A graceful meditation on divine deliverance.

HEARTWOOD

THE ART OF LIVING WITH THE END IN MIND

A Manhattan-based interfaith minister grapples with the complexities of mortality.

When Becker’s childhood friend Marisa died from cancer at age 40, the author was understandably crushed. However, the event also opened a long-suppressed wellspring of insecurities about death, and Becker’s grieving process became life-altering. She began approaching life more proactively, spiritually, and ecologically. She planted bulbs in a makeshift plot in the city, attended a silent meditation retreat, practiced the Japanese “forest bathing” and “water children” rituals, and made a general promise to herself to “participate more fully in everyday matters.” The author shows how this intensive self-reflection benefited her on many levels, and she hopes to inspire others to participate in their own introspection when encountering life’s myriad challenges. Among other episodes and life events that led her to a more intentional soul-searching journey: a dangerous internship in politically unstable Bangladesh, a miscarriage, her father’s struggles with Alzheimer’s disease, and family losses from Covid-19. In too many instances, she writes, “death had slipped quietly into my home and declared herself my teacher.” But what, she asks, “was I supposed to do with these understandings in the practical, brass-tacks way of a modern woman going about her daily business?” While the book as a whole is inspiring, the most moving passages involve Becker’s time as a hospice volunteer. Though consistently heartbreaking and often frustrating, the author’s experiences were also transformative. She incorporated compassionate Zen Buddhist end-of-life practices into her own humanitarian service vows, and a host of nurturing interpersonal experiences broadened her understanding of how her life could be made more useful in both spiritual and altruistic empathetic service to those in need. Once firmly entrenched in our “death-shy” contemporary culture, the author is now a reassuring advocate for peace and interreligious understanding, and she views dying as an opportunity to seek enlightenment and give thanks, regardless of one’s preferred spiritual path.

A graceful meditation on divine deliverance.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-09598-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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