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Time: There’s never enough of it, and it slips through our fingers. As the poet Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

In this pair of books, a first-time author and a bestselling author offer their advice on making the most of the time we have.

In When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want, Mike Lewis recalls landing a plum job at a major corporation after graduating from an Ivy League school. He thought he’d achieved everything he could hope for, but at age 23, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should be doing something else.

“For twenty-three years, I had chased plainly laid out goals,” he writes. “Goals that were easy to want to chase because they were popular with the older people around me and were even popular among my own peers. . . . I felt compelled to run faster toward particular goals—at the risk of forgetting what I was hurling toward, and why.”

So did Lewis want a different corporate position, or perhaps a career switch to science or the arts? No. He wanted, somewhat unbelievably, to pursue a professional career playing squash. And he did! Lewis’ book offers practical advice about how—and most importantly when—to make a big career switch. Lewis isn’t the only one who has taken a huge, life-changing leap, and essays by these passionate risk-takers bolster this compelling book. Others who have listened to their own “little voice,” as Lewis calls it, and switched careers include a mechanical engineer who becomes a trainer, a reporter who joins the Marines and a garbage collector who now designs furniture.

I promise I like this next book for more than just its rock-solid, evidence-based defense of naps. Daniel H. Pink, who taught us the secrets of achieving high performance in his bestselling Drive, returns with another deeply researched and lively book. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink reveals that timing really is everything.

No matter where one lives, everyone experiences the same daily rhythm: a peak, a trough and a rebound. It may be at different times for different people (some people are night owls while others are morning people, while still another group is what Pink calls “third birds”). The trick is to take advantage of the time when you’re at your best to do your toughest work.

And that time is rarely mid­afternoon. Pink noted a British survey that pinpoints the most unproductive moment of the day: 2:55 p.m. Afternoon is when hospital workers are least likely to wash their hands, it’s when Danish schoolchildren fare worse on exams and it’s when prisoners are less likely to get parole.

Throughout the book, Pink breaks down the science of timing by offering what he calls the “Time Hacker’s Handbook.” These are simple tips to maximize your time, such as how to take the perfect nap. This marriage of research, stories and practical application is vintage Pink, helping us use science to improve our everyday lives.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Time: There’s never enough of it, and it slips through our fingers. As the poet Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In this pair of books, a first-time author and a bestselling author offer their advice on making the most of the time we have.

From China to the neighborhood down the street, parents and educators around the world are continually pondering the best environments, teaching methods and curricula for today’s young people. To guide their decisions, we’re highlighting five recent and upcoming books that reflect some of the most interesting approaches to improving the educational experience.

Public, private, charter, online, home, magnet—the list goes on. With so many educational options, how do parents choose the best one for their child? Luckily, Kevin Leman, a psychologist and author of more than 50 books on parenting and relationships, offers Education a la Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for Your Child. This no-nonsense guide discusses the possible benefits of each kind of school environment and focuses on finding the right fit for each child.

Leman will ease parents’ tension as he addresses typical concerns and shows how learning styles, birth order and parenting styles all factor into the decision process. Additional chapters cover topics such as preschool and kindergarten readiness, homework and grades. No matter the subject, Leman encourages parents to keep realistic expectations and to motivate with approval rather than criticism.

LAST LAUGH
Liberal arts majors are often the punchline of jokes. In You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author George Anders reveals that liberal arts majors are overtaking jobs once reserved for graduates with computer science and business degrees. He highlights the irony that, as tech fields become increasingly dependent on automation, the need for the human touch has never been more essential.

Anders explains how liberal arts majors offer valuable critical thinking skills and gives examples of individuals whose liberal arts degrees took them down unexpected paths. For instance, Bess Yount, who holds a sociology degree, is on Facebook’s sales and marketing team, and Stewart Butterfield, a philosophy major, now runs Slack Technologies. While the book is geared toward recent grads, even career switchers can benefit from the job strategies and insight into the dozens of major companies actively recruiting liberal arts majors. Above all, Anders shows that success is rarely a straight line.

WEST MEETS EAST
When Chinese-American journalist Lenora Chu and her husband took jobs in Shanghai, they eagerly enrolled their 3-year-old son, Rainey, in Soong Qing Ling, an elite “kindergarten” that would instill academic drive seemingly missing in the U.S. The author discovered that while Rainey outpaced his American counterparts in math and language, he was also subjected to harsh discipline, propaganda and extreme competition. The latter even led to bribery, with Chu finding herself gifting Coach purses in exchange for school opportunities.

