A lucid, step-by-step guide to personal and professional success—with vichyssoise mixed in.



A book combines a personal guide and business manual with a culinary story.

Buchanan’s (Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, 2016) work blends self-help strategies and business planning. She lays out a series of plain-sounding but persuasively thoughtful principles organized around the straightforward contention that there really isn’t much difference between the two disciplines, asking a deceptively simple question: “Can implementing business values improve personal lives?” She uses the distinctions among a job (a stop-gap measure—temporary, one hopes), a career (the long-term investment in an occupation), and a vocation (a “meaningful, joyful” calling) to open up a larger examination of the ways, in her conception, an individual bears many similarities to a small business. Therefore, many sound principles for small businesses might help to clarify diverse areas of life. And her ongoing illustration of these correspondences is the imaginative highlight of the book: the vibrant account of the founding and running of a French restaurant called La Mandarine Bleue in Boise, Idaho, complete with recipes. By spotlighting the establishment and its creators, Buchanan is able to give her broader lessons some much-needed human grounding, particularly because some of those teachings are very broad indeed. “The good news is, you don’t find your purpose,” she asserts. “You determine it. It’s a choice, a conscious decision that you make.” At another point, she writes: “If we wear a suit of armor all the time to protect ourselves and to hide our fears and feelings, we’ll never allow ourselves to be hurt.” She intersperses these maxims with sayings drawn from a wide variety of popular business and motivational books and speakers, all focused in one way or another on the volume’s central concept of the personal as professional. “How do you conduct your life?” she asks her readers in the manual’s key point of thematic intersection, its discussion of building a personal brand. “What are your ethics and practices?” This work is a fine, clear-headed place to find some answers.

A lucid, step-by-step guide to personal and professional success—with vichyssoise mixed in.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-395-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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