Scrappy Little Nobody
Anna Kendrick may be one of the most relatable celebrities today. Step inside her life and as deep into her mind as she’ll let you with her first essay collection, Scrappy Little Nobody. This frank and incisive foray into Kendrick’s world and her perspective on nearly everything is incredibly entertaining. Each essay chronicles a major event in her life, perfectly told with refreshing humor and occasional social commentary. She details her childhood and steady rise into fame—one she is incredibly proud of because she worked doggedly toward whatever goal she set. Movies, theater, awards shows, and more are covered in an all-too-short read.
Regardless of your opinion on Anna Kendrick, this is a fantastic book. She writes with her distinct voice and subversive humor. She’s funny and quirky, with fierce intelligence and a deep passion for her craft. It’s an infectious read that will have you laughing out loud, pausing in thought, and considering how likely it is you could befriend her. Scrappy Little Nobody is simply a great read. Pick up a copy and share it with your friends–you won’t regret it.
Chosen: Chronicles of an Alien Abductee
Alien abductions are the kind of thing most people have a healthy skepticism about. After all, when the main proof comes from the people who have claimed to be abducted, its difficult to give too much credence to what they might say. Sometimes, however, the proof they give is so compelling that even the heartiest skeptic must sometimes be convinced to believe that it may at least be possible. That is the case with Byron Lacys account in Chosen.
Lacys book is full of recollections not only of his abductions by various aliens, but also of how those abductions have affected his life. He tells them in such a straightforward, ordinary way, and with so many details, that its hard to be skeptical about his story. The details, too, are convincing enough to make anyone at least consider the possibility. After all, what other explanation could there be for a small child being healed of sarcoma after a doctor told his parents that they might as well have another child already as a replacement? What other explanation could there be for Byrons numerous accounts of having lost time, or of his finding scratches and puncture wounds on his body, or of the memories that suddenly resurface about having been brought aboard an alien ship? These questions kept returning to my mind as I read, and I could think of no other answer except to believe that Lacy was telling the truth.
The one complaint I had about the book is the way Lacy presents his story. It doesnt go in chronological order, which can make it rather hard to follow, and I sometimes had trouble telling when a particular chapter took place. If you stick with it, though, youll find a compelling story that I would recommend to anyone who has had even the slightest question about whether we really are alone in the universe.
The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever
It started with the dream of a puppy, a dream that soon outdistanced practicality and well-meaning advice. This pensive memoir of the ten years L. B. Johnson shared with her dog Barkley will resonate with animal lovers everywhere, especially those who carry the memory of a beloved pet in their hearts.
The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever is a dog tale for sure. Barkley bounds across the pages leaving behind a plethora of anecdotes to keep the reader engaged and chuckling. There is a pajama-clad Johnson in her slippers chasing her black lab puppy through the neighborhood; the case of the missing pizza and a contented canine with pepperoni breath; and the classic irony of a dog that loves water and hates baths. Johnson is at home with description. She brings her furry soul mate to life with words.
At first it seems a weakness that initials replace first names or a brother is simply Big Bro. Specifics about place and time are shrouded. However, Johnson is generous with her interior life. Thoughts, feelings and impressions inspired by Barkley are throughout and lend a universal quality to their story. Like the author, most of us grapple with past loss, and worse still, the losses yet to come still we take risks. Johnson writes, Some things are just too precious to pass up even as we know we cant hold them forever.
Stories about great pets abound, yet there is always room for one more. The Book of Barkley holds its own in this genre. The give and take between delightful doggy antics retold and the authors musings, often lyrical and heartbreaking, strikes a satisfying counterbalance. Like all animal lovers, Johnson realized many life lessons with Barkley as her companion, not the least of which that home is in the heart.
What I’ve Learned from You: The Lessons of Life Taught to a Doctor by His Patients
The doctor/patient relationship is one of the most intimate. Vulnerable, your health in their hands, you may feel powerless and subordinate. After years of schooling, residency, and intense training, doctors seem to know everything; many of them seem to think they do. Additionally, doctors are more overworked than ever and frequently the patient/doctor relationship fails. But this isn’t always the case; every once in a while you meet a physician who takes the time to listen, who treats patients as individuals, personally. It is obvious that Scott Kelly, M.D. is such a physician, sincere when he says he feels honored to serve his patients. Dr. Kelly has written a beautiful memoir marked by humility and wonder as he recalls patients who have had a lasting impact on his life. Far from the pompous, omniscient, and aloof clinician, Kelly is all too aware of his own failings as he struggles, through medical school, residency, stints in the ER, and the tightrope balance between work and family. Although warned to keep his interactions with patients strictly professional (i.e., detached), he allows himself to open up to some of them, to listen, and then to learn. This book is his journey through those lessons.
