Book Review: Elegance

Today I want to share with you my review of a delightful little book, “Elegance” by Kathleen Tessaro. If any of you are familiar with Madame Dariaux’s concise encyclopedia by the same name and loved it — you will appreciate this book. It follows the transformation of Louise Canova from a drab, depressed and depressing person who is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage to an elegant woman of substance who is unapologetic in living her life.

I really like this story because I think its a journey that all elegant women share. Although Louise’s specific background may be different from ours, we all have times in our lives when we have to choose between what is right and what is easy, an opportunity to express out highest ideals or to stifle that expression out of fear of change.

Louise’s journey is structured with passages from Madame Dariaux’s iconic book that set the tone for her metamorphosis. I will admit, it is a rather banal story, but the question of what elegance actually meant to me was what made it interesting for me.

At a certain point in the book, Louise gets fed up with trying to become the “perfect” elegant lady and decides to live for the moment with the exclamation that “life’s too short!”. She tosses everything she learned about elegance in the bin (including her chic wardrobe) and trades that in for impulsive nights at the trendiest clubs, expensive purchases from this season’s hottest fashions, and the dazed and hungover mornings that follow suit. She starts to interact with the world around her differently and her experiences shift as a result — and not in a way that ultimately served her true objectives. But, she realizes all of this and she eventually finds her way back thanks to a friend and a hilarious yet poignant incident at The Ritz.

By the end of the book we learn that elegance is not about appearances or about belonging to a certain social circle. Elegance is a state of mind that is reflected on the outside of a person. It is the daily practice of refining and cultivating the experience of quality emotions in our lives. Fittingly, the book does not end on a note of resolution. We see that Louise is starting to settle into her new life and enjoying all that she has to appreciate, but with the new awareness that she needs to remain in touch with her values and practice expressing them on a daily basis. Perhaps by reading this book it will trigger you to start nurturing quality moments in your own life, or if you are satisfied with your life, to go deeper into those moments because after all, there is no “destination elegance” — we all must find it everyday.



Book Review: Think Like A Freak

The title is a bit misleading. Yeah, that’s what crossed my mind at first too but it’s not what you think it’s about!
This is the actually the third book in a series of books by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, starting with “Freakonomics” and then “Superfreakonomics”. I have not read the first two and I’d never heard of the authors, but I saw this in the library and it intrigued me.

I am always interested in books that delve into understanding the motives and incentives that people are guided by and this book does just that. It explores new ways of thinking to solve problems both global and personal through stories and examples in the realms of business, sports, religion, and many more. Their examples demonstrate how “incentives rule our world” and they actually layout  a simple list of six rules that create an effective incentive scheme for any circumstance. It also goes into the art of persuasion (another one of my favorite topics) and the pointers they give on this subject are ones that I have heard before, but still, they explain abstract ideas and facts that are difficult to believe in an easy and straightforward manner. Another interesting subject that the book concludes with is concerning “failing fast and failing cheap”. We all have heard some sort of version of the virtues of never giving up (in fact just a couple of days ago I tweeted a quote about this) but the authors explore the issue with this sort of aversion for quitting and the opportunity cost of such an unyielding attitude. This subject along with the topic about incentives were the two greatest takeaways for me. I have already made plans on how to use their six step process for incentivizing in both my personal life and my work life, since being a wife and being in management both involve getting people to do things that they really don’t!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I’m always on the lookout for fresh, novel methods for approaching my thinking and this book really brought some new ideas to the table that I had never heard before. If you are like me in that regard, I think you would come away with some new food for thought as well and I highly recommend this book.