Helping others is a trait I believe is written in our DNA and is also something that is learned from our environment. That is why we need to be able to teach it to our children and cannot assume that they will just do it naturally. One of the methods often employed is the use of literature to help us learn how to become a better person. There have been other attempts at this “genre” of literature by other people that have gone on to great success. Complete Idiot’s Guide, for Dummies, etc., are series that are aimed at taking the complicated and stripping out the details to give someone the bare essentials of how to accomplish a task, understand a subject, or try something completely foreign to them. The Skinny On series by Jim Randel seeks to build on this tried and true premise, and I believe he has contributed well to this genre.
I have read other series on how to do certain tasks (setting up computer networks and what not), and I had a preconceived notion of what these “skinny on” books were going to be. I decided to start with the books on willpower and success because I teach these concepts to the kids that come in my office daily at the school where I work. The structure and content of these titles were such that I finished them within an hour or so. I came away with such a wealth of different knowledge with these topics that I was certainly impressed with the effort put into them. I see myself using this information in my profession.
These books were inspired by the evolution of our fast paced, instant gratification, satisfaction-on-the-go society and culture. Jim Randel is an author with a variety of experience in real estate, law, and the publishing business. He decided to take a risk — a risk of introducing a new publishing format based on a societal trend. Others have tried this and failed miserably (New Coke, anyone?).
“Realizing that the traditional book publishing business model was outdated, Randel sought to create a new breed of books, aimed at disseminating information to an audience increasingly used to consuming content on the internet and cell phones. Their quick-read, story format, and short lead publishing cycles allow the series to provide The Skinny On™ current events and topical subjects while keeping readers informed and entertained.” ( http://theskinnyon.com/About.aspx, accessed on Feb 5th 2010)
The story format revolves around the characters of Billy and Beth, with Jim, the author, making a cameo regularly as the resident “know it all.” I appreciated this format in that I read the titles back to back and have seen a continuity of characters throughout rather than “starting over” every time I read a different title. Although the continuity was small, I still appreciated that it was there to the discerning eye. It is a short investment in reading time, and these titles were worth it as far as the effort I put in. I appreciated the titles on success and willpower because they have bits and pieces that I can use in my office and can recommend to parents. I can even use these books with teenagers.
The credit card and real estate titles are probably not going to resonate with younger adults and teenagers, but the willpower and success books will for sure. I am confident in recommending this series for 7th grade children, that being kids about 13+ years old, and beyond given that these titles deal with future-forward thinking and goal formation that is longer than short term. I value Randel’s use of scientific study along with contemporary thought (sports figures are prominently displayed) in weaving theory and instruction with popular thought to make a coherent and easy-to-read treatise on the many subjects he writes about. This series is an easy “good buy” recommendation for parents to give to teenagers and especially kids going towards college and beyond. I already have my undergrad and I appreciated the success title teaching me some new things about myself and my motivation to succeed. I believe it goes without saying that the power of these titles is multiplied by active discussion by the parent with their children on what this literature is about and how they can use that new information to turn their dreams into success, understand strange industries like credit cards and real estate, etc.
In short, The Skinny On series are good reads for minimum investment. They are available in traditional print, as well as in non-traditional publishing formats, something I find to be a refreshing trend. I did run into some trouble loading the EPUB titles on my new Nook; they were not able to fit the formatting where I could read them. I ended up reading them on my desktop, but I think that problem will probably be solved before the official publishing of the works, since I received the “reviewer” copy. I am looking forward to more publishers embracing these innovative formats to access the new e-readers and other platforms that people will be reading on in the near future.
The opinions presented in this review are those of Chris Weber, who received no compensation for the review beyond the complimentary review copies of the titles mentioned. Full disclosure: Rand Publishing has purchased advertising with The Father Life, Inc. This review is not part of that advertising agreement.
Chris Weber is a school liaison. He and his wife make their home in Azle, TX.