An overflowing cornucopia of paranormal claims, with a very real-world aim: healing oneself.

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HEALING

A CONVERSATION

A debut book offers a spiritualist’s guide to dealing with chronic illness.

Goggio introduces readers to a floridly imaginative domain that will be familiar in its broad outlines to fans of New-Age and paranormal writing. It’s a realm in which the spirit world interacts with the physical world constantly and everywhere, in which few things are what they seem to be, and in which there’s an unseen governing reality beyond the observable things all around. As the author describes it, this is a kingdom full of magic: chakras, past lives, auras, psychokinesis, precognition, psychic healing, out-of-body travel, etc. Goggio experiences all of it with the help of her “Guidance,” a spirit named Jonathan, the spiritual son of the Victorian spiritualist friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, Samuel Llewelyn. Much of the book takes the form of extended dialogues between Goggio and Jonathan on a variety of topics, and each chapter ends with a series of questions designed to allow readers to focus on their own supernatural experiences. The book professes to be broadly based (“I do not follow any religious doctrine,” Goggio writes. “No affiliation is required”), but Earth’s 1 billion polytheists will find one God (and the Lord’s Prayer) being referenced in these pages, and of course atheists will find themselves excluded. “We are more than flesh and blood,” Goggio asserts. But the “research” and “data” alluded to throughout the book—material that approvingly includes controversial “psychics” like Uri Geller—undercut that certainty. While the prose remains unfailingly readable and involving, the work’s main strength for the general reader is its warm, encouraging viewpoint on coping with chronic illness and the inner isolation it can cause. “When we are ill, it is hard to feel loving,” the author writes. “All of our energy is going to our insides, marching invaders to their deaths or phantom invaders to their deaths as well, in an all-out war of our own body’s tissues.” This kind of insight should appeal to readers regardless of their stance on testable science or reliable modern medicine.

An overflowing cornucopia of paranormal claims, with a very real-world aim: healing oneself.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-6525-3

Page Count: 422

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

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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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