Struck by these differences, Chu was curious about the Chinese education system. The result is Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve. Mixing personal anecdotes, observations of Chinese classrooms, interviews with parents and students and thought-provoking facts about Chinese education, the author reveals how yingshi jiaoyu—high-stakes testing—has created a culture of stress and conformity. Although Chinese schools have been influenced to some degree by Western ideals, such as creativity and independence, she notes that, ironically, American schools increasingly emphasize test taking. In the end, Chu lets readers consider what skills a 21st-century student needs and offers insight on the future of global education.

TEACHERS, BREATHE EASY
As British educator Katherine Weare reminds readers, schools are busy, pressured environments where teachers and students are often more concerned with the future than enjoying the present moment of learning. Weare and co-author Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and international peace activist, also recognize that teachers typically focus on others’ needs over their own. Their secular collaboration, Happy Teachers Change the World: A Guide for Cultivating Mindfulness in Education, brings mindfulness to teachers and students.

Essays from Nhat Hanh set a reassuring mood to prepare for mindfulness exercises, while the second part of the book explains ties between these techniques and valuable education traits. Weare also addresses best practices and shows how mindfulness can be integrated in specific curriculum areas. Once comfortable with these practices, teachers can move on to suggestions for cultivating mindfulness across school communities.

FINNISHING SCHOOL
Even after experiencing burnout his first year of teaching, Timothy D. Walker, a contributing writer on education issues for The Atlantic, still espoused that good teachers “don’t do short workdays” but rather “push themselves—to the limit.” That is, until he relocated to his Finnish wife’s home country to teach elementary school. While educators around the world have recognized Finland’s consistent top scores in reading, math and science on international tests, the author was instead struck by how joy was prioritized in Finnish schools.

In Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms, Walker offers realistic tips on creating joyful schools, arranged according to five “ingredients” of happiness: well-being, belonging, autonomy, mastery and mindset. From scheduling brain breaks to cultivating a community of adults who share responsibility for a child to discussing grades so students can reflect on their learning, the tips are prefaced with lively anecdotes from the author’s own classroom experiences and often reveal how he overcame American biases to embrace them. While some strategies may need to be adapted to individual schools, they all highlight how we can learn to value happiness more than achievement.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

We’ve highlighted five recent and upcoming books that reflect some of the most interesting approaches to improving the educational experience.

A new year is dawning, full of hope and possibility . . . and, probably, lots of things to catch up on now that the holiday break is behind you. But don't despair! This way lies inspiration and innovation, thanks to a trio of new books that offer fresh approaches to work. Whether you want to rethink your goals, improve your focus or forge a new path, these titles offer strategies, perspective and encouragement.

WORK OUTSIDE THE BOX
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the path to career success is dotted with promotions. Rick Whitted wants us to consider: Why is this a universal truth? Does this approach actually work? The author, a small-business-banking veteran, posits that our emphasis on getting promoted leads to tunnel-vision, and we're missing opportunities along the way. In Outgrow Your Space at Work, he notes that we're so focused on moving forward that "we become restless, less confident, and discontent—even if the status quo is actually good." Instead of pushing for promotions and jumping ship if we don't get them, he argues, we should really think about what interests and excites us about work. 

Often, there's opportunity in an existing role: for mastery, deepening of skills and outgrowing your space by viewing a promotion as "a result, not a strategy." The Four Ps of Promotion section explores common motivations: Position, Pay, Personal Security and Personal Satisfaction (his careerwhitt.com site offers a deeper dive). Then, it's time to tackle Nine Steps to Outgrowing Your Space at Work. For example, in Master the Basics, the author advises using the company playbook, "a process, model, or manual they use to operate the business," to make sure your work is in line with what's valued and rewarded (vs. diligently focusing on the wrong things). This thought-provoking, hope-inspiring book is perfect for workers who want more than to eternally chase the next new gig. After all: "growth, not a promotion, is the key to having a successful career that will endure the span of your work life." 

