During a time of political, economic, and social upheaval across the United States, Williams’ grounded optimism is a...

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WHAT I FOUND IN A THOUSAND TOWNS

A TRAVELING MUSICIAN'S GUIDE TO REBUILDING AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES: ONE COFFEE SHOP, DOG RUN, AND OPEN-MIKE NIGHT AT A TIME

The singer/songwriter builds on her decades as a touring performer to offer bracing examples of small cities that have found ways to thrive.

In a series of chapters about specific locales, William (Lights, Camera, Amalee, 2006, etc.) is both descriptive and prescriptive. She bolsters her keen sense of observation with interviews of local reformers and occasional forays into urban planning theories. In addition, the author synthesizes what she has observed and heard to provide specific, practical suggestions about how struggling towns can seek improvements. In the first of the book’s three sections, Williams focuses on outdoor spaces that have been converted to a new use, such as a barren hillside turned into a sledding park, and on spaces created by nature that require no radical transformation. Although she mentions numerous cities where she has resided and/or performed, the first section focuses most thoroughly on Beacon, New York; Moab, Utah; and Wilmington, Delaware. In the second section of the book, Williams elaborates on how to build healthy small cities through emphasizing historic factors (Phoenixville, Pennsylvania), cultural factors (Carrboro, North Carolina), and local food (the Finger Lakes region of New York). In the final section, primarily about Middletown, Connecticut, and Gainesville, Florida, the author emphasizes the importance of figuring out the core of the local character and spreading the news to residents as well as tourists. The principle connecting all of Williams’ examinations is something she terms “positive proximity,” which begins when city residents who normally live in relative isolation come together to pool their enthusiasms and skills. Williams stresses inclusiveness as part of proximity, giving examples of how residents of all races and backgrounds cooperate for the good of all concerned.

During a time of political, economic, and social upheaval across the United States, Williams’ grounded optimism is a refreshing corrective.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09896-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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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