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Thanks to the miracle of caffeine, the author delivers a stirring, nonpreachy sermon on gratitude.

A cup of coffee is worth a thousand “thank you’s” in the author’s experiment in gratitude.

Esquire contributor Jacobs (It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree, 2017, etc.), the bestselling immersive journalist who brought readers The Year of Biblical Thinking and The Know-It-All, returns with an equally ambitious project: an effort to thank every person involved in creating his morning cup of coffee. Starting with the barista at Joe Coffee, which “has survived for twelve years, despite two Starbucks within a three-block radius,” and moving through the entire supply chain to the farmers in Colombia, the author manages to thank 1,000 people who helped deliver him his morning caffeine hit. It’s a novel idea, and it works as more than just a clever plot device thanks to the author’s typically conversational tone and self-deprecating examination of his own need to be more gracious. “I’m mildly to severely aggravated more than 50 percent of my waking hours,” writes Jacobs. “That’s a ridiculous way to go through life.” This sentiment leads to his argument that if humanity spent less time “fretting over what we’re missing,” we might appreciate more of what we have. The author demonstrates this idea with each encounter with a person involved in his coffee’s production, from the lid designer to the Environmental Protection Agency employee in charge of monitoring the Catskills Watershed, the source of New York City’s water. In touring the watershed, Jacobs discovered that the creation of the lake forced the area residents out. “This is a huge theme I need to remember as part of Project Gratitude: My comfort often comes at the expense of others. I benefit daily from the disruption to this community. I need to be more grateful for these sacrifices.”

Thanks to the miracle of caffeine, the author delivers a stirring, nonpreachy sermon on gratitude.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1992-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: TED/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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