A down-to-earth, relatable examination of career and life choices.

THE PASSENGER

HOW A TRAVEL WRITER LEARNED TO LOVE CRUISES & OTHER LIES FROM A SINKING SHIP

The memoir of a travel writer on assignment aboard a sinking cruise ship.

During a storm on March 23, 2019, the Viking Sky suffered engine failure and began drifting toward the jagged shore of Norway. While facing death and hoping to be rescued, Kwak took an inventory of his life and wished for “any normalcy” he could find. With a mix of candor and cynicism, the author details his family’s history and his estranged relationship with his German partner of 16 years. Kwak also laments having to soothe them while he was involved in a major crisis. Having become disillusioned with his career, the author shares a history of cruise ship disasters, and he comments on the hypocrisy and hierarchy of cruise ships, particularly those that cater to the wealthy, noting how crew members cheerily tidied up and attempted to entertain the passengers while they were on the verge of capsizing. Checking the news, he was also disturbed by social media reporting on his cruise ship’s predicament in real time as well as disgusted with the notion of his documenting the disaster for the sake of an assignment. He then becomes philosophical regarding the randomness of fate. Making a comparison between the state of the ship and his life, he writes, “what you see isn’t always the truth. The staff can keep buffing the surface, but everything is breaking down beyond the skin of this capsule.” Around 27 hours after the ordeal began, the ship was able to dock in Norway with the assistance of tugboats. At this point, Kwak expresses gratitude for a second chance and decides it’s time to make significant changes in his personal life. The author goes on to share the changes he made after returning to San Francisco as well as details from his interviews with the ship's crew and rescue workers.

A down-to-earth, relatable examination of career and life choices.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56792-697-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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