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Expanded Joy

52 PROJECTS TO INCREASE THE PURPOSE, PASSION AND PLAYFULNESS IN YOUR LIFE

A fun, successful collection of concepts, thoughts, and strategies about maintaining joy and living creatively.

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Debut author and educational administrator Popish offers innovative springboards, exercises, and tools for a more inspired life.

The author writes that she set out to find a book that could guide her to a passion-filled existence. Her failure to find it served as a catalyst toward success, however, as she began to pen this book. The result is a vibrant collection of strategies that can be used personally, as part of a group, or shared with family in order to set a daily tone. Within these pages, Popish offers fresh ideas about writing, practicing gratitude, and going on adventures to spice up one’s daily life and imbue one’s free time with meaning. The book starts out with practical habits that promise to lead to calmness and more fulfillment. For instance, the author begins by asserting the importance of sleep, explaining the science behind REM cycles and the regeneration that happens overnight. She then offers a list of strategies to make one’s sleep deeper and more meaningful, such as darkening a room, changing bedding or pillows, taking “cleansing breaths,” and listening to soothing music. Although these tips may seem obvious, they’re often forgotten in busy lifestyles. Next, she covers personal relationships, suggesting ways to find joy by focusing on strong social connections. Indeed, much of the book focuses on methods for creating joyful environments, such as by making inspiration boards using fabric samples, quotes, and photographs or undertaking creative collage. Popish also calls upon positive psychology concepts, pointing to data-backed studies on the importance of planned “spontaneity,” savoring experiences, and varying one’s joys to avoid “habituation” and a decline of stimulation. The book is well-crafted, freshly written, and explains its ideas in a logical, straightforward way, even when tackling complex psychology concepts. Along the way, the author covers a broad landscape of wellness strategies. She encourages solitude and social connection, planning and spontaneity, laughter and spirituality—all culminating in a dialectical approach that’s easy to follow.

A fun, successful collection of concepts, thoughts, and strategies about maintaining joy and living creatively.  

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-937498-82-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Elevate

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

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THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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

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. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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