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I am glad that all three of Ben Stein's "How to Ruin Your Life" books are now together under one cover. Each was short and combined they still make for easy and delightful reading. The idea is that each book (you life, your love life, your financial life) provides a sardonic set of rules to ensure failure in misery in your life. For example, the very first rule in ruining your life is, "Don't Learn Any Useful Skills". This does seem an effective way to ensure misery doesn't it? The author then provides some commentary on the most effective ways to implement such a rule and the salutary effects it will have in helping ensure a ruined life.

The first rule in "How to Ruin Your Love Life" has been proven out in countless failed marriages and can be attested to by reading almost any divorce transcript you can find. The rule is, "Know That You Wishes Are the Only Ones That Matter In Any Situation." I am sure you have seen it applied in the lives of unhappy people you know and can attest that this rule can ensure the inability to form any long-term relationships that are actually long term.

And the first rule for ruining your financial life is "Forget About Tomorrow". You can see how this applies, I am sure. You should not only spend all you have today, you should borrow against tomorrow to have fun today. Yep, that will work.

So, each of these sections provides dozens of rules that can help the thoughtful think through their present actions and course of life and compare their behavior to these rules and see why things might be working out well or not. Sometimes the biting contrarian way of saying things helps us see more clearly than the sometimes too sweet way of saying things positively. Mr. Stein not only provides good advice in this inverse way, he make it funny as well.

Highly recommended and can make a great gift to the right son or daughter. Of course, it is the ones who need it less who will actually read it. As soon as I got it, my two youngest children, both teenagers, grabbed it from me and started going through it. I smiled.
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on May 18, 2003
I picked up this book because I'm a fan of Ben Stein, the modern Renaissance man and ueber compassionate conservative. The droll title leads one to think it's anything other than what it is: A "self-help book in reverse."
Basically, this is Ben waxing dryly humourous on how to totally screw up your life: If you do the exact opposite of what he suggest, then you will succeed. A kind of backwards hermaneutics: From Ben's antithesis, you'll get his thesis for the good life, which if you apply to your everyday habits, will supply a generous synthesis of good vibes.
It is too soon to tell whether or not this book "worked for me," however, here's a clue that Stein is on the right track: If the reader is honest with himself, he will find himself guilty of some of these recipes for disaster. About 1/3 of the loser behaviours Ben outlines I have been, or currently am, engaged in. And you know what? Stein is right; these behaviours have not benefited me, but to some degree or another have conspired "to ruin my life."
Touche!
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Ben Stein has been a securities lawyer, a Nixon speech writer, a game-show host, a journalist, and a speaker on success and financial management. If there's a wittier polymath out there I don't know who it is.
This book takes a perversely witty approach to the subject of success, not by showing you what makes for success, but by showing you 35 things you can do to avoid it. The book consists of brief essays on each of these topics, which include subjects such as never learn any useful skills, be perfectionistic, constantly criticize and never say anything nice to anybody, and in general, act like a jerk to anyone and everybody, including your friends and family (who needs them anyway?).
Stein says he got the idea for the book because, as he points out in the introduction, he's done more things in life than most people, and so he's had more opportunities to see people screw up perfectly good careers and lives than just about anybody else, too. So if you understand what these things are and avoid them, you may not become amazingly successful, but you'll probably do all right and possibly will become a great success yourself someday.
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on February 20, 2005
This books is both funny and informative. When I first saw the book and read the title "How to Ruin Your Life" I was immediately intrigued; a book on ruining your life? After picking it up and opening it, it was immediately obvious that it was meant as a guide on how not to ruin your life by doing the opposite of what he tells you to do. I of course thought that I had no use for such a book as I already know how not to ruin my life. But after I read the table of contents I conceded to myself that I did alot of the things he suggests that ruins your life, so I purchased it and read it. It was hilarious, and made me take a much more honest look at myself. Most people are not going to be guilty of all his "recommendations", but many will be guilt of a majority of them. This book shows you how to aviod the pitfalls of ego, selfishness, and laziness. This book is especially usefull for an overconfident young college punk like myself who likes to think I got everything already figured out. I highly recomment this book to anyone.
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on November 13, 2002
If you're a fan of Ben Stein, you'll like this. His dry sense of humor pervades. Next to "No One's Even Bleeding", this is the funniest book I've read all year. Well worth the money.
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on December 2, 2002
I just discovered this jewel, and I would have to say this is one of the best books I've read in years. Now I'm going to stock up on copies to give out as gifts.
Of course, Ben Stein has a wonderfully sharp wit, which is just perfect for getting his point across. Young people see him on the Comedy Channel and know he's "cool", so they'll pick up this little book and give him a chance. But the book is straight on in its advice and wisdom.
This book should be required reading for everyone and most certainly should be a graduation gift for every student you know. Plus, it's the perfect size for stuffing into Christmas stockings.
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on March 25, 2003
There are some basic rules we're taught early in life: cherish your family, let bygones be bygones, don't hang out with the wrong crowd, etc. However, over time, these rules become cliches that we discard. Their mere mention attracts groans. They remind us of the stern lectures we had as children. The genius with this book is that it causes us, as adults, to re-examine our lives according to these basic principles. Stein gives us 35 chapters of how to live our life if we want to be unhappy and unsuccessful: Do take for granted those who are always nice to you, Do make others feel inferior by contrasting what you own with their possessions, Ignore life's little pleasures (after all, you're into the big stuff anyway). The way it's presented, the basic principles are brought alive again- even to the most cynical adult. We can laugh at ourselves while realizing how we can change the way we act and perceive the world. It's a short read but it definitely caused me to re-analyze my mindset and actions.
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on September 26, 2002
I have loved Ben Stein's dry humor since I saw him in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (who can forget that? "Bueller?...Bueller?" or "Who knows the answer...anyone?...anyone?"). If you've ever watched "Win Ben Stein's Money" on Comedy Central, you can well imagine the tone in which this book is set. Basically, it's one big sarcastic celebration of the narcisstic sociopath. If you want to ruin your life, Ben suggests remembering that the world revolves soley around YOU, and no one else. This is the theme that permeates the entire book. While humorous, though, it does become very predictable what each chapter will say, and you begin to skim the chapter headings to choose which ones you really want to read. Still, all in all a funny read on the world of me-ism.
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on April 15, 2004
This is great material from a wry observer of human (and his own) nature. I don't know about the book, but I highly recommend the CD. Stein reads.
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on May 31, 2003
I found this book by accident, and I'm glad I did. This is one of the funniest books I've read since John Orozco's DELANO. Both have a very dry sense of humor.
More books like these!
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