Category Archives: Nonfiction

You’ll Grow Out of It

Finished You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein. I received a copy for review. 

Jessi Klein is a comedian and comedy writer. Because I live under a rock, I didn’t know who she was when I grabbed a copy at ALA (thank you, Hachette!). 
I don’t read many comedy essays (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, both of Mindy Kaling’s and Rachel Dratch) but this looked good and so yes. 
I said all that to say this: best impulse grab EVER. This is clever and just delightful. As Amy Schumer said on the blurb, this really was like drinking wine with the best friend I wish I had. 
And there are footnotes, which I love for some reason. 
Do yourself a favor: read this. And get copies for your friends. 

Hungry Heart

Finished Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner. I received a copy for review. This will be reposted closer to its release date. 

This is a book of essays and it is absolute perfection. 

I’ve wished for years now that we were friends and this really cements that. This is everything I wanted it to be and everything that it would be reasonable to expect. She discusses marriage and motherhood and dogs and The Bachelor and social media and, of course, weight and writing and…well, life. 
Everyone needs to read this. 
Highly recommended. 

Textbook

Finished Textbook by Amy Krause Rosenthal. I received a copy for review. 

This book is impossible to describe so let me just say that it’s simply essential.

It discusses math, music, history and more. Parts are funny. Parts are sad. It’s basically just like life and it would be an actual shame to miss it. 
Best of all, there’s a number to text and then you can get supplemental material or you can send pictures. 
Wisdom AND audience participation. Can’t beat that. Recommended. 

How to be a Person in the World

Finished How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky.  This book is a collection of Dear Polly columns.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A collection of original, impassioned, and inspiring letters by the author of the popular advice column Ask Polly

Should you quit your day job to follow your dreams? How do you rein in an overbearing mother? Will you ever stop dating wishy-washy, noncommittal guys? Should you put off having a baby for your career?

Heather Havrilesky, the author of the weekly advice column Ask Polly, featured on New York magazine’s The Cut, is here to guide you through the “what if’s” and “I don’t knows” of modern life with the signature wisdom and tough love her readers have come to expect.

How to Be a Person in the World is a collection of never-before-published material along with a few fan favorites. Whether she’s responding to cheaters or loners, lovers or haters, the depressed or the down-and-out, Havrilesky writes with equal parts grace, humor, and compassion to remind you that even in your darkest moments you’re not alone.”

Ever since I read Tiny Beautiful Things, I have loved reading collections of advice columns.  (Okay, to be fair, I have always loved advice columns.  But Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar made me not be ashamed of it anymore.)

While not quite on that level, there is a lot to love here.  If at lease one of these letters doesn’t apply to you, I’m not sure I’d want to know you.  And I think we can all relate over not knowing how to make friends or date or stop dating or whether to stay in our job or not or whether to have a baby or not.  We are all bundles of indecision and we all want someone smarter than we are to take our hand and tell us that it will all be okay.  Especially if we just follow these simple steps.

And Heather Havrilesky is hilarious and her advice seems to be dead-on.  I will let you know for sure after I start following the ones that apply to me.

Recommended.

The Bassoon King

Finished The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rainn Wilson’s memoir about growing up geeky and finally finding his place in comedy, faith, and life.
 
For nine seasons Rainn Wilson played Dwight Schrute, everyone’s favorite work nemesis and beet farmer. Viewers of The Office fell in love with the character and grew to love the actor who played him even more. Rainn founded a website and media company, SoulPancake, that eventually became a bestselling book of the same name. He also started a hilarious Twitter feed (sample tweet: “I’m not on Facebook” is the new “I don’t even own a TV”) that now has more than four million followers.

Now, he’s ready to tell his own story and explain how he came up with his incredibly unique sense of humor and perspective on life. He explains how he grew up “bone-numbingly nerdy before there was even a modicum of cool attached to the word.” The Bassoon King chronicles his journey from nerd to drama geek (“the highest rung on the vast, pimply ladder of high school losers”), his years of mild debauchery and struggles as a young actor in New York, his many adventures and insights about The Office, and finally, Wilson’s achievement of success and satisfaction, both in his career and spiritually, reconnecting with the artistic and creative values of the Bahá’í faith he grew up in.”

