The more who read Barasch, the better the world will be. Inspiring and encouraging. (bibliography, endnotes)

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FIELD NOTES ON THE COMPASSIONATE LIFE

A SEARCH FOR THE SOUL OF KINDNESS

What we know about kindness: a wide-ranging travelogue from a Western Buddhist’s journeys among the caring ones.

Why would a perfectly sane person reach out and help another when there’s nothing in it for him or herself? Barasch (Healing Dreams, 2000, etc.) delves into the question of compassion and comes up with building blocks and some plans for an architecture, not to mention tips for embarking on our own voyages of the heart. He starts by making the case that compassion is not only natural but good for you: “It is not tooth-and-nail competition but conciliation, cuddling, and cooperation that may be the central organizing principle of human evolution.” From here, he paints a portrait of kindness with a broad palate of sources ranging from the Sufi mystics to the bonobo monkeys. These do feel rather like field notes, sourced and annotated, as Barasch refers to research hormones involved in mother-infant relations, anthropological studies of tribalism, and psychological reports on nearly everything from TV’s effect on children to the willingness of passersby to help strangers. Yet the book consists chiefly of insightful depictions of actual experiences and experiments. Barasch panhandles and sleeps on the streets with the homeless, communicates in sign language with chimpanzees, sits in on an Israeli-Palestinian encounter group for youths, and speaks with people who have donated kidneys to complete strangers. More emcee than preacher, he introduces another wise person every third page to make his case, from the obscure (“sixteenth-century Tibetan meditation master Wangchuk Dorje”) to the celebrated (“I’ve been an Audrey Hepburn fan since I was a boy”). Almost the opposite of didactic, Barasch has a gentle touch. Even his prose is comforting, and his arguments are sometimes so subtly made that readers may not realize there even was an argument in the first place.

The more who read Barasch, the better the world will be. Inspiring and encouraging. (bibliography, endnotes)

Pub Date: March 28, 2005

ISBN: 1-57954-711-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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