Demanding, bighearted, and generous—we should all be so lucky to have such a grandfather.

GRAND

A GRANDPARENT'S WISDOM FOR A HAPPY LIFE

The National Book Award winner fleshes out 10 ideas on the art of life for his grandson, Emery.

Johnson knows that he will want Emery to be a thinker, to “realize that it is every serious thinker’s job to sustain the frail light of clarity and reason in the ever-present darkness of ignorance, superstition, ideology, dogma, prejudice, and demagoguery.” But as he proceeds through life, hunting and gathering the experiences that will continuously shape him over the years, the author wonders if there are “some things that are timeless or come close to being so”—knowing himself through self-examination, which will be “necessary for him at every stage and season of his life, because he is a process, not a product.” Johnson draws on his many experiences throughout his rangy and inquisitive life, a life he frames as a source of his guidance: the examples of his family members who struggled against and overcame the daily bigotry that infested their lives; his years as a young political cartoonist; his college years in the early 1970s and his doctorate in philosophy; his time as an English professor and literary scholar; and his practice of Eastern philosophy and martial arts. He uses all of these experiences to create valuable lessons and tools, including egoless listening; letting things go (“we live best when we are devoted to giving, not to accumulating”); the beauty of love, both of self and of others; that pain is an inevitable part of life, but we are free to decide how we will react, in suffering, vengeance, or empathy; that our intentions are critical to our way of being. Johnson digs deep, but he is never obscure, presenting these ideas in context in order to properly explain why he thinks they are important.

Demanding, bighearted, and generous—we should all be so lucky to have such a grandfather.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-01586-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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

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GREENLIGHTS

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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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