Well-earned wisdom serenely imparted.

PHILOSOPHY FOR POLAR EXPLORERS

The author of Silence (2017) and Walking (2019) ponders discipline, courage, failure, and happiness.

Between 1990 and 1994, Norwegian explorer, art collector, and publisher Kagge completed three impressive feats: walking to the North and South Poles and climbing Mount Everest. In a slim volume illustrated by bone-chilling photographs of rugged glacial terrain, the author shares some of what he learned from those experiences as well as from other challenges—sailing across the Atlantic on a 35-foot boat severely battered by a storm, for example, and raising three teenage girls (“more daunting,” he admits, than climbing Everest). “What I know of discipline I learned above the tree line,” he reveals. Drawing on the insights of several other explorers—such as Roald Amundsen and Thor Heyerdahl—and thinkers including Socrates, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Wittgenstein, Pascal, and Kant, Kagge meditates about fear, solitude, and the meaning of challenges. “For any undertaking to be truly challenging, you have to stand to lose something,” he writes. Humans need challenges to “make us feel like we have to earn the gift of life.” Although being able to surmount danger “feels like a confirmation of our own existence,” a challenge need not involve the kind of physical exertion Kagge undertook in the polar expeditions, where, he found, the hardest thing was getting up in the morning and leaving his warm sleeping bag. Challenge also involves finding purpose, taking responsibility, and nurturing one’s dreams: “having dreams, and wondering about the world around me, is what will keep me going,” he writes. For Kagge, the secret to a good life is to “keep your joys simple.” Having met thousands of people on his world travels, he has come to believe that most undervalue themselves. “It seems that many of us are afraid of our own greatness,” he writes, “and so we make ourselves less than we are.”

Well-earned wisdom serenely imparted.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4911-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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