A humble blend of prose and poetry with a Christian message.

GROW YOUR OWN PENICILLIN

Shepherd (The Secret Shack, 2016) offers prose and poetry for the faithful in this Christian collection.

In this work, compiled from writing produced over the course of many years, Shepherd delivers thoughts and advice on everything from rejecting racism to overcoming procrastination. The title refers to the author’s habit of holding on to leftover food in her refrigerator, causing friends to joke about the mold or “penicillin” she must be trying to grow. Through her experiences and contemplations, the author has grown medicine of a different kind: short essays, anecdotes, and poems to serve as prescriptions for times of doubt, stress, loneliness, and discouragement. In “Weeding as Prayer Song” (recommended as a cure “for Elimination”), she muses on the way the simple gardening task connects her to nature and God. In “P.A.P.” (“for Aging”), she uses verse to work through her fears of illness: “What is this new disease called P.A.P. / Which comes uninvited to you and to me?” In “September 11, 2002” (“for Strength”), she shares the grief and confusion she still feels a year after the terrorist attacks. Most pieces end with a brief prayer to God or a note about how the work came to be written. Shepherd’s prose ranges from clipped and weighty to buoyant and friendly, though it always demonstrates a value for precision: “Sometimes a hairdresser/stylist is the most special person you can know. Petite and attractive, almost sixty (which you’d never believe), Diane always welcomes me with a smile.” Her poetic style varies from formal to free verse, the latter of which succeeds more often than the former. While Shepherd’s language is sometimes too abstract to make a full impact, she generally communicates her devotion by effectively writing about people and objects in her own life. Though God is present throughout the text, the author rarely becomes dogmatic or overtly theological, presenting instead a spirituality that manifests in those small personal moments everyone should learn to better recognize and cherish. Readers should find shots of inspiration in this earnest work.

A humble blend of prose and poetry with a Christian message.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4497-6969-7

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

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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

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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