A handy guide for novice and moderately experienced speakers, once you’ve dodged the TED boosterism.



The head honcho of the much-watched (and oft-satirized) TED Talks shares how he gets the best out of speakers.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, writes Anderson, clocked in at 17 minutes, 40 seconds: just a hair under the 18 minutes allotted to speakers at the TED Conference, a group that’s included high-wattage thinkers like Bill Gates, Andrew Solomon, and Steven Pinker. The King comparison is apt, since Anderson writes with a preacher’s enthusiasm and messianic demeanor about the virtues of TED Talks and about why you might want to master the skills involved in presenting one. From appropriate dress to calming your nerves to revising to pacing, the bulk of the book is filled with tips. Hone the “throughline” of your talk—its (usually counterintuitive) point—into 15 words. Own your vulnerability and express it onstage. Emphasize parable and metaphor in your storytelling. Avoid bombarding people with slides, especially ones with lots of bullet points (“bullets belong in The Godfather”). Avoid airy expressions of gratitude when you start and finish, and focus instead on more earthbound questions and assertions that stoke curiosity. Anderson provides examples from the TED vault to bolster his points, mentioning speaker shipwrecks anonymously and calling out particularly surprising and successful ones by name—he refers a few times to Monica Lewinsky’s 2015 talk as an example of intense preparation, fending off fear, and telling a story that resonates. The author’s exhortations to constantly revise, rehearse, and rethink your story are all unimpeachably practical. (Indeed, the book unintentionally doubles as a helpful writing guide.) So it’s disappointing that the closing chapters devolve into a TED history lesson and overenthusiastic cheerleading about the organization’s world-changing powers—an oddly soft conclusion from a writer who demands we stick the landing.

A handy guide for novice and moderately experienced speakers, once you’ve dodged the TED boosterism.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-63449-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better...



The popular blogger and author delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking third book about the importance of being hopeful in terrible times.

“We are a culture and a people in need of hope,” writes Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, 2016, etc.). With an appealing combination of gritty humor and straightforward prose, the author floats the idea of drawing strength and hope from a myriad of sources in order to tolerate the “incomprehensibility of your existence.” He broadens and illuminates his concepts through a series of hypothetical scenarios based in contemporary reality. At the dark heart of Manson’s guide is the “Uncomfortable Truth,” which reiterates our cosmic insignificance and the inevitability of death, whether we blindly ignore or blissfully embrace it. The author establishes this harsh sentiment early on, creating a firm foundation for examining the current crisis of hope, how we got here, and what it means on a larger scale. Manson’s referential text probes the heroism of Auschwitz infiltrator Witold Pilecki and the work of Isaac Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant, as the author explores the mechanics of how hope is created and maintained through self-control and community. Though Manson takes many serpentine intellectual detours, his dark-humored wit and blunt prose are both informative and engaging. He is at his most convincing in his discussions about the fallibility of religious beliefs, the modern world’s numerous shortcomings, deliberations over the “Feeling Brain” versus the “Thinking Brain,” and the importance of striking a happy medium between overindulging in and repressing emotions. Although we live in a “couch-potato-pundit era of tweetstorms and outrage porn,” writes Manson, hope springs eternal through the magic salves of self-awareness, rational thinking, and even pain, which is “at the heart of all emotion.”

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better world alive.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288843-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

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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. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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