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THIS MESSY MAGNIFICENT LIFE

A FIELD GUIDE

Empowering words for women—especially those struggling with body issues—to regain control of their lives.

Inspirational thoughts to overcome self-defeating body imagery and low self-esteem.

The author of many self-help books, Roth (Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money, 2011, etc.) focuses primarily on weight and food issues. Here, she examines how women look at and compare themselves to an ideal woman who doesn't exist, a situation that leads to a skewed sense of self and, often, eating disorders. The author stresses the importance of taking action and accepting who you really are, whether it's in skinny jeans or not; ultimately, she writes, the only person you need to answer to is yourself. Based on her personal journals and interviews with the thousands of women who have worked with her through her workshops and retreats, Roth provides a gentle, guiding hand for those in search of comforting words to help them build self-esteem and assert control over all aspects of life. Depression, loneliness, and general feelings of emptiness are common among women with body image issues, and the author addresses them with compassion, blending her teaching with touches of humor, thoughtful reflections on her own journey, and motivating quotes from other authors. She also delves into dog ownership, the fear of death and dying, and reaching the end of the therapy road. "There isn’t a someday. There never was. No one has ever been to the future that you keep putting your life on hold for. All we have is now," she writes. It is vital to “do something, anything, that brings you joy and makes you feel as if you belong here…even for fifteen minutes." Though hardly groundbreaking, these chapters of simple advice are easily digestible, and reading one per day is a good way to start this practice.

Empowering words for women—especially those struggling with body issues—to regain control of their lives.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8246-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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