A poorly organized collection of musings on a variety of consciousness-related topics.


Conscious Awakening

A disjointed exploration of paranormal phenomena and existentialism.

Debut author Hirasek switches from autobiographical recollections to semi-scholarly examinations of past-life regression hypnosis, the interpretation of dreams, numerology, ghosts, psychic powers, auras, reincarnation, near-death experiences, the seven chakras, different religions and their views of the afterlife, the law of attraction and other weighty topics—a sprawling approach, which makes the book difficult to follow. Despite the arguments’ loose organization around issues of meaning and purpose, they are further obscured by an idiosyncratic style of writing: “By then my understanding of it was understood, but not yet complete”; “The primordial question here we should all ask is, who or whom do we really listen to in systematic situations?”; “Dreams are intriguing but somewhat complicated in opinion.” Sometimes, the results are impenetrable: “Time loops consume an individual from his own awareness of time, which prevents him from living and coexisting in present presence; one that eventually becomes obscured and passingly fleeting in time.” Changes in tense within paragraphs and even within sentences—“You can feel it when you go to work, when you got to church, when you pay your taxes”—further impair readability. In the autobiographical section, the book’s strongest, Hirasek details his first encounter with a ghost in 1999 and a life-changing psychic reading following a particularly painful breakup in 2004. He also describes the immense pain he felt after losing a romantic relationship after only a month since he was convinced he knew and loved the woman in a previous life. Elsewhere, he asserts his belief that in past lives he was both a survivor of the Titanic and the Greek poet and playwright Aristophanes, among others. While skeptics may not be convinced by his arguments, adherents to these beliefs are likely to find these passages compelling. The other sections usually cover too broad a variety of topics, resulting in superficial examinations. Unsupported statements—e.g., “In 80 percent of cases, NDE [near-death experience] individuals who came back become more compassionate and are filled with a new outlook on life after death”—further weaken the book. The conclusion attempts to tie these threads together, but it’s too late to make a coherent whole.

A poorly organized collection of musings on a variety of consciousness-related topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492253754

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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