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A LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF

Hard-won and often moving life lessons delivered to young athletes.

In this debut book, contributors offer a series of letters to their younger selves.

Murray’s slim work uses a rhetorical gambit that should be familiar to all readers: what they would write if they could send letters back in time to their younger selves. The author is an avid football fan and former player for the University of Texas at El Paso. He returned to the university to further his studies, and he was on friendly terms with fellow competitors, some of whom went on to play professional ball. Murray himself founded Student Athlete Transition Symposium, a motivational and performance-based program designed to help high school and college athletes figure out what they want to do in order to achieve their life goals. Murray and the friends he’s enlisted to contribute letters to the book look back at their earlier selves and craft letters designed to impart the good and bad of what they’ve learned in the intervening years. One of the evocative work’s most intriguing threads is the similar notes sounded in each letter. Murray, for instance, writes to his younger self: “It is at your most selfish times that you will make your worst decisions.” And his friend and fellow ball player Larry Linne, among others, has a similar sentiment: “The majority of who and what you will become will not be caused by positive experiences in your life. The majority of your character, success, joy, happiness, wealth, and positive relationships will have been founded from your going through difficulty, pain, struggles, loss, and adversity.” Murray summarizes each letter (somewhat unnecessarily, considering the missives’ brevity) in end-of-chapter bullet points. But these and other common ideas are immediately obvious in any case, and they’re views any young athlete should value hearing: believe in your dreams, learn from your mistakes, and rise above your setbacks.

Hard-won and often moving life lessons delivered to young athletes.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5462-0564-7

Page Count: 108

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

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. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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