3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts"

Since I usually feature books in the parenting genre here, I thought I'd "take a quick break" and offer a few books that don't fall in that category. These are books that you can use to ignite conversation with co-workers, childless/single friends, or your spouse (when you want to talk about something other than when your baby went poop last...a fascinating topic to-be-sure, but not necessarily the only one you want to engage in...).

3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts" 1LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined by Gordon L. Patzer (AMACOM, 2008)

Professor Gordon Patzer utilizes intellectual humor and original research to inform his audience about the "well-documented advantages bestowed upon the good-looking." These advantages include better grades, success in romance, higher salaries, better job opportunities, and less stringent court sentences. The book truly does what the cover promises - it "uncovers the sometimes ugly truth about beauty and its profound effects on us all." The book was fascinating to me on many levels. The premise wasn't new to me, but many of the studies cited were and I found myself constantly looking up from the text to say: "Did you know...?" to my husband (which he didn't mind because the content is pretty interesting).

On a more superficial level, Looks is one of those books that looks extraordinarily impressive if you happen to be traveling on the subway or waiting in a doctor's office. I'm sure the cover alone has sparked many-a-conversation between strangers. 

3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts" 2Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon (AMACOM, 2007)

Networking is an important skill - especially for moms, who often take breaks in their careers or float between jobs during the early years. Networking is critical because it "remains the primary technique that people use to find new jobs, change careers, or land on their feet after a layoff, merger, or reorganization." Sending out resumes blindly doesn't produce results, but networking does - and when I say "networking," I DON'T mean handing out a lot of business cards, giving your "30-second commercial", or engaging in silly small talk. Neither do the authors. They give solid advice about how to be authentic, how to give, and how to listen...all steps to making your contacts count. If you want to learn how to make a memorable entrance, how to deal when you forget someone's name, how to follow-up with a potential client, and how to move conversation away from the weather, this is your book. Whether you sell Arbonne or are thinking about switching to a PT job or are looking to get back into the workforce after an extended time away, this book will give you some starting points. It's not the most thrilling ride of your life (it doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat, I can tell you that right now. In fact, to be quite honest, I skimmed through the text, which I don't often do). That said, I feel like the authors left me with some fantastic take-away points that will serve me well in the future.  

3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts" 3Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering by Mental Floss (Mental Floss, 2006)

I was originally attracted to this book at Borders because of its quirky title/cover and its easy format. Divided into 44 sections of four pages each, the book features important people, places, and events throughout history that smart people know. You'll find a brief synopsis about Alexander the Great, Beethoven, Buddha, Dead Sea Scrolls, The Hundred Years War, John Locke (no, not THAT John Locke...), The Qur'an, Voltaire, and more...so that you'll be prepared to "sound like a genius in any social setting."  The tone of the book is slightly irreverent and a bit snobby - you might imagine that the authors are graduates from Brown University or are well-studied on many-a-subject (or, wait, maybe that's just what they want us to think...). If you want to refresh yourself on important facts about history that have shaped our current culture in a non-serious and non-threatening way, this book might be the ticket because it is small and "chunked" into easy-to-read-in-between-other-duties chapters. I found that I read about 2 sections per night during bathtime sitting next to the bathtub, while my daughter was splish-splashing (don't worry, I do my fair share of splashing with her, but she loves to stay in the water and she almost always points at the counter and says, "Book!" because she knows that I'll read a page or two while she reads her bath books and pastes her alphabet letters on the bath wall happily). P.S. You can read a full review of the book at BlogCritics Magazine.

WIN IT! There will be three winners, one winner for each book. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post stating which book you would prefer to win (and why it appeals to you) prior to Saturday, May 17 at midnight (don’t forget to follow the rules). The winner will be announced and contacted on Sunday, May 18. * Winner must provide a U.S. mailing address.

*UPDATE* The winner of "Looks" is #44 Cheryl Free. The winner of "Make Your Contacts Count" is #89 flaredone. The winner of "Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets" is #58 Danielle S. Congratulations!

