Society has conspired to conform us to its image, and we need to fight back to reclaim our individuality, according to this well-reasoned cultural critique and self-help book.
Lewis comes out of the gate swinging and ready to rumble with any reader who doesn’t agree that many of us need to be freed from our “conforming and cultural conditioning.” A former university art professor and department chairman at the University of Memphis, he includes schools, organizations and families among those he says have conspired to make us buy into their beliefs and act like everyone else. The remedy? In order to regain independence and a sense of playfulness, you must “force quit, demagnetize yourself and reboot to have fresh awareness,” he writes. As he diagnoses society’s ills, Lewis argues that TV, the Web and video games have become the world for many people. “Lost is wonder and the curiosity to independently explore, discover and objectify an experience within the real-time specificity of place and occasion,” he writes in academic, peopleless prose. Fortunately, he gets his venting out of the way quickly and begins to sound much more human. The "hyper-reality" of the information age is frequently a target for Lewis, who argues that instead of doing things, we now watch things. On a trip to Rome, he stayed at a hostel, where two fellow travelers made an impression on him. One was a young woman whose glowing cellphone screen wakened him at 3:30 a.m. as she texted someone back home. The other was a young Indian man who aimed to speed-travel Europe, checking off the popular sites of Rome in a day and planning to conquer Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland the next weekend. Lewis is no mere cultural crank, however, and he offers some excellent tips on “zapping” the energy drainers in our lives. Limit TV. Journal. Find beauty in creativity. And limit media oversaturation if you want to be truly wise, he writes. It’s a good reminder for a tech-addicted world.

Sage advice for creative souls and those who long to be.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499624359

Page Count: 168

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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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...


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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