"There probably aren’t many memoirs in which the author recalls everything from an arrest for hitchhiking in Wyoming and a dawn meditation at the ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Poona, India, to a religious epiphany in a New York subway station and writing news copy for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Such, though, is the material that Phillips draws from in his entertaining, thoughtful memoir. “An authentic way of life does not have to be a single-minded devotion to one cause or vocation,” he writes. “It can be a way of adventure, letting yourself be blown about by the wind, exposing the mind to a wide range of experience.”
Kirkus Reviews, June 23, 2015
And from a five-star review on Amazon.com:
Tom Phillips writes a wonderful memoir of a reluctant journalist, a man who would rather be a folksinger or a ballet dancer or a whirling dervish, but who jumps at a chance to chase stories around the world from the Velvet Revolution to Tiananmen Square to Nelson Mandela's release.
"My true nature is the present moment," Phillips announces as his moment of Zen epiphany. His journey through journalism and life has a bit of phenomenology about it, a sense that the meaning of our existence is created by what people do in each moment. It is an extremely kind book by a writer who prefers self-deprecation to criticism of others, but it offers insights into the incredible characters who entered Phillips life, from Walter Cronkite to Peter Matthiessen to Dan Rather.
He calls his memoir "A Beginner's Life" in recognition not only that he continually redefines himself, but also that he approaches each episode with the relish of a novice. Though at times he portrays himself as Willy Loman, he generally approaches the world with optimism, seeking truth and beauty on a path that carries him to the clubs of San Francisco in the '60s, ashrams of India in the '70s and the revolutions in Czechoslovakia, China and South Africa in the '80s and '90s.
His search carries him through two families, the news desks of two famous news anchors, and the doctrines of two great religions. He looks coolly at his own failures, and is too hard on himself, but that's one thing that makes this book so human. As a journalist and man, he has witnessed great great moments in history. But his life is made of much smaller things -- talented children, a warm and devout wife, and long years playing fiddle for a band named the Fish Family. But that makes the story larger, for as I read it seems we are on a shared journey, one that takes us perhaps not to great heights of success but instead to powerful moments of joy and understanding.