Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart - Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now by Gordon Livingston Hodder Mobius, $135 Two characteristics separate us from other animals, says Gordon Livingston in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: the ability to laugh, and the ability to contemplate our own death. 'There's a connection between these two uniquely human attributes that cuts to the heart of the great paradox of life: It is possible to be happy in the face of mortality.' At first glance, this looks to be another of those woeful self-help books that tend to lay the blame for not having the perfect life anywhere except where it belongs. To try to abruptly paraphrase Livingston, the message here is: It's your life, deal with it. In 30, brief, commonsensical essays, Livingston shares his thoughts on why life is a trial-and-error process that sometimes goes our way, most times not. Happiness is the Ultimate Risk is particularly good. The foreword by Elizabeth Edwards sets Livingston's words in context. Trying to cope with the loss of her child, she found in Livingston's chatroom support not preaching or judgment but rather illumination, 'so I could better see myself and the world around me'.