A collection of valuable, if predictable, lessons from cute creatures.

Climb That Fence And Take That Leap

Johnsey’s debut tells stories of lessons he’s learned from animals.

The author’s feline companions have helped him climb out of occasional depressions by inspiring him with their crazy antics. In fewer than 100 pages, Johnsey shares lessons he’s learned from his cats and other creatures that have helped him lead a more contented life. For example, the author adopted a huge turtle that he found underneath his car, naming him Ben. He watched the turtle as he roamed the neighborhood daily. Ben always managed to avoid obstacles, and as the author saw the turtle struggle daily to dig his way out of his hole, only to return there every night, he learned the importance of visualizing dreams and pursuing goals. The author also shares the story of Edmund, his 17-pound Siamese cat, who would perch on a fence for an hour before jumping off of it, which inspired the author to slow down and enjoy life more. Although Johnsey mostly offers basic pop-psychology truisms and platitudes, the method he uses here is enjoyable and effective. Indeed, some readers may find this little storybook as enlightening as a book of proverbs. Occasionally, the author draws parallels between animal and human behavior that stretch beyond the ordinary; for example, when Keiko, his seal-point Siamese, became elderly, ill and odorous due to oral cancer which ate away at his jaw, the author found it challenging to show the cat affection—but when he did, the 18-year-old feline purred with joy. Johnsey uses this story to encourage others to look past imperfections and love others unconditionally. When the author watched a flock of baby sea turtles stumble and fall as they tried to reach the Atlantic Ocean in 90-degree Florida heat, he questioned whether humans possessed half of those tiny creatures’ determination. Johnsey even draws lessons in what not to do in a story of Puff, his long-haired gray Persian, and Amanda, a Maine coon mix, who both fought aggression with aggression.

A collection of valuable, if predictable, lessons from cute creatures.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1478200161

Page Count: 88

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

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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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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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. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

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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