A good-natured, thoughtful, and often comic joyride, well worth reading before listing your New Year’s resolutions.

An earnest scholarly effort devolves into a funny, sometimes-sardonic tour of the possibilities of changing your life—or not.

Are we immutable? Cederström (Stockholm Business School) and Spicer (Cass Business School, City Univ., London) teamed up for a year of month-by-month mutual challenges to improve mind, body, and spirit through endeavors ranging from yoga and raw veganism to tantric sex (“she was the only multi-orgasmic person I knew,” writes Cederström of one informant). They raced to lose weight, write the greatest number of words each day, and memorize speeches; they used drugs, drank and ate excessively or not at all, smoked cigarettes, self-administered mild electrical shocks, underwent plastic surgery, and visited a succession of oddballs, from a Rasputin-y Russian with a mysterious “God helmet” to a German longhair who urged, “now, imagine you are a wild man! Find your inner wild man! Stand like your wild man!” Grunts, pants, huffs and puffs, and spreadsheet entries ensued. The loser of the month’s competition had extra chores: in one instance, Spicer had to stand and talk at the famed Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park on the subject of “Why I Am an Asshole.” The epithet applies to both authors at times, but there is serious purpose behind the quest, which is often reminiscent of the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon Trip movie series. It would spoil the fun to give away too much of their concluding argument, but suffice it to say that one of Spicer’s takeaways seems just right: “Living like this for a year, I had come to appreciate the comforts of my regular life.” Another good point: though self-improvement and self-change invite a world of charlatans to prey on the weak, most of the practitioners they encountered “were genuinely committed to using their expertise to help their clients.”

A good-natured, thoughtful, and often comic joyride, well worth reading before listing your New Year’s resolutions.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1944869-39-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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