An informative but emotionally remote journey through modern-day Nepal.

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WITHOUT EVER REACHING THE SUMMIT

A JOURNEY

A writer recounts his spiritual trek through a remote region of the Himalayas.

In 2017, with his 40th birthday soon approaching, Italian writer Cognetti was inspired to embark on an expedition in the Dolpo in northwestern Nepal. Accompanying the author was a team of nine travelers, including a childhood friend from Italy, a painter he had recently met, and several local Sherpa guides along with their mules. Their plan was to trek hundreds of kilometers across often uninhabited mountains, ascending to heights over 5,500 meters. “There is a whole region,” he writes, “above four thousand meters untouched by the monsoons or paved roads—the most arid, remote, and least populated part of the country. Perhaps up there, I said to myself, I could see the Tibet that no longer exists, that none of us can see anymore. This was the journey I wanted for my fortieth birthday, a fitting way to celebrate my farewell to that other lost kingdom: youth.” Cognetti’s journey was also greatly inspired by the Peter Matthiessen classic The Snow Leopard. Throughout, he liberally references and quotes Matthiesen, and while following a similar path, he revisits memorable locations from that book. The emerging parallels in their stories unfortunately expose Cognetti’s weakness as a storyteller. The author is a fine travel writer, investing his narrative with vivid insights into the present-day Nepalese region and sharing the often grueling physical effects of traversing through these high altitudes. Yet his personal context for the undertaking is vague. Matthiessen’s physical and spiritual journey is deeply enhanced by the intimate and emotional experiences of his past; his spiritually enlightening memoir is often moving. Readers unfamiliar with Cognetti’s previous work may come away from this slender narrative feeling they know little about him.

An informative but emotionally remote journey through modern-day Nepal. (illustrations)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297831-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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