A helpful handbook for those who sometimes let their emotions rule.

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Naked Thinking

A debut book repackages common self-improvement themes into a useful manual for reducing stress and achieving goals.

Psychologist D’Agostino believes emotions can get in the way of thinking. That’s why he employs the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients overcome problems through “naked thinking,” which he describes as “thinking with the suffocating cloak of emotions stripped away.” Dividing the book into two sections, the author first explores different aspects of naked thinking and then, through anecdotes, demonstrates how it can be applied to various situations. The material is not unique: topics such as managing emotions, decreasing stress, improving self-confidence, and setting goals are well-trodden in self-help volumes. Still, D’Agostino writes with a breezy, down-to-earth style that, while authoritative, feels informal and friendly. He also has a way of crystallizing ideas and conjuring up just the right definition for concepts that could be amorphous. He defines courage, for example, as “the ability to face any strong emotion that leads us in a different direction from our intended goal, and still do the right thing regardless of how we feel.” It is the second section of the book in which the concept of naked thinking comes to fruition. Here, D’Agostino deftly delivers numerous stories that appropriately make certain points, sometimes in dramatic fashion. Often, the moral of each tale is different than what one might expect. For example, a story about a man who unfailingly does the right thing, even though it costs him his job and marriage, seems to illustrate the fact that “virtue is its own reward”; in reality, the tale is meant to suggest that “anything, including pursuing a supposed virtue, can be destructive when it’s made to be the entire focus of a person’s life.” The outcome of each episode, coupled with the author’s keen observations and insights, creates vivid life lessons that should resonate with any reader. Another nice touch are the sidebar boxes that encourage the reader to write down thoughts related to the content, thus “personalizing” the work.

A helpful handbook for those who sometimes let their emotions rule.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5320-0598-5

Page Count: 236

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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