59 Seconds, By Prof Richard Wiseman

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The Independent Culture

Most self-help books, Richard Wiseman argues, make claims which are not supported by any psychological research, and offer advice that could be useless or even harmful. What Wiseman does here, by contrast, is recommend only such tips to improve one's life as are backed up by scientific studies. (And many of them take less than a minute to implement.)

Want to persuade someone to do you a favour, or to fancy you? Then touch them on the upper arm. Want to improve your creativity? Put a plant pot on your desk. Want your child to do well in exams? Give them a name beginning with A. Want your wallet to be returned, should you lose it? Better make sure it's got a picture of a baby in it, then. Want to increase your happiness? Then perform acts of kindness – preferably several on the same day.

Some of Wiseman's advice is well-known or common-sensical (incidentally, one self-help guru who comes out of this well is Dale Carnegie – many of his insights were subsequently validated by studies), and the frequent summarising can get a bit repetitive. But this book contains dozens of fascinating and useful nuggets, and they all have science on their side.