BOOK BLITZ: Humor That Works by Andrew Tarvin

 
The Missing Skill for Success and Happiness at Work
Self-Help, Personal Development
Published: April 2019
Publisher: Page Two
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If you want to increase team productivity, relieve stress, and be happier at work, you could hire a bunch of workplace consultants, invest in scream therapy, and put Pharrell Williams on repeat—or you could just read Humor That Works.
Written by Andrew Tarvin, the world’s first Humor Engineer, this a business book on humor. No, that’s not an oxymoron. It really is a business book and it really is about getting better results by having more fun. Because people who use humor in the workplace are more productive, less stressed, and happier. No joke; sources included.
The goal is not to make you funnier—though that may be a side effect—but to make you effective-er. You’ll learn to develop a personal humor habit that’s not about spitting wisecracks or telling the funniest stories, but a way of seeing work in an energizing new way. You’ll build on some of the most important business skills for today’s work environment, develop techniques for leveraging humor, and take action to improve your work immediately. And you’ll have fun doing it.
There will be stories about grandmas who text, multiple mentions of milkshakes, and exactly seven references to zombies. Oh, and there will be puns. (You’ve been warned.) Looking for success and happiness at work? Discover the missing skill of Humor That Works.
About the Author
Andrew Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. Combining his background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with his experience as a stand-up comedian, he reverse-engineers the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable, and gets results in the workplace. Through his company, Humor That Works, Andrew has worked with more than 35,000 people at over 250 organizations, including Microsoft, the FBI, and the International Association of Canine Professionals. He is a bestselling author; has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and FastCompany; and his TEDx talk has been viewed more than three million times. He loves the color orange and is obsessed with chocolate.
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My Favorite Non-Crime Fiction of 2019

Like last year, while trying to come up with a Top 10 this year, I ran into a small problem (at least for me). Crime/Thriller/Mystery novels made up approximately half of the novels I read this year and therefore dominated the candidates. So, I decided to split them into 2 lists—one for Crime Fiction and one for Everything Else. Not the catchiest title, I grant you, but you get what you pay for.

These are my favorites, the things that have stuck with me in a way others haven’t—not necessarily the best things I read (but there’s a good deal of overlap, too). But these ten entertained me or grabbed me emotionally unlike the rest.

Anyway…I say this every year, but . . . Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to books that I’ve loved for 2 decades that I happened to have read this year.

Enough blather…on to the list.

(in alphabetical order by author)

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch (Translator)

My original post
I’ve been telling myself every year since 2016 that I was going to read all of Backman’s novels after falling in love with his My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. The closest I got was last year when I read his first novel, A Man Called Ove (and nothing else). It’s enough to make me resolve to read more of them, and soon. The story of an old, grumpy widower befriending (against his will, I should stress) a pretty diverse group of his neighbors. It’s more than that thumbnail, but I’m trying to be brief. The story was fairly predictable, but there’s something about the way that Backman put it together that makes it perfect. And even the things you see coming will get you misty (if not elicit actual tears).

5 Stars

Dark AgeDark Age

by Pierce Brown

My original post
When I started reading this, I was figuring that Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga was on the downward trend. Boy, was I wrong. Dark Age showed me that time after time after time after time . . . Entertaining, occasionally amusing, stress-inducing, heart-wrenching, flat-out captivating. It was brutal and beautiful and I can’t believe I doubted Brown for a minute.

5 Stars

Here and Now and ThenHere and Now and Then

by Mike Chen

My original post
One of the best Time Travel stories I’ve ever read, but it’s so much more—it’s about fatherhood, it’s about love, it’s about friendship. Heart, soul, laughs, and heartbreak—I don’t know what else you want out of a time travel story. Or any story, really. Characters you can like (even when they do things you don’t like), characters you want to know better, characters you want to hang out with after the story (or during it, just not during the major plot point times), and a great plotline.

4 1/2 Stars

Seraphina's LamentSeraphina’s Lament

by Sarah Chorn

My original post
Chorn’s prose is as beautiful as her world is dark and disturbing. This Fantasy depicts a culture’s collapse and promises the rebirth of a world, but getting there is rough. Time and time again while reading this book, I was struck by how unique, how unusual this experience was. As different as fantasy novels tend to be from each other, by and large, most of them feel the same as you read it (I guess that’s true of all genres). But I kept coming back to how unusual this feels compared to other fantasies I’ve read. The experience of reading Seraphina’s Lament isn’t something I’ll forget any time soon.

