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Don't Worry, We'll Make It

THE ART OF SERENE FEARLESSNESS

Open-minded, uplifting exploration.

A businessman and former U.S. Marine shares his reflections on embracing a spiritual philosophy of life in this debut poetry collection.

“I will never be able to prove my answers to someone. But I can develop a personal belief system that gives me purpose, hope, satisfaction, happiness, and a sense of serene fearlessness.” So concludes “My Simple Questions,” the first of a series of generally one-page contemplations on what Billings terms “serentrepidism”—the act of being serene as well as intrepid in dealing with life. Other entries include “The Perfection of Imperfection,” in which the author notes, “I believe imperfection is allowed in the world to give me purpose, to give me motivation, and to give me opportunities to help others.” Although the author repeatedly mentions his belief in God, he also expresses other, nuanced thoughts regarding religion, as in “Don’t Pray for Me,” in which he says that he’d rather that a person “do something for me,” such as an act of kindness, and “Can I Be Half Christian?” in which he states, “I believe humans made Jesus divine after his death” but that Christianity still offers “one of the best moral philosophies on living.” He separates his reflections with dedicated pages of quotations, highlighting the wisdom of well-known figures (journalist Dorothy Thompson, Confucius, and others) as well as Josh Billings, one of the author’s relatives. Throughout the book, Billings effectively showcases his appealing, affirmative perspectives. By being more inquiring than dogmatic, he delivers on his promise to make his musings serve the purpose of “provoking deeper thought and help in developing more acute critical thinking skills.” His essay-poems are both sweet and artful, with some catchy titles (such as “My Bible Died”) and powerful use of repetition; many lines in “I Control Me,” for example, begin with “I refuse to allow….” None of what the author discusses is particularly new or earth-shattering, but he certainly presents a worldview worth having.

Open-minded, uplifting exploration.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5368-9695-4

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2016

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GREENLIGHTS

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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CALL ME ANNE

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

The late actor offers a gentle guide for living with more purpose, love, and joy.

Mixing poetry, prescriptive challenges, and elements of memoir, Heche (1969-2022) delivers a narrative that is more encouraging workbook than life story. The author wants to share what she has discovered over the course of a life filled with abuse, advocacy, and uncanny turning points. Her greatest discovery? Love. “Open yourself up to love and transform kindness from a feeling you extend to those around you to actions that you perform for them,” she writes. “Only by caring can we open ourselves up to the universe, and only by opening up to the universe can we fully experience all the wonders that it holds, the greatest of which is love.” Throughout the occasionally overwrought text, Heche is heavy on the concept of care. She wants us to experience joy as she does, and she provides a road map for how to get there. Instead of slinking away from Hollywood and the ridicule that she endured there, Heche found the good and hung on, with Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford starring as particularly shining knights in her story. Some readers may dismiss this material as vapid Hollywood stuff, but Heche’s perspective is an empathetic blend of Buddhism (minimize suffering), dialectical behavioral therapy (tolerating distress), Christianity (do unto others), and pre-Socratic philosophy (sufficient reason). “You’re not out to change the whole world, but to increase the levels of love and kindness in the world, drop by drop,” she writes. “Over time, these actions wear away the coldness, hate, and indifference around us as surely as water slowly wearing away stone.” Readers grieving her loss will take solace knowing that she lived her love-filled life on her own terms. Heche’s business and podcast partner, Heather Duffy, writes the epilogue, closing the book on a life well lived.

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781627783316

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viva Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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