An engaging account of a cancer survivor’s metamorphosis into greater spiritual awareness.



A cancer memoir that broadens into the realms of metaphysics and personal growth.

The autobiographical narrative at the heart of Collins’ nonfiction debut begins in 1994 when she noticed a lump in one of her breasts. Tests revealed growths, and doctors suggested a mastectomy followed by aggressive sessions of chemotherapy. There followed a prolonged period of recovery in what she refers to as “The Cell”—a room in her home where, initially, she was nearly immobilized. In the long lonely intervals of stillness in the Cell, she began to access a deeper “Awareness,” which taught her that her illness, while painful, could be used to help others learn compassion. Faced with an inhospitable welcome back to her old job, she got a new job; here, her narrative expands into accounts of the supernatural. Some of this is more than a little dubious; for instance, she sees a glowing disc beside the sun and wonders whether it might be an alien spaceship (she references Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods). She comes to seek hawks as shamanistic shape-shifters, and she begins to see the divine in everything around her. There follows the kinds of dreams and visions that are typical features in New Age/spiritualist writing, and Collins writes about it all with an open-hearted clarity. Her accounts of her various spiritual adventures are related with infectious enthusiasm, and the author reliably links those adventures to a broader motivational outlook: “Compassion is the most significant gift we can give to each other, to the world, and to ourselves through self-compassion,” she writes in one such passage. “True compassion comes directly from the heart with unconditional love.” This outlook will work on readers even if they don’t know a chakra from a parka. Those readers will be caught up in this involving, unpretentious memoir.

An engaging account of a cancer survivor’s metamorphosis into greater spiritual awareness.

Pub Date: June 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59598-617-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2019

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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