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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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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Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better...



The popular blogger and author delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking third book about the importance of being hopeful in terrible times.

“We are a culture and a people in need of hope,” writes Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, 2016, etc.). With an appealing combination of gritty humor and straightforward prose, the author floats the idea of drawing strength and hope from a myriad of sources in order to tolerate the “incomprehensibility of your existence.” He broadens and illuminates his concepts through a series of hypothetical scenarios based in contemporary reality. At the dark heart of Manson’s guide is the “Uncomfortable Truth,” which reiterates our cosmic insignificance and the inevitability of death, whether we blindly ignore or blissfully embrace it. The author establishes this harsh sentiment early on, creating a firm foundation for examining the current crisis of hope, how we got here, and what it means on a larger scale. Manson’s referential text probes the heroism of Auschwitz infiltrator Witold Pilecki and the work of Isaac Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant, as the author explores the mechanics of how hope is created and maintained through self-control and community. Though Manson takes many serpentine intellectual detours, his dark-humored wit and blunt prose are both informative and engaging. He is at his most convincing in his discussions about the fallibility of religious beliefs, the modern world’s numerous shortcomings, deliberations over the “Feeling Brain” versus the “Thinking Brain,” and the importance of striking a happy medium between overindulging in and repressing emotions. Although we live in a “couch-potato-pundit era of tweetstorms and outrage porn,” writes Manson, hope springs eternal through the magic salves of self-awareness, rational thinking, and even pain, which is “at the heart of all emotion.”

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better world alive.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288843-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

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