Well-intentioned but flawed.

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DUDE MAKING A DIFFERENCE

BAMBOO BIKES, DUMPSTER DIVES AND OTHER EXTREME ADVENTURES ACROSS AMERICA

An environmental activist’s travelogue about the 104-day coast-to-coast bike ride that he transformed into a radical experiment in low-impact living.

In April 2013, Greenfield set off on a cross-country two-wheeled adventure that began in San Francisco and would end that August in Vermont. His main goal was to “create near zero waste” while raising funds for nonprofits dedicated to creating a more sustainable world. Before he left, Greenfield vowed to eat only locally grown produce or food from dumpsters, use solar energy to power his computer and cellphone, keep himself clean using natural sources of water or water leaking from faucets or sprinklers, and make do with a small portable toilet. His plan to live cleanly and well also included personal promises to maintain “a positive mindset,” give up swearing, “live 100-percent drug and alcohol free,” and plant “seedbombs full of native wildflowers all along [his] path.” The author chronicled his journey day by day with words and images, many of which appear in the book. He set down observations not only of the many and varied landscapes he traversed, but also of the ways he was able to keep the vows he made before he began his trip. Whether it was turning down opportunities to stay in the homes of people he met along the way in favor of sleeping in his tent or in abandoned structures or not allowing himself to use electricity or running water to bathe or wash his clothes, Greenfield stayed true to his word from start to finish. The author’s journey is admirable and inspiring, but his story, which he pieced together from the online blog he kept as he rode, is more functional than reflective and tends toward redundancy. Each new day is a new episode in a string of similar episodes, with no ongoing personal drama or conflict—aside from the various physical obstacles Greenfield encountered—to render the story more compelling.

Well-intentioned but flawed.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-86571-807-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New Society Publishers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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