A masterfully simple and satisfying collection.



A retrospective of the prolific writer’s essays, travel stories, and reflections.

In his latest work of nonfiction, Theroux (Mother Land, 2017, etc.) intersperses feature-length articles, essays, and celebrity portraits with miscellaneous shorter pieces on writing, love, and life, including one unforgettable character sketch of his enigmatic father. His many self-assigned subjects during this 15-year span include several complex and contradictory personalities, such as his close friend Hunter S. Thompson, “a boisterous recluse who also needed to be seen and heard,” and a professional dominatrix, “Nurse Wolf,” whom the author admires for her levelheadedness and her striking degree of empathy. When traveling abroad, Theroux prefers to be “humble, patient, solitary, anonymous, and alert,” and he downplays his own moderate celebrity, preferring public transit to state-sponsored tourism. Whether recounting a “drug tour” of the Amazon or describing the many guises of corruption and exploitation that he witnessed during the 1960s in Africa—he served in the Peace Corps in what is now Malawi—his stories are less travelogues than well-curated meditations on some of the places, people, and moments he has experienced in a lifetime of rambles. Although Theroux claims to avoid all contemporary novels, lest their voices intrude on his creative process, he portrays himself as the last in a long tradition of travel-writing novelists, among them Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad, whose work he enjoyed discussing with Michael Jackson. Theroux manages an easygoing, self-effacing presence in his essays, as though his ego were spent somewhere around his 15th novel, and he locates his often witless or mystified self squarely within the frame of each encounter. His spare, unhurried prose style, which is rarely long-winded, betrays a novelist’s relish for illuminating details and devastating turns of phrase. Yet despite his long and prolific career, Theroux still finds himself gobsmacked by wonder at what life has shown him, whether traipsing through the Neverland ranch with Elizabeth Taylor or trying to interview Robin Williams while caught up in the cloud of his obsessive, frenetic improvising.

A masterfully simple and satisfying collection.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-87030-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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 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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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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