Those given to believe in ghosts, heaven, and white lights will find this a fine example of confirmation bias, while those...

SURVIVING DEATH

A JOURNALIST INVESTIGATES EVIDENCE FOR AN AFTERLIFE

A glimpse through the veils separating this world from the next.

How do you begin to investigate whether there’s an afterlife, a beforelife by way of reincarnation, a limbo state by which the dead walk among the living, and so forth? Insisting that her intriguing though ultimately unconvincing project is a journalistic account, Kean (UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record, 2010, etc.) heads off to talk to the psychics. “To locate them, I checked with two respectable organizations that run certification programs for mediums,” she writes. Respectable? That’s a value judgment—and just how does one certify a medium, anyway? The author dutifully explores the ethereal realms, looking into out-of-body and near-death experiences, “intermission memories,” apparitions and auras, and the like. The whole enterprise is garbed in a sort of science-y mantle, replete with terminology along the lines of “living-agent psi” and “materialization.” Mostly, Kean’s argument is one of assertion; as one of her like-minded contributors puts it, “I am now ready to say that we have good evidence that some young children have memories of a life from the past.” Unfortunately, that good evidence is not forthcoming, and in any event, as the same contributor notes, children who express these memories tend to be “very intelligent and very verbal,” which might lead a skeptic to conclude that such stories are inventions of the imagination. In the end, Kean’s case proceeds on touchy-feely grounds (“these feel so clearly external to me, that I am compelled to allow them that reality”) without much in the way of actionable proof: it’s certainly not science, and it’s not really journalism, either.

Those given to believe in ghosts, heaven, and white lights will find this a fine example of confirmation bias, while those who are not will not be swayed.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-41961-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE

A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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