4 1/2 Stars

No Country for Old GnomesNo Country for Old Gnomes

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

My original post
Having established their off-kilter world, strong voice, and approach to the stories of Pell, Dawson and Hearne have come back to play in it. The result is superior in every way that I can think of. I lost track of how many times I said to myself while reading something along the lines of, “how did they improve things this much?” These books are noted (as I’ve focused on) for their comedy—but they’re about a lot more than comedy. The battle scenes are exciting. The emotional themes and reactions are genuine and unforced. And tragedy hits hard. It’s easy to forget in the middle of inspiring moments or humorous aftermaths of battle that these kind of novels involve death and other forms of loss—and when you do forget, you are open to getting your heart punched.

(but mostly you laugh)

4 1/2 Stars

Twenty-one Truths About LoveTwenty-one Truths About Love

by Matthew Dicks

My original post
It’s an unconventionally told story about a man figuring out how to be a businessman, husband, and father in some extreme circumstances. The lists are the star of the show, but it’s the heart behind them that made this novel a winner.

5 Stars

State of the UnionState of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts

by Nick Hornby

My original post
This series of brief conversations held between a married couple just before their marriage counseling sessions. At the end of the day, this is exactly what you want from a Nick Hornby book (except the length—I wanted more, always): funny, heartfelt, charming, (seemingly) effortless, and makes you feel a wide range of emotions without feeling manipulated. I loved it, I think you will, too.

4 1/2 Stars

The SwallowsThe Swallows

by Lisa Lutz

My original post
This is not my favorite Lutz novel, but I think it’s her best. It has a very different kind of humor than we got in The Spellman Files, but it’s probably as funny as Lutz has been since the third book in that series—but deadly serious, nonetheless. Lutz puts on a clinic for naturally shifting tone and using that to highlight the important stories she’s telling. From the funny and dark beginning to the perfect and bitingly ominous last three paragraphs The Swallows is a winner. Timely and appropriate, but using tropes and themes that are familiar to readers everywhere, Lutz has given us a thrilling novel for our day—provocative, entertaining, and haunting. This is one of those books that probably hews really close to things that could or have happened and you’re better off hoping are fictional.

5 Stars

PostgraduatePostgraduate

by Ian Shane

My original post
This has the general feel of Hornby, Tropper, Norman, Weiner, Russo (in his lighter moments), Perrotta, etc. The writing is engaging, catchy, welcoming. Shane writes in a way that you like reading his prose—no matter what’s happening. It’s pleasant and charming with moments of not-quite-brilliance, but close enough. Shane’s style doesn’t draw attention to itself, if anything, it deflects it. It’s not flashy, but it’s good. The protagonist feels like an old friend, the world is comfortable and relaxing to be in (I should stress about 87.3 percent of what I know about radio comes from this book, so it’s not that). This belongs in the same discussion with the best of Hornby and Tropper—it’s exactly the kind of thing I hope to read when I’m not reading a “genre” novel (I hate that phrase, but I don’t know what else to put there).

4 1/2 Stars

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill

by Abbi Waxman

My original post
This is a novel filled with readers, book nerds and the people who like (and love) them. There’s a nice story of a woman learning to overcome her anxieties to embrace new people in her life and heart with a sweet love story tagged on to it. Your mileage may vary, obviously, but I can’t imagine a world where anyone who reads my blog not enjoying this novel and protagonist. It’s charming, witty, funny, touching, heart-string-tugging, and generally entertaining. This is the only book on this particular list that I know would’ve found a place on a top ten that included Crime Novels as well, few things made me as happy in 2019 as this book did for a few hours (and in fleeting moments since then as I reflect on it).

5 Stars

Books that almost made the list (links to my original posts): Not Famous by Matthew Hanover, Circle of the Moon by Faith Hunter, Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski, In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire, The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion, and Lingering by Melissa Simonson

My Favorite 2019 Non-Fiction Reads

Like every single year, I didn’t read as much Non-Fiction as I meant to—but I did read a decent amount, more than I did in 2018 (by a whole percentage point, so…). These are the best of the bunch.

(alphabetical by author)

You Can Date Boys When You're FortyYou Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About

by Dave Barry

My original post
Barry at his near-best. This reminded me for the first time in a few years why I became a life-long devotee in high school. I could relate to a lot of it, and what I couldn’t was just funny. His reaction to Fifty Shades was a highlight—the chapter about his family’s trip to Israel was fantastic, funny and moving.

