Category Archives: Nonfiction

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening)

Finished I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A Silvers. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“More than ever, politics seems driven by conflict and anger. People sitting together in pews every Sunday have started to feel like strangers, loved ones at the dinner table like enemies. Toxic political dialogue, hate-filled rants on social media, and agenda-driven news stories have become the new norm. It’s exhausting, and it’s too much.

In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), two working moms from opposite ends of the political spectrum contend that there is a better way. They believe that we can

choose to respect the dignity of every person,
choose to recognize that issues are nuanced and can’t be reduced to political talking points,
choose to listen in order to understand,
choose gentleness and patience.

Sarah from the left and Beth from the right invite those looking for something better than the status quo to pull up a chair and listen to the principles, insights, and practical tools they have learned hosting their fast-growing podcast Pantsuit Politics. As impossible as it might seem, people from opposing political perspectives truly can have calm, grace-­filled conversations with one another—by putting relationship before policy and understanding before argument.”

I don’t listen to Pantsuit Politics (I have one political podcast, and that is my beloved Hellbent.) but as someone who loves talking politics, I knew that I wanted to read this.

I think that the idea of being able to meet in the middle, find common ground and work to find solutions from there is a good one but it’s not always practical. For example, I’m gay. Our common ground has to start from a place of “I think you should be treated the same as every other citizen, including not getting fired or evicted for who you are and I think you should be allowed to get married.” I don’t care what else we have in common if you can’t start there. It’s not my job to convince you to treat me like a human being.

But there are times when it would work. I don’t think anyone is enjoying the rash of mass shootings, and I think there are a lot of solutions (although the biggest one really has to be “make sure that not every single person can acquire every single gun”) that are worth exploring.

There’s a lot packed into this slim book, and I think it’s incredibly valuable. There are tips in making sure you actually know policy and can discuss the issues without repeating talking points (which can be hard!).

This is a good starting place and I’m hoping a lot more people will join me in talking politics. It matters and it’s an important thing to be knowledgeable about and discuss. Recommended.

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Shout

Finished Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.”

This is an incredibly intense book. That’s probably not surprising, because all of her books are intense in one way or another.

I love when people tell the truth, without any sort of equivocation or apology. That’s this entire book. Laurie Halse Anderson starts with telling us what’s happened in her own life but by the end of the book, we see just how many times it’s happened in everyone’s life. (Most of us do know this already but at the same time, it evokes an incredibly visceral reaction.)

I hope she continues to write nonfiction. I think she’s even better at that than she is at fiction, and that’s high praise.

 

I Remember Nothing

Finished I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

Ephron writes about falling hard for a way of life (“Journalism: A Love Story”) and about breaking up even harder with the men in her life (“The D Word”); lists “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” (“There is no explaining the stock market but people try”; “You can never know the truth of anyone’s marriage, including your own”; “Cary Grant was Jewish”; “Men cheat”); reveals the alarming evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (“The Six Stages of E-Mail”); and asks the age-old question, which came first, the chicken soup or the cold? All the while, she gives candid, edgy voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but rarely acknowledging.

Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true—and could have come only from Nora Ephron—I Remember Nothing is pure joy.”

Sometimes I wonder about the movies that weren’t written or made because Nora Ephron died. And yes, I know that her last few ones weren’t as great as When Harry Met Sally… or Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail. I know. But even Bewitched and Julie & Julia are fun and charming, even if they’re not at the “modern day classic” level.

This collection made me think about the movies we don’t get to see again.

The last two chapters in this were lists of things she won’t miss (email, removing makeup) and things she will (laughing, her kids). I think one of the things I’ll miss is the moment before you start a book, when there’s still a chance it will become your favorite. And I’ll miss getting to spend a few pages with someone who feels like an old friend, because I’ve loved her writing essentially my entire life.

I Feel Bad About My Neck

Finished I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.

The woman who brought us When Harry Met Sally . . ., Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Bewitched, and the author of best sellers Heartburn, Scribble Scribble, and Crazy Salad, discusses everything–from how much she hates her purse to how much time she spends attempting to stop the clock: the hair dye, the treadmill, the lotions and creams that promise to slow the aging process but never do. Oh, and she can’t stand the way her neck looks. But her dermatologist tells her there’s no quick fix for that.

Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She recounts her anything-but-glamorous days as a White House intern during the JFK years (“I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the President did not make a pass at”) and shares how she fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton–from a distance, of course. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age.

Utterly courageous, wickedly funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a book of wisdom, advice, and laugh-out-loud moments, a scrumptious, irresistible treat.”

This is exactly what I wanted Wallflower at the Orgy to be. It’s literally laugh-out-loud funny (sorry, fellow commuters!) and while I don’t particularly mind my neck (although my time is coming), the chapter on her purse could’ve literally been my story, too.

Her movies are some of my most favorite and her wit and warmth shines through every page of this collection, too.

