A heartfelt but sometimes uneven collection that promotes happiness.

PREACHING HAPPINESS

CREATING A JUST AND JOYFUL WORLD

A debut collection of 16 sermons analyzes personal and collective happiness.

As a co-founder and past president of Gross National Happiness, USA—a nonprofit organization working to promote people’s well-being—Sassaman believes that government policies can help individuals find joy. Based on the Kingdom of Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness (as opposed to Gross National Product), the author’s American group claims that collective well-being can be achieved by changing how success is measured. As a layperson at the First Universalist Church and Society of Barnard, Vermont, Sassaman delivered sermons based on her happiness philosophy, and those impassioned speeches are presented here. The author’s conversational essays, which can be read in any order, cover a wide range of upbeat topics—economics and happiness, the interconnected happiness of humans and animals, and the extraordinary value of everyday beauty. She uses some compelling personal anecdotes—like her 300-mile participation in Gross National Happiness, USA’s nationwide walk—and her essays are well documented with sources, such as psychologist Rick Hanson’s 2018 book, Resilient. But some of the concepts presented here will likely make many Americans—who value freedom and ideas like home ownership—somewhat uneasy. For example, concerning President Donald Trump’s planned revision of the Endangered Species Act, Sassaman is disgusted by the “rights of private landowners versus species extinction.” Often dogmatic in tone, this soapbox assemblage tends to present complex issues from only one angle. For example, in a discussion of Florida’s 2018 red tide, farm runoff is blamed, but sewage from beach houses isn’t mentioned. In her weaker arguments, Sassaman relies on assumptions to support her claims, and many Americans are painted with the same broad brush. In a chapter on the moral obligation to change economic paradigms for everyone, she compares American life to a board game where players win by greedily consuming products.

A heartfelt but sometimes uneven collection that promotes happiness.

Pub Date: May 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-57869-026-8

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Rootstock Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 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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