Best suited for browsing, or as a companion to recent biographies, like Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made...



Interviews with intimates of the controversial writer, conducted and collected by oral historian and Ayn Rand Archives researcher McConnell.

More than 50 years after its publication, Atlas Shrugged (1957) remains a perennial bestseller, and Rand (1905–1982) continues to be both reviled and revered for her stance on the virtues of selfishness. Espousing a philosophy called Objectivism, she elevated rationality above all else, and argued that merit in the form of success for capitalists and great artists rendered them the rightful rulers of those she dismissed as parasitical for living off others’ accomplishments. This message is conveniently overlooked by many of her admirers interviewed here, although some acknowledge having fierce disagreements with her. Most cite her support of individualism in the face of conformity and convention as truly inspirational. McConnell includes a wide range of subjects, from Rand’s sister to early Hollywood connections, lawyers, economists, artists, celebrities and even her dentist. (Well-knowns include, among others, Mike Wallace, Mickey Spillane and Raquel Welch.) Accounts were factually corrected as needed and arranged in chronological eras for easy access. The author has an agenda, though: rectifying the prevailing impression of this towering intellect as a severe, humorless control freak. Readers are continually informed of Rand’s warmth, generosity, humor, openness to discourse and childlike delight in schlocky novels and music. We learn that she loved her cats, was terrific with children and collected stamps. The cumulative weight of the voices is convincing, however. Rand possessed a personality and charisma that charmed, fascinated and compelled attention, even adoration, and she impacted many lives. As her influence grows rather then wanes, it’s intriguing to investigate why her message resonates so powerfully.

Best suited for browsing, or as a companion to recent biographies, like Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made (2009).

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-451-23130-7

Page Count: 688

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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