Worth skimming only if you are struggling to lose weight and considering gastric bypass surgery.

NEVER GOIN' BACK

WINNING THE WEIGHT-LOSS BATTLE FOR GOOD

Beloved TV weatherman Roker (co-author: The Talk Show Murders, 2011, etc.) explains how he went from “morbidly obese” to fit and healthy.

The author seems like a genial man, a devoted father and the possessor of an exciting career that has provided him with plenty of stories to tell. His tale of triumph over a serious weight problem that plagued him since childhood might provide inspiration, or at least comfort, to the millions of Americans who continue to struggle with their own weight. However, the writing is lazy and, at times, downright cringe-worthy; most readers would probably rather not know as much as Roker wishes to share about his sex life, his bowel movements or the size of his penis. Clearly, the author intends to come across as funny and relatable, but too much forced folksiness renders even his best anecdotes flat. His desire to be universally appealing leaches his story of specificity and vitality; he mentions his race a couple of times, but in general, he is so desperate to play the role of an Everyman that he conveys little sense of who he is as a person, beyond the fact that he “loves life, [his] family and good music.” Roker, who wasn't born rich, is now a wealthy man, and many of his well-meant suggestions betray the cluelessness that often results from becoming accustomed to having money. Among other things, Roker advises those who undergo gastric bypass surgery, as he did, to hire a home health care aide for the first two weeks after the operation. Given that such care is unaffordable for millions, this is a “great tip” of limited value.

Worth skimming only if you are struggling to lose weight and considering gastric bypass surgery.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-451-41493-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder.

REASONS TO STAY ALIVE

A British novelist turns to autobiography to report the manifold symptoms and management of his debilitating disease, depression.

Clever author Haig (The Humans, 2013, etc.) writes brief, episodic vignettes, not of a tranquil life but of an existence of unbearable, unsustainable melancholy. Throughout his story, presented in bits frequently less than a page long (e.g., “Things you think during your 1,000th panic attack”), the author considers phases he describes in turn as Falling, Landing, Rising, Living, and, finally, simply Being with spells of depression. Haig lists markers of his unseen disease, including adolescent angst, pain, continual dread, inability to speak, hypochondria, and insomnia. He describes his frequent panic attacks and near-constant anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. Haig also assesses the efficacy of neuroscience, yoga, St. John’s wort, exercise, pharmaceuticals, silence, talking, walking, running, staying put, and working up the courage to do even the most seemingly mundane of tasks, like visiting the village store. Best for the author were reading, writing, and the frequent dispensing of kindnesses and love. He acknowledges particularly his debt to his then-girlfriend, now-wife. After nearly 15 years, Haig is doing better. He appreciates being alive and savors the miracle of existence. His writing is infectious though sometimes facile—and grammarians may be upset with the writer’s occasional confusion of the nominative and objective cases of personal pronouns. Less tidy and more eclectic than William Styron’s equally brief, iconic Darkness Visible, Haig’s book provides unobjectionable advice that will offer some help and succor to those who experience depression and other related illnesses. For families and friends of the afflicted, Haig’s book, like Styron’s, will provide understanding and support.

A vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-312872-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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