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THE CLASSROOM OF LIFE.

TOOLS TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES AND ADVERSITY

A sweeping, insightful set of life lessons drawn from vast experience.

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Life’s struggles require hard work to overcome but also furnish opportunities for growth, according to this self-helper.

Cedolini, an educational psychologist, family therapist, and author of Occupational Stress and Job Burnout (1982), recollects events from his life and uses them as a peg for essays on psychological and moral issues. Thus, a boyhood incident, in which he locked his little brother, Billy, in a trunk and was in turn briefly locked in the chest by his father as punishment, prompts a commentary on the golden rule and the complexities of developing a moral compass. The author’s long efforts to overcome his mechanical ineptitude and learn how to rebuild cars under his uncle’s tutelage demonstrate the importance of perseverance and family support; Billy’s tragic death in a car crash at the age of 26 and Cedolini’s ensuing three-year depression afford lessons in overcoming grief by reconnecting to life. The author visits many topics on mental and behavioral health, including chapters on surviving major depression (antidepressants are often effective, he notes) and an incisive section on addictions, from opioids to sex and smartphones. (He calls them “an escape from dealing with reality and social discomfort” as well as a means of “avoiding the misery of thinking.”) He also has less-clinical chapters on living a successful life, with advice on everything from parenting—the Cedolini family rules included “If you open it, close it” and “If you turn it on, turn it off”—to maintaining a positive self-image and coping with difficult people at work. (Among the last is “the Sherman tank,” who employs bluster and bullying to advance an agenda and has to be resisted with calm firmness.)

Framing the book as a letter to his grandkids, the author writes in a voice that’s frank but reassuring, as if gramps were your ideal therapist. Much of the text consists of Cedolini’s shrewd dissections of the practicalities of how to get along with people—and especially how to not get along with them. (Among his catalog of things that erode friendships are “major disagreements, especially political or religious, hitting below the belt with hurtful comments, insinuations, or accusations…neglect, unkind and mindless mistakes, lopsided jabs at known vulnerabilities, and insatiable demands…overuse of another’s time or resources, fair-weather friending, rigid rules or narrow-mindedness, the need always to be right, or maintaining a game of one-upmanship…repetitive suggestions on how you should change your behavior, unending reminders, traditional backseat driving, and bullying.”) The author’s advice often comes in aphoristic prose that can be blunt (“Take responsibility for your actions and move on—work on improving yourself”), folksy (“If you don’t embrace the present with both arms, it will be as elusive as a pig slathered with fat”), elegant (“Reality teaches the wise to seek progress rather than perfection”), or lyrical (“Anonymously perform random acts of kindness; they will add to others’ sunshine and nourish your soul as well”). Throughout, Cedolini advances a positive, energizing message: Treat yourself and other people well, be realistic but not despairing about your problems, and don’t be afraid to take risks to overcome them. The sprawling book is a bit of a ramble, but readers will find much engaging food for thoughtful browsing here.

A sweeping, insightful set of life lessons drawn from vast experience.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1641846479

Page Count: 614

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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GREENLIGHTS

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

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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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CALL ME ANNE

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

The late actor offers a gentle guide for living with more purpose, love, and joy.

Mixing poetry, prescriptive challenges, and elements of memoir, Heche (1969-2022) delivers a narrative that is more encouraging workbook than life story. The author wants to share what she has discovered over the course of a life filled with abuse, advocacy, and uncanny turning points. Her greatest discovery? Love. “Open yourself up to love and transform kindness from a feeling you extend to those around you to actions that you perform for them,” she writes. “Only by caring can we open ourselves up to the universe, and only by opening up to the universe can we fully experience all the wonders that it holds, the greatest of which is love.” Throughout the occasionally overwrought text, Heche is heavy on the concept of care. She wants us to experience joy as she does, and she provides a road map for how to get there. Instead of slinking away from Hollywood and the ridicule that she endured there, Heche found the good and hung on, with Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford starring as particularly shining knights in her story. Some readers may dismiss this material as vapid Hollywood stuff, but Heche’s perspective is an empathetic blend of Buddhism (minimize suffering), dialectical behavioral therapy (tolerating distress), Christianity (do unto others), and pre-Socratic philosophy (sufficient reason). “You’re not out to change the whole world, but to increase the levels of love and kindness in the world, drop by drop,” she writes. “Over time, these actions wear away the coldness, hate, and indifference around us as surely as water slowly wearing away stone.” Readers grieving her loss will take solace knowing that she lived her love-filled life on her own terms. Heche’s business and podcast partner, Heather Duffy, writes the epilogue, closing the book on a life well lived.

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781627783316

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viva Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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