A pleasant blend of self-help and home-design theory.




In this debut design guide, West presents remodeling as a means for life improvement.

Our homes reflect the best and worst of our inner selves, asserts the author, as they encourage us to pursue our goals: “Your home can be the key to better health, better sleep, better relationships, and an all-around better life,” she says. But West points out that “Your home can also lock you into a damaging relationship, drain your energy, and devour your money.” Decorating and remodeling can truly improve people’s lives, she says, but only if they go into it with honest self-examination. In this book, she asks readers to more deeply consider the psychology of home improvement rather than simply going out and buying whatever they think will make them happy. The author roots each decision in biography, not property, urging readers to consider what environments are most amenable to sleep and fitness and to long-term career and family goals; she also addresses how to refresh a home after one’s kids leave for college or one’s marriage ends. By considering the economic, emotional, and aesthetic weight of home improvement decisions, the author aims to help readers create not only a renewed physical space, but also a rejuvenated approach to life. West writes in a soothing, enthusiastic prose style that’s more reminiscent of a self-help book than an interior design manual: “it’s important to figure out just ‘who’ it is you are living with. Unfortunately, many of us are living with bullies that keep us in a state of stress and prevent us from living an abundant life.” The chapters are full of questionnaires that will help readers to discover their deeper motivations. In one section, for instance, readers must list each item in a room, identifying who chose it, when it was last used, and the emotions that they associate with it. Decorative decisions are also analyzed; bare walls, the author says, might mean “a lack of commitment to this place, this life, these relationships.” Some may find the book’s amateur psychology a bit facile, but its underlying message is a useful one. The author offers readers a good opportunity to slow down, regroup, and move forward with a better understanding of how their homes relate to their psyches.

A pleasant blend of self-help and home-design theory.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9976237-0-3

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Bright House Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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