Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

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MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS

AN AMATEUR AMBLES THROUGH PHILOSOPHY

The essays of Montaigne spark midlife reflection by the rural Wisconsin–based author.

With a kidney stone as a shared affliction, Perry (The Jesus Cow, 2015, etc.) discovered an unlikely affinity with the French aristocrat, a shared humanity and spirit of discovery that bridge centuries, continents, and cultural differences. “You read Montaigne, you feel like you have a friend,” writes the author, and so readers are likely to feel about Perry, who has often drawn from his small-town life with self-deprecating humor and Midwestern common sense. That same spirit permeates his scattershot reading of Montaigne, a body of work he approaches without anything resembling academic rigor; he mainly allows one thing to lead to another, from Montaigne to commentaries on Montaigne to meditations on the author’s own life. “The desire to write about Montaigne puts me in heavy traffic on a tricycle,” writes Perry. It’s an image he likes so much that he later uses it to suggest his own limitations as a writer: “When I crack and read two pages of Dylan Thomas or Zora Neale Hurston, I understand that I am in the Tour de France on a tricycle.” Yet Perry’s refreshing candor, the essence of the personal essay, serves him well, as he opens his soul about his depression and anxiety, his marriage, his health (and hypochondria), and his recognition of the gulf between the persona he presents as a writer and performer and the person he knows (or suspects) himself to be. Though he supports himself by writing for money, and need make no apology for that, his aim here seems more like a soul-cleansing confession, like a writer talking to himself about the issues that concern him most. As he explains of his reading of Montaigne, “we only come to understand ourselves over time and then never fully. He was less interested in drawing conclusions about himself than having a conversation with himself. The dialogue would end only in death.”

Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-223056-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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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