A poignant, ultimately uplifting travel narrative that ends too quickly.

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TRAVELS WITH CHARLIZE

IN SEARCH OF LIVING ALONE

In this memoir, a retired veterinarian and cardiovascular researcher takes to the highways and back roads of the West Coast with his dog, seeking solace and purpose.

After almost 53 years of marriage, Gross (Man Hunt, 2012, etc.) faced the death of the only woman he ever loved. How would he find a path through his now-solitary remaining years? Enter Charlize, a German shepherd, who suffered her own traumas before Gross adopted her from a rescue center. Through steady companionship, they forged a bond that would lead them both to recovery. Gross bought a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 (“Old Blue”) and a camping trailer (the “Frog”) and with Charlize riding shotgun, he hit the road. Inspired by his literary hero, John Steinbeck (the author of the 1962 bestseller Travels with Charley), Gross wrote a steady stream of blog posts detailing his journeys up and down the coast, through the Southwest, and up to the fly-fishing rivers of Montana. This book represents the collected bloggings of a good year’s worth of extended road trips. It’s part travelogue, part personal musing, with an occasional sprinkling of history and a dash of self-deprecating humor, all of which makes it most enjoyable for readers to tag along. Gross effectively depicts his restlessness—how he logged an extraordinary number of hours behind the wheel each day, never staying more than a night at each stop, except when visiting with old friends or family. He was up at 5 or 6 each morning, when he felt a cold dog nose pressed against his face, and he and Charlize were on the road before 8, usually pulling into a campground around 4 in the afternoon. In between were frequent stops to admire whatever delightful displays nature laid out before them. Charlize appeared to find her own mission through these adventures: to protect and comfort her best friend and to introduce him to a variety of fellow travelers. When memories and sadness swept in, Gross writes, Charlize was there, snuggling under the author’s arm, letting him know he was not alone; in his usual taciturn style, the author says merely, “It worked.” Overall, Gross is an experienced, capable writer, and by the final page, readers will feel they know both man and dog.

A poignant, ultimately uplifting travel narrative that ends too quickly.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1940598543

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Book Publishers Network

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2015

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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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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