Of minimal interest considering the many better books on the subject already on the market.

HELLO, HABITS

A MINIMALIST'S GUIDE TO A BETTER LIFE

A minimalist guru delivers a tepid discussion of remaking one’s rotten behavior.

“I think this is going to be the last ‘self-help’ book for me,” writes Sasaki, who, some 270 winding pages later, announces that his next book is tentatively titled Quit Alcohol in a Fun Way. Much of the reform he urges in this book about forming better habits involves just that, though it’s rarely much fun. “I didn’t decide to quit drinking because I understood the disadvantages of drinking,” he writes, “it was because I had personally accumulated a lot of experiences of regret.” One of those regrets, it seems, is one that the author, who is unmarried and lives alone in a tiny apartment, does not share—namely, the daily grind of paying for a child’s education or a car bought on installments, which he considers an exercise in poor prioritization. “We then have to sacrifice our precious sleep,” he sighs, “and work to earn money to pay those costs.” Sasaki blends jargon (rational thought is a “cool system,” emotion a hot one) with a few observations from science, as when he notes that remaking habitual behavior is largely unconscious activity: We do what we do in order to receive the psychic reward of dopamine. We also throw up roadblocks to reforming ourselves by pretending something untoward never happened or “thinking that it’s too late to start.” The best parts of the book are glosses on others’ thoughts, notably those of a certain renowned novelist: “As mentioned before, when working on long novels, Haruki Murakami writes ten pages every day and never misses his hour of running or swimming”; he “says that although he runs for an hour each day, he runs for a little bit longer when he receives unwarranted criticism or a rejection from someone.” Pass on this one and turn to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit or Wendy Wood’s Good Habits, Bad Habits instead.

Of minimal interest considering the many better books on the subject already on the market.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00558-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

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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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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