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Counting on answers

The Numerology Guidebook: Uncover Your Destiny and the Blueprint of Your Life by Michelle Buchanan Hay House (2014) €18.60 ****

THERE'S nothing like a book that promises to uncover my destiny to catch my interest. I've always been a fan of astrology, especially when it came to working out whether the boy I liked was worth liking, i.e. compatible. Here, there's a whole world of numbers that are meant to enlighten us into all things, not just the auld love life.

Michelle Buchanan lays it all out simply and directly, with step-by-step directions about how to use the numbers of your birth date, and the letters in your name to figure out your core numbers. These numbers include Life Path Number, Destiny Number, Soul Number and Karmic Lesson Number, among others. I found the latter to be the most useful, frankly, since I'm always happy to get a little perspective on issues that seem to keep popping up/not going away.

Be smarter than I was and have a pen and a nice clean sheet of paper to hand; I just grabbed any old scrap, and now I can't tell what number is what, which is annoying. There's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the different calculations charts, but once you work everything out, you're ready to be illuminated.

One would need a proper numerologist to sort out that compatibility thing, because you'd need to compare all the numbers, which seems like a lot of work for an amateur.

There's also great guidance in terms of baby names and pet names, as regards the kind of personality you will bequeath to your child or pet. I did all the names of the main horses I ride, and every number was spot on!

If there's a colon in the title, it must be non-fiction . . .

Good Food: Can You Trust What You Are Eating? by John McKenna Gill & Macmillan (2013) €14.99 ***

NO, you can't trust your food, not so much, which isn't a surprise. I am easily freaked out and if you are too, tread somewhat carefully here. It's not that McKenna is trying to scare the daylights out of anyone: his tone is cogent and he knows of what he speaks, and writes easily about it. But if you have had your head in the sand about what exactly you're ingesting on a daily basis, this may put you off your tea. The basics are common sense (unprocessed food is good, eat your protein, and your fats too, in moderation) so not much new there. McKenna's own biography makes for interesting reading, though.

Constant Touch: A Global History of the Mobile Phone by Jon Agar Icon Books (2013) €18.75 ****

I LOVE technology, I love the internet, but most of all, I love my smartphone. I would run into a burning building to rescue it from the flames. Here, Jon Agar traces the genealogy of my beloved, from Lars Magnus Ericsson's 1910 car phone all the way around the world, from North America to Scandanavia to Japan, and into my pocket. This is a second edition with some additions; throughout, Agar is engaging, informative, and zips around his topic with verve and intelligence. Too zippy? Even with the tweaking, some of the connections could use more supporting argument... otherwise, a clear and thought- provoking read.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen John Murray (2013) €24.50 ****

I IMMEDIATELY, of course, turned to the letter 'S'. It may only be me, but I have a serious initial fetish, and naturally this is my favourite letter, followed by 'C'. As thrilled as I was, I wondered how much there could possibly be written about every letter of the alphabet. Exhaustively and impeccably researched, you may find there's more on offer than you bargained for – an interest in linguistic precision will serve you well. Otherwise, you may just find yourself skipping around for the anecdotes.

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How to Change the Way You Think, Feel and Live by Richard J Davidson PhD with Sharon Begley Hodder (2013) €14.50 ***

WELL, you'll learn a lot, in the run-up to the one chapter that actually strategises the ways in which we can all improve our brain function as it relates to emotions. That, one supposes, is the point: if you stretch your brain to incorporate the ideas that Davidson and Begley are laying down, then you have prepared the way to change. Unlike the self-help genre, which is all personal exploration, this is rooted in facts, so those among you who are not interested in taking things on faith will find this useful.

What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female by Melissa Benn John Murray (2013) €12.99 *****

AT one of the many protests for women's rights in recent years, one of the funniest/most depressing was the sign held by a senior lady which read "I Can't Believe I Am Still Protesting This S**t". In many ways, I can't believe that Melissa Benn has to write this, but not in any way that disparages her style, research, and basic premise: that girls are still growing up in a world that belittles their style, intelligence, achievements, and diverse femininity. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to have faith in the future of our girls.