As we enter the annual cycle of New Year's resolutions and self-improvement (diet, anyone?), we would be wise to heed the admonitions of bestselling business and personal development guru Brian Tracy, the author of "Focal Point: A Proven System to Simplify Your Life, Double Your Productivity, and Achieve All Your Goals" (Amacom). For while Tracy's claims are bold, his book offers relief to frustrated business people with too many professional and personal demands on their time which is to say, all of us. Tracy's essential idea is that too many folks are frittering away their lives by failing to define their goals with surgical precision. "The Focal Point Process," he writes, "requires that you continually put an 'X' on the thought or activity that can be the most helpful to you at any given moment." And Tracy teaches the reader how.
Another key Tracyism: See yourself as self-employed. "When you accept complete responsibility for your life," says Tracy, "you begin to view yourself as self-employed, no matter who signs your paycheck." So give yourself a raise! Says Tracy, "You can dramatically improve the overall quality of your life far faster than you might think possible."
Kirkus is rhapsodic about "The Shadow Boxer," a debut novel by Steven Heighton (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin; February 25), giving it a starred review. "The ghosts of Jack London, Thomas Wolfe, and Jack Kerouac all hover approvingly over a terrific first novel by Heighton, an Ontario poet and story writer...One of the finest coming of age tales in recent years, and a splendid novelistic debut by a writer who seems to be just now entering a most impressive maturity." Author tour
Something must be going on north of the border. Kirkus salutes another Canadian first novel: "Crow Lake" by Mary Lawson (Dial; March 5), giving it a starred review. "A finely crafted debut looks back to a young woman's harshly beautiful childhood in rural Canada...A simple and heartfelt account that conveys an astonishing intensity of emotion, almost Proustian in its sense of loss and regret."
MOVE OVER, JOHN LE CARRE:
On January 2, Little, Brown will publish "The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in American History," by TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon and former TIME Washington correspondent Ann Blackman.
LOOK AT ME, I'M SANDRA DAY:
On January 29, Random House will publish "Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest" by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother, H. Alan Day. PW calls the book, a childhood memoir, "a quiet account of a bygone era."
According to Kirkus, "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton" by Joe Klein, the author of "Primary Colors" (Doubleday; March 5), is "a supremely fascinating look at a 'serious, substantive presidency.' No journalist is better matched to this subject than Klein, and his analysis deserves the wide attention it's bound to get."
SEASON OF THE WITCHEL:
PW dumps on "Me Times Three" by Alex Witchel (Knopf; February 1). "NYT Style reporter Witchel makes her initial foray into fiction with a darkly humorous take on a young woman's growing pains...a disappointing offering from a writer whose privileged perspective on the culture, manner and style of NY in its 20th-century heyday might have yielded something less predictable, or at least more titillatingly revealing."
DIVING INTO THE GENE POOL:
Kirkus gives a spirited starred review to "Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix" by James D. Watson (Knopf; February 5). "Part memoir, part love story, part homage to the brilliant physicist George ('Geo,' pronounced Joe) Gamow, this is another tell-all tale in the tradition of the 'The Double Helix.' Yes, Watson is at it again, recalling the turbulent decade that followed the world-shaking publication of the Watson-Crick model of DNA...Watson seems more tempered this time around, especially in the treatment of Rosalind Franklin. But the urge to reveal all will surely upset a few who may not see it that way at all."
GEORGE W. AND ME:
PW reports that Michael Moore's new book, "Stupid White Men and Other Excuses for the State of the Nation" (ReganBooks/HarperCollins), is languishing in a warehouse as the author and publisher negotiate its fate. The book, which was originally scheduled to come out on September 11, is critical of the Bush administration. Moore wants the book to be released as published, but Harper thinks that portions of the book are now inappropriate.
JUMPING JACK FLASH:
PW NewsLine reports that Warner Books must sell 700,000 copies of "Jack: Straight from the Gut," Jack Welch's autobiography, in order to earn out the $7 million advance. 500,000 copies have been sold thus far.
"Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson has just completed 100 weeks on the PW nonfiction list, with no end in sight.
OH, THAT'S WHY THEY'RE SMILING:
HCI is the Florida recovery publisher best known for its Chicken Soup series. HCI's president reveals to PW NewsLine that 13 employees were fired this spring after they tested positive for drugs.
SHOW ME THE MONEY:
Kirkus cracks up over "Money Wanders" by Eric Dezenhall (Dunne/St. Martin's; February), giving it a starred review. "Money may wander but attention never strays in this comic debut. Dezenhall nimbly skewers the Internet, journalists, politicians, and public relations spinmeisters and their power to dupe huge numbers of people...Thoughtful, unpretentious, filled with laugh-out-loud funny scenes and delightfully realized characters. Place your bets on this winner."