Failure is an Option

Promises, promises. They are easy to make, especially around the New Year, but much harder to keep. Maybe you have pledged to get a better attitude, lose some weight, or work on your relationship with a significant other. A couple of weeks into 2016, however, things might not be looking so good. Now you could beat yourself up about not meeting your goal, but maybe it is time to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.

Here’s a radical idea: maybe failure isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, failure might be the best way to succeed, the kick-start you need to find true love, the cornerstone of scientific progress and the best thing about competitive sports. Don’t take my word for it though, check out these books from your local library and see for yourself.

Failure, the Key to Success

Alright, let’s face it, you have failed at something. As the experts say, admitting the problem is half the solution. Also, take a look at these three books to gain some perspective and move forward.


Very Good Lives: the Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
Failure is not a term you would normally associate with the creator of Harry Potter, but it has been a key component of Rowling’s life and success. Learn all about it in this commencement speech she gave at Harvard University.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chödrön
Another commencement speech, this time given at Naropa University, that stresses the importance of failure as the way to becoming a complete and fulfilled human being. In addition to being a prolific author, Chödrön is also a Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Nova Scotia.

Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from their Mistakes–but Some Do by Matthew Syed
For Syed, failure is inevitable for everyone at some point. The problem comes when mistakes aren’t acknowledged and people refuse to examine their failure and learn from it. Much like the black box of a commercial aircraft, the data needs to be analyzed to find out what went wrong when a failure occurs.

Burning Love

Things don’t always work out. Happily ever after can be a long time coming. While you wait, take a look at these books to help you cope with a failed relationship.


It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright.
While a relationship crashing and burning is never a pretty sight, Wright points out that there is always a historical example of something far worse. Each chapter title pairs a specific romantic blunder with an appropriate historical example such as “If you have just sent your ex a very intense emotional email, Read about Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron.”

Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After by Katherine Woodward Thomas
If you want to take the high road when it comes to a breakup, this is the book for you. Promising to show you how to ‘break up in a whole new way’, Thomas advises both parties to avoid bitterness and anger and focus on what was positive in the former relationship.

Dump ’em: How to Break up with Anyone from your Best Friend to your Hairdresser by Jodyne Speyer
Sometimes you have to be the one to end things. Not an easy task, but this book has got you covered. Chock full of personal stories, useful scripts and interviews with experts, Speyer’s book will show you how to break up with almost anyone.

Blinded with Science

The discipline that brought you successes such as medicine, technology and a way of building knowledge about the universe is fueled by a surprising concept: failure. Take a look at these books to find out why.


Failure: Why Science Is So Successful by Stuart Firestein
The image of an infallible truth-dispensing scientist in a white lab coat is an illusion, argues Firestein. Instead science is a process of trial and error that produces many failures. These failures are crucial in producing an ultimate success.

Brilliant Blunders: from Darwin to Einstein–Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists that Changed our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio
It is not only the humble that make mistakes, many of the scientific greats did as well. Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling, and Albert Einstein all made significant blunders on their way to genius status. Clearly there is hope for all of us.

Discarded Science: Ideas that Seemed Good at the Time by John Grant
This book is a true rogue’s gallery of failed ideas and bogus theories that were once deemed plausible. From the flat earth theory to phrenology, every dubious theory that was once thought of as ‘scientific’ is examined and explored.

The Agony of Defeat

I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I have always had a soft spot for teams, and the fans who support them, that almost never seem to win. Call it the nobility of continual failure. Here are three examples.


Shipwrecked: a Peoples’ History of the Seattle Mariners by Jon Wells
Since the team rarely finishes a season above .500, Mariners fans are a long-suffering, but in my view, admirable bunch. Learn all about their trials and travails in this colorful history of the team. The author has been covering the Mariners for over 15 years and has his own theories of why the team can never seem to win.

We Believe [DVD]
The Chicago Cubs are arguably the original sports team that never seems to catch a break. This DVD, narrated by Gary Sinise no less, documents the few ups and many downs of the team and its fans. You know there will be a clip of Harry Caray, preferably after having a few beers after the seventh inning stretch, singing ‘take me out to the ball game’.

Green Bay Packers: Trials, Triumphs, and Tradition by William Povletich.
I know the Packers currently are far from being failures, but when I lived in Title Town (the late 70s and 80s) they, quite frankly, sucked most of the time. It was hard not to have a grudging admiration for the fans who stuck with them through all those fallow years. Interestingly, the team starting doing really well once I left. Coincidence? I think not.

So clearly, as all of these materials demonstrate, you have no reason to feel bad about any recent failures that might have come your way. As always, the EPL has got your back.

Fail Magnificently

Here we are, firmly wedged into the month of January. The magical glow of New Year’s Eve and memories of our ambitious resolutions have already started to fade. While some just might make this the year that they actually stick to their three-times-a-week gym pledges, others may be looking for a way to gracefully bow out of their publicly-announced best intentions. Thankfully, the Everett Public Library is here not only to support us in our triumphs, but also to help us get through our moments of weakness. So, if you want to kill your resolutions softly by making the best of your surrender, I have a list of books for you.

Here are my recommendations for failing magnificently at some of the more common New Year’s resolutions.