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119 comments on “3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts"”

  1. Stephanie,

    I love your Metropolitan Mama website/blog. This is my fourth visit and your content, style, completeness, and ease of use represent an exemplary standard that other blogs could learn from. Your readers who post comments make me smile. They seem to be incredibly thoughtful, respecting, and kind, which express a wonderful breath of fresh air nowadays in the world of blogs.

    Regarding your post on May 10, 2008, (titled, "3 Books to Read to Improve Your "Smarts"), the comments posted, when considered individually and collectively, are be right-on-target. These comments express well the variety of thoughts and perspectives regarding the reality that I focus on in my book, "LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined." The comments also present quite well the discomfort aligned with "physical attractiveness phenomenon."

    Sometimes termed lookism, physical attractiveness phenomenon encompasses the reality that people behave toward individuals in ways strongly biased by their physical attractiveness. The bias strongly favors higher physical attractiveness and disfavors lower physical attractiveness. This phenomenon is powerful, pervasive, and often unrecognized or denied; despite as I state in this book, the impact of a person's good looks run literally from cradle to grave. Good looks and not-so-good looks—be they defined by words of beauty, handsomeness, or, at a child's age, cuteness—impact every individual.

    Physical attractiveness phenomenon is a topic that I have studied formally for more than 30 years. And, I believe "beauty is ugly" or, at the least, "beauty can be ugly." Society and individuals within society place entirely too much importance on a person's physical attractiveness. What follows, are the favorable and not-so-favor consequences stated in my above paragraph. Then what follows, includes increasing number of individuals with unrealistic pursuits that can consume more time, effort, and money than a person can afford.

    Children and their parents are not immune to physical attractiveness phenomenon. Not only do adults—parents and non-parents—place increasing importance on their own good looks, they also do so concerning the looks of their children. Outside our home, the physical attractiveness, or cuteness, of our children influences different treatment from other children, teachers, and medical personnel.

    Accordingly, the LOOKS book presents substantial material very much in-line with the parenting genre of Metropolitan Mama. I hope you and the readers of your blog won't take offense at my saying so, but, two chapters particularly pertinent to children are:

    • Chapter 3, titled: “As the Twig Is Bent: How Physical Attractiveness Affects Family Dynamics – What Smart Parents Know (or Should Know) about Physical Attractiveness”

    • Chapter 4, titled: “Readin’, ‘Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic, ‘n’ Ridicule – How Physical Attractiveness Influences Teachers, Students, Success, Failure, and the Learning Experience” (Chapter 4).

    Maybe "tooting my own horn entirely too much here," I will say that in addition to my work concerning physical attractiveness in my LOOKS book, further experiences and recognitions specific to my work concerning children include:

    • Author of a 44-page chapter titled “Physical Attractiveness and Child Development" published in Advances in Clinical Child Psychology, 11th Annual Volume (under the editorship of the University of Georgia medical school).

    • Citations of my professional name by other researchers in education and medical scholarly journals such as Childhood Education, The Cleft Palate Journal, and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; as well as diverse media ranging from WebMD to the Harvard Law Review.

    • Long ago, I held an executive position with CBS Television Network in their primetime programming that included research concerning children and related television network programming.

    Best wishes, Gordon


    Dr. Gordon Patzer
    author of, "Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined"

  2. 1): Copy of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon.

  3. I would like to have a copy of "Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined" by Gordon L. Patzer. As I get older I am considering some surgery To look younger and I am interested in what the studies have concluded about beauty and age.

  4. I would choose Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering by Mental Floss. I need all the help I can get!

  5. I would love to win Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets because I am interested in improving my social skills.

  6. I would like to read Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success because I am going back to school this month.

  7. Unfortunate as it is people judge you by first impressions- so looks matter. I told my son that when he started growing dreadlocks. He didn't believe me until he was suspected of shoplifting just by the way he looked. He was a good Christian kid but no one knew it by those things sticking out of his head.

  8. I want to start a new business, so Copy of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success would really help.

  9. After 20 years of staying at home with our four children, I am starting an accounting/tax service out of my home. The Networking book would be a great tool.