Wallflower at the Orgy

Finished Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“From her Academy Award—nominated screenplays to her bestselling fiction and essays, Nora Ephron is one of America’s most gifted, prolific, and versatile writers. In this classic collection of magazine articles, Ephron does what she does best: embrace American culture with love, cynicism, and unmatched wit. From tracking down the beginnings of the self-help movement to dressing down the fashion world’s most powerful publication to capturing a glimpse of a legendary movie in the making, these timeless pieces tap into our enduring obsessions with celebrity, food, romance, clothes, entertainment, and sex. Whether casting her ingenious eye on renowned director Mike Nichols, Cosmopolitan magazine founder Helen Gurley Brown—or herself, as she chronicles her own beauty makeover—Ephron deftly weaves her journalistic skill with the intimate style of an essayist and the incomparable talent of a great storyteller.”

This is such a fun collection of essays. It’s as smart as I’d expect something from Nora Ephron but it wasn’t as personal as I had hoped. (I think her other two essay collections will more than make up for it.)

I love her movies so much and it was really great to spend time with her again.

For Alison

Finished For Alison by Andy Parker. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

A father’s account of the story that captivated America, the murder of his daughter, reporter Alison Parker, on live television, and his inspiring fight for commonsense gun laws in the aftermath.

On August 26, 2015, Emmy Award–winning twenty-four-year-old reporter Alison Parker was murdered on live television, along with her colleague, photojournalist Adam Ward. Their interviewee was also shot, but survived. People watching at home heard the gunshots, and the gunman’s video of the murder, which he uploaded to Facebook, would spread over the internet like wildfire.

In the wake of his daughter’s murder, Andy Parker became a national advocate for commonsense gun safety legislation. The night of the murder, with his emotions still raw, he went on Fox News and vowed to do “whatever it takes to end gun violence in America. Today he is a media go-to each time a shooting rocks the national consciousness, and has worked with a range of other crusaders, like Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Lenny Pozner, whose son was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and brought suit against Alex Jones and Infowars, who claimed the shooting was staged. In For Alison, Parker shares his work as a powerhouse battling gun violence and gives a plan for commonsense gun legislation that all sides should agree on. He calls out the NRA-backed politicians blocking the legislation, shares his fight against “truthers,” who claim Alison’s murder was fabricated, and reveals what’s ahead in his fight to do whatever it takes to stop gun violence.

Parker’s story is one of great loss, but also resilience, determination, and a call to action. Senator Tim Kaine, also a fierce advocate for commonsense gun laws, contributes a moving foreword.”

One of the most famous lines in The Shawshank Redemption is “Get busy living or get busy dying.” The easiest way to describe this book is that Andy Parker took that quote and turned it into “Get busy fighting or get busy dying.”

You know who Alison Parker is. She and her cameraman (or “photog,” for a fun bit of TV news lingo) Adam Ward were murdered on live television. Now, almost four years later, her father has turned that senseless tragedy into a crusade.

This is a hard book to read. You can feel his heartbreaking grief and his fury on every page. There’s every chance that it will make you cry. At the same time, though, it’s a book about hope, specifically the hope that we will be able to pass common-sense gun control laws. (For example, mandatory background checks with no loopholes and limiting the amount of rounds.)

The most powerful aspect of this is Alison herself. We hear stories about her childhood and her adult life, and it’s so clear that this is a lady who would’ve made the hugest difference in the world. She had such a clear sense of joy and purpose that would’ve changed the world. That makes her murder all the more tragic; we will never see what she would have done. We’re seeing what’s done in her name, however, and that’s still worth a great deal. To paraphrase Cheryl Strayed, “it will never be okay” that Alison’s not here. No matter what comes next, it’s not worth her loss. I feel so grateful to get to see more of her as a person and not as a news story. (In the interest of full disclosure, though, we have a friend in common and, while I never met her, I have already gotten some sense of her. This book is obviously a much better, more complete view.)

This is an amazing book about the worst thing that could possibly happen and a book about turning tragedy into purpose. We all need to get busy fighting, not just for Alison but because any of us could be next.

Highly, highly recommended.

Parkland

Finished Parkland by Dave Cullen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The New York Times bestselling author of Columbine offers a deeply moving account of the extraordinary teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting who pushed back against the NRA and Congressional leaders and launched the singular grassroots March for Our Lives movement.

Emma Gonzalez called BS. David Hogg called out Adult America. The uprising had begun. Cameron Kasky immediately recruited a colorful band of theatre kids and rising activists and brought them together in his living room to map out a movement. Four days after escaping Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two dozen extraordinary kids announced the audacious March for Our Lives. A month later, it was the fourth largest protest in American history.

Dave Cullen, who has been reporting on the epidemic of school shootings for two decades, takes us along on the students’ nine-month odyssey to the midterms and beyond. With unrivaled access to their friends and families, meetings and homes, he pulls back the curtain to reveal intimate portraits of the quirky, playful organizers that have taken the nation by storm.

Cullen brings us onto the bus for the Road to Change tour showing us how these kids seized an opportunity. They hit the highway to organize the young activist groups mushrooming across America in their image. Rattled but undeterred, they pressed on in gun country even as adversaries armed with assault weapons tailed them across Texas and Utah trying to scare them off.

