A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder (2015)

, 29 Oct 2017

I usually love children and teenagers' books as they are a way of escapism for me and a light read; besides, I truly enjoy magical and wondrous characters and stories. A priori, this book has it all.

A Dragon's Guide... is the story of a grumpy dragoness and her evolving relationship with Winnie --the grand-niece of her former human pet, the late Fluffy--, how the dragon gets progressively attached to her, and how they both bond when they have to catch some magic nasty creatures that Winnie inadvertently created and released to the real world.

The book has some similarities with Rowling's latest book on magic beasts, with the script of Goosebumps, and with many books of the genre, but it is more clearly addressed to small children. It is not original or especially imaginative, but the characters are lovely and well drawn, and there is an interesting unique reversion of roles, as the magic creature is the one doing the narration and her character the one leading. In addition, the language is quite polished, even formal at times, and will certainly help children to enlarge their vocabulary.

The narration by actress Susan Denaker is superb. She's able to play all the characters with charm and credibility, a task that is far from small or simple as she gives voice and personality to adult and children characters, creatures with different accents (Scottish, French, English, American), and uses her tone and skills as a performer to create a magic world for us. In addition, one has to praise Denaker's impeccable (mostly British) diction and pronunciation, perfect to be listened to by students learning English.

Perhaps the illustrated book has a charm that this audible version has not. However, despite the quality of the narration, I found it difficult to get engaged or excited. I found the book too wordy at times; too slow or perhaps with bad tempo, and not much action or excitement for adults. What I enjoyed the most about this book was not the story, but the narrator's performance. Small children might love the book, so I cannot speak for them. However, I won't be buying the follow-up book/s.

Overall, an OK children's book (if you are an adult), and a great performance.

How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons by Albert Ellis & Arthur Lange (2017)

, 17 Oct 2017

This is a very enjoyable, practical and easy to read  book that gets to the core of what pushing a button is, why our buttons are pushed, and who pushes them. Although the authors are psychologists, and some of the exercises and reflections presented here use Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, there is no theoretical mumbo-jumbo. The authors' analytical and didactic presentation makes it easy for readers to recognise what pushes our buttons and the ways to think and act when they are pushed so we don't overreact.

The core of the book is that nobody or nothing pushes our buttons, we do that ourselves, so we have to and can learn not to push them by changing our thinking and the way we react to what happens to us, or rather, by changing our thinking so our feelings are not irritated or numbed and we don't overreact or downplay what happens to us.

The main reasons why our buttons are pushed are five ways of being or feeling (1/ being excessively anxious or worried, 2/ being angry or defensive, 3/ being depressed or burnout, 4/ feeling guilty and 5/ over-reactive self-defeating behaviour) and three ways of screwball thinking (1/ catastrophising or awfulising, 2/ 'shoulding' or blaming ourselves or others, and 3/ excusing or denying  that we have a reaction when something pushes our buttons). If we control our thinking, our feelings will be under control, and we won't blow out any situation. We cannot control those people or situations that push our buttons, but we can control our reactions and the way we see, think and feel about them. And the best way to think in these situations is what the authors call 'realistic thinking', which is based on stating what we would like, want or prefer, it recognises the frustration or irritation that a given person or situation has on us, but enables us to have healthy legitimate feelings without overreacting.

Another core premise of the book is that there aren't many things that happen to us or people say or do to us that are really that awful, dramatic, damaging or disrupting for us to get upset when we think about them rationally. Throughout the book, there is a constant reminder that, if we take a step back and see things for what they are, those same people and situations won't have the same impact on us.

One of the things that I could relate the most are the ten beliefs that we use to let people and situations push our buttons, the first four being the most common. I certainly found my button-pushers reflected here. These beliefs are:  1/ worrying too much about what other people think of us. 2/ Fear of failure or of being wrong and unable to stand any criticism. 3/ Frustration intolerance, or the idea that we should always be treated fairly, even though we know that the world is unfair. 4/ The need to blame someone if any of the first three beliefs happen. 5/ The belief that worrying obsessively about something or someone will help to situations to turn out better. 6/ The belief that there is a perfect solution for every problem, and that the solution can be found immediately. 7/ The wish to avoid difficult situations and responsibilities instead of facing them. 8/ The belief that if we avoid being seriously involved in anything we will be happy or happier. 9/ Blaming the past for anything bad that happens to us in the present. 10/ The wish that bad people and things shouldn't exist, but they do and always disturb and annoy us.  

