If Charles Reich is your bag, then this may be your book. If you want your neuroscience qua science, then head over to where...

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AWARE

THE SCIENCE AND PRACTICE OF PRESENCE—THE GROUNDBREAKING MEDITATION PRACTICE

A head-spinning guide to supercharged meditation.

If life is like a box of chocolates, to quote the philosopher Forrest Gump, then, to quote Siegel (Clinical Psychiatry/UCLA; Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, 2016, etc.), “consciousness is like a container of water”—undrinkable if a tablespoon of salt is put into an espresso cup but just fine if the container is a bathtub. And why is it like a container of water? That’s never quite explained, except to say that cultivating the mind to maximize awareness makes our experience of things different. That heightened experience can be a deeply positive thing, for, as the author points out, neural integration makes problem solving easier, and “open awareness” boosts the immune system. Siegel delivers a “Wheel of Awareness” to visualize the process, with attention as the spoke, knowing or awareness as the hub, and “knowns” on the rim. But those knowns can be awareness-inhibiting prejudices as well as hard-won knowledge of how the world works. Siegel favors a murky, circular style: “When we open awareness to sensation, such as that of the breath, we become a conduit directing the flow of something into our awareness.” Well, yes, that’s how breath works, but Siegel means something different—“enabling the sensation of the breath at the nostrils to flow into consciousness.” Further along, the author complicates the picture: “And so both focal attention involving consciousness and nonfocal attention without consciousness involve an evaluative process that places meaning and significance on energy patterns and their informational value as they arise moment by moment.” Can there be meaning without consciousness? That’s a question for Heidegger, but suffice it to say that it’s a clear if empty statement relative to the main, which is laden with jargon, neologisms (“plane-dominant sweep”; “SOCK: sensation, observation, conceptualization, and knowing”), and lots of New Age cheerleading.

If Charles Reich is your bag, then this may be your book. If you want your neuroscience qua science, then head over to where Damasio and Dennett are shelved.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-99304-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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