FOCUS ON FOCUS
We're all distracted, aren't we? Thanks to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the endless loop of constant connection, there are lots of ways to easily distract ourselves from pretty much anything we set out to do. But it doesn't have to be that way! In Part I of Deep Work Cal Newport, five-time author and Georgetown University assistant professor, deftly and thoroughly extols the virtues of "Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit." Science backs it up: We must plan for focused time and "batch" smaller tasks, because brain processes vital to learning can only be achieved via intense focus. (If we switch between tasks, "a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task.")

Still, Newport writes, technology isn’t all bad: "If you can create something useful, its reachable audience . . . is essentially limitless—which greatly magnifies your reward." How to create that useful stuff? Some take a week or month to focus on a single project, while others use hour-long segments. Newport makes an excellent case for doing the hard work now to reap the benefits for years to come, and his profiles of people who've embraced deep work are illuminating and encouraging. That includes the author himself: His first year of deep work, he started his job as a professor and published four papers. In his third year, he wrote a book, co-parented an active toddler and published nine papers. What should readers' first step be? That's easy: Do the deep work of immersing yourself in Deep Work

UNPREDICTABLE PATHS
Despite the variations on "It's not your father's career!" flying around lately, today's increasingly peripatetic career paths are a lot like Farai  Chideya's own mother's work experience: She was first a journalist, then a medical technologist, a teacher and is now a certified master gardener. As the author notes in her fifth book, The Episodic Career, "We live in a globalized economy where not just jobs but also entire career tracks are created and destroyed in front of our eyes." We've got to be open to the idea that we may not end up using our skills and experience in ways that are continuous or predictable. It's daunting and exciting, but it also means we need to pay close attention to how “today's decisions will affect . . . tomorrow's earnings and savings."

How are people handling several careers in sequence, or perhaps a couple at the same time? Numerous interesting stories about people in a wide range of careers (tech writer, park ranger, fundraiser, welder, sex therapist, CEO) are woven through this well-written book, which has at its center a Myers-Briggs-esque Work/Life Matrix that Chideya says will help you "Know yourself, set your goals, play by your own rules." Readers can answer four key questions (about risk, social impact, innovation vs. execution and decision-making); examine 16 archetypes and relevant job profiles; and use what they discover to "steer away from long-term dissatisfaction with work, and plot new paths." Chideya's research on the changes in America's work culture and economy provides context, and there are plenty of role models via the book's wealth of stories about people who took risks, bounced back and found unexpected satisfaction in the unanticipated.

A new year is dawning, full of hope and possibility . . . and, probably, lots of things to catch up on now that the holiday break is behind you. But don't despair! This way lies inspiration and innovation, thanks to a trio of new books that offer fresh approaches to work. Whether you want to rethink your goals, improve your focus or forge a new path, these titles offer strategies, perspective and encouragement.

With the new year comes glorious possibility, which makes this a perfect time to think about improving your outlook and productivity at the office. This trio of books offers ideas, support and strategies in equal measure, no matter your goal: Want to get more done? Banish distractions? Feel connected to your work? These titles are here to help—and inspire.

When it comes to work, what gets you revved up? Analysis or action, efficiency or innovation? Do repetitive tasks drive you bonkers, or are they soothing? While most of us can easily answer those questions, in Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, Carson Tate points out that most of us don’t actually take the answers into account when we plan our workdays. Calendars and to-do lists are great for some people, but for others, they’re highly detrimental.

“The truth is that the problem is not you. It’s how you are trying to overcome your busyness that is the problem,” Tate says. The workplace productivity expert and career coach explains that, based on research into brain activity and work styles—plus her own experiences and those of her clients—there’s no single, right way to achieve productivity. Instead, there are four predominant “productivity styles”: Prioritizer, Planner, Arranger and Visualizer. A 28-question quiz, the Productivity Style Assessment, will guide readers toward identifying their own style, as well as the styles of their bosses and co-workers. Tate’s on-point assessments of what works for those styles (and what’s never going to, so don’t try to force it!) are supremely useful.

Four detailed case studies are interesting and inspiring, and subject-specific chapters like “Lead a Meeting Revolution” and “Tame Your Inbox” offer hope for the harried. Work Simply is an insightful, supportive book for those who want to do more and better (and have some fun along the way) but haven’t quite figured out how.

