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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book review: “7: The Number for Happiness, Love, and Success”


By Terri Schlichenmeyer
by Jacqueline Leo
c.2009, TwelveBooks $23.99 / $28.99 Canada 261 pages, includes index

Every night when you get ready for bed, you empty your pockets.

You’ll have a few coins. Lint, and a scrunched dollar bill. And dozens of scraps of paper, each with something scrawled on it; a phone number, an address, a to-do list.

Why is it that you can’t remember anything any more? Is your brain overloaded that much? It shouldn’t be so hard to remember a client’s information ... should it? Until you learn the answer to that, you live by scrap of paper.

Maybe you’re trying to remember too much, says author Jacqueline Leo. For centuries, scientists, thinkers, and philosophers have believed that your mind has a set point, and in the new book “7: The Number for Happiness, Love and Success”, you’ll find out where it lies.

Seven-Card Stud. Send your daughter to a Seven Sisters college. Read “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” or the seven Harry Potter books. Sail the Seven Seas. Seventh-inning stretch and seven-layer cake. The Chicago Seven and Seven Dwarfs. Seven colors in a rainbow. Roll the dice for a Lucky 7.

And your phone number – seven, sans area code.

The point is that the number 7 shows up in a surprising number of places in literature, pop culture, philosophy, ancient cultures, nature, and more – and it’s been showing up for as long as mankind has been recording information: Greek philosophers said that there are seven kinds of love. Confucius taught seven ways to a good life. Mesopotamians divided the earth and heaven into seven zones. And when God created Earth, there were seven divine commands, one for each of the seven days.

Fine - but what does this have to do with you and your inability to remember? Leo says that the number 7 is “a gift”, inherent in our humanness. To make life easier and more productive, she says, take advantage of seven by breaking down your tasks into seven steps or focusing on seven to-dos for the day. Embrace the seven words that can lead to “a smarter, simpler life”: Yes, No, Stop, Go, Start, End, and Be. Look for opportunities to use seven in your day-to-day existence.

And if you still aren’t convinced, you’ve got a hole in your head – seven of them, to be exact.

Quirky but impossible to put down, “7: The Number for Happiness, Love, and Success” almost defies categorization. It’s part new-age, part Book of Lists, part history and philosophy, mixed with motivational information and life-lessons, as well as lots of amazing I-never-noticed-that trivia. And it’s very enjoyable.

Broken down in (what else?) seven general chapters, author Jacqueline Leo shows how we’ve naturally embraced a simple number in many different areas of life - a number, incidentally, that most people claim when asked to choose. She also borrows from experts in business, science, mathematics, and history to offer tips and hints that are useful to anyone, 24/7.

Businesspeople, students, historians, numerologists, and the curious will get a kick out of this eclectic, easy-to-browse, fun-to-read book. For them, “7” is a solid 9 out of 10.

-- Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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