Hard evidence that “no matter how long it’s gone on, no matter how bad it is,” an addict’s life can move to higher ground.



Transformative experiences that led to sobriety, chronicled by 44 people in the public eye and compiled by one of their own.

Lawford knows a thing or two about alcoholism, heavy drug use and denial, which he disarmingly chronicled in Symptoms of Withdrawal (2005). His “moment of clarity” is not an unfamiliar one: He tanked and was a step from pulling the trigger when he surrendered to honesty and got help. Such revelatory epiphanies are as mysterious as they are sublime, and here they make for good storytelling. (They also serve as good examples, readers will hope; Lawford points out that more than 22 million people in the United States have problems with alcohol or drugs, and fewer than ten percent seek treatment.) Personal testimonies by celebrities ranging from Alec Baldwin to Buzz Aldrin bespeak the many faces that substance abuse can take and the equal variety of the illuminations that point people toward change. Some have a religious tone, some are dramatic, others subdued but deeply felt. A few will leave you wondering, such as Richard Dreyfuss’s recurring vision of a little girl dressed in pink, an image he couldn’t shake even while he was busy with drugs, booze and orgies. More than a few will leave you cringing, like Martin Sheen’s ugly encounter with his son Charlie and his painful realization that Charlie’s subsequent drug problems were partly his responsibility. “I taught him everything he knew,” the recovering alcoholic admits. An angel in the form of a no-bullshit therapist came to folksinger Judy Collins’s rescue; a mirror in his solitary-confinement cell did the same for musician/federal prisoner Dejuan Verrett. Each story holds the individual fascination of its particular circumstances; all of them get their oomph from punchy compression and plainspoken honesty.

Hard evidence that “no matter how long it’s gone on, no matter how bad it is,” an addict’s life can move to higher ground.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-145621-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2008

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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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