Gay’s observations about his stumbles through life, and the little victories that come from learning from those stumbles,...

LITTLE VICTORIES

PERFECT RULES FOR IMPERFECT LIVING

Instructive essays in a comedic vein.

In the 1990s, copies of Richard Carlson’s Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and its many sequels) were seemingly everywhere, giving readers either the confidence to prioritize their stresses or despondence over the slender volume’s not addressing their particular set of problems. While not the first book of its kind, it kicked open the door for an industry of self-help, worry-reduction advice guides. In his first book, Wall Street Journal sports columnist Gay takes less of a guru approach, though he has drawn an audience of readers appreciative of reportage that balances insights with a droll, self-deprecating outlook. He occasionally focuses his columns on “the Rules” (of Thanksgiving family touch football, the gym, the office holiday party, etc.), which started as a genial poke in the eye at the proliferation of self-help books and, over time, came to explore actual advice “both practical and ridiculous” and “neither perfect nor universal.” The author admirably combines those elements in every piece in the book, which is no small feat given the difficulty inherent in providing guidance that is at once relevant—neither too specific nor too vague—and also genuinely funny. Gay helpfully categorizes different levels of stress with examples early in the book—from “actual stress” (suffering of a loved one, loss of a job, “bear attack, hawk attack, bobcat attack”) to “perceived stress” to “not stress” (“boss hasn’t returned email, Netflix is buffering, Anything to do with fantasy football”). The chapter on the author’s long fashion education is priceless; he describes one phase of his style as “a black cotton vest, with a T-shirt under it, sometimes worn with shorts and boots. I looked like Blossom hiking on the Appalachian Trail.”

Gay’s observations about his stumbles through life, and the little victories that come from learning from those stumbles, make for a rollicking good read.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53946-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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Rhimes said “yes” to sharing her insights. Following her may not land you on the cover of a magazine, but you’ll be glad you...

YEAR OF YES

HOW TO DANCE IT OUT, STAND IN THE SUN AND BE YOUR OWN PERSON

The queen of Thursday night TV delivers a sincere and inspiring account of saying yes to life.

Rhimes, the brain behind hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is an introvert. She describes herself as a young girl, playing alone in the pantry, making up soap-opera script stories to act out with the canned goods. Speaking in public terrified her; going to events exhausted her. She was always busy, and she didn’t have enough time for her daughters. One Thanksgiving changed it all: when her sister observed that she never said “yes” to anything, Rhimes took it as a challenge. She started, among other things, accepting invitations, facing unpleasant conversations, and playing with her children whenever they asked. The result was a year of challenges and self-discovery that led to a fundamental shift in how she lives her life. Rhimes tells us all about it in the speedy, smart style of her much-loved TV shows. She’s warm, eminently relatable, and funny. We get an idea of what it’s like to be a successful TV writer and producer, to be the ruler of Shondaland, but the focus is squarely on the lessons one can learn from saying yes rather than shying away. Saying no was easy, Rhimes writes. It was comfortable, “a way to disappear.” But after her year, no matter how tempting it is, “I can no longer allow myself to say no. No is no longer in my vocabulary.” The book is a fast read—readers could finish it in the time it takes to watch a full lineup of her Thursday night programing—but it’s not insubstantial. Like a cashmere shawl you pack just in case, Year of Yes is well worth the purse space, and it would make an equally great gift.

Rhimes said “yes” to sharing her insights. Following her may not land you on the cover of a magazine, but you’ll be glad you did. 

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7709-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2015

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