The Parkland students are genuinely candid about their experiences. We see them cope with shattered friendships and PTSD, along with the normal day-to-day struggles of school, including AP exams and college acceptances. Yet, with the idealism of youth they are mostly bubbling with fresh ideas. As victims refusing victimhood, they continue to devise clever new tactics to stir their generation to action while building a powerhouse network to match the NRA’s.

This spell-binding book is a testament to change and a perceptive examination of a pivotal moment in American culture. After two decades of adult hand-wringing, the MFOL kids are mapping a way out. They see a long road ahead, a generational struggle to save every kid of every color from the ravages of gun violence in America. Parkland is a story of staggering empowerment and hope, told through the wildly creative and wickedly funny voices of a group of remarkable kids.”

The first thing that’s important to remember is that last year at this time, we didn’t know who David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jackie Corin or Emma Gonzalez were. It hasn’t even been a year since seventeen people were murdered in Parkland. Every time I think about that, it shocks me. These kids are household names, and it feels like they always have been.

The second thing—and this is more important—is that they, like all American kids in their generation, have grown up in the age of mass shootings in general and school shootings in particular. They haven’t known a world without them. I was in college when Columbine happened; they weren’t even born yet.

That’s probably why they reacted the way they did. They realized this whole time that adults weren’t going to save them, but after the shooting at their school, they realized they would have to save themselves and everyone else.

It is awe-inspiring to see what they’ve done in under a year and I’m sure we’re going to continue to see great things from them.

This book doesn’t go into the details of the shooting, but it does show how they took a horrific day and worked to do everything they could to make it stop with them. At the same time, they’re realistic. They’ve said repeatedly that they don’t want to take away all the guns; in fact, Cameron and David have grown up around them. They just want to make it harder for people to use guns to kill people. (I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that that’s a good goal, right? Fewer murders?)

Parkland made me angry but it’s also an inspiring story and a hopeful one. It’s easy to give up, but they haven’t. Neither can we.

Highly recommended.

Nonfiction Project

I’ve been hoping to read more nonfiction and so far, I actually am. (Well, I read two last month and am currently reading Parkland by Dave Cullen, which is amazing.)

I’m trying to come up with a reading list that I will stick to, which is hard; the second I say “I’ll read that this year!” I lose all interest.

Here are nine nonfiction titles I hope to read this year. It’s a good mix of fun and “will make me better.”

And, of course, the nonfiction I’m most excited for is the one from Karen and Georgia, but I don’t have that yet.

Parkland Speaks

Finished Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories, edited by Sarah Lerner.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Featuring art and writing from the students of the Parkland tragedy, this is a raw look at the events of February 14, and a poignant representation of grief, healing, and hope.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School share their emotional journeys that began on February 14, 2018, and continue today. This revealing and unfiltered look at teens living in the wake of tragedy is a poignant representation of grief, anger, determination, healing, and hope.

The intimate collection includes poetry, eyewitness accounts, letters, speeches, journal entries, drawings, and photographs from the events of February 14 and its aftermath. Full of heartbreaking loss, a rally cry for change, and hope for a safe future, these artistic pieces will inspire readers to reflect on their own lives and the importance of valuing and protecting the ones you love.”

As you might expect, this is a hard book to read. We’re seeing the worst day in these kids’ lives, and it’s fairly unflinching. It’s not gratuitous but it feels like we are hiding with them, waiting for the gunman to come.

It’s excruciating in parts, and it should be. Seventeen people were murdered for no reason. I’m in awe of their bravery, both for surviving and for continuing to speak out even though a lot of people wish they wouldn’t.

These kids are changing the world.

Highly recommended.

The Little Book of Bad Moods

Finished The Little Book of Bad Moods by Lotta Sonninen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Wreck This Journal and Calm the F*ck Down comes a hilarious fill-in activity book that encourages you to unleash your inner rage, chronicle your deepest annoyances, and creatively detail every person who has ever done you wrong.

Let’s face it: we’re sick of staying positive. Meditating. Doing yoga. Those things are so boring. How about finding a new and more engaging way to relieve your stress and get you through the hell that is your life?

The Little Book of Bad Moods, an irreverent adult activity book, lets you unleash all that anger and say the things that you can’t say out loud. With lots of fun and easy fill-in activities perfect for all the minor annoyances in life, this is the only kind of meditation you’ll ever need.

Hilarious, fun, and shockingly cathartic, this is a bad little book that encourages you to complain, moan, and embrace your inner a**hole. So put that pen to paper, let your cranky flag fly, and be sure to hide this book from anyone you care about.”

You guys, I cannot even fully explain how much I loved this book.

It’s a journal for petty grievances and lists. Is there something you’ve always wanted to say to your ex? Write it down. Does your coworker snap her gum every 25 seconds? Write it down!

It’ll help you vent your spleen without making any enemies. (Do not leave this unattended.)

If you’re a fan of complaining, you need this. It’s fantastic.

Highly recommended.