A flawed but refreshingly mature consideration of life, reason, and spirituality.

THE STUFF OF LIFE

An assemblage of meditative reflections on the meaning of a life well-lived.

Debut author Zaidi, in response to the persuasion of friends, has gathered a collection of short essays (and public addresses) created over the years; the underlying theme is the rational investigation of the meaning of life. That undergirding conceit is sometimes less apparent among the diverse subjects. For example, many of the essays read like paeans to worthy pursuits: Zaidi extols the elemental virtues of art and literature, meditation, reading, education in general, and a commitment to personal growth. There are also discussions on related miscellany, like the advantages and disadvantages of the internet, the problem of disinformation in the media, and the key to public-speaking success. Zaidi’s focus is philosophical; his essays explore the nature of consciousness, the limits of conceptual and dualistic thinking, and the distinction between forgiveness and love. The fulcrum of the work, however, is the relation between faith and reason or the elucidation of our place in the cosmos. The author carefully makes the case for an authentic religiousness—understood as the quest for personal meaning—that is also atheistic and consistent with the findings of modern science. In this way, he attempts to navigate between blind belief and the willful dogmatism of “irreligious extremists.” Zaidi is often exceedingly thoughtful, and his philosophical temperance is impressive. However, the writing can be flaccid and confusing, and it seems to strain too laboriously for profundity: “But regardless of the relative worth of different religious beliefs, the way we are correlated to the environment indubitably substantiates mankind’s emergence from the forms of life which precede us in evolution and which continue to be a part of our psychic nature.” What the book lacks in rigor and originality, it makes up with its intellectual evenhandedness—such ideology-free analysis is rare and welcome in these rancorously divisive times.

A flawed but refreshingly mature consideration of life, reason, and spirituality.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5320-0958-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2017

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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE

A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A realistic, motivating conversation about weight loss for those who have tried everything else and failed.

THE JOY OF EATING

Part memoir and part pep talk, this debut book urges dieters to stop counting fat grams and learn to enjoy food.

When her mother died, Irwin was devastated. She was also mortified that old friends would see her at the funeral because she had “gained so much weight.” Trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting that had begun when she was in junior high, Irwin was a size 22 by the time she was in her 40s. Miserable, she constantly berated herself while agonizing over calories and eating prepackaged diet industry food. Then one day Irwin decided to stop dieting and love herself at any weight, eating without guilt or shame. A big believer in the “law of attraction,” where thoughts create reality, she began thinking positively about herself. Retraining her mind to view food as pleasurable nourishment, she started eating nutrient-dense items—including leafy green vegetables and fruits. And if she wanted a piece of cake—well, she just went ahead and devoured it. The pounds began coming off naturally, and as time passed, Irwin’s once overweight body became fit. This dramatic and familiar life story quickly turns into an upbeat motivational speech for stressed-out dieters, as Irwin divulges her no-frills secret for healthy weight loss—eat good food and feel great about it. While this common-sense approach isn’t new, diet-disgusted readers who don’t mind a curse word or two may be able to relate to Irwin’s friendly, plainspoken voice, as when she describes dysfunctional labels people often place on food: “How about this classic attitude, ‘Fuck it, I’ve been so bad this week I think I’ll just eat the rest of this box of cookies’?” Some of the author’s inspirational thoughts are memorable: she compares the negative voice in her head to a bully who shouldn’t be tolerated. Light on diet jargon and health-related facts (the author mentions that 68.5 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, but she doesn't cite sources), this thin, fast-paced work can be read in a couple of hours.

A realistic, motivating conversation about weight loss for those who have tried everything else and failed.    

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-6051-7

Page Count: 124

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

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