Can happiness come from virtue? This lively book makes a good argument in the affirmative.

READ REVIEW

ARISTOTLE'S WAY

HOW ANCIENT WISDOM CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Call no one happy until after he is dead, goes the old Greek adage. Hall (Classics/King’s Coll., London; Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind, 2013, etc.) takes a rosier view, drawing on Aristotelean philosophy to cheer us up in grim times.

By the author’s account, Aristotle was the first philosopher to consider the question of happiness subjectively and, from that consideration, to offer “a sophisticated, humane program for becoming a happy person.” The active quality of that clause should be kept in mind, for the process of happiness is ongoing and involves effort on the part of the person who wishes to be happy, requiring that one work on controlling the baser qualities and highlighting the better ones. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Hall points out in her nontechnical but deeply grounded discussion, Aristotle writes that happiness “comes as the result of a goodness, along with a learning process, and effort.” That a person can “think herself into happiness” works on a principle that is profoundly democratic: Anyone can do it, and after doing so, happiness becomes a matter of “self-conscious habit” and resolution. Hall charts the evolution of the idea of happiness as the exercise of virtue into the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, who was quite deliberate in the use of the term “happiness” as the goal of an inalienable right. What works against happiness? There are several agents, among them weakness of will and “sheer bad luck,” though recognizing that this bad luck is (usually) beyond one’s control is key to creating a better mood. Other aspects of happiness, as Hall’s lucid account demonstrates, include generosity, ongoing education and appreciation of the arts, the study of history and literature (as a vehicle for understanding, or, as she puts it, “a gymnasium for developing our ethical muscles”), and the application of one’s intellect to real-world problems such as landing a job.

Can happiness come from virtue? This lively book makes a good argument in the affirmative.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2080-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more