A thought-provoking mix of pithy meditations and tips.

Practical Strategies for a More Meaningful Life

FROM MUNDANE TO MAGICAL

A Houston-based cardiologist shares reflections on how relationships help individuals find meaning and purpose in life in this first of a planned self-help series.

“Are you ready to stop living like a vertical coffin just taking space?” This is one of several provocative queries that Chang uses to introduce his debut book, a roundup of “strategies and ideas,” drawn from personal experience and extensive reading in his quest in “answering the question, ‘How can I be a better me?’ ” His chapters consist of kick-starter statements or questions (“Kindness and love are your most powerful weapons to conquer worries, frustrations, injustices, and loneliness”; “Wanting to stay sane and happy? Then be more loving! A loving incident a day keeps insanity away”). These are followed by a series of “practical strategies” (such as “When talking, be mindful of your words and the tone of your voice and whether you are saying what you really want to say. Remind yourself, ‘I am calm. I am at peace. I am loving.’ Use CAL as mnemonic”). Chang’s main theme is what he terms a “conscious relationship,” including handling its thornier aspects, such as forgiveness, noting: “When someone has harmed or killed a loved one, forgiveness can seem like a mighty challenge. And yet it’s a challenge that needs to be met if we are to find any peace or happiness at all.” Overall, the author, who ends his useful book with his “top forty most impactful strategies,” emphasizes that relationships “help us find meaning and purpose” and “offer us the opportunity to connect to the divine in ourselves and in others.” Chang is a sincere, impassioned advocate of adopting positive, mindful life practices. Although his statements, questions, and even strategies are similar in nature, they also serve as an arsenal of like-minded tools to guide ongoing behavior and thought. Additionally, while the author’s frequent references to death can be seen as ghoulish, they provide helpful reminders to be present in one’s current dealings, including his exhortation to “Give flowers to the living! Don’t wait until their funerals.”

A thought-provoking mix of pithy meditations and tips.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5010-1233-4

Page Count: 180

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better...

EVERYTHING IS F*CKED

A BOOK ABOUT HOPE

The popular blogger and author delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking third book about the importance of being hopeful in terrible times.

“We are a culture and a people in need of hope,” writes Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, 2016, etc.). With an appealing combination of gritty humor and straightforward prose, the author floats the idea of drawing strength and hope from a myriad of sources in order to tolerate the “incomprehensibility of your existence.” He broadens and illuminates his concepts through a series of hypothetical scenarios based in contemporary reality. At the dark heart of Manson’s guide is the “Uncomfortable Truth,” which reiterates our cosmic insignificance and the inevitability of death, whether we blindly ignore or blissfully embrace it. The author establishes this harsh sentiment early on, creating a firm foundation for examining the current crisis of hope, how we got here, and what it means on a larger scale. Manson’s referential text probes the heroism of Auschwitz infiltrator Witold Pilecki and the work of Isaac Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant, as the author explores the mechanics of how hope is created and maintained through self-control and community. Though Manson takes many serpentine intellectual detours, his dark-humored wit and blunt prose are both informative and engaging. He is at his most convincing in his discussions about the fallibility of religious beliefs, the modern world’s numerous shortcomings, deliberations over the “Feeling Brain” versus the “Thinking Brain,” and the importance of striking a happy medium between overindulging in and repressing emotions. Although we live in a “couch-potato-pundit era of tweetstorms and outrage porn,” writes Manson, hope springs eternal through the magic salves of self-awareness, rational thinking, and even pain, which is “at the heart of all emotion.”

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better world alive.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288843-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

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