A thought-provoking mix of pithy meditations and tips.

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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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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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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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