A guide to the books, tapes, and Tv shows aimed at making a better person in 1991

By EW Staff
Updated January 11, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

I Will Get Fit

Reason 379 why you don’t lose weight or live healthier — there are so many fitness tapes, books, and TV shows that choosing one seems capricious and irresponsible. Here is some guidance:


Beginning Callanetics
Callan Pinckney’s muscle-toning introductory workout is a perfect model of safety and form. A
But her original Callanetics, one of the best-selling fitness videos in America, is full of wild claims. Sorry, Callan, arm exercises can’t tighten skin, and sit-ups won’t lift breasts. D

Jody Watley: Dance to Fitness
All right, the dancing isn’t quite Paula Abdul. Still, pop singer Watley’s tape is a lot more fun than the standard low-impact aerobics ones, and fun counts. A

The Firm, Volume 4
This may be the best fitness tape you’ve never heard of. Its exercise routines, such as stepping on and off a stool to mimic stair climbing, are ideal for the living room. A-

Jane Fonda’s Light Aerobics and Stress Reduction Program
No ”feel the burn” here, just a kinder, gentler Jane. The short, low-impact aerobics routine is well-suited to beginners, and the long, luxurious stretch/relaxation sequence is a treat for anyone. A
For a tougher Jane Fonda exercise video, try the Complete Workout A-

Kathy Smith’s Fat-Burning Workout
Earlier Smith offerings were generally marred by a few carelessly executed or poorly chosen exercises. This one is her best by far, combining aerobics, muscle-toning weight work, and calisthenics. B+

Richard Simmons: Sweatin’ to the Oldies
How about this: an exercise tape that doesn’t assume physical fitness is only for the thin and fit. A coed class of skinnies and chubbies hoots its way through an easy, low-impact aerobics session. The videotape’s grade suffers, though, from a lack of Simmons’ usual discussions of safety and technique. C


Basic Training Workout
Ada Janklowicz’s fitness show is pretty much indistinguishable from her brother Gil’s, also on ESPN, Bodies In Motion. The Janklowicz style is cheerfully abusive, and the aerobics routines are tedious, but their calisthenics are great: simple moves properly demonstrated. Both: B

Everyday Workout For an absolute beginner, this low-key, gently paced show with Cynthia Kereluk might be worth a try. Workout enthusiasts will be bored, however. C+

Getting Fit with Denise Austin Will someone please tell Austin that she’s wearing a microphone? Her encouraging voice — ” BEAUTIFUL!” — loudly and intrusively leads otherwise decent calisthenics and aerobics. She shows plenty of energy but sloppy form. C


Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease
This hefty best-seller is a splendid resource not just for people with heart disease but for anyone serious about adopting a healthier lifestyle. The medical school professor covers everything from exercise to stress-reduction to diet modification. He even throws in some recipes. A-

The Mood Control Diet By Harvey Ross, M.D., and June Roth
File this under T for twaddle. Ross and Roth fail to offer adequate evidence to back up their extraordinary claim about curing serious emotional disorders through diet alone. F


Weight Loss Barrie Konicov
The popularity of this best-seller is baffling. It’s half subliminal suggestion, half self- hypnosis. The few diet tips (drink a quart or more of water daily) seem unlikely to edge anyone away from the table. C-

Jennifer Drawbridge

I Will Get Rich

There’s clearly no downturn in the financial advice market: Every day, dozens of ”experts” parade books, tapes, or TV shows they claim will make you wealthier. In choosing, it helps to remember that for personal finance information, books are best as reference tools, TV can offer the most topical investment advice, and audiotapes tend to be dull.


Financial Self-Defense By Charles J. Givens
Givens’ fame from his 1988 get-rich-quick hit, Wealth Without Risk, has helped his new title leap onto the New York Times‘ how-to best-seller list. Give the flashy self-promoter credit for toning down his writing. His focus now is on saving money: whether shopping for a car, insurance, or a credit card. Some of his opinions are arguable (he labels whole-life insurance an ”absolute rip-off”), but many of his tips are useful. B

How to Make Nothing But Money By Dave Del Dotto
Maybe you’ve seen Dave’s spiel on his 30-minute TV infomercial with John Davidson in Hawaii — a sales pitch for the $367 package of Del Dotto audiocassettes and workbooks. Now his advice is in hardcover, where it all sounds simple. He says you can buy everything from real estate to household products for far below market value, especially at auctions. Can it really be this easy to find $700 color TVs for $130? C

