Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Better Life by Claire Diaz-Ortiz (book review)



The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are by Claire Diaz-Ortiz (Moody Publishers)

This book seems to be focused more on the subtitle than the title. "Small things you can do right where you are." Not to imply that that's a bad thing. The book consists of 37 vignettes to give you small suggestions on ways to improve your life right now. Most of these ideas are nothing new or oddly extraordinary, especially if (like me) you've spent any time reading suggestions on how to "get more" out of the daily grind. Things like slowing down, taking time to breathe, saying "no" more often. Allowing yourself to truly be yourself in a given moment.

I wrote this review in two parts. The first part was written at about half way through the book. It really wasn't speaking to me personally, and I felt the need to write down my current impression of it in order to keep pressing forward and finish reading the book. I'm not a fan of stopping a book in the middle, regardless as to how badly I want to at times. This was one of those books.

Review Part 1 (at half way through) - I like the idea behind this book. However, it falls short of what I was personally hoping it'd be. It seems more geared for a college student that has less baggage and more personal freedom in life than I find myself facing on a daily basis. Being a stay at home mom with 2-4 kids and trying to figure out how to get all of the bills paid each month doesn't exactly make me the best candidate for following most of her suggestions on taking a break and stepping back from the world. That being said, her suggestions are not a "how-to" plan by any means, instead they're her personal stories on how she accomplished each of her suggestions in her own way. Which means that if you have the talent to easily modify and turn someone else's "I did" into your own "I can", this book will be immensely powerful. If you're looking for ideas that you can do right now by following steps A, B, and C, then this book isn't for you (unless you have the time & resources for a spare of the moment trip to Vienna or Kenya or some other magical destination).

Review Part 2 (at the book's end) - I'm glad I finished reading this book. The last one-third of it made up for the first two-thirds. At least for me. At that point, the stories switched gears just enough to enter the motivator mode for me. Shifting from something totally unfeasible in my current world, to being ideas that could actually resonate with me and that I could find a way to put into action. Or reaffirming things I already try to do as being a good idea. My personal favorites are "Remember It's Just Stuff" and "Learn The Art Of Hospitality", which were also the breaking point where my impression of the book shifted.

Overall, I'd say it's a worthwhile read. I'm giving it 4/5 stars total. The first part of the book was 3 stars, because I could think of other people in my life that would find a story or two in it to be useful. Not that it was a bad book, just not for me. The second part of the book is 5 stars, consisting of things I can relate to better and find ways to fit into my hectic life. Thus, I'm going with 4 stars, under the notion that almost anyone could find a few vignettes in it that resonate with them.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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