All daytime talk show hosts can get a little preachy with their dysfunctional guests, but few stand taller on a soapbox than Montel Williams. The former naval officer and motivational speaker never misses a chance to hurl can-do slogans at the sad sacks on his syndicated show. True to form, Williams's first book strives to deliver an inspirational wallop, though much of it reads like a slightly stale sermon.
Granted, Williams comes by his guru status honestly: He's an inspiring success story who survived a racist third-grade teacher and a rough stint at the Naval Academy to become a champion of underprivileged teens. But the "life lessons" in his book are laced with self-congratulation, all the more distracting given that Williams makes his living in an ignoble arena of televised entertainment. And while the values he pushes are important ("restraint, responsibility, and respect"), most of his insights are facile (i.e., "There is nothing you can't do if you set your mind to it").
The liveliest chapter describes how a frisky Williams fell for and courted his second wife, Grace, an ex-stripper he met on a show about mother-daughter showgirls. Had Williams revealed more of this human side to leaven all that moralizing, his message might have soared instead of bored. (Warner, $16.95)