Written with brevity, clarity, and wisdom, this guide stands a notch above the myriad self-help books available today.




A work aimed at personal development provides steps to help readers discover, embrace, and achieve their purposes in life.

Originally offered only in an audio version, this book features Webster’s (Suss!, 2016, etc.) thoughts regarding vital guiding principles. In under 70 pages, the author presents what he believes are the seven secrets of success, complete with explanations, supporting statistics, and examples. First, readers must discover their reasons “to be,” and can accomplish this by pondering such questions as “What makes you tick? What do you feel strongly about? What makes you happy?” Once individuals formulate their answers, then clear goal-setting can start them on the path to glory. Other steps include the strong belief in oneself (such as a small child figuring out how to get around), learning how to control one’s life and influence others, choosing an environment conducive to success, and ensuring basic needs are being met. And of course, one must ultimately take action, making important decisions that will trigger positive change. In the end, the author adds an eighth secret, explaining that the other seven principles will only lead to success when applied together. Webster, an audio book pioneer and entrepreneur, certainly has the experience to qualify him for writing such a book, and his thoughts are influential and convincing. One reason the volume has such power is because the author never dictates the definition of “success,” allowing readers to decide that for themselves and apply the principles accordingly. Therefore, the material remains beautifully universal, helping one person to achieve financial goals and yet another to realize relationship success. The audio-to-text transformation seems to have been made smoothly, though the book could use citations of sources for the quotes and statistics (both to acknowledge original authors and to improve credibility). But overall, this quick read is both unique and extremely effective.

Written with brevity, clarity, and wisdom, this guide stands a notch above the myriad self-help books available today.

Pub Date: March 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5305-4515-5

Page Count: 68

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2017

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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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