J.K. Lasser’s Personal Investment Planner
Here’s a highly practical paperback from the people behind the familiar yellow tax guide. For example, Lasser says that municipal-bond investors should look for low-coupon bonds trading at a discount, because these are the ones least likely to be called in early by their issuers. A


Smart Money
Ken and Daria Dolan, folksy husband-and-wife advisers, supply some of the best financial fare on the tube, taking calls and delving into crucial, if complicated, subjects, like estate planning. A

Wall Street Week
After 20 years, Louis Rukeyser’s WSW is still the most watchable show for small investors. One problem: despite Rukeyser’s efforts, Wall Street jargon creeps into the conversation fairly often. A

Your Money
Tune in to Stuart Varney’s show if you’re looking for a rundown of the highest bank CD yields, top-performing mutual funds, and current mortgage rates. Just don’t expect a lot of depth. B


Beating the Dow
It takes money manager Michael O’Higgins nearly 90 minutes to reveal his mundane strategy: Buy blue chips that pay high dividends. C

Barrie Konicov (Weight Loss) shows up here as a money maven offering advice subliminally and via hypnosis. A typical line: ”You will accept financial abundance as your birthright.” Rating has been published subliminally.

Donald Jay Korn

I Will Quit Smoking

For many smokers, just about any way to stop lighting up is worth a try. There are hundreds of programs and treatments available, ranging from self-help groups to nicotine gum to audiotapes. Here are four audiotapes available in many bookstores; the first three devote at least a quarter of their running time to subliminal suggestions embedded within easy-listening music.

Stop Smoking Barrie Konicov
On the side with audible words, the king of subliminal how-to tapes intersperses the standard, mellow ”You will stop/You can stop” message with a disturbingly juvenile ”You’ll show them!” theme. D

Stop Smoking Lee Pulos
Same title, different approach. Psychologist Pulos’ voice and self-hypnosis exercises lull you into a state of tranquillity, a welcome respite from the anxiety associated with cigarette withdrawal. It’s a shame he decided to stick in the silly subliminal stuff. C

The Smoker’s Refresher
According to this tape, just put your fingers in your ears, press back, and you’ll have a marked decrease in your desire to smoke. (And in your desire to be seen in public, one presumes.) The chirpy voice of the host is jarring during the stress-reduction exercises. C-

Stop Smoking: Quit For Good! Rhoderick J. Elin
Talk about comprehensive. This three-tape package, narrated by a behavior therapist, includes a review of the dangers of smoking, strategies to prepare for quitting, behavior modification techniques, relaxation exercises, and even help for those who quit and start again. Most convincing statistic: you could save $21,900 over 10 years by kicking the habit today. A-

Jennifer Drawbrige

I Will Relax

Your nerves jangle, your back aches, your mind races, and your stomach feels like it’s braided. Reduce your stress level with one of these:

Resilience: Discovering a New Strength at Times of Stress By Frederic Flach, M.D.
In the world of self-help, bless the books like this one that speak softly and refuse to use mumbo jumbo. Dr. Flach believes that coming through stress can better equip you for the next battle, somewhat the way having chicken pox frees you from catching it again.

Stress Manager
Mulling over the details of a brutal breakup can intensify suffering; this videotape tries to channel that kind of mental energy into actually relieving tension. A series of pictures — a rose, a candle flame, autumn reflected in a pond — accompanies a voice talking about how relaxed you’re feeling. What sets this tape apart from the other pretty-picture therapies is its booklet, which drums in the importance of eating right, exercise, and sleeping enough.

Kelli Pryor

I Will Be Bolder

If crowds make you jumpy and for you three’s a crowd, if you have to give a speech to an audience and wonder why everyone’s looking at you, or if you always take no for an answer, maybe it’s time for some professional advice. Only, try to be a little demanding.


