A brief though well-considered guide to a wide range of the many schools of thought regarding contentment, joy and happiness.

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HAPPINESS

A PHILOSOPHER'S GUIDE

A philosopher’s exploration of all the angles of happiness.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Those are the unalienable rights of all Americans, but we don’t have a monopoly on the elusive hunt for happiness. Thinkers have long found the subject to be a difficult one to consider, French philosopher Lenoir (The Oracle of the Moon, 2014, etc.) notes in the prologue, and while many modern books proclaim to bequeath the recipe for happiness, it’s rarely that simple. Cynics may raise their eyebrows at the author’s slim entry into the canon, but as a guide to various approaches taken by philosophical and religious figures, it serves ably. Lenoir considers Voltaire, Socrates, Schopenhauer and others alongside their (often contradictory) views on happiness, which leads into further questioning and reflection: Do all people wish to be happy? Is there truth for anybody except the wealthy that money cannot buy happiness? As social creatures, is it possible to attain happiness without other people in our lives or despite those other people? What can be done, Lenoir asserts, to increase our capacity for happiness is to sharpen our attention toward the happiness we experience in day-to-day life. One can also keep various sociological studies in mind, with research indicating that our aptitude for happiness is 50 percent genetics, 40 percent from our personal efforts toward increasing our happiness, and a mere 10 percent from our surroundings and other external factors. Lenoir also explores disciplines beyond philosophy and religion, taking into account the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy, the essays of Michel de Montaigne and the fiction of Michel Houellebecq. Throughout the book, Lenoir writes economically, devoting only enough words to particular thoughts and approaches as are necessary to stir questions in the minds of readers.

A brief though well-considered guide to a wide range of the many schools of thought regarding contentment, joy and happiness.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-439-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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

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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

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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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