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A disappointing addition to the celebrity self-help shelf.

A book about sleep deprivation from an author well-versed on the subject.

Co-founder and president of the influential, eponymous news blog, Huffington (Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, 2014, etc.) ranks 52nd on Forbes' list of the most powerful women in the world. She describes her own experience in 2007, when she suffered a burnout and collapsed at her desk. Regaining consciousness, she awoke with an injured cheekbone and her head in a pool of blood. At that time, she slept, at most, four hours each night. Huffington’s situation as a celebrity and mother of two daughters was not dissimilar to that of other successful people today. She estimates that nearly half of American adults are sleep-deprived, and the situation is worse for college students. Our values have become so skewed that all-nighters have become a mark of success. For those looking to get ahead in their careers and others who need to hold two jobs to make ends meet, going without sleep has become the norm. As the author documents, this abuse of our bodies is devastating not only to our health and longevity; job performance and relationships also suffer. Indeed, it is not unusual for drivers to nod off at the wheel. Huffington also looks at the flip side of habitual insomnia. She relates instances where reliance on sleep medications, such as Ambien, has induced potentially dangerous behavior—e.g. sleepwalking, and even driving, in a dazed state. Her takeaway message is that we should prioritize sleeping seven to eight hours every day. With little new insight to add on this well-worked theme, however, the author relies on inspirational nostrums and a host of tired clichés—e.g., “We are not defined by our jobs and our titles…sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are.” Readers looking for effective advice for sleep should turn to a professional.

A disappointing addition to the celebrity self-help shelf.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90400-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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