A lively, hands-on manual to clearing away the cobwebs and seizing a new program for living life to the fullest.

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SHIFTING TO PLAN B

A RICHER BALANCE

A debut guide encourages readers to look at all of life’s possibilities.

In his book, Vale attempts to concentrate on seven key “inflection points,” critical aspects of life where unclear thinking can lead to poor choices: relationships, careers, health, money, the past, emotional pain, and faith. These are the crucial problem areas, and, as the author writes, everybody reaches them in due time: “Good or bad, all of us eventually come to a special meeting with ourselves.” The goal of the personal and spiritual advice (the book wears its religion comparatively lightly but is nevertheless targeted to Vale’s fellow Christians) in the ensuing chapters is to offer optimistic and organized help in building the “new you” the author envisions for each reader. In a series of short, vividly written chapters, Vale lays out his proposal for constructing that new you, predicated on the assumption that all of his readers want to make changes in their lives. He dubs his program “The SB-33 System” (cleverly coined to stress that it’s the opposite of any “BS” plan) and asks readers to give it a try by applying eight strategies over the course of 33 days. The SB method boils down to a very self-conscious revamping of a personal regimen, from diet and exercise to aspirational and emotional facets, with an emphasis on record-keeping and personal accountability (the energetic book includes ample space for readers to do their own writing). This all centers on a TEA strategy: target, environment, and approach. Vale’s prose is extremely self-effacing and jovial; this may be the friendliest self-help book ever written. His nostrums can be all-purpose to the point of blandness, and some of his contentions may leave nonbelievers scratching their heads (he tells his readers, for instance, that “fog, lightning, the wind, the galaxies, volcanoes” entail both energy and “mystery”). But the overall message is one of ringing belief in human improvability.

A lively, hands-on manual to clearing away the cobwebs and seizing a new program for living life to the fullest.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5462-0643-9

Page Count: 218

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

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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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UNTAMED

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...

MASTERY

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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