How to Work a Room By Susan RoAne
Reading this book, you can almost see RoAne’s frozen smile and powerful handshake. While her advice can be a bit motherly, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the kinds of things we were taught for fifth-grade mixers, such as the Three E’s (effort, energy, and enthusiasm). Still, since we’re all grown-up now, RoAne could be a little less bubbly. B

The Art of Conversation: Magic Key to Personal and Social Popularity By James A. Morris Jr.
So many ideas crowd the page that you have to search for the essential tips, which turn out to be along these lines: ”Just bouncing words off people is a shallow way to live…it’s like eating the core of an apple and throwing the fruit away.” Unappetizing fare. D

The Overnight Guide to Public Speaking: The Ed Wohlmuth Method
The print is large, and at only 155 pages, this book is short, but the handy manual packs a punch with its assortment of useful suggestions for making a hit with a crowd. For instance, Wohlmuth advises using key phrases such as ”I’ll just tell you one or two things” to signal that you will not waste your audience’s time. B

Unlimited Power By Anthony Robbins
No promises of overnight success, merely some clever tools for building confidence. Robbins keeps things interesting by citing as role models stars like Sylvester Stallone, who refused to accept 1,001 rejections and made Rocky anyway. A


Never Be Nervous Again By Dorothy Sarnoff
Everybody from Danielle Steel to George Shultz has turned to Sarnoff for public-speaking coaching, so you may want to as well. Arm yourself with her six audiotapes, and you’ll learn which types of opening lines work and which don’t. Hint: Never start a speech with ”It’s an honor….” A

The Unabridged Audio Collector’s Edition: How to Win Friends & Influence People By Dale Carnegie
Now you can listen to this 1936 classic, if you have a good 7 1/2 hours to spare. The Depression-era tone seems somewhat precious: ”Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” But Carnegie’s hallmark advice feels helpful, too, kind of the way that Grandma’s chicken soup aids a nasty head cold. B

Kelli Pryor

I Will Get Sophisticated

Forget the simple stuff about which fork is which and how much to slip the maitre d’: For those who have resolved to reach new heights of sophistication — and we know who we are — there is a seductive array of striver’s manuals, each promising to make us savvier one way or another. But with so many steps up the stairway of pretension and so little time, it’s foolhardy to hope to achieve everything at once. So try these three fail-safe ways to impress those around you: Learn how to order wine, increase your vocabulary, and master Japanese (so much hipper now than French, n’est-ce pas?).


The Right Wine: A User’s Manual By Tom Maresca
Just as Dr. Spock reassures parents that their mistakes probably won’t be calamitous, this book offers the comforting news that there are few absolute disasters in choosing a wine for any given meal. Maresca’s tips are straightforward (Beaujolais won’t stand up to beef stew), his writing is only a bit ripe with phrases like ”palatal impressions,” and his manual has a bold, hearty bouquet.

Celebrity Guide to Wine
If reading a whole tome about wine seems like a snoozer, try this videotape featuring Bernard Erpicum, the maitre d’ of L.A.’s chichi Spago restaurant. Along with stars like Dudley Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Erpicum dispenses solid information and even a few laughs. Best of all, he trashes snobbish rules. You want ice in your red wine? Why not?


Rapid Vocabulary Builder By Norman Lewis
Though this book has a rather drab look — lots of spot quizzes conjuring up dark memories of the SATs — its appearance is deceptive. Lewis’ short essays on individual words are a pleasure. If my ninth-grade teacher had used this, I might not have been using ”desultory” wrong all these years.

Word Builders
In this set of 10 audiotapes, cheerful hosts act out radio plays using signals like echoes and chimes to make us remember certain words. For instance, two tourists from Missouri chat with a Manhattan tour-bus driver, and the conversation is studded with such humdingers as ”grandiloquent,” ”vitiate,” ”rapacious,” as well as ”desuetude” (which has, you’ll admit, fallen into desuetude of late, even among bus drivers).


Getting by in Japanese
The title of this package (two audiotapes and an 88-page phrase book) expresses its modest ambitions: teaching you how to ask for the bathroom or yell the right thing when your pocket has been picked, not how to negotiate a deal with Matsushita. At first, the new language seems easy. But when the tape’s hosts explain that, in Japanese, a different numbering system is used for bottles than for cups and glasses, it’s clear that even getting by will take some effort.

Mastering Japanese By Eleanor Harz Jorden
This set — eight audiotapes, a 409-page manual, and 20 lessons — is the big time: The U.S. government uses Mastering Japanese to train its diplomats. Tape 1 starts with the most basic Japanese sounds, but in what seems like no time, you’re bombarded with entire sentences at rapid-fire speed. Sure, it’s a mental boot camp. You just have to remember that the art of sophistication isn’t all wine and celebs.

