A straightforward guide for rolling up your sleeves and being enlightened.

Why Am I?


A reformed underachiever and armchair philosopher puts his thoughts and ideas into action tackling some of life’s biggest existential issues: meaning, purpose and fulfillment.

At a time of profound personal confusion, it didn’t sit well with Whitaker when he was told by his brotherthat, sorry, you’re just “uncoachable.” But when the author’s brother delivered this sobering pronouncement, something moved inside the frustrated entrepreneur and sometimes writer. It spurred him to act, to take stock of his life and to confront the causes of his unhappiness. Whitaker found that it was his entrenched thought patterns, ideas and beliefs about his life that were causing him great pain and suffering. Powerful messages from an insatiable media delivering fear one moment and materialism the next had pummeled Whitaker into submission and set him on a hollow life’s journey that many may find all too familiar. “The story you’ve been forced to read—by your family, friends, the media, the marketers, the retailers, and religion,” he says, is “a churning amalgam of material success pursuits, eternal salvation, hellfire, celebrity worship, lifestyle envy, salving bromides, wedding days, dismaying divorce, apocalyptic distraction, fear-based economics, and age-old wisdom about embracing life’s simple things (meant to stem the rising panic inside).”The author devotes much of his lively narrative to railing against these modern evils—as well as taking aim at organized religion and even unhelpful family and friends—before getting down to work. And hard work is exactly what Whitaker’s approachis all about. At its heart, the author’s debut is a guide for personal growth and reflection, which requires readers to first dig deep into their own psyches in order to formulate a moral code, a values code and an ideals code. With these elemental building blocks in place, Whitaker promises that the meaning of life—or rather, the meaning of your life—will become apparent. “This is one of the most important realizations to embrace,” he says. “The meaning of life is different for everyone, even close friends or family members.” Eschewing whatever possibilities may or may not exist beyond our current life spans, Whitaker instead roots his system for personal and perpetual self-fulfillment in this current reality. The blue-collar approach is one that many earnest self-help seekers will find refreshingly free of supernatural or mystical components. But they must first commit to completing the self-analytical exercises that Whitaker puts forth.

A straightforward guide for rolling up your sleeves and being enlightened.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991479801

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Oddward TKE

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2014

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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