Thoreau emerges from this admiring portrait as a man richly connected to the cosmos.




A sympathetic biography of the famed 19th-century transcendentalist.

Commemorating the bicentennial of the birth of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), historian and naturalist Dann (Lewis Creek Lost and Found, 2001, etc.) offers a reappraisal of the writer’s life, focusing on Thoreau’s connection to, and celebration of, the invisible and ineffable. To support his analysis, Dann draws largely from Thoreau’s journals, letters, and published writings as well as a three-volume work by Emerson scholar Kenneth Walter Cameron, Transcendentalists and Minerva: Cultural Backgrounds of the American Renaissance with Fresh Discoveries in the Intellectual Climate of Emerson, Alcott, and Thoreau (1958), one of the few secondary sources he references. Dann does not differ from other biographers who examine Thoreau’s self-description as a mystic, but he underscores the significance of mysticism, pantheism, and empathy to the writer’s personality and life choices. Based on Thoreau’s admiration for Sir Walter Raleigh and Raleigh’s “esteem for astrology,” Dann asserts that Thoreau “was convinced that the stars played down into human life.” Thoreau articulated “his sense of his own personal destiny” by using “the language of the stars” and believed in a personal guiding star. Dann explains Thoreau’s depression in 1852 as caused by “a planetary configuration called the black moon." Dann also asserts that Thoreau was attuned to “the ways of the faerie world,” although he revealed his encounters with faeries in “an understated, cryptic form of reporting” so as not to incite his contemporaries’ derision. Although Thoreau thought mesmerism and spiritualism were “idiotic,” he was fascinated by the “invisible fluid” that formed the basis of popular vitalist theories. Despite proclaiming “repugnance for the Church,” Thoreau, Dann believes, “identified with Christ the fellow heretic.” Because he privileges Thoreau’s reveries over his philosophical and political grounding, Dann’s argument at times seems insistent rather than persuasive, but this should appeal to readers interested in Thoreau’s more esoteric beliefs.

Thoreau emerges from this admiring portrait as a man richly connected to the cosmos.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18466-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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