A wide-ranging, if sometimes-overwritten, study of how people process discomfort.

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SUBTRACTING INSULT FROM INJURY

A chiropractor’s philosophical treatise about the nature and treatment of pain

In this nonfiction book, Cooper (I, Cancer, 2009) discusses different types of pain, from the chronic, physical variety to emotional, psychological, or even romantic discomfort. It also addresses specific pains—such as those experienced by women dealing with sexism and misogyny, or by parents raising fractious children. Along the way, it brings in concepts from various faiths. The author sees chronic physical pain, in particular, as an urgent crisis: “More Americans currently die from doctor-prescribed narcotic pain meds than from illicit heroin and cocaine overdoses combined,” he asserts. In response to this epidemic, Cooper reminds readers that both pain and healing are intrinsic parts of being human: “We are irrefutably among the most marvelous creations of the universe, veritable healing machines.” The core of his treatise asserts that people make their pain worse by mixing emotional grievances into it—a deeply ingrained instinct that he characterizes as “adding insult to injury.” To remedy this, the author concentrates on what he calls the “fire in the belly”—the act of removing cognitive elements from the experience of pain in order to trigger the production of serotonin and dopamine. This method, he says, will “allow you to pass through moments of suffering as innately as does a whale, a lion, or an eagle.” Some sentiments in this book are written in an overblown style (such as “And then there is that molten gut domain, your id, where unfettered atmospheres sporadically manage to flood the banks of your socially correct superego”). Other ideas seem speculative, at best; he provides no scientific support, for instance, for the notion that animals pass through moments of suffering any easier than humans do. That said, the book’s focus on the stress of a “vicious cycle” of negative self-evaluation is valuable, no matter what specific pain one may be enduring. Cooper’s broad-brush approach—which includes not only Christian concepts of suffering and atonement, but also the key Buddhist idea of dukkha—will also give readers a great deal to think about.

A wide-ranging, if sometimes-overwritten, study of how people process discomfort.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9722-3

Page Count: 166

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2018

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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