The main virtue of the book is that provides readers with a four-step process that will allow us to stop, reflect and react differently, still recognising those things that irritate and annoy us, but without over-blowing any situation. This process can be applied to any person or situation that pushes our buttons, in our personal or work relationships or in the myriad situations in which we have to deal with other people. The four steps not to have your buttons pushed (by you!) are: 1/ Ask yourself how you are dysfunctionaly feeling and acting in a given situation right now. 2/ Ask yourself what you are irrationally thinking about a) yourself b) the others in this situation c) the situation itself, to make yourself upset. 3/ Ask yourself how you can challenge and dispute your irrational thinking. And finally, 4/ ask yourself what realistic preferences you can substitute for your irrational thinking by starting by saying things like, I want, I'd Like, I'd prefer, It would be great if, I regret, I'm disappointed, I'm committed to, It's frustrating, etc. The secret is to use these steps over and over again until they become ingrained in our way of dealing with button pushers. Nobody is perfect at this kind of self-control, so the goal is to reduce our overreactions still being true to our feelings, and react less often and less intensely.

DOWNSIDE
The main thing that one can criticise this book for is for the unnecessary wordiness and an endless number of examples showing how to go through the four-step process. I confess, that it gets things sealed on your brain, because repetition really works, but so many examples are also boring and unnecessary. If you want to get a good summary of the book read the last chapter and will have everything perfectly summarised in a few words, and I think a booklet with the main points of the book might have been as successful in conveying the message as the whole book does. 
MIND
This is an updated version of the book of the edition of 1995.

TYPO
p. 57 appreicate
.

Cómo Integrar tu Sombra by Antonio Delgado González (2015)

How to Integrate your Shadow is a totally misleading title for a book that deals with different facets of the Jungian Shadow. This is one of the few books written on the matter in Spanish available on Amazon, and perhaps that got me overexcited. This work  incorporates part of a previous work by the author with some corrections and enlargements.

The book reads well, is well written in a classy albeit erudite Spanish with plenty of psychological and Jungian jargon, and will certainly please people who have an interest on the Shadow and, even more, those with a previous idea of basic Jungian concepts like Shadow, Collective Unconscious, Mask, and Individuation, and want to hear a new voice. I enjoyed the author's style and reflections on the Shadow, though, and I truly enjoyed chapter six devoted to individuation following the Dark Night of the Soul by St John of Cross, and the author's digging into some of his patients' dreams.

The author says in page 12 that he expects readers to find this manual simple, practical, and an incentive to help them to integrate the dark side of their personality. However, this is not a manual, this is not a practical book, and there is no way simple mortals with a basic knowledge of the Shadow could integrate their Shadow without the help of a therapist or, at least, with a how-to book guided book, like for example David Richo's Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power & Creativity of Your Dark Side. Besides, despite being well written and really enjoyable, the book is not didactic, pedagogic or even written in an accessible language for people who aren't familiar with Jungian or Analytical Psychology. If you come/came to the text thinking that you will/would be given tools to unveil and integrate your own Shadow on your own, a sort of d.i.y. sort of book, you will be disappointed. Besides, the author himself says in pages 76-77 that not everybody is able to gather the energy necessary to face their shadow exclusively in dreams, that they also need of Active Imagination (something that is not clearly defined or explained in the book) and, most importantly, by facing consciously our repressed wishes. How can a normal person do that without the help of a therapist or without a how-to book, is left unanswered.

The author also says at the beginning of the book that his approach to the different stages of how the shadow manifests and integrates differ from the more didactic approach of Dr Marie-Louise Von Franz and Wolfgan Giegerich, but his is closer to Jung's theories. Von Franz must have been quite close to Jung's intentions being a closer collaborator, friend and pupil? Just asking.

The author also states that despite the large bibliography in English about the shadow it seems that the has had little effect on the conscience of the majority of people. A statement that surprises as it comes from a psychologist, as not everybody reads English, not everybody has a comfortable life to devote their time to self-growth and exploration of the psyche, and those who have, aren't always interested in digging down into themselves and exploring their psyche.

RENDERING FOR KINDLE
The rendering for kindle, at least in my device, shows some signs of automatic conversion to digital format, as some hyphenations related to line breaks are left in unnecessary places, and some spacing necessary in the text is omitted and two words appear joined or the punctuation without previous space.

TYPO
> p. 31 resumiento should be resumiendo.