Psychiatrist Yalom (emeritus, Stanford Univ. Sch. of Medicine) is noted for his stories (Love's Executioner), novels (When Nietzsche Wept), and writing on group and existential psychotherapy. As the only creatures with foreknowledge of death-what Yalom calls "the mother of all religions"-we humans must find or create meaning within the limits of our existence. Yalom uses examples from therapy sessions, dreams, his own encounters with death, and his exchanges and experiences with his mentors and teachers to engage the reader in a compelling conversation among equals. The chapter titles "The Power of Ideas," "The Awakening Experience," "Overcoming Death Terror Through Connection," and "Advice for Therapists" indicate his approach: viewing death's shadow can save us from despair without the consolation of religion. At 75, Yalom proves to be at the prime of life as a therapist, a writer, and a quotidian soul. For adults and mature teens and likely to be a classic in the area of serious self-help and psychology; an essential library purchase.
E. James Lieberman
"Philosophical it is, but never arid with theory. Its lively chapters are populated with patients whose raw angst Yalom refines into vignettes that are always enlightening and often quite moving." (Washington Post, February 24, 2008)
The philosopher Martin Heidegger once remarked that we can live intensely only if we stare death in the face every moment of our lives. Bestselling psychiatrist Yalom (Love's Executioner) attempts to put this principle into practice in a sometimes thoughtful, often repetitious book. Drawing on literature and film, as well as conversations with his patients, Yalom demonstrates how the fear of retirement, concerns about changing jobs or moving to another city, or changes in family status (such as the empty nest) are rooted in our deepest, most inescapable fear: of death. Yet, he says, this anxiety can prompt an awakening to life and help us realize our connections to others and our influence on those around us. Through such experiences we can transcend our sense of “finiteness and transiency” and live in the here and now. In a final chapter, Yalom offers instructions for therapists seeking to help their patients overcome death anxiety. Although in the 1980s Yalom, now 76, provided new insights into the human psyche with his innovative method of “existential psychotherapy,” this book recycles well-known philosophical insights, but Yalom's humane, calm voice may bring them to a new audience. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2007)
"Staring at the Sun is neither textbook nor mere self-help. Philosophical it is, but never arid with theory. Its lively chapters are populated with patients whose raw angst Yalom refines into vignettes that are always enlightening and often quite moving." Washington Post
"So what to do about the dread of death? ... [Yalom's] key prescriptions are true connections with others, a feeling one has lived well and "rippling" - having positive impacts and memories live on in others after you die. These deceptively obvious goals are, obviously, not easily attained: What thinking and feeling person truly lives a life with no regrets? But they are inarguably worthwhile ones." San Francisco Chronicle