An effective biographical portrait that will serve well until Lamar writes his own retrospective.

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

HOW KENDRICK LAMAR IGNITED THE SOUL OF BLACK AMERICA

The first book-length treatment of one of the decade’s most successful artists.

In July 2020, Kendrick Lamar achieved new headlines when it was announced that his 2012 album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, became the longest-charting hip-hop album in U.S. history, amassing over 400 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart. That record crowned the Compton poet as fresh royalty in the hip-hop scene, which was further underscored by a fiery, confrontational verse on Big Sean’s “Control.” In 2015, Lamar released To Pimp a Butterfly, which struck a chord with a new generation of Black activists reveling in the international consciousness of Black struggle. Following the buzz surrounding Butterfly, Lamar was pushing into territory where only the timeless emcees live. In his first book, Brooklyn-based music journalist and cultural commentator Moore, who has written for the Nation, Entertainment Weekly, and the Atlantic, among other publications, shows that he’s been around the block, pulling together hundreds of sources from interviews and headlines over the years. He convincingly shows his subject’s transition from his first moniker, K-Dot, to Kendrick Lamar, as well as the development of the now-powerhouse label Top Dawg Entertainment. Early on, writes the author, “he rapped under the name K-Dot, his fire-spitting alter ego. K-Dot wasn’t about uplifting communities; he wanted to decimate everything in sight. The young man had all the technical prowess, the complex sentence structures, and the natural cadence, but he didn’t sound free.” Additionally, the author offers an insightful history of place, a narrative element that must inform any deep reading of hip-hop culture. Throughout his career, Lamar has set an impossibly high standard of confessional intimacy and passionate storytelling (his most recent album, DAMN., won a Pulitzer). In this solid introduction, Moore uses a more general approach, a wise strategy since fans already know that Lamar is the most reliable narrator of his own story. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

An effective biographical portrait that will serve well until Lamar writes his own retrospective.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982107-58-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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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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