Easy-reading thoughts to ponder in an eye-catching design.


Better Human


In her energetic self-help debut, Conger offers familiar ideas for personal improvement and success.

Like many others on the shelf, this perkier-than-thou book believes in the power of positive thinking. Splashed with bold color designs and action photographs of people—like a woman with outstretched arms in a field of bright yellow flowers—Conger’s exuberant pep talk feels like a warm and fuzzy motivational poster. Many of the colorful pictures include inspirational quotes, such as these attributed to Estée Lauder: “I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” Indeed, hard work and grit are the cornerstones of Conger’s message, one often tinged with humor. A photo of a pretty young woman asleep in bed is accompanied by the message, “GET THE F*@% OUT OF BED.” Conger also jokingly compares the Broadway musical Annie to her own “hard knock life.” When Conger was 3, her mother died, and she had a turbulent adolescence. But she didn’t let hardship stop her from reaching her goals. This slim, easy-to-flip volume offers familiar concepts for self-improvement, such as becoming a more loving person (the author suggests smiling at cashiers) and learning gratitude. Conger’s upbeat kaleidoscope of advice isn’t a step-by-step guide, but it does have some usable ideas. For example, to cultivate a grateful heart, Conger suggests sending 10 thank-you cards to people and keeping a “gratitude journal.” Likewise, she recommends Dr. B.J. Fogg’s “Tiny Habits” (and reading for four minutes a day) to foster positive life habits. The author’s voice is friendly, and she sometimes addresses readers directly when making a point: e.g., “Are you ready for it?” She also offers book recommendations, like Smile and Move by Sam Parker, and thought-provoking items, such as the “How Not To Be Thankful” poster by Mark Russell available on her website. Readers looking for in-depth discussion might not be sated, but those without a lot of reading time can find inspiration in Conger’s quick, cheerful words.

Easy-reading thoughts to ponder in an eye-catching design. 

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-937498-78-8

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Elevate

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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