A slim yet effective volume on how to live the best possible life in a wide range of circumstances.

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THE GARDEN OF LIFE

A concise, elegant self-help book that uses the metaphor of tending a garden to illustrate how to make the best choices in one’s personal and professional life.

With the unalloyed charm of a children’s story, the book begins with two principal characters: the Old Man and the Young Gardener. The Old Man is frustrated by the weeds in his garden, but the Young Gardener urges him to keep weeding. More importantly, he encourages him to accept the fact that he will be weeding for the rest of his life—but that he also has the ability to shape and nurture the exact garden he wishes. Debut author Putnam then embellishes this brief anecdote in a more traditional self-help section. In it, he explains that “[o]nly you can decide which are the Weeds of Meaningless Distraction that you will pull out of your life and which are the Seeds of Positive Purpose that you will choose to grow.” The book continues with this format for another eight chapters, using the Old Man’s and the Young Gardener’s obstacles to illustrate lessons in loss, love and accomplishment. The book outstrips most of its self-help contemporaries in its brevity and excellently matched illustrations. Instead of urging readers to complete a series of exercises or numbered steps, it encourages them to look inward for answers to life’s challenges. This type of thinking doesn’t offer easy answers, but it does foster solidity and growth. Putnam’s direct prose doesn’t seek to impress, but it does succeed in holding readers’ interest while clearly getting its points across. There are an unnervingly high number of capitalized concept names (“Planting the seeds of Respect, Patience, Appreciation and Forgiveness and then nurturing them is often not an easy task”), but it’s no worse than others in the genre. Ultimately, Putnam makes it clear that although true growth is never easy, it’s definitely worthwhile.

A slim yet effective volume on how to live the best possible life in a wide range of circumstances.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1478737490

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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