You might not be fully convinced about all of the author’s points, but you may be less certain that there’s a “you” to...

CONSCIOUS

A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE FUNDAMENTAL MYSTERY OF THE MIND

This brief book challenges conventional ways of thinking about thinking and presents provocative alternatives.

How are humans conscious of consciousness, something that we have and that a rock does not? By the end of science writer Harris’ (I Wonder, 2013) book, readers may be less certain that consciousness distinguishes us from the rest of matter—or that there is any such thing as a conscious self, because “the idea of the self, as a concrete entity, is an illusion.” As the author notes early on, “this book is devoted to shaking up our everyday assumptions about the world we live in…[to] pass along the exhilaration that comes from discovering just how surprising consciousness is.” Some readers might even make the leap into “panpsychism,” which is “a perspective in which consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe, as opposed to being confined to some level of information processing.” While Harris, whose husband is renowned neuroscientist Sam Harris, admits that “a panpsychic view…still carries the stink of the New Age,” she is on more solid scientific ground with her discussions on meditation and psychedelic drugs, both of which lead to a letting go of the idea of a self. The author delivers fascinating insight into binding, how the senses correlate their various impressions into a single experience, one in which we are always conscious of the experience just slightly after our senses have independently registered it. “Without binding processes,” writes Harris, “you might not even feel yourself to be a real self at all. Your consciousness would be like a flow of experiences in a particular location in space”—much like a meditation session or an acid trip, each of which tends to loosen those binds.

You might not be fully convinced about all of the author’s points, but you may be less certain that there’s a “you” to convince.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-290671-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

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. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

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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