One of life’s littler instruction books, and one that goes down easily.

A GLASS HALF EMPTY?...OR HALF FULL?

A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR GROWN-UPS

Debut author Schuck uses an optimist/pessimist dichotomy to pose questions about values and the concept of balance.

This illustrated “Children’s Book for Grown-Ups” is based upon the perennial question of whether one considers a partially poured glass to be half full (the positive outlook) or half empty (the negative). In this book, the glass contains a line-art illustration of a live goldfish, symbolizing that the water contains life itself—a person’s entire cosmology. Indeed, in Schuck’s interpretation, the empty/full dilemma is shown to have a great deal of nuance. That dreaded empty space above the meniscus? “It’s really more like: ‘filled with Opportunity!,’ ” he writes. A glass can be too full, he says—particularly of bad things. One may also share their overflow with someone else, or one’s glass may have a crack in it, defined as “Risk,” which one must accommodate in some way. A repeated motif involves contrasting lists of ingredients (or personal qualities) in one’s glass, which can include everything from “dirty diapers” to “faith” to “sex-life.” These items are printed in many different typefaces throughout; the laundry list approach is understandable, but the wide variety of type styles employed here are distracting and excessive. Still, the fact that the author gets all these suggestions and directives across in just 48 pages should endear the book to readers whose nightstands are already full of self-help works by David D. Burns, Marianne Williamson, and other life coaches. Even Richard Carlson’s 1997 classic Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff seems massive by comparison.

One of life’s littler instruction books, and one that goes down easily.

Pub Date: May 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5439-3030-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

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

EVERYTHING IS F*CKED

A BOOK ABOUT HOPE

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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