“Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World”

By Mitch Prinstein

c. 2017, Viking

$27, $36 Canada; 273 pages

None of the other kids like you. They don’t include you in anything; in fact, they often just plain ignore you, and some even pick on you. You don’t understand why this is, but there isn’t much you can do: quitting your job is not an option. In “Popular” by Mitch Prinstein, you’ll see why being top dog matters, after all these years.

More: The Bookworm: Fun across the globe and in the home

Who remembers recess? You do, of course; you ran wild, swung, jumped and screamed yourself hoarse in every one of them. And then – wham! – came being a teen, where you, Mean Girls, jocks, bullies, and the desperate stopped playing. Instead, you had two options: you clawed your way popular, or you stood by watching others do it.

It kind of sounds like your workplace, doesn’t it? Why is popularity still so important?

Says Prinstein, there’s “more than one type of popularity,” and there’s a difference between popularity and likeability. Popular people have status but are often loathed. Likeable people are, well, likeable. Surprisingly, where you sat on the spectrum in your youth still affects your adult decisions, relationships, family, even your income.

According to researchers, most children fall into one of four categories: accepted (the kids most kids like); neglected (children that are basically ignored); rejected (those actively avoided); and controversial (a category of extreme like-dislike). Kids know instantly who’s popular and who’s not, they know where others lie within the categories, and they’ll sort one another out in short order. Adults aren’t much different.

We all know somebody at work who fits in each of those categories, and you may even have an inkling about where you fit. We need to be liked – it’s a matter of evolution – but can popularity be a problem?

Yes: some people will go too far for status, to the point of violence and bullying. Others may be allowed too much status and power (as in the case of celebrities). Popularity can also be negatively addicting because we believe it might make us happy.

It won’t. But one thing’s for sure: “following the example of likable people might just change our lives.”

Oh, how “Popular” is going to make you squirm. Whether you were cheerleader, class leader, or the Last Kid Picked, reading it will whisk you back to high school with all its attendant issues and feelings. Wiggle, squirm, wiggle.

And maybe that’s the point: author Mitch Prinstein makes us want to look inward to explain why we’re always invited for Happy Hour (or not), and why co-workers cheer or groan at certain names on team projects. The squirm comes, maybe, from embarrassment or chagrin, and the realization that “We never really left high school at all” still bothers us. Fortunately, there are things we can do to change our likeability, and to begin to atone for any meanness.

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand what happened in their childhood or that of their kids, or for anyone who wants to be more accepted. “Popular” is a good book for kids like you.

“On This Date: Discovering America One Day at a Time”

By Carl Cannon

c. 2017, Twelve

$28, $36.50 Canada; 448 pages

It’s going to be a great day. You woke up this morning (always a good thing) and you’ve got big plans, which is exciting. There’s food in the fridge, gas in the tank, and a roof over your head. Today’s going to be a great day – which could often be said throughout history, as you’ll see in the new book “On This Date” by Carl Cannon.

As the editor of the RealClearPolitics newsletter, Carl Cannon knows that “not taking sides in the great national argument” is important in a world overcome with politics. Everyone has opinions but we also must remember that, as a nation, “we have usually prevailed. When we didn’t prevail, we muddled through. Often … we learned something along the way.”

This book, in 366 chapters, proves our national perseverance.

On Jan. 1, 1915, for instance, the most scandalous thing happened: a New York City taxi driver was hired to drive a “group of men” just a few blocks. They didn’t need to go far; they just wanted to “have the first ride” in a cab driven by a (gasp!) female taxi driver.

World War I veteran, Dodgers pitcher, and future Baseball Hall of Famer Leon Cadore battled Boston Braves pitcher Joe Oeschger for 26 innings on May 1, 1920. Each man, says Cannon, threw “well more than three hundred pitches” before the game ended in a 1-1 tie, called due to darkness.

Without a doubt, The Beatles had a stronghold on music back in 1964. Hit after hit after hit moved up the charts and it seemed like nothing could stop their time at the top – until it did. On May 9, 1964, an aging horn player claimed Billboard’s #1 spot for one week, just long enough to make history.

And in the age of cell phones and instant access, check this out: On Oct. 24, 1861, the first telegraph message was sent from San Francisco to Washington D.C. It had taken months to stretch telegraph wires coast to coast; exactly 134 years later “to the day,” the Federal Networking Council formally defined the word “internet.”

Did you ever wonder about the things you don’t know? Where did this come from, when did that start? Questions like those get answered in “On This Date.”

Starting with the tantalizing premise of “telling America’s story,” author Carl Cannon unearths a whole series of tiny (but significant) tales meant to entertain as much as to inform: subjects here are wide-reaching, from sports to politics to biographies, as far back as 1620 and the eerie sight that met disembarking Mayflower passengers. There’s no need for bookmarks when chapter lengths range from a few paragraphs to a full page; some tales are uplifting, while others are not. You’ll also find argument-enders inside this book – and a lot of fun reading.

History-lovers who need an airport read or a browsable bedside distraction will want “On This Date” nearby, and trivia fans will go wild over it. One quick flip-through, and you’ll know it’s going to be a great book.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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