Fleming’s extraordinary journey will inspire any reader weighing what it means to be human in a troubled world.

HOW TO BE HUMAN

AN AUTISTIC MAN'S GUIDE TO LIFE

A deeply moving memoir from the first autistic student to attend Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Diagnosed with autism at age 5, Fleming has little memory of his life before age 11 or 12. As a child, he screamed for hours each day and never wanted to be more than a few feet from his mother. Eventually, with the aid of family, friends, and educators, the author, who “wasn’t expected to graduate from high school,” received a college degree and was named a Rhodes Scholar. At Oxford, he recently completed his master’s degree in philosophy. In his debut book, Fleming tells his story to Winik, and the result is a fascinating deep dive into the murky waters of consciousness and identity. Because the author doesn’t think about language like most people, he must translate information into his own code to understand it. He says he has “no idea” how other people process emotion, but he learned how to listen with empathy from a college leadership training manual. Whereas most people just “have” a personality, Fleming had to construct one: “serious and friendly and intellectual” but also “bubbly and dorky and witty.” Fleming’s rules for living spring from his Christian faith, and he believes that when it comes to solving the world’s abiding problems, it’s vital that we practice both “ruthless optimism” and “practical idealism.” Winik interviewed Fleming multiple times and went through hundreds of pages of transcripts to help him shape the narrative, organizing the material in a Q&A fashion around chapters covering topics such as energy and memory, language barriers, and “things that matter.” Never intrusive, she elegantly provides context for Fleming’s brilliantly unique outlook. This tremendous work should be savored; every clearly written chapter offers fresh insight into how to shape a life from the inchoate matter of consciousness.

Fleming’s extraordinary journey will inspire any reader weighing what it means to be human in a troubled world.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8050-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more