I am a huge fan of The Office and so I would’ve read this book even without the fact that the introduction is written by one Dwight K. Schrute.  (If you love that show as much as I do, I absolutely dare you not to read it and not laugh out loud at least three times on every page.  AT LEAST.)

So yeah, come for the parts by Dwight and the Office anecdotes, but you’ll stay for the rest of it.  It’s clever and sweet and just good.

I always forget just how many things Rainn Wilson has done that I’ve loved (including, God help me, House of 1,000 Corpses).  Obviously I think of The Office first, but he’s also in Galaxy Quest! Almost Famous!  The Rocker (one of the most underrated comedies ever, according to me).

Also, he just sounds like a great human, and we need more of those.

Recommended.

Her Again

Finished Her Again by Michael Schulman.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A portrait of a woman, an era, and a profession: the first thoroughly researched biography of Meryl Streep—the “Iron Lady” of acting, nominated for nineteen Oscars and winner of three—that explores her beginnings as a young woman of the 1970s grappling with love, feminism, and her astonishing talent.

In 1975 Meryl Streep, a promising young graduate of the Yale School of Drama, was finding her place in the New York theater scene. Burning with talent and ambition, she was like dozens of aspiring actors of the time—a twenty-something beauty who rode her bike everywhere, kept a diary, napped before performances, and stayed out late “talking about acting with actors in actors’ bars.” Yet Meryl stood apart from her peers. In her first season in New York, she won attention-getting parts in back-to-back Broadway plays, a Tony Award nomination, and two roles in Shakespeare in the Park productions. Even then, people said, “Her. Again.”

Her Again is an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.

Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.”

This book made watching Kramer vs. Kramer almost unbearably emotional (see my review of that tomorrow for more) and I think it’s always nice to be able to get a more thorough picture of a good movie.

As the synopsis says, this book doesn’t cover her whole career (or her childhood).  It’s basically a little of high school, a lot more of college and then her career through Kramer vs. Kramer.  Because of that, we get a really in-depth portrayal of Meryl Streep right as she’s on the cusp of becoming MERYL STREEP.

I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, but if you’re a fan of hers (and who isn’t, really? She’s a phenomenal actress and I don’t think many would argue that she’s the best actress working today) it’s required reading.

Recommended.

Crush

Finished Crush, edited by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A star-studded collection of essays from acclaimed and bestselling authors and celebrities that illuminates the lasting power of desire and longing, and celebrates our initiation into the euphoria, pain, and mystery that is our first celebrity crush.

You never forget your first crush . . .

CRUSH brings together stories of heartbreak, humiliation, and hilarity from a roster of popular luminaries, including James Franco, Carrie Fisher, Stephen King, Roxane Gay, Jodi Picoult, Emily Gould, and Hanna Rosin, who share intimate memories of that first intense taste of love. Here are funny, whimsical, sometimes cringe-worthy tales of falling head over heels for River Phoenix, Mary Tyler Moore, Howard Cosell, Jared Leto, and a host of other pop culture icons.

A few contributors channeled their devotion into obsessively writing embarrassing fan letters. Some taped pics in school lockers. Others decorated their bedroom walls with posters. For tweenaged Karin Tanabe, it was discovering bad boy Andy Garcia—playing the gun-loving mobster Vincent Corleone in The Godfather III. Barbara Graham unsuccessfully staked out an apartment on Park Avenue for a glimpse of her blue-eyed soulmate, Paul Newman. There was only one puppy for six-year-old Jodi Picoult—Donny Osmond—while Jamie Brisick’s pre-teen addiction was Speed Racer.

Swoon-worthy and unforgettable, the essays in CRUSH will leave you laughing, make you cry, and keep you enthralled—just like your first celebrity crush.”

We all know about crushes, right? And for most of us, our first crush was on a celebrity.  They’re cute and unattainable, and so perfectly safe, right?

