A quick read that provides tested techniques to reestablish equilibrium in one’s life.

IF YOU'RE FREAKING OUT, READ THIS

A COPING WORKBOOK FOR BUILDING GOOD HABITS, BEHAVIORS, AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

A guidebook to help you through the rough spots in life.

In an upbeat, lighthearted narrative that combines elements of memoir, guidebook, and workbook, DeAngelis interweaves her personal story with therapeutic practices and exercises to help readers regain balance when all seems hopeless. The author’s past was filled with depression, bouts in psychiatric hospitals, and thoughts of suicide until she began applying these coping skills: paying attention to one’s breath, integrating movement to ward off depression, experiencing forgiveness, addressing grief, and more. Each of the 10 sections, which feature frequent lists, sidebars, and font changes, is intimate and expressive, pushing readers to fully explore what they are feeling or thinking at the moment. For anyone who has read the work of SARK, the format will feel familiar, with its handwritten notes interwoven with typed sections and blank spaces left for the reader’s own thoughts to be included on the page. DeAngelis combines insight into the realities of deep depression with humor and encouragement. Certain exercises may strike some readers as overly saccharine—e.g., creating a happy jar filled with happy thoughts—but most will help readers seeking to cope with the difficult aspects of life. “This is not one of those books where I am promising that your life will change if you take these simple steps,” writes the author. “I have no idea what will happen in your life and you do not need to try anything that does not sound cool. I do not and cannot know what is best for you or what will work for you.” With that in mind, readers can pick and choose what most appeals to them, knowing that all the exercises have worked at one time or another for DeAngelis, which is a good testament to their efficacy.

A quick read that provides tested techniques to reestablish equilibrium in one’s life.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-62106-901-0

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Microcosm Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

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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