4 Stars

Have You Eaten Grandma?Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Good English

by Gyles Brandreth

My original post
I remembered rating this higher, but I’m not going to second-guess myself now. I’ll steal from my original conclusion for this: It’s the kind of thing that my college-bound daughter could use on her dorm bookshelf (and will probably find), and I know more than a few people who find themselves writing reports and the like for work who could use something like that. If you need help, might as well have a good time while you’re at it—and Have You Eaten Grandma is just the thing.

3.5 Stars

Dreyer’s EnglishDreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

by Benjamin Dreyer

I haven’t written a post about this yet, but it’s a great book. I can see why it was so popular this year—so much so that it got its own card game! The only more useful book I read in 2019 was the next one on the list. I’m not sure if I read something that made me laugh more. Fun, smart, incredibly quotable, and a resource you’ll return to time and time again.

5 Stars

How Not to DieHow Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

by Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, Gene Stone

My original post
One of the doctors that I’m seeing this year recommended this book to me, and it’s literally been a life-changer. This is an information-packed resource. But it’s not dry—Greger tells this with humanity, wit and concern. It’s a great combination of theory and practice.

4 Stars

The Art of WarThe Art of War: A New Translation

by Sun Tzu, James Trapp (Translator)

My original post
The classic text about military strategy—a great combination of psychology and management. It’s simple and profound, and approachable enough that there’s no excuse for not reading it.

5 Stars

What the Dog Knows Young Readers EditionWhat the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

by Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

My original post
I loved the “adult” version of this a couple of years ago, and this is just as good—but edited so that middle-grade readers can tackle this exploration of the life of Working Dogs and their handlers.

4 Stars

46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick: Dave meets a better version of himself

46% Better Than Dave

46% Better Than Dave

by Alastair Puddick

Kindle Edition, 245 pg.
Raven Crest Books, 2019

Read: December 14-17, 2019

No matter which way I looked at it, I was now inexplicably living next door to another version of myself. Another Dave Brookman. A richer Dave Brookman. A more successful Dave Brookman. And though I didn’t like to admit it, he was clearly also a slimmer, fitter, more handsome Dave Brookman. It was as if he was better in just about every single way. And, whether it was his intention or not, he was making the old Dave Brookman look bad. Really bad.

To say that our narrator, Dave Brookman, is surprised to find out his new neighbor shares a name with him. He shortly learns that they grew up near each other and are in the same industry. The coincidences are mindblowing. But as our narrator starts comparing the two, he keeps thinking that the “new” Dave has it better—from a literal ex-model wife to a flashy car, and all points in between.

But just how much better is “new” Dave? “Old” Dave puts together a spreadsheet assigning numerical values to various attributes/possessions and ends up with the titular value:

I sighed loudly. Of course, I’d expected there to be a difference. I knew he would come out on top. But 46%? That was nearly 50%. And 50% was half. So New Dave was nearly a whole half better than me. How could this be? What the hell had I done with my life? Had I wasted the opportunities we apparently both shared, as New Dave took full advantage of them? What could my life have been if I’d made different decisions along the way? Would I have my own company and a flash, expensive car? A house with a new extension and swimming pool? Would I be married to a former model, and have robotically clever children?

Dave spends weeks obsessing over this idea and dives into a (very one-sided) competition to become the “better” Dave. Which is ridiculous, preposterous and unsuccessful. And that’s before his wife finds the spreadsheet. After that things go from bad to worse, and then worse. Until they don’t.

It’s a great concept, it hooks you right away. But it’s what happens after the hook that’s vital—how successful is that? Well, that depends on how you read the book.

If you are looking for any real degree of realism, it’s just too hard to swallow. But if you look at “old” Dave as a character in a comedy—he’s a lot of fun. He’s really a decent, successful guy with a good family. At least until his neighbesis (his word) moves in and he becomes an obsessive, jealous mess. In his less-obsessive moments, he seems like a decent, likable guy and it’s these moments that keep you reading. In his most-obsessive moments, he makes it hard to stick with. It’s quite the balancing act that Puddick tries here, and generally, he succeeds.

Everyone else in the novel—”new” Dave and his family, Dave’s family and co-workers—all seem perfectly normal and well-adjusted. Their reactions to him are perfectly rational and understanding, too. This both highlights his irrational behavior and makes everyone else the “straight man” to “old” Dave. Without that, I think the whole thing would’ve collapsed.

Puddick has given his readers a sweet and funny novel about obsession, jealousy, and what happens to someone when they lose sight of what’s important in life. If you’re looking for a fast and fun read, you’d do well to give this a shot.