The Butchers Guide to Well-Raised Meat

Eat Healthier and Lose Weight

This is the granddaddy of them all. Who hasn’t sworn, after a long night of New Year’s Eve snacking, that it was time to get the potbelly situation under control? Perhaps you’ve spent the last couple weeks faithfully logging calories and exercise on your new My Fitness Pal app, but today you find yourself caring less than usual. Before you hop in the car after work, blow by the YMCA, and hit the drive through, consider picking up one of the following books to help you break your resolution with a bit more class.

The Pastry Chef’s Apprentice, by Mitch Stamm, provides a really accessible introduction to creating delicious pastries in your home kitchen. Stamm includes a lot of what I like to call ‘action shots’ of what dishes should look like during crucial stages of each recipe. If you’re as lousy of a baker as I am, you know how valuable it is to actually see what the recipe means when it tells you to mix the dough to a certain consistency.

If you prefer savory over sweet, Warren R. Anderson’s Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage may be up your alley. The first half of this book is a richly-illustrated discussion of different methods of making and smoking sausages; the second is a collection of great recipes to try your hand at.

Other sweet and savory honorable mentions to consider:
Chocolate, from Practical Cookery
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat, by Joshua and Jessica Applestone

Who knows? Perhaps making your own guilty pleasures from scratch might burn some calories in the process and ensure that you’re using healthier ingredients.

The Home Winemaker's CompanionDrink Less

This one generally goes the way of weight loss pledges, so in order to help you fail in the same spirit, I suggest the alternative of taking up home brewing, wine making,or distilling. You may find that in the end you’ll opt for quality over quantity because you’ll come to prefer the fruits of your own labor to a couple of Sessions. For the beer drinkers, I recommend checking out The Complete Joy of Home Brewing and The Brewers Apprentice. If wine is more your thing, you can try The Home Winemaker’s Companion. For those of you who secretly harbor dreams of bootlegging and rum-running, you can try your hand at hooch with Making Pure Corn Whiskey. Please remember to brew, stomp, and moonshine responsibly.

Fly SoloSpend More Quality Time with the Kids

Dads of the world, my apologies, because it looks like the fun books for breaking this resolution are more geared towards the ladies. A quick stroll through our travel books turned up these gems:

Fly Solo: the 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone, by Teresa Rodriguez Williamson
Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide, by Marybeth Bond
Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, by Lea Lane

Get Rid of that Old Junk in the Garage

But isn’t one man’s trash another man’s treasure? Are you really going to let that other man steal your carefully horded booty? Absolutely not! American Junk and This Old House Salvage-Style Projects may give you the inspiration you need to turn mom’s odd obsession with fancy antique doorknobs into a lucrative business making pretty coat racks.

Driveways, Paths and Patios

Keep the Lawn and Garden Tidy

Technically my recommendations here won’t break this resolution, but they will help you fulfill it a way that you might not have intended. It may be that you love a serene outdoor environment but the closest you’ve ever come to having a green thumb was the result of a misguided attempt to paint the Silvertips logo on your garage door. If that’s the case, you can design your outdoor space to look tidy while being relatively maintenance-free by exploring other options. Walks, Walls & Patio Floors and Driveways, Paths and Patios will tell you all you need to know about designing an attractive, zero-gardening landscape. If you can’t bear the thought of having a yard that isn’t lovely and green, consider going au naturel with the help of Beautiful No-Mow Yards, by Evelyn J. Hadden. This approach will require you to put in a fair amount of gardening effort at the beginning, but after a while you should have easy sailing.

Swear Less

If you find that your cuss jar is rapidly filling once again, it might be time to let go and embrace the fact that you have a potty mouth and you find swearing amusing. To help you along the way to self-acceptance, I recommend a couple foul-mouthed titles that are designed to make you laugh. The F**king Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel tells the sometimes true, sometimes fanciful, and completely inappropriate story of the 2011 mayoral election in Chicago. If they ever made an audio book out of this title, you wouldn’t want to listen to it with the kids around. Speaking of audio books – my other recommendation, Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, was just narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (the video is on YouTube – I recommend listening with earphones). I’m also happy to report that we carry ¡Duérmete, carajo!the Spanish-language adaptation of this recent best seller.

Machida Karate-Do

Manage Stress Better

Or just take up a contact sport to help let out your frustrations in a healthy way. I have never been very good at managing the different areas of life that cause me stress, so instead once or twice a week I go play ice hockey. Problem solved. So, if you need to get out some pent-up aggression, but you don’t have the budget to pick up an expensive team sport, consider some alternatives. May I suggest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo, or Mixed Martial Arts?

Step Away from the Internet

If you’re reading this post, you’ve already failed at this resolution. That’s all right, you can still learn to spend your time online doing something more productive. We have many great books on creating and marketing an online business, using social media to make money, and using the internet to help you find a better job. Here are just a handful of titles that can get you started:

Social Networking for Career Success, by Miriam Salpeter
Likeable Social Media, by Dave Kerpen
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing, by Aliza Sherman
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing, by Jennifer Abernathy

For those of you who are still sticking to you goals I salute you! Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the library also has books to assist you in leaving the rest of us in your dust. For my fellow magnificent failures out there, happy 2013, and have fun making lemonade out of your lemons.