Open-minded, uplifting exploration.

Don't Worry, We'll Make It

THE ART OF SERENE FEARLESSNESS

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

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GREENLIGHTS

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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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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