Lightman, who lives less than a mile from Walden Pond, takes a page from Thoreau, convincingly arguing that we must embrace...

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IN PRAISE OF WASTING TIME

The distinguished physicist and novelist grapples with the pervasive network of digital distraction he calls “the Grid” and discusses how we can disengage while salvaging its benefits.

Lightman (Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, 2018, etc.) critiques the negative impact exerted not only by the internet, social media, and smartphones, among other elements of information overload, but the louder, faster, fragmented nature of our time-driven lifestyles. The effects on our young people are particularly worrisome, and it all happened so quickly. The author demonstrates how, for all its useful features, the wired world takes an enormous toll on our psyches. Where is the space for reflection, for processing, for simple downtime, for “free grazing of the imagination” amid all this relentless input? Without that space, writes Lightman, we risk damaging our inner selves. He argues for the need to allow “our minds to wander and roam without particular purpose,” stressing the importance of creativity and detailing all that we risk losing by failing to recognize the threat. Perhaps as much as anything, he writes, it is the irony of increasing isolation in a hyperconnected world that should concern us. He frankly admits to being a “user” himself, seduced by some of the same electronic entreaties that afflict the ranks of the addicted. This call to disconnect from a hyperactive, overly structured existence, at least for a mental breather, is not new nor unique to Lightman. But few present their arguments so cogently or more persuasively present the advantages of cultivating a contemplative habit of mind. A sober, companionable writer, the author rarely exaggerates, and his argument rings true: To unplug (now and then) is to prosper.

Lightman, who lives less than a mile from Walden Pond, takes a page from Thoreau, convincingly arguing that we must embrace play, solitude, and contemplation to leaven our hyperstimulated lives.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5436-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: TED/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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

OPEN BOOK

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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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