This Christian-themed handbook offers insight and comfort, though falls short of sharing three-dimensional stories.

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CANCER

THE UNEXPECTED GIFT: INSPIRATIONAL STORIES OF HOPE AND SIGNIFICANCE

An oncologist and his cancer-surviving co-author present the stories of 12 cancer patients and analyze each person’s spiritual growth following the diagnosis.

The idea of cancer as the best gift a person could receive is an obviously controversial suggestion. For the most part, the authors do a fine job of clarifying this inflammatory statement by examining how the personal and spiritual growth of the cancer patents profiled here led to enriched relationships, stronger faith and other positive impacts. However, by presenting each patient’s story as a first-person narrative, the authors are hampered by each person’s individual limits as a storyteller. Few of the patients use rich, descriptive language or set a vivid scene, relying instead on clichéd language or pat testimonies regarding their belief in God. A notable exception is a moving account that describes how a man’s relationship with a close friend’s daughter helped him fight cancer and, later, helped the girl’s mother cope with the sudden death of her daughter. A well-researched narrative and perhaps accompanying photographs would help the case studies resonate more deeply. Additionally, the majority of the stories involve those who survived cancer, further implying a positive attitude and strong, Christian faith result in recovery. The analysis following each anecdote takes an increasingly strong, evangelical tone that may alienate those who do not share such beliefs. Such proselytizing distracts from otherwise generally thoughtful discussions and guidance regarding strategies for living in the moment, reducing worry and addressing negative feelings in order to focus on positive ones. Analytical sections also are careful to explain such coping strategies may not cure cancer but may provide comfort and improve quality of life. Footnotes throughout the text often follow vague references to other literature, material generally unnecessary and distracting.

This Christian-themed handbook offers insight and comfort, though falls short of sharing three-dimensional stories.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1440187698

Page Count: 167

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2010

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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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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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