FINDING FOCUS
Ah, our techno-centric era—the immediacy of texting, the wonders of wireless, the ability to take photos of anything at any time and send them to anyone. Amazing, sure, but also a recipe for feeling scattered, stressed and always behind. Edward M. Hallowell understands: He’s an M.D. specializing in attention deficit disorder (ADD) and the author of 14 books on the topic, including the best-selling Driven to Distraction.

In Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive, he sets his sights on the six most prevalent time-wasters, from compulsive email-checking to ineffective multitasking to being unable to say no. These distractions are all part of what he calls Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), or “a severe case of modern life.”

While conditions such as ADD and ADHD are genetic, ADT is situational—people may suffer from it at work, but are just fine at home. Wherever it happens, it doesn’t feel good; restlessness, frustration and an inability to focus are the unfortunate result. But there’s hope in these pages.

Based on his treatment of thousands of patients, Hallowell offers ways for readers to identify the distractions in their lives and learn how to deal with them. For example, those who are “toxic worriers” should “Get the facts. Toxic worry is rooted in lack of information, wrong information, or both.”

If achieving “flexible focus” (which he defines as a balance of logical and creative thinking) is proving a challenge, “Draw a picture. Visuals clarify thinking. Draw a diagram, construct a table, cover a page with zigzags. . . . You may soon see the bigger picture you’d been looking for coming into focus.”

Hallowell’s voice is knowledgeable, accessible and, above all, encouraging. We can do it!

GETTING YOUR GROOVE BACK
Christine Carter gets things done: She’s a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center; is the best-selling author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents; has been cited in The New York Times; interviewed on TV by the likes of Oprah and Dr. Oz; and is raising two daughters. But, as she explains in The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work, not long ago, even she found herself completely overwhelmed and exhausted. Something had to change.

“I needed to get my groove back, to live in my sweet spot . . . that point of optimum impact that athletes strike on a bat or racquet or club, that place where an athlete has both the greatest power and the greatest ease,” she writes. And couldn’t we all benefit from a life that’s easier—less harried, less stressful and more balanced? Carter acknowledges that it might be difficult to achieve a state of flow when there’s so much going on, but her “Sweet Spot Equation” promises to help readers achieve a happier, more relaxed life via tips, strategies and examples in five major areas: Take Recess, Switch Autopilot On, Unshackle Yourself, Cultivate Relationships and Tolerate Some Discomfort. Her data is fascinating, her strategies empowering and, while avid readers of balance-your-life books will have encountered these concepts before, Carter’s take offers fresh approaches; the “Work on your eulogy, not your resume” and “Distinguishing mastery from perfectionism” sections are excellent examples. It’s heady stuff, but if it means getting closer to that sweet spot, it’s definitely worth the effort.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

With the new year comes glorious possibility, which makes this a perfect time to think about improving your outlook and productivity at the office. This trio of books offers ideas, support and strategies in equal measure, no matter your goal: Want to get more done? Banish distractions? Feel connected to your work? These titles are here to help—and inspire.

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device.

Talk is at the heart of The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Advertising by Emanuel Rosen. Why does a sleeper become a hit movie? Because people raved about it to their friends. Why did 65 percent of Palm Pilot users buy a Palm? Because someone told someone who told someone else the Palm Pilot was a great product. That's buzz, the largely immeasurable word-of-mouth network that spreads product information from one user to another potential user. This column is buzz, since I'm telling you about books I like.

Buzz is also the impression a product leaves with consumers. To create buzz, Rosen says, a product must have clearly identifiable traits. In addition to being innovative or solving a practical problem, the product becomes more useful as more people use it. If it also practically advertises itself (How many of your neighbors have blue New York Times bags on their lawn?) you've got buzz. How did you hear about the best-selling novel Cold Mountain? You probably read a review or someone told you about the book. That's buzz at work.

The Anatomy of Buzz follows the footsteps of Paul Lazarsfeld, a communications researcher who, in the 1940s, studied the influence of the mass media on election politics. He concluded that many factors played into voters' decisions, including the beliefs of "opinion leaders," people who influenced their decisions. The Anatomy of Buzz deftly links such communications theory with buying theory. This is not a stuffy research volume or a textbook, however. It's a layman's approach to a marketing strategy, one that many marketers have overlooked. They rely heavily on expensive ad campaigns that may not reap results. These days that's a huge and costly mistake. The Anatomy of Buzz should be required reading for anyone who works with new product development, advertising or public relations. Don't spend your money where it won't work, Rosen advises. As an alternative, talk is cheap and very effective.

