Despite its admirable ambition, this book’s advice lacks specificity, empirical support, and originality.

Healthspan

A FUNCTIONAL GUIDE TO LIVING LONG AND DYING YOUNG

A comprehensive view of fitness and health based on a new interpretation of human evolution.

The trend in recent years has been for fitness programs to become increasingly synoptic, expanding from a surgically specific correction of a particular problem to a full lifestyle. Authors Bob Zhang and Dongxun Zhang (Intended Evolution, 2015) take this development a step further by considering health as a function of a person’s entire evolutionary profile, or “healthspan.” First, they pithily articulate their view of “intended evolution”: humans, they say, can direct their evolutionary progress by changing the way they perceive their environments. As each person is essentially a mind-body composite, they assert, postulation of goals and awareness of purpose heavily influence one’s physiological progress. The rate of change in modern society has been so dizzyingly swift that it’s outpaced our adaptation to it, but this book says that one can direct future adaptation with a highly specialized health plan that considers one’s unique biological and aspirational circumstances. In other words, it posits that the state of one’s environment induces long-term changes, essentially saved as information in intelligently functioning internal systems. Unlike the standard interpretation of evolution, the authors believe that these changes can occur in the short term. They recommend a number of health and fitness exercises, but because each individual program must ultimately be customized, they can only suggest so much. The advice sometimes doesn’t inspire confidence—it’s easy to be dubious, for example, that the shaking and twisting exercises here will lead to considerable weight loss. Zhang and Zhang don’t provide any specific empirical or clinical support for their claims, either, and they’ve already more fully developed their theory of evolution in their previous work. Indeed, the whole book has the feel of an incomplete draft. Even in broad strokes, though, the notion of agency-laden evolution is an engaging one, and the authors are to be commended for transcending the faddish obsession with one-size-fits-all dietary regimens. However, despite the originality of the context they provide, the suggestion that success is partly a function of its anticipatory visualization is hardly new, and its advocacy doesn’t require a radical reconsideration of evolution.

Despite its admirable ambition, this book’s advice lacks specificity, empirical support, and originality.

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Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 6, 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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UNTAMED

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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