This is such a fun (and sweet) collection although I will admit to being a little alarmed at how many people had crushes on Donny Osmond and boys from The Partridge Family.

Still, it’s something that everyone can relate to, and I was happy to see so many of my favorites in the same essay collection.

Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker

Finished Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker by Fred Setterberg.  I received a copy for review.

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Summary (from Goodreads):

One of the great masters of midcentury modernism in furniture Maloof pieces are in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other prominent museums.”

This is not the kind of book I generally read.  AT ALL.  But a friend recommended it, and then it showed up.  I figured I’d give it a chapter or two and do my best—and this book is absolutely fascinating.  Thirty-six people discuss Sam Maloof and his work, and it’s such an amazing tribute to Maloof.

I never really think of furniture as art, but look at the chairs on the cover.  It looks like it would be incredibly comfortable but it also looks like something that would make your home look better.

The chapters also showed who Sam Maloof was as a person, and he seems like a boss most of us would love to have.  He took his work seriously and demanded everyone around him do the same, but he also was willing to help people along and to see their ideas.

This is a completely different read and one that’s worth leaving your comfort zone for.

All Better Now

Finished All Better Now by Emily Wing Smith.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

I ask myself: how am I living still?
And how I ask it depends on the day.

All her life, Emily has felt different from other kids. Between therapist visits, sudden uncontrollable bursts of anger, and unexplained episodes of dizziness and loss of coordination, things have always felt not right. For years, her only escape was through the stories she’d craft about herself and the world around her. But it isn’t until a near-fatal accident when she’s twelve years old that Emily and her family discover the truth: a grapefruit sized benign brain tumor at the base of her skull.

In turns candid, angry, and beautiful, Emily Wing Smith’s captivating memoir chronicles her struggles with both mental and physical disabilities during her childhood, the devastating accident that may have saved her life, and the means by which she coped with it all: writing.”

I’m keeping this intentionally vague so I don’t spoil anything. I get that that’s a weird thing for a memoir, but trust me—you don’t want to know anything going in.

This is such an interesting memoir.  I’d read and enjoyed Emily Wing Smith’s YA novels and I absolutely admire her.  It would be so easy for her to be negative, but this book was overwhelmingly positive and even funny.

(It probably helps that awkward and quiet are my people.)

It’s also pretty fantastic to see her find her friends.  I wish it had gone on a little farther and shared her path to publication and her inspiration, but maybe that means that there will be a sequel? Please say yes.

Recommended.

How to Be Here

Finished How to Be Here by Rob Bell.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The popular pastor and New York Times bestselling author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God shows us how to pursue and realize our dreams, live in the moment, and joyfully do the things that make us come alive.

Each of us was created for something great—we just need to figure out what it is and find the courage to do it. Whether it’s writing the next great American novel, starting a business, or joining a band, Rob Bell wants to help us make those dreams become reality. Our path is ours and ours alone to pursue, he reminds us, and in doing so, we derive great joy because we are living our passions.

How to Be Here lays out concrete steps we can use to define and follow our dreams, interweaving engaging stories, lessons from biblical figures, insights gleaned from Rob’s personal experience, and practical advice. Rob gives you the support and insight you need to silence your critics, move from idea to action, take the first step, find joy in the work, persevere through hard times, and surrender to the outcome.

Like Stephen Pressfield’s classic The War of Art, How to Be Here will inspire readers to seek the lives they were created to lead.”

I read this book at the exact perfect time.

The idea behind this book is the idea that we are all meant for something.  There are parts on how to find meaningful work but the idea I found most interesting/helpful is the tip that maybe we’re not supposed to find our meaning in our jobs.  Sometimes our actual purpose is to work in a job that we don’t love but that leaves us time for our hobbies, which is where we find actual fulfillment.

I always struggle with the question of whether other people love their jobs.  It always seems like everyone else is much happier/more creatively fulfilled/making more money than I am.  I’m not sure if a raise would help, but it couldn’t hurt.  I find meaning in making sure other people know what’s going on in the world, but I’m not sure I’d say that it’s what drives me.  So maybe it’s okay that this is not my actual purpose.

Recommended.