Motivational books can be tricky. Some are stirring and inspiring enough to change a person’s life, but most end up as one big bowl of sappy chicken soup that no one wants to swallow.

New Oriental’s “celebrity” English teacher Ali’s new book A Year’s 8,760 Hours in Your Life lands somewhere in between. Born in Xinjiang, Ali belongs to the Uygur minority group. In 2007, he was admitted to Peking University to study computer science. But Ali soon realized he was more interested in English and public speaking than math and computers.

After changing his major, Ali took a part-time job at New Oriental during his second year in university. His excellent communication skills made him one of the school’s most popular teachers. Participating in several national English contests spread Ali’s name beyond the English training school and put him in the position to publish his first book.

A Year’s 8,760 House in Your Life is divided into seven chapters, and like most motivation books each chapter is given a very “inspiring” title. However, the seven chapters are loosely connected. Instead of constructing a systematic map of how to manage one’s time and stay motivated, the seven chapters read more like a collection of informal essays, starting with motivation quotes and ending with the same.

Although the structure is not the most refined, the author is open about his personal experiences. For a Uygur, living and working in Beijing is not easy – especially after the spate of terrorists attack in Xinjiang and around China.

“When they (landlords) saw my ID card and found out that I’m a Uygur from Xinjiang, most of them would tell me to come back in three days. At that time I really thought they wanted me back in three days, but after few more times I realized ‘three days’ meant never,” he writes.

It took five rejections before Ali finally found a place to stay.

Staying positive and fighting your way to success is a common theme in most motivational books. What distinguishes this book from others is the author’s minority identity as how to fight your way to the top when you are born with a social disadvantage.

However, for numerous reasons, the author did not touch substantially upon this subject.

Most of the chapters are dedicated to time management. By dividing a person’s time into small sections, Ali developed a time-management method he calls the “34 coins time system.” Every half an hour counts as one coin, and there are 34 coins per day if one stays awake for 17 hours. By calculating how each coin is spent, a person can see clearly how productive he is for that day. Reviewers on Douban called the book motivational and inspiring – but noted its similar tone to the Chicken Soup series. Readers will have to decide whether a book by a celebrity English teacher is really worth a “coin” of their life’s time.

Yen Wang

About Yen Wang

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Yen Wang is an astrology fan with her sun in Libra and moon in Sagittarius. She's super into adventures, new ideas and weird ideas. She hopes to maintain an open and objective outlook on life – even when she's too old to walk.

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