DAYDREAMING: Your Hidden Resource for Self-Knowledge and Creativity by Eric Klinger (Jeremy Tarcher: $18.95)

This is the most seductive kind of self-help book, because it talks about a shared secret, daydreaming, that as yet hasn't been exploited to death on the afternoon TV talk shows. We all daydream--and, given the amount of time Angelenos spend trapped on one roadway or another, we probably have more time to do it than most people. Klinger's book appeals to the narcissist and the neurotic in all of us: He's prepared to talk about our personal fantasies as though they were the most important thing in the world; he's also quick to reassure us that other people have waking dreams, too.

Klinger manages a nice balance between his research and the inherently amusing nature of his subject, so the book is a bit more accessible than a more academic treatise might be. He sets the tone with the daydream report that he quotes at the opening to Chapter 1: "I am married to Harrison Ford or William Hurt. We are both medical doctors. We have six gorgeous, talented and well-behaved children. We are filthy rich."

Don't you feel less nuts already? From there, he tells us everything we ever wanted to know about our conscious fantasies but were afraid to ask--what daydreams say about us, how we can use them to learn about ourselves, what the benefits are of a little mental meandering, and how to address obsesssive dreams.

And he is careful, always, to keep one foot firmly planted in reality. His section on sexual daydreams, and the minefield of rape fantasies, is cautionary and honest. Klinger acknowledges that such fantasies exist and tries to analyze their elements, while making clear at every opportunity that such thoughts are not a literal expression of the desire to commit, or experience, sexual violence. He offers insight for the recreational daydreamer, and, for the dreamer more troubled by the private world that he or she creates, he offers the best antidote to despair--information.

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