The airy, conversational writing style makes this a quick but not terribly substantial read.

BETTER THAN BEFORE

MASTERING THE HABITS OF OUR EVERYDAY LIVES

A slight twist on the happiness message that made Rubin (Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, 2009, etc.) famous, with few new insights.

Like she did in her best-selling book The Happiness Project (2009), the author uses herself as her own best example. This time, she considers the concept of habits: how we form them, why we break them and how to get better at them. While she cursorily mentions habit research conducted by the likes of Daniel Pink, Charles Duhigg, and Chip and Dan Heath, Rubin doesn’t dig very deeply into their work. Instead, she writes mostly about her own investigations, which often amount to stories from her sister’s struggle with finding a diabetic diet or her own efforts to declutter a messy friend’s apartment. Rubin emphatically refers to these events as experiments, and her findings as research, but there’s scant evidence of the scientific method in her scattered anecdotes. She gives a nod to the field of psychology, offering many personality types and labels that can help you figure out what type of person you are and, thus, the types of interventions that might help you develop better habits. It’s no Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, but the author provides a brief quiz to help readers determine if they are Obligers, Upholders, Questioners or Rebels. It makes sense that self-knowledge should help guide your decisions, and this could be a useful breakdown if Rubin’s default descriptions didn’t skew so heavily toward her own personality type. As an Upholder, she is drawn toward developing, scheduling and carrying out habits, after all. Readers looking to keep those New Year’s resolutions should consider consulting Rubin’s suggested reading section for more robust data.

The airy, conversational writing style makes this a quick but not terribly substantial read.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-34861-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better...

EVERYTHING IS F*CKED

A BOOK ABOUT HOPE

The popular blogger and author delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking third book about the importance of being hopeful in terrible times.

“We are a culture and a people in need of hope,” writes Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, 2016, etc.). With an appealing combination of gritty humor and straightforward prose, the author floats the idea of drawing strength and hope from a myriad of sources in order to tolerate the “incomprehensibility of your existence.” He broadens and illuminates his concepts through a series of hypothetical scenarios based in contemporary reality. At the dark heart of Manson’s guide is the “Uncomfortable Truth,” which reiterates our cosmic insignificance and the inevitability of death, whether we blindly ignore or blissfully embrace it. The author establishes this harsh sentiment early on, creating a firm foundation for examining the current crisis of hope, how we got here, and what it means on a larger scale. Manson’s referential text probes the heroism of Auschwitz infiltrator Witold Pilecki and the work of Isaac Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant, as the author explores the mechanics of how hope is created and maintained through self-control and community. Though Manson takes many serpentine intellectual detours, his dark-humored wit and blunt prose are both informative and engaging. He is at his most convincing in his discussions about the fallibility of religious beliefs, the modern world’s numerous shortcomings, deliberations over the “Feeling Brain” versus the “Thinking Brain,” and the importance of striking a happy medium between overindulging in and repressing emotions. Although we live in a “couch-potato-pundit era of tweetstorms and outrage porn,” writes Manson, hope springs eternal through the magic salves of self-awareness, rational thinking, and even pain, which is “at the heart of all emotion.”

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better world alive.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288843-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more