A rare self-help guide that delivers the perfect balance of facts and memoir.


Si Ja, Say Yes to Better Life and Death


A critical care nurse imparts the importance of health literacy through facts and personal history.

During her childhood in Norway, debut author Pelaez was surrounded by people who needed to know how to take better care of themselves. Her parents suffered from cardiovascular disease after lifetimes of smoking, stress, and sedentariness. The author assumed these habits herself, and it was a long chain of cigarettes to the self-actualized life she leads today. As a critical care nurse, Pelaez witnesses epidemics like CVD firsthand. In 2010, 150,000 people under the age of 65 died from CVD in the U.S. To make matters worse, only 15 percent of Americans are health literate and aware of the way their daily habits affect their bodies and, by extension, their capacities to enjoy life. Obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, and even low self-esteem lead to life-threatening cases of CVD every day. Using Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to ground her case, Pelaez details the science behind CVD, its many (scarily common) causes, and how to prevent it. Rather than deliver a dry, long-winded set of facts and statistics, Pelaez interweaves her medical expertise with her own personal experiences. Descriptions of Norwegian culture, family relationships, and devastating bouts of illness make for a riveting read. She readily blends tips for physical and mental well-being, which makes them easier to implement: Pelaez notes the five ingredients in Norwegian pancakes and segues into the five core components of meditation without missing a beat. Moving deeper into the realm of interior life, Pelaez explains the importance of self-love and how our views of ourselves can radically affect our health. The importance of planning ahead for the end of life is also covered here.

A rare self-help guide that delivers the perfect balance of facts and memoir. 

Pub Date: May 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5043-3074-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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


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.


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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