3 Stars


My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group

EXCERPT from 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick

A Sample from Chapter 8

“No offence, mate, but when was the last time you ran further then the end of the street?” said Charlie. “Let alone 10k, jumping over electric fences.”

“Screw you,” I said. “I’ll have you know I used to run all the time. I was pretty good. And I’ve run loads of 10k races in the past. This dirty mother don’t sound too bad!”

“Oh, you haven’t run a 10k in years though, love,” said Catherine, changing tack and trying to bargain with me.

Et tu, you traitorous wife, I thought.

“No, but it’s just like riding a bike, isn’t it? I can quickly get back into it.” My words were really slurring now. “Besides, I’ve been looking to get fit again. This could be exactly the motivation I need to get in shape. When did you say, three months? Piece of piss. I’ll be running 10k, dodging mimes and hopping over eclectic fences before you know it! Then I’ll be round for my hundred quid.”

What the hell was I doing? I had the perfect way to get out of this. I could have blamed it on too much drink. I could have played it off as a big joke, without losing face. But I couldn’t help it. I just dug myself deeper and deeper.

“Come on, Dave, don’t be silly,” said Catherine, her eyes imploring.

“Silly?” I said. “Silly? I’ll show you who’s silly. I will sign up for this race. And I’ll raise loads of money for charity. And I’ll probably fucking even win it, too. That’ll bloody show you, won’t it?”

The mood changed instantly. The gentle mocking ceased. An awkward silence hung between us. People sat uncomfortably looking at their shoes, the stars, the drinks in their hands.

“You know… you move in here,” I slurred, pointing at New Dave, my head swimming and my hand wobbling, “and you’re like the best bloody thing since sliced cheese. Er… bread, I mean. The best thing since cheese bread. And I’m sick of it, actually. Because you’re not better than me. Not really.”

The words were coming thick and fast. I’d tapped into a rich vein of resentment.

“You know… you’re a man,” I continued rambling. “And I’m a man. And you’re a man. And… you know, other men can do equally… And it’s not about how much you’ve got… or the size of your… barbecue… or how nice your hair is… or how many fucking beer fridges you’ve got… What I mean is…” And then the words just stopped, my train of thought derailing violently.

Everyone looked on curiously, wondering if I was going to continue my tirade. But my brain had crashed. My mouth was no longer receiving any signal.

Another very awkward silence.

“Well, if you’re up for it, then I think that’s brilliant,” said New Dave, overenthusiastically. “Hey, we could even train together, if you fancy it?”

“There you go. At least someone believes in me. Thank you, David.” I turned to look at Catherine. I thought I was sneering and delivering menace with my eyes. But I probably just looked drunk and squinteyed.

“Anyway,” I said, standing awkwardly onto wobbly legs, “I need a piss.”

I pushed back my chair, accidentally knocking it over as I stepped away from the table. As I walked off towards the back door of the house, I suddenly felt very unstable.

It came over me like a wave. The world went wildly out of focus. I could barely keep my eyes open. My legs felt weak, like they could barely carry my weight. I swayed, my head swimming, and I wobbled this way and that. The more I tried to keep a straight line, the more my body chose to lurch violently in the opposite direction, like I was fighting a powerful magnet. It was hard enough just staying upright, let alone moving forwards.

Aware that everyone was watching me, I pigeon-stepped across the lawn, trying to stay as straight and upright as I could. I could see the swimming pool in my peripheral vision, and I tried to keep as far from it as possible. I locked in on the light from the door in front of me. All I had to do was walk straight. But the harder I tried, the more I felt myself drifting to the left. Towards the pool.

“Careful of the pool,” I heard someone shout out behind me.

“Yes, thank you,” I shouted back, “I’m perfectly capable of not falling in a swimming pool, thank you.”

Did I say thank you twice? I thought, as I continued to walk, stumbling closer and closer to the pool. And did I really just sign up to run a 10k obstacle course, climbing over electric fences?

I straightened myself again. I walked slowly and steadily, like a drunk driver trying to convince a police officer I was sober. One foot in front of the other. Move towards the light. Just walk in a straight line.

But the swimming pool’s magnetic pull grew stronger. And the more I tried to fight it, the more it pulled me closer.

“Dave, seriously,” I heard Catherine call out behind me.

I threw my hand up in the air, the middle digit extended in an act of childish rebellion. And that was all it took to completely unbalance me. I swerved violently to the left, tripping over my own feet, hopping, lurching and dancing until I tumbled over.

I went into the water sideways.


Read the rest in 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick .


