News & Politics

The Light of Conscience: How a Simple Act Can Change Your Life

“Occasionally very funny” but more often characterized by “disjointed ramblings.”

I picked this book up expecting either a collection of heartwarming stories about how a simple act can transform you—as promised by the subtitle—or an account of the author’s own journey. I was more than a little disappointed at the disjointed ramblings I got.

 While Shore—who founded the local antihunger nonprofit Share Our Strength—does include a few anecdotes of people who took risks by following their consciences—Rosa Parks, Katharine Graham, and Muhammad Ali, among others—they are largely vague and undeveloped.

 Shore’s discussion shifts from the aforementioned anecdotes to the definition of conscience to 9/11 to the essence of leadership to moral philosophy and beyond. His self-congratulatory musings about his parenting skills and Share Our Strength are tiresome. Combined with hyperbolic prose—“Watching him at water’s edge, nearing six feet tall and fielding fly balls with ease as a continent stretches out behind his lean but muscular body, I see him as Atlas astride the globe”—they’re downright ridiculous. The lighthouse imagery in the last chapter feels forced and does little to unify the work.

 The book isn’t without merit, however. Shore is occasionally very funny (“Teenagers are to information as managed care is to health care, parceling out enough to keep you alive but not a drop more”). And he makes some pithy statements about conscience and its role in the world. (“It is not motion but emotion that drives the work of change.?) But the book would have been much better if he’d had a lighthouse of his own to guide him.

Bill Shore

Random House,