Several years ago, the buzz word in sales and marketing circles was the "guerilla" approach to sales. Almost everyone knows a guerilla salesman at work. He's the guy with the take-no-prisoners attitude, who has perfected the hard sell and always seems to know what to say. In Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Wayauthor Gene Bedell offers a primer for those of us who are flummoxed by guerilla tactics, but still need help in becoming effective communicators. Whether you're a salesperson, a PTA member or a job applicant, Three Steps to Yes shows you how to sell your ideas or yourself without subscribing to guerilla tactics.

Bedell refers to all of us who aren't comfortable with guerilla tactics as "poets." He prefaces Three Steps to Yes with the assurance that poets can learn to sell their ideas in ways that make sense to sensitive hearts. The author outlines a clear guide for instilling trust and respect in buyers, helping poets to say what they need to say. He teaches a method of understanding buyers' needs, all the while assuring poets that they need not compromise their values to make a sale Three Steps to Yes is peppered with stories from Bedell's home and work life. He makes it look as easy to talk with a 13-year-old as it is to win a new job. Illus- trated with cogent examples, interesting narrative and simple outlines, Three Steps to Yes helps poets slide quietly past guerillas in the war of words at work.

As the author of another new book sees it, all of us are "gorillas," and evolution can help us make sense of the workplace. In Executive Instinct, Nigel Nicholson uses evolutionary psychology to explain how organizations function.

This snappy, smart book convincingly draws parallels between the work environment and sociological models of human behavior. Executive Instinct gives common sense explanations of a range of human relations topics. Why do men and women have different work styles? Why do people need to share office gossip? Do you want to understand why your office atmosphere is stagnant and starched? Nicholson can tell you.

People enjoy gossip and networking because "evolution designed us to talk," Nicholson says. At the same time, we are not innately equipped to read and write. These attributes play out at the office and are reflected in workplace statistics. Nicholson notes that most managers show a strong preference for oral over written communications and hate to write. Employees also prefer talk, citing face-to-face channels as the top form of boss-employee communication.

Yet e-mail proliferates. Nicholson uses his evolutionary approach to argue that e-mail is causing a rash of communications disorders in organizations as people rely on it as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. Before you implement that new communications technology designed to put the whole company in touch, read Nicholson's book. What you may need instead is a new water cooler for employees to gather around. Our evolutionary instincts are clashing with our technological capabilities.

Executive Instinct is full of fresh, brash theories. Has evolution designed us to work in groups of no more than 150 employees? Nicholson says yes. He criticizes conglomerates that fail to make distinct small groupings within their organizations. Small groups feel more rational to humans, he says, because we have evolved in them. Companies like Dell Computer and Toyota, which have created rational groups, are the future, he says. Each has a modular structure and a decentralized supply chain. The best companies will manage with evolutionary insight, adapting organizations to nurture human nature. Briefly noted The Board Bookby Susan F. Shultz is a valuable tool for any business or nonprofit organization. Most CEOs underutilize or largely ignore their corporate boards in the day-to-day rush through business, but the collective wisdom, big-picture perspective and advice board members can provide is an invaluable resource. Best of all, it's free.

Shultz gives practical advice on how to choose, train and utilize a corporate board, and offers insights on managing board conflict and setting the stage for board leadership. Informative for CEOs and directors alike, this is a no-nonsense book that focuses on practical issues for board participation in the success of a company.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

People talk. There's no getting around it. People talk about each other and about themselves because we are social animals who love to communicate. This month we look at talk from three different points of view: talk as a marketing tool, as a sales technique and as an organizational development device. Talk is at the […]

As the new year begins, many readers are looking for advice on getting their finances or careers in order. Whether you need a kickstart for saving and organizing your money, a guide to planning your retirement, a blueprint for considering a second career or a handy encyclopedia of money-saving tips and tricks, these books will help you get your footing when it comes to your finances.