My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick

Today, I’m very happy to welcome the Book Tour for Alastair Puddick’s 46% Better Than Dave. We’ll kick it off with this spotlight post, then I have a small sample from the book, and then I’ll be giving my take on the book here in a bit. But like I said, let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: 46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick
Publisher: Raven Crest Books
Release date: October 12, 2019
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 245 pages

Book Blurb:

A novel of jealousy, muddy shoes and giant barbecues.

Dave Brookman’s new next-door neighbour is ruining his life. Because in a bizarre coincidence, he’s also called Dave Brookman, he’s the same age and he even grew up in the same town. There is one big difference, though. This new Dave is vastly more successful in every way.

As Dave starts questioning everything about himself, suddenly his perfect life seems a lot less than perfect. And what starts as friendly rivalry soon turns into obsessive jealousy and crazy behaviour that could see Dave lose it all. Can he get a grip before it’s too late? Everybody in the kingdom is supporting the brave knight Leo in his battle against his fearsome dragons. They try lots of different things to help him defeat them but eventually Leo realises that the most important thing to do is to believe in himself.

About Alastair Puddick:

William KnightAlastair Puddick is a writer and editor who has spent the past 20 years writing for a variety of magazines and websites. His work has spanned many different paths, from jetting off to exciting cities across the world to writing about dating advice, data centres, facilities management and the exciting world of flooring. He also once wrote an agony advice column posing as Elvis Presley’s ghost.

Alastair still works as a copywriter and lives in Sussex with his wife, Laura, and cat, George. He has written three novels: The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring, Killing Dylan and his newest book, 46% Better Than Dave.

Alastair Puddick’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

Love Books Group

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan (Audiobook): Gaffigan’s Tribute to the Topic that Defines his Comedy

Food: A Love Story

Food: A Love Story

by Jim Gaffigan

Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 17 min.
Random House Audio, 2014

Read: December 11-13, 2019


This is largely what I said about the book in 2015, but I have a few more thoughts about Gaffigan’s book on parenting, Jim Gaffigan offers a book on his true strength: food.

As with Dad is Fat, a lot of this is material I’ve seen/heard elsewhere, but most of it isn’t. There’s more than enough original material to satisfy even those who’re familiar with has specials. I think, so anyway—I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of Gaffigan’s material, as much as my children want me to (I wouldn’t mind it, either).

On the whole, this is about what foods, dishes, and practices he likes—but he breaks it up with things he can’t stomach or understand. Sometimes, like with the chapter on Reuben sandwiches, he handles both.

The chapters on Coffee, Steak, Doughnuts, Breakfast, Hot Dogs and Bacon stand out particularly for me. Although the pair “Nobody Really Likes Fruit” and “Even Fewer People Like Vegetables” really amused me, even beyond the great titles.

Actually, there’s really nothing that didn’t amuse me.

Naturally, there’s an entire chapter devoted to Hot Pockets. That’s all I’m going to say about that, it speaks for itself.

Because the book is pretty tightly focused, there are two ways I’d recommend to read this book: in one setting, or broken up into tiny chunks over several days. There’s a danger of things getting repetitive that either of those tacks reduces.

I’m going to limit myself to just a few highlights, there’s quotable material on almost every page:

A.1. was always on the table when my dad would grill steaks. It seems everyone I knew had that same thin bottle of A.1. It always felt like it was empty right before it flooded your steak. Ironically, the empty-feeling bottle never seemed to run out. I think most people still have the same bottle of A.1. that they had in 1989. Once I looked at the back of a bottle of A.1. and was not surprised to find that one of the ingredients was “magic.”

Of course I am aware that doughnuts are bad, horrible things to eat, and according to my health-nut wife, they are not appropriate for a trail mix. I’ve repeatedly tried to explain to Jeannie that I’m on a different trail. Mine leads to the emergency room. Trail mixes have nuts, and my favorite nut is most definitely a doughnut.

In my opinion, however, the line of the book has nothing to do with food:

Bill Shakespeare himself, another actor who did some writing…

Listening to Gaffigan added a little more to the experience—sure, it’s easy to imagine him saying the same things, it’s another one to hear him do it. It’s not a superior experience to reading the book, but it’s an added flavor that makes it fresh even on the second exposure.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to change my eating habits, which made enjoying this celebration of unhealthy eating a little personally ironic (particularly for the 35 minutes I spent on a treadmill), but it still made me laugh. If you’re the kind of person who eats food, has opinions on it, and likes to laugh, pick yourself up a copy.


4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge<Humor Reading Challenge 2019