A pleasure from start to finish and evidence that really smart people often have a lot of luck.

THE SLUMS OF PALO ALTO

HOW TO BE ECSTATICALLY HAPPY AFTER TEN FAILED STARTUPS

A California Institute of Technology alumnus too smart to be unemployed, Fussell (Hello World!, 2014) finds happiness through failure in this lighthearted, contemporary memoir.

Fussell brims with intelligence and has a wholly realistic, hard-knocks sense of how business and stock options work in California’s tech epicenter, where startups bloom and often quickly fade away. His experiences with a string of 10 such companies will be of interest to others entering or already in this arena. But those throughlines are only part of this wide-ranging expedition into personal philosophy, social responsibility and family values. The titular joke is that there are no slums in Palo Alto, only those neighborhoods where cracker box houses command seven figures for the privilege of residing in and around Silicon Valley. Even renting, as the author and his family do, costs absurd amounts of money but ensures that children go to superlative schools and breathe the rarefied air of these environs, where everything is top-notch. In these brief, colorfully illustrated pages, the author seems convincingly not neurotic and truly happy. He loves his wife deeply, adores his two daughters, welcomes relatives with open arms, volunteers his valuable time to technical programs for young students and endlessly pounds tennis balls to perfect his serve. He also regards women as “clearly the superior gender” (though badly treated in business), favors Eastern over Western culture, drives the freeway like a maniac, and reveres huge motor homes, preferably with two bathrooms. Otherwise, he diligently refills the ever draining (metaphorical) aquarium that is home to his “koi,” aka his wife Rebecca and two daughters, using what must be the eye-popping hourly flat rate he charges any high-tech startup or suitable enterprise that needs his services. His forays into the rudiments of programming will alert most readers that they are out of their depths. For instance, when describing binary, he says: “With just the digits ‘0’ and ‘1,’ you can represent any number that you need. Say you needed to pay an eight-dollar tab. You would pay that with what might look like a thousand dollar bill.” An expensive distinction!

A pleasure from start to finish and evidence that really smart people often have a lot of luck.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500328511

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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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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