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talking to people, conversation tips, small talk, mixing with others, carrying on a conversation, making friends, social skills

Book Review of: The Fine Art of Small Talk

We highly recommend The Fine Art of Small Talk.

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Review of The Fine Art of Small Talk, a self-help book by Debra Fine.

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola.

This book addresses one of the most pernicious problems people encounter. How do you start and carry on a conversation that is worth having? We all engage in casual conversation, but most of us don't do it well. Instead of conversing, we exchange banalities that do nothing for either party. This avoidance of true human contact is costly.

From my own perspective, I find it hard to carry on a casual conversation. I think this book will help me change that. It's chock-full of useful tips and information, such as "50 Ways to Fuel a Conversation." The fifty icebreakers it lists are pretty good, too.

In the The Fine Art of Small Talk, the author--Fine--starts out by telling you why small talk is important. I always thought it was. But, the reasons here gave it new import for me. The first few chapters show ways to start a conversation, center it on topics of interest to either party, and keep it going. Then, the book goes into special subject areas, such as how to deal with hearing aids.

One part of the book I found challenging was Chapter 9. Here, Fine details ten conversational types that undermine good conversation. I could see myself in nine of these. Ouch!

Fine also provides insight in how to end a conversation gracefully. And that's how I'll end this review. Put this book to use, and you'll get more pleasure and utility out of both your relationships and your casual encounters. If you want to make new friends, Fine's advice will help you. Have a good time!




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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