A detailed, uplifting, if idealistic, approach toward finding fulfillment in life.

CULTIVATING CHANGE FROM THE INSIDE OUT

THE POWER OF BEING HUMAN

A professional life coach blends her story with tips for others seeking self-improvement.

As an author of multiple self-help books, regional vice president for the U.S. Coalition of Black Women Businesses, self-made entrepreneur, and scientist, Russell is clearly very successful. In this book, she blends memoir with self-help as she guides others toward achieving their own dreams. With an emphasis on “vertically digging” within oneself (as opposed to “horizontally” amassing a list of “résumé-defined experiences” and qualifications that may not even lead to self-fulfillment), Russell’s signature “SOAR” concept encourages readers to “Step Out and Redesign” their lives on their own terms. Autobiographical sections range from inspirational, e.g., she describes her successful career in leadership, research, and development for a major pharmaceutical company, to relatable, such as when she faced financial difficulties that threatened to cut short her daughter’s senior year of college. As a devout Christian, the author’s personal story and advice lean heavily on the importance of faith and prayer. She cites God’s direct intervention in her own life, and Bible verses and inspirational quotes from religious figures occur throughout. Written during the 2020 protests against racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the book does not shy away from issues of racism. The author notes her own experiences with prejudice and her resistance to corporate and societal “back-of-the-line expectations” that threatened to turn her into a “powerless, unrecognizable version” of herself. While not ignoring harsh realities of life in America, Russell is relentlessly optimistic about herself, God, and her readers, and she writes in a relatable, motivational tone indicative of a seasoned life coach. Charts, tables, and catchy acronyms abound and reinforce her strategies to “nurture, grow, and empower your life.” While self-empowerment rhetoric may be a bit heavy-handed for some, and the fervent Christian messages may alienate others, no one can deny the inspiration led by example in Russell’s own life.

A detailed, uplifting, if idealistic, approach toward finding fulfillment in life. (acknowledgements, author bio, references)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 151

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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