Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty

Posted September 26, 2018 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Into the Magic Shop

Into the Magic Shop

by James R. Doty

Publisher: Avery on February 2, 2016
Genre: Autobiography, Biography, Memoir, Psychology, Science, Self-Help
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Growing up in the high desert of California, Jim Doty was poor, with an alcoholic father and a mother chronically depressed and paralyzed by a stroke. Today he is the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University, of which the Dalai Lama is a founding benefactor. But back then his life was at a dead end until at twelve he wandered into a magic shop looking for a plastic thumb. Instead he met Ruth, a woman who taught him a series of exercises to ease his own suffering and manifest his greatest desires. Her final mandate was that he keep his heart open and teach these techniques to others. She gave him his first glimpse of the unique relationship between the brain and the heart.

Doty would go on to put Ruth’s practices to work with extraordinary results—power and wealth that he could only imagine as a twelve-year-old, riding his orange Sting-Ray bike. But he neglects Ruth’s most important lesson, to keep his heart open, with disastrous results—until he has the opportunity to make a spectacular charitable contribution that will virtually ruin him. Part memoir, part science, part inspiration, and part practical instruction, Into the Magic Shop shows us how we can fundamentally change our lives by first changing our brains and our hearts.


I really want to call bullshit on this book.

Okay, okay, don’t get me wrong.  His discussion about of mindfulness, meditation, and visualization are all important things.  The psychological aspects are interesting, and I agree with that part of it.  It’s the memoir-aspects that I’m not buying.

James R. Doty, apparently, got everything he wanted through luck, obstinance, and visualization.  Take his college experience – he didn’t even know how to GET into college, then by complete coincidence a girl hands him an application.  He fills it out and sends it without an application fee.  He gets accepted.  He goes to college and barely maintains grades.  He doesn’t lose any of his scholarships, and gets into medical school because of the sheer nerve to demand someone listen to his backstory… and they let him in.

This doesn’t feel like real life, and while I believe in the positive aspects in mindfulness to manage stress and anger and build focus… it sure as heck doesn’t get you an envelope full of money by doing nothing because you visualized it.  The story around this message feels highly fictionalized.  Am I qualified to say if it is true or not?  No.  But I don’t believe it.

So that’s the beginning of this book.  And I can accept it as incredibly cheesy padding to get his message across.  The last third of this book is where I really began to dislike it.

There’s a half hour in the second half that begins “I woke up one morning worth $75 million.”  This is probably just the working class in me, but I bristle whenever someone tells me how much they’re worth with that sort of humble brag… especially when they go on to discuss how many cars they have, and how there’s a women he picked up and didn’t bother to learn her name still sleeping in the other room.  He’s rich and living the stereotypical male American dream.  It feels like a bad movie.

From this point on, it’s all about how he made money and lost money but because of his “magic” he made it all back again.  And all he did was visualize himself with the money, and it practically fell into his lap.  No experience or effort necessary.

This really grinds my gears, y’all.  You want to tell me you visualized it, then were inspired to work twice as hard, switching your career or learning a new skill?  I’ll buy it – good for you.  But “magic”.  Ugh.  I know I’m not worth $75 million and never will be (“Not with thinking like that,” Doty would say) but you will never make it in life by just sitting down and envisioning it.  You have to make it happen.

So good for Doty.  Good for him and his success.

Next time I will take heed to the clear warning signs that this was not going to be a book about neuroscience.  My bad.

But, if you really like self-help books, and you like to read about people’s success stories… you’ll probably like this one.  It’s written in an engaging way.  If you’re not petty like me, you’ll probably get past how every time he talks about neurosurgery, he talks about the mistakes he made… and how he had to sell his Italian villa because of the stock market crash, poor dear.

Ratings Breakdown

Delivery: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★
Subject: ★ 1/2
Narrator: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: 1/2

2 Star rating


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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