  10. I want the Looks book because it sounds intriguing. I learned in a psychology class about how much appearance really matters. I would like to hear this author's views on the subject!

  11. I definetly would azppreciate winning the Contacts book for my college graduate daughter, she is having difficulty making the right connections to get a better job. Hopefully this book will lead her in the right direction. Its only fair that she gets a nice start after graduating with a 3.78 GPA.

  12. I'll go with Looks, then Make Your Contacts Count, and if that's gone, the Genius book (although that sound a lot like the three volume set of Bathroom Books I bought years back - - which I just LOVE! in the bathroom or otherwise). I hang out with quite a few actors, and I'll tell you, if they aren't all put together every single day, they feel naked. Looks do count.

  13. I'd love "Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets". Mental floss is a facinating magazine, and I'd love to read this book!

  14. After my wife badgered me into shaving off my beard recently, I was very irritated (in more ways than one) at how dismayed she was with the extent of the change in how I looked. But "Looks" isn't where I am at the moment (the beard is growing back) -- I'm currently job searching, working my school and professional contacts, and "Make Your Contacts Count" is just what I need right now.

  15. As my husband has just graduated BsEE, he is now actively "working" the networking scene, job-hunting to give ME a break -- so a certain synchronicity makes "Make Your Contacts Count" sound VERY auspicious and timely!!

  16. the Make Your Contacts Count book sounds so great for me, i was just talking to someone about how i'm so horrible about networking, i think this would help me!

  17. The Cocktail Party book sounds really good. I need that because I don't know a lot of good topics to talk about.

  18. I'd pick Cocktail party cheat sheets. I don't want to sound like a know-it-all but I do want to know it all. I've forgotten my history and it really bothers me so this would be a great way for me to refresh myself on important things.

  19. I would like to win Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon. I have a feeling that I will decide to look for a different job later in the year, and I would like to help prepare myself by reading this.

  20. Making Your Contact Count.... recently moved to a new state and am looking to open a business. This would be a great resource.

  21. All sound useful to me, but I'd choose Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering. After suffering the normal brain-function-loss that comes with giving birth, followed by chemo-brain, I really need some help in the trivia area! Just can't pull up the "interesting" facts as quickly as I used to.

  22. I would love to win "LOOKS" book. i am a nurse at a plastic surgery office and we see and hear stories of how physical attractiveness and youthful appearance benefit our patients. Would be a quirky waiting room book!

  23. Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering by Mental Floss. I have such social anxiety at my husband's work events!

  24. I would like the cocktail party book... my one friend acts like they know everything, so it would be nice to talk about something different! Great books!


  25. I would love to win Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering!!

    My husband is in finance and although I am a teacher, I would love to read this book to sharpen up my cocktail party intelect. We go to dinner with many of his clients and I am a part of "sealing the deal" when in come to people liking my husband. If I can wow them with my "genius" my husband (and I) would be very impressed.

    Thank you for the chance to win!!! :)

  26. I just lost my job so Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success would be a great book to have. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  27. I could really use the Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets because I'm horrible at small talk. Really. I'd love some help in this area.

  28. COktail Party Cheat Sheets would be great! Sounds very helpful for those awkward work gatherings I have to go to for my hubby!

  29. ooohh my God!!! i really love this kind of books! hope i'll win! please count me in! thank you so much!

  30. I absolutely adore Mental Floss (obviously, I'd want their book.) I get their email every week and their triva is amazing!

  31. all the books piqued (is that spelled right?) my interest but I would like the third one the most as I am naturally shy and have to force my self to talk to people I don't know unless it is for my kids and then it is easy

  32. LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined by Gordon L. Patzer

    because it's a very fascinating topic and your review made it sound like a good read.

  33. I like the cocktail book best. I always feel like I don't know what to say when we get into big groups, like at parties. (I also think the looks book sounds interesting)

  34. While they all sound like really interesting reads, I'm most intrigued by the Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets. I think that sounds fun and an easy way to brush up on important things that have since been forced from my mind by things like "did I remember to take out chicken to defrost for dinner?" Thanks for offering this!

