While it may be unfair to complain that a book on the benefits of “unfocusing” suffers from a lack of focus, Pillay’s...

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TINKER DABBLE DOODLE TRY

UNLOCK THE POWER OF THE UNFOCUSED MIND

A combination of self-help and theoretical science that suggests learning to “unfocus” may be the key to living a more productive life.

Harvard psychiatrist and brain imaging researcher Pillay (Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, 2010) makes the case that the alternation of periods of focus and openness makes for increased learning and satisfaction. Letting go of precise goals allows one to “tinker” with one’s experience, whether romantic or work-related, in hopes of fixing problems, while dabbling in areas in which one has no expertise prepares one for new possibilities, and doodling opens the door to the unconscious. While the author throws out so many suggestions that any reader will be bound to find more than a few useful ones, Pillay’s affection for acronyms often makes the book difficult to read, and his use of language, with words like “tinkeringly,” can be off-putting. Although he tends to refer more frequently than necessary to celebrities like Jeff Bezos and Ryan Seacrest (whose life “sounds enigmatically unachievable and inconceivable”), Pillay cites an intriguing range of brain studies to support his argument, and his case studies of individuals with whom he has worked provide useful insights. The book might be most usefully read in fragments, since the cumulative effect of words of advice such as, “Be more playful and self-forgiving as you start to supertask” and “When lost, turn to your inner compass and ask, ‘Who am I?’ ” can bog down skeptical readers. The author takes his place in the spectrum of advocates of the power of positive thinking with his contention that “every person is responsible for his or her own greatness.”

While it may be unfair to complain that a book on the benefits of “unfocusing” suffers from a lack of focus, Pillay’s constant jumping from one suggestion to another, many of which seem off-topic, makes the book less useful than it could be.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-88365-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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