Owen Edwards

I Will Be Sexier

If going to bed has come to mean a good book, a soft pillow, and plenty of quilts, maybe some of these will help keep the home fires blazing:


Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples By Harville Hendrix
A reasoned and calm manner rules as therapist Hendrix explains how partners can grow up and into their marriage, whether they’re newly wed or longtime spouses. The last section is more hands-on, so to speak, with such recommendations as wrestling with your partner to regain intimacy. B

How to Stay Lovers While Raising Your Children: A Burned-Out Parents’ Guide to Sex By Anne Mayer
This book runneth over with ways to get the romantic juices flowing when juice has mostly come to refer to the purple stuff that keeps getting spilled on the living room carpet. Unfortunately, many of Mayer’s ideas are downright soppy: In her ”Ten Steps to Giving Each Other a Sensuous Bath,” for instance, step 10 is, ”Look each other in the eye and say, ‘I love you.’ ” C

The Fine Art of Flirting By Joyce Jillson
This California astrologer’s bible of flirtation issues its brazen commandments without hesitation: Thou shalt smile. Thou shalt remember the power of touch. Ever since Jillson’s book first came out in 1984, singles have been lapping up her instructions for flirting in any position, flirting at the salad bar, flirting while traveling…The author’s judgments can be a touch harsh, though. Be slender, she insists. Thanks loads. B

You Just Don’t Understand By Deborah Tannen
Good communication is the basis of a healthy relationship, and this best-seller explores the different ways women and men speak. Don’t look for easy answers to romance problems here. Read it for insights about, for instance, how come when she asks, ”What time is the concert?” he answers, ”You have to be ready by 7:30.” A


Intimacy and Sexual Ecstasy Two choreographed couples demonstrate how to talk about sex (swap compliments first,criticisms later), how to make it last longer (a lot of counting and deep breathing), and how to make it better (well…). Though the information provided is sound and sincere (albeit pretty superficial on the issue of AIDS), the tape gets a little hokey when the hosts do balloon tricks. C

Loving Relationships with Leo Buscaglia
In this video of one of Buscaglia’s PBS specials, the world’s most famous hugger comes on like an evangelist. He has a cadence full of crescendos. He sweeps his arms around. And he sweats profusely. What Buscaglia is preaching, though, is salvation through communication and affection. His theme is that people must become aware of how much they need each other. B

— Kelli Pryor

I Will Be A Sport

So you’ve finally resolved to master that confounded sport you’ve bumbled at all these years. Here are some of the best video- and audiotapes, books, and TV shows for refining your golf, tennis, or skiing techniques. All cover the basics well, but they draw their individuality from each pro’s unique approach and insights:


Automatic Golf
The swing is the thing, and no one explains it as well as Bob Mann, the Vince Lombardi of golf instructors, does in this best-selling video. Just ignore the tape’s cheesy production values (it looks like it was filmed in someone’s paneled rec room) and pay attention.

Greg Norman: The Complete Golfer, Parts 1 and 2
The Shark’s sturdily offbeat personality alone makes this tape a winner, but there’s more. Other instructional videos by superstars like Nicklaus and Palmer are mostly compilations of great shots, but Norman lucidly teaches specifics to improve your game. Example: To conquer your fear of the dread sand trap, draw a line in the sand pointing the way to the hole.

How to Play Consistent Golf Tom Kite and Larry Dennis
The theme of this book, cowritten by golf’s all-time single-season money winner (Kite), is mastering the fundamentals: swings, grips, and strategy. To help, the authors suggest some fairly bizarre practice tips — swing barefoot and wage a three-iron tug-of-war with a friend, for example.


Visual Tennis
This video-and-book combo by coach John Yandell argues that mental imaging — visualizing yourself making those classic strokes that Yandell demonstrates — is the trick to actually doing them on the court.

Tennis with Van Der Meer
Dennis Van Der Meer, the famed coach and tennis camp founder who recently tutored New York City Mayor David Dinkins, stars in this 10-week, step-by-step TV instruction series. Careful, though. While trying to play along, I executed a forehand right through a table lamp.


The Truth About Skiing
Don’t let the hefty price scare you. Miller, the guru of dramatic ski documentaries, brings 41 years of experience to this training package: two audiotapes, a video, and a booklet. His program teaches you to turn off your conscious mind and ski in a trancelike state — a pretty courageous move when you’re traveling down the mountain at 30 mph.

Advanced Skiing By Martyn Hurn
A British coach, Hurn writes about everything from applying bindings to surviving an avalanche. His best tips reveal the right ways to read a mountain and the weather. Do you know how to measure the grade of the slope with your poles? Hurn explains.

Glen Macnow