Ashton makes compelling arguments about creativity and genius but continues to belabor them long after readers have gotten...

HOW TO FLY A HORSE

THE SECRET HISTORY OF CREATION, INVENTION, AND DISCOVERY

As a writer on technology and coiner of the phrase “the Internet of Things,” Ashton seems to be a particularly creative type. But the “secret” of the subtitle is that there is no secret, no magic and no mystery.

Creation isn’t light-bulb illumination or flashes of insight, writes the author. It is step-by-step, trial-and-error work. “Work is the soul of creation,” he writes, often with different turns of phrase. “Work is getting up early and going home late, turning down dates and giving up weekends, writing and rewriting, reviewing and revising, rote and routine, staring down the doubt of the blank page, beginning when we do not know where to start, and not stopping when we cannot go on.” Ashton shows how work builds on the work of so many others, for generations, thus debunking the very notion of individual genius, or even individual credit. Along the way, he incorporates examples ranging from all sorts of scientific discovery (a process that occasionally involves theft) to Bert and Ernie, Coca-Cola, the films of Woody Allen and the creative dynamic behind South Park. His message is inspirational, that “we all have creative minds. This is one reason the creativity myth is so terribly wrong. Creating is not rare. We are all born to do it.” From such inventions as the airplane and the smartphone, Ashton shows how asking the right questions and providing the right frame for the problem can achieve something extraordinary and how important are qualities such as seeing (clearly) and actually starting. “We are inclined to regard passion as positive and addiction as negative, but they are indistinguishable apart from their outcomes,” he writes in one of many overstated passages. “Addiction destroys, passion creates, and that is the only difference between them.”

Ashton makes compelling arguments about creativity and genius but continues to belabor them long after readers have gotten the point.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53859-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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