  35. Hi, I have a degree in Psychology and the looks and height area have always fascinated me. I would really enjoy winning the "Looks" book. I think my college-age son would benefit from reading the book, also! Please put my name in your drawing hat.

  36. I love your book reviews! I'd have to go with the "Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets", not because I've ever attended a cocktail party, or probably ever will...but I'm ashamed of the vast quantity of knowledge (historical people, dates,etc.) that I've forgotten since school days. And I'd love to not feel like such an ignoramus! ;)

  37. I'd pick looks because it sounds really interesting. I remember learning something similar in a psychology class and it would be cool to get some more details.

  38. I'd prefer to win Looks. I've always believe what's inside matters most and I'd be interested in reading the author's take on why looks matter more. *Thanks* for the giveaway!

  39. Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets, because I'm introverted and absolutely dreadful at making small talk

  40. They all look interesting, but I'd like Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets because I never know what to say at those things.

  41. Thanks for another wonderful giveaway. My "to-read" stack of books is pretty high but these look wonderful and I'd love to check them out

  42. I will have to read "Make your Contacts Count". Everyone who is in business or owns a business can use this.

  43. I love the idea of having "Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets". It seems like I am often thrown into social situations where I have to make conversation. Having these little tidbits to pull out of my hat would be wonderful.

  44. I need to win "LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined", because I'm a graphic artist, and I know how important looks can be....

    Regardless of what everyone says!

  45. NoW I actually think that the cocktail party cheet sheet actually looks very interesting

  46. once again, more great book reviews! I love you're approach to summarizing a book, and sharing all the things that really matter when it comes to sitting down and reading it. I'm a bit of a cheap-skate, or maybe I'm just money-savy :) But if I don't win, I'll definitely be checking to see if my library stocks either of these books. 'Looks' is totally one of those topics that I think about, notice, and really wonder about the facts... how cool theres a whole book about it!

    cruising around Borders is totally a thing I enjoy (mostly pre-baby), but never seem to get to it anymore these days. Thanks for doing it for me :)

  47. I should read Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets
    Then not so boring would I be
    I might just be interesting
    If it wasn't all about me!

  48. I'd like to win Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering by Mental Floss. It seems like it would be a great refresher on many points and perhaps help break the ice in social situations. Thanks!

  49. Copy of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon.

  50. How to Make Your Contacts Count, because I need advise on how to build up a network for when I graduate.

  51. I've been thinking lately that my conversation well is at an all time low, at least anything that doesn't relate to babyhood. I'd love to read the Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets. I'd like to know more snippets of history to wow my non mommy friends with!

  52. Copy of Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon.
    Because im always looking for ways to improve our business.

  53. Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets: Sound Like a Genius at any Social Gathering because I never know what to say.

  54. Thank you for these very useful books. Any one of them would be very helopful.

    Happy Mother's Day to all the moms reading this!

  55. I am going through treatments right now, it's all good.. Think I would benefit by the 'Looks' Book. I am ashamed to admit my vanity,...but damn it, it matters! Happy Mothers Day!

  56. While those all sound interesting, I have to go with the crowd and say that "Looks" would be the one that I would have the most interest in reading.

    I have always thought that being good looking is a helpful attribute, so it would be nice to have some evidence to back up my claim! I'm sure he mentions it in the book, but I have read more than one study about the correlation between being overweight and making less money.

    Thanks for another great giveaway!

  57. I guess if I had to pick one it would be Looks, it sound pretty interesting. A close second would be Cocktail Party cheat sheets. I guess it would depend on my mood. But both sound like something I could talk to my hubby about. Also I think a lot of my friends would be interested in the Looks book as well.

  58. hhmm.. those are all three very interesting looking books. They look like the kind that are what I call "devour" books because they are so interesting you breeze through them.
    Funny what you said about reading while your daughter was bathing; when my little boy was young, I too sat by the tub and either read out loud to him (anything) or where we had some of our most prolific conversations as he got a wee bit older.
    Such interesting looking books; also want to thank you because looking at your profile I see the book "A Severe Mercy" which I had never heard of, ran out and got and ....well, thank you. It might go on my favorites list!

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