A heartfelt but unexceptional book.

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I'VE BEEN THINKING...

REFLECTIONS, PRAYERS, AND MEDITATIONS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

An award-winning television journalist muses on how to successfully negotiate the challenges of living in the modern world.

Shriver (Just Who Will You Be?, 2008, etc.) grew up a member of the storied Kennedy family. Despite great privilege, however, she has continually struggled with defining what constitutes a “meaningful life,” especially in an age when we are all “inundated with news and information about how terrible everything is.” This collection, which emerged from the author’s “I’ve Been Thinking” column in her digital newsletter, The Sunday Paper, provides a series of short meditations on everything from the power of gratitude and positive thinking to the blessings of love and family. Each piece begins with quotations from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey, and Gandhi and ends with personal prayers that reflect Shriver’s deep devotion to her faith. The author begins with observations on the need for cultivating self-acceptance and “intestinal fortitude” to withstand a world that has become increasingly hostile and “unsteady.” As she celebrates female empowerment, she also remarks on the need for people—and women in particular—to care for their physical, mental, and spiritual health, now more than ever. In speaking of the work she has done in her life as a journalist and advocate for Alzheimer’s education, Shriver notes that motherhood, “the biggest, most powerful, most all-encompassing job on the planet,” has been her greatest challenge. Her four children have been bearers of important lessons in “patience, kindness, and acceptance” as well as the most difficult but necessary lesson of all: letting go. What partially saves this well-intentioned book from reading like a series of trite platitudes is Shriver’s underlying understanding of current events. Beyond positive thinking, what we all need are “leaders who bring us together” and citizens who can “listen with open minds…to find a common thread.”

A heartfelt but unexceptional book.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52260-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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