Pragmatic, compassionate advice.



A lighted path for dark times.

In his previous book, Midlife, Setiya, a professor of philosophy at MIT, called upon myriad thinkers for guidance in overcoming his anguish when his life seemed “like a mere accumulation of deeds” as he strived for professional success. Now, amid an ongoing pandemic, mass unemployment, the ravages of climate change, and the revival of fascism, he again looks to philosophy, history, film, and literature for solace and illumination. Life is hard, to be sure, but thinkers and artists from Aquinas to Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson to P.D. James, Descartes to Sartre, help him to craft a “map with which to navigate rough terrain.” Along with devastating global issues, one’s sense of tumult and struggle can be fomented by physical disability and pain, psychic pain, loss, grief, a sense of personal failure, and injustice. Setiya was 27 when his own experience with chronic pain began suddenly with “a band of tension running through my groin.” For more than a decade, the pain defied diagnosis, and it still besets him. Pain and disability, he reflects, shape our relationship to our bodies as well as “our relation to others and their relation to us.” For Setiya, the pain’s positive result was in generating his “presumptive compassion” for other people’s experiences. Although he considers himself an “inveterate loner,” the author underscores the importance of fostering connections. From Aristotle, the “great theorist of friendship,” and others, Setiya sees that the way out of loneliness is “through the needs of other people.” Confronting a feeling of powerlessness in the face of structural injustice or systemic problems, he counsels engagement with collective action in the service of a cause. For him, the cause is climate change; at MIT, he has become involved in the Fossil Free movement. Even in hard times, writes the author, we cannot lose hope: “standing with or searching for the truth, attending to what’s possible.”

Pragmatic, compassionate advice.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53821-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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