An enthusiastic treatise, although some parts feel unnecessarily drawn-out.

READ REVIEW

HOW TO BE A KID AGAIN

A faith-based book about finding fun in the grown-up world.

Debut author Devine begins this inspirational offering with a detailed story about a hound named Old Blue. The crux of the tale is that the dog, even though he still bore scars from earlier fights with animals, never gave up his quest to find and defeat a raccoon. The author uses the vignette to introduce the topic of tenacity and highlight the importance of following a plan. However, he also offers a greater message—the notion that one combats evil by giving one’s life to God: “Being led through this physical world by the spiritual person inside of you, gives the devil nowhere to hide.” The most crucial theme in the book, though, is the idea of approaching life as a child would. Kids, the author notes, are primarily concerned with the present, and, as such, they’re largely free from worries that plague so many adults. To get in the same frame of mind, Devine suggests that adults perform fun activities, such as flying kites, and engage in a serious effort to let go of the past—both as ways to reconnect with the whimsical nature of youth. He further clarifies his advice with a number of black-and-white, cartoonish illustrations that often feature a dog. A heartfelt but playful tone permeates the text; readers will likely find it difficult to doubt the genuine nature of someone who encourages them to eat more brownies, as Devine does here. Some parts of the book seem wordy and extraneous; for instance, the initial tale about Old Blue includes a buildup of several pages describing the joys of country living. These joys, such as fine home cooking, are predictable and don’t add much to the author’s broader point about the anxiety of adulthood. Although the book’s viewpoint is a Christian one, it includes quotations from several non-Christians, including Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein. As a result, the author’s overall message is more nuanced than some readers might expect.   

An enthusiastic treatise, although some parts feel unnecessarily drawn-out.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9442-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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