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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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