A well-written, if somewhat uneven, self-help guide that offers many humorous personal anecdotes.

10 STACKS TO SUCCESS

HOW TO ACHEIVE SUCCESS ONE GOAL AT A TIME

Debut author Isip writes about his 10 tried-and-tested tips for success.

In 2001, Isip walked out of a placement exam at a community college after realizing that a life that began with filling in a standardized test had nothing to offer him. It’s an offbeat beginning to an often untraditional motivational guide. Many other books stress the importance of building a solid foundation of self-esteem and proactive thinking, but Isip favors a slightly bawdier, less cultivated approach, often to great effect. He encourages readers to perform a list of desired daily activities that will help them accomplish long-term goals, “[b]efore we check our phones, before we go on Instagram and Facebook, or before we light up that first roach or stogy.” Later, he movingly relates the lowest point of his own self-absorption, when he attended his uncle’s funeral drunk; he then realized that he’d deeply wounded his father with his flagrant substance abuse and his lack of interest in the feelings of others. These are unusually frank portrayals of a lifestyle that strays from the common self-help template. However, the book’s format (including chapters titled “Dream a Little Dream” and “Fight the Fear”) shares many of the genre’s clichés: Readers are encouraged to write down their goals or thoughts in a workbooklike format, and bullet points abound. Overall, its inevitable march to self-actualization isn’t as original as Isip’s colorful asides. Oddly, though, the author’s combination of street smarts and playful, somewhat shallow observations—such as complaining about having too much empty sex—is simultaneously its strength and its weakness. The book’s many unabashed references to illegal activities, for example, ultimately mark the author as a successful hustler, which may not be the best role model for confused, lost souls. That said, this book is a passionate affirmation of the inherent possibilities of life and of the irrefutable power of the entrepreneurial spirit.

A well-written, if somewhat uneven, self-help guide that offers many humorous personal anecdotes.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502960269

Page Count: 146

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

BRAVE ENOUGH

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. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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

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