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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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