Though you may be reluctant to be seen reading it in public, Jan Cullinane’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement is a guidebook in the best possible sense. Carefully organized and exceedingly thorough, Cullinane’s guide covers everything from financial basics—including taxes, retirement funds and costs of living—to where to live now that the kids have left the nest and what to do with your sudden influx of free time. Featuring first-hand accounts from women who have gone through a myriad of life changes, including being widowed or divorced, or changing careers or locations, Cullinane moves through the considerations many retiring women face with logic and heart. Lest you think this is only for the older (and, as the title suggests, single) women in your life, the book opens with information on how women are statistically likely to outlive men, or suffer financially from a divorce. It’s full of good advice for all, although the carefully researched and detailed specifics Cullinane includes at the end of each chapter might be best for those single women close to, or in, their retirement years.

ATTITUDE CHANGES

When Carrie Rocha and her husband took stock of their finances early in their marriage, they realized that though they always met their financial obligations to others, they had little to nothing left over in case of an emergency. In Pocket Your Dollars, Rocha details how an emergency can, in fact, happen to you (delightful though it may be to imagine otherwise). Although your financial situation may seem dire now, it needn’t always be that way, she writes. Using her own story, and those of others, she provides concrete plans for getting your financial life in order. She also focuses strongly on the “attitude changes” or psychological barriers many people must face when trying to improve their personal finances. “Today is the day,” she says, “to let go of your past and start focusing on your future.” Rocha follows up with concrete plans for overcoming any personally imposed impediments; for example, she writes, “make a list of everyone . . . you need to forgive in order to accept your present financial situation.” For readers who think that they weren’t taught to handle their finances correctly, or that everyone around them is making financial change impossible, Rocha’s methods should prove worthwhile.

SAVING TIME AND MONEY

Chock full of interesting, useful and (occasionally) bizarre tips for everything from your household to your finances and your car, Mary Hunt’s Cheaper, Better, Faster is an incredibly thorough amalgamation of ideas to make your life exactly that—cheaper, better and faster. Though some of the tips were hard to understand—I’m still grappling with the logistics of a tip involving frozen fish and a milk carton—most of them were enlightening and helpful, and the book is one I would encourage anyone to keep on hand. Need to clean your microwave? Hunt’s suggestion to “stir 2 tablespoons baking soda into a cup of water. Set in the microwave and allow to boil for at least 5 minutes,” remove, and wipe down, got my own microwave clean when years of struggling with cloths and frustration couldn’t. The book could benefit from an index of sorts, but a quick skim through your chapter of choice should be enough to obtain whatever tip you’re looking for. Whether you need advice on holiday decorating or renter’s insurance, Cheaper, Better, Faster is a great resource to have in your library.

YOUR SECOND CHAPTER

Nancy Collamer’s Second-Act Careers is an excellent starting point for retirees who are starting to think about going back to work in a new field. The emphasis here is not on providing detailed resources for those heading back into the workforce, but rather on offering an overview of the possibilities for a new career—including starting a business, freelancing, consulting, working part-time in a variety of capacities, and in one particularly engaging chapter, traveling. This is a better resource for a fairly well-off individual looking to explore her options, as opposed to a retiree desperate for a new source of income, and at times the occupational suggestions seem slightly unrealistic. (It’s unlikely that many people will pursue a second career as a fitness instructor, for instance.) But if you’re interested in exploring your options and engaged by self-administered reflection exercises (Collamer features many toward the end of the book), then Second-Act Careers is a useful launching pad.

What Second-Act Careers lacks in specificity, Marci Alboher’s The Encore Career Handbook more than compensates for in attention to particulars. Alboher starts with a realistic view of the post- and semi-retirement landscape, accounting for age discrimination, the flailing economy and the changing job market, and moves on to detail ways to both brainstorm and find a new career that fits your lifestyle and skills, as well as concrete steps to make that new career work financially and logistically. Each chapter features a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section, as well as carefully listed resources for further research. She also provides thorough first-hand accounts from others who have taken on second careers. The real goldmine, however, is the lengthy list of possible career options listed at the back of the book, along with extensive resources for further pursuing those options. Alboher’s attention to detail will prove incredibly useful—from verbatim suggestions on how to network via email and in person, to budget worksheets and business plan builders, this is the ultimate workbook for anyone looking to branch out professionally in retirement.

As the new year begins, many readers are looking for advice on getting their finances or careers in order. Whether you need a kickstart for saving and organizing your money, a guide to planning your retirement, a blueprint for considering a second career or a handy encyclopedia of money-saving tips and tricks, these books will […]

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