Matt Forney
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Life is Short and So is This Book: Brief Thoughts on Making the Most of Your Life by Peter Atkins

life-is-shortWhat can you say about a book that you don’t like, but still accomplishes its goals?

Life is Short and So is This Book is an airy-fairy book full of platitudes on how to improve your life: learn how to focus, try not to worry, don’t screw up your life by getting arrested or knocking up some bimbo, and other tips that have been hashed out in other self-help books before. It’s brief (only about 60 pages), so it doesn’t contain detailed instructions or much in the way of practical advice. Atkins’ style of writing is the typical blend of condescension and slap-happiness endemic to self-help writing, and when I finished the book (which took me all of twenty minutes), I couldn’t recall a single paragraph or quote that stuck with me.

But the thing is, I can’t hate the book because it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is.

I mean hell, it’s right there in the title: “Brief Thoughts on Making the Most of Your Life,” not “An Elaborate Road Map to Financial and Spiritual Freedom.” Both the Kindle and paperback editions are super-cheap, so I don’t feel like I got gypped. I agree with Atkins that brevity is the best policy in most cases:

A number of people I know claim to be great multi-taskers. The brain, however, doesn’t work that way; instead it focuses on one activity at a time. If you switch back and forth between multiple tasks, your brain works more slowly than it would if you focused on each activity for a period of time. Albert Einstein said: It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Most of us do the opposite — with predictable results.

Life is Short’s problem is that while it meets most of the metrics of self-help literature, it doesn’t go above or beyond. There’s nothing about it that stands out, save for maybe its short length and low price. There’s nothing in the book that will make you go, “Damn, this is some really insightful stuff.”

It’s the literary equivalent of a summer blockbuster: you read it to be entertained, and you forget almost everything about it when it’s over.

Bottom line: if you enjoy reading self-help books, Life is Short is a good addition to your collection, mainly because of its low price. Otherwise, don’t bother with it.

Click here to buy Life is Short and So is This Book: Brief Thoughts on Making the Most of Your Life.

Read Next: Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O’Brien

  • Matt

    My father always wanted to write “I was a self-help Junkie” that was a survey of many of the pop-psych books that came out in the 1970s & 1980s.

    It’s only the past few years that I’ve begun to understand what he didn’t teach me. He was a good man and he died before society no longer had any use for good men.