly massage or maid service, but often the reason for this is that we spend money on other things which are equally expensive, and we could afford to pamper ourselves if we changed our priorities. I like that Richardson suggests that people spend less at Christmas in order to focus on what is important. Nevertheless, she assumes that her readers have their own offices and that they have control over their office space, so she doesn't seem to be writing for people who work in office cubicles or who work in factories, prisons, garages, department stores, malls, and restaurants.
Richardson is a religious person and includes both the general idea of living a spiritual life and the more specific idea of praying in her advice. The seeming minority of people who, like myself, are impatient with talk of spirituality will find this off-putting (Oprah's daily section Remembering Your Spirit always has me shouting at the TV when I catch her show), but I suppose the majority will have no objection.
There's less to this book than it might seem. It contains some good advice, most of which is pretty obvious. If you are the kind of person who finds self-help books useful, and you are among the target readership, it might well be worth reading. It is thoroughly shallow, never discussing any issue for more than a few pages. Ultimately I suspect it will encourage people to adjust their lives rather than to make their lives over, as the title, Life Makeovers, seems to suggest. But then a makeover is really just a improvement in appearance, and so maybe the title is actually being honest about what the book is promising. The best I can say is that Richardson could be helping the reader take a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I would hope that readers could undertake systematic and profound reflections on how they are living their lives, but Life Makeovers does not have enough substance to enable them to do this.
A note on the audiobook:
The audiobook of Life Makeovers is available unabridged on a 4-CD set, read by the author. Richardson reads her own work well, in a calm and friendly voice. The track division on the CDs is a little strange: one would expect to have one track per chapter, but in fact there are fewer tracks than chapters, so some tracks have more than one chapter on them. The tracks start and end at unexpected points, including in the middle of chapters, which seems ill-planned. There is no listing of which chapters are on which tracks, and there is no accompanying booklet or insert. The audiobook also does not include the epigrams that begin each chapter and the list of resources that end each chapter.
© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.