The writing in this book is sensitive, marked with grace and absolute respect for his patients. Each of the short chapters begins with a personal memory; then Dr. Kelly introduces us to one of his patients. Each taught him an important lesson, on themes as varied as marriage, friendship, faith, happiness, responsibility, perseverance, grief, joy, and love. The book follows Dr. Kelly’s experiences mostly chronologically, so you get to experience the highs and lows of his training and residency, as he learns to keep people in the center of practicing medicine, and through his articulate character sketches, you feel that you know his patients too, or that you wish you could have. You meet Joy, whose deep faith steadied Dr. Kelly in the face of man’s inhumanity. Harrison reaffirmed the necessity of having a strong sense of purpose, and living true to yourself. Emily’s chronic, but privately-endured, pain reminded him to be gentle and compassionate–we don’t know the burdens other quietly carry. There are many others, each story told with love and sympathy, neither moralistic or pedantic. These are lessons we all, in our human endeavor, need to learn, and learn again.
Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands
Jorge P. Newbery began a quest for Olympic greatness when he took up bicycle racing at the age of 19: The year was 1984, his hometown of Los Angeles was host to the Olympics, and his father had just given him a used bike. Newbery bought some books on bike racing and started training 500 miles a week. It was the burn zones he experienced in training and racingthose periods of extreme effort that separated the winners from the rest of the cycliststhat gives his new memoir its name. Burn zones became his metaphor for pushing through all the challenges hes faced as a serial entrepreneur. Focus on enduring the pain until the pace slows, he writes.
Burn Zones: Playing Lifes Bad Hands, Newburys new memoir, is a remarkable story. For decades, Newbery believed that he could win at anything he set out to do. For decades, that proved true. Indeed, his quest for the Olympics was not as farfetched as it might seem. Newbery was already accustomed to setting and reaching astonishingly high goals. He got his first job at the age of seven, delivering a daily newspaper from his Raleigh Chopper to houses in his neighborhood. Soon, he was delivering two competing dailies. At 11, he bought a used, oversize tricycle fitted out with a freezer unit: He pedaled it around his neighborhood and to various road races, selling ice cream treats. Then he started a record company and representative alternative bands. All this before he got that bike for his 19th birthday.
He didn’t make it to the 1988 Olympics, but participated in distance racing around the country. His first significant failure, he writes, came when he fell ill during a 21-day stage race in Mexico. He couldn’t finish the race. He returned home and drove himself harder, training more and losing so much weight that his family started calling him Skull. When he developed bronchitis, he decided it was time to look around for a new challenge. He met someone in the mortgage business and was intrigued both by what she did and how much money she made. So he got his real estate license, his first Brooks Brothers suit and a job as a loan originator. A few years later, he joined forces with a partner to launch a mortgage company. He soon started buying up rental properties in Los Angeles. He started with small properties, and then branched out to larger properties around the country. His specialty was acquiring housing projects in distress and turning them around. At the peak of his real estate business, he owned more than 4,000 apartments and a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars.
Then, in 2004, a natural disaster struck one of his largest properties, the 1,100 unit Woodland Meadows in Columbus, OH. Virtually overnight, he lost everything: Tens of millions of dollars and thousands of apartments. He was crushed and $26 million in debt. He was not yet 40. He struggled with his losses and the shame of his very public failure, negotiating debt relief and trying to figure out what he should be learning from the crisis and how he could go on. In the midst of his struggles, he got a call for help from a friend who was losing her house to foreclosure. He wasn’t able to help her; he had too much debt of his own. But the call got him thinking about all of the people in similar situations: Too much debt, unaffordable mortgages, and far too close to losing their homes. He started formulating a plan for his future. He would create a business designed to help others, staggered by crushing debt, to stay in their homes. He founded the business, American Homeowner Preservation, and today runs it out of Chicago.
Newburys story of winning, losing everything, then rebuilding a life in which his purpose is helping others rebuild their lives makes for a compelling read. Not every reader will share his unrelenting drive and focus or his taste for risk-taking, but his telling of despair and humiliation at the darkest hours and how he turned his loss into strength and success are both thrilling and inspirational.
The Sky Detective
In 2001, Azadeh Tabazadeh receives the prestigious Macelwane Medal for her research on polar stratospheric clouds and the causes behind the degradation of the ozone layer. With every great achievement, there is a profound story. In the case of Azadeh, her account goes back to 1973 in Tehran to two life-changing experiences: receiving a chemistry kit from her uncle and developing a close relationship with Najmieh, the family’s housekeeper. Azadeh’s world suddenly turns upside down as her country succumbs to political struggles and calamity strikes her family. When she decides to escape in the hope of making it to America, Azadeh has no idea if she’ll see her family ever again.
Azadeh Tabazadeh shares a powerful story of determination amid despair. Tabazadeh’s first person narrative reflects the perspective of young Azadeh and her passion for learning. Falling in love with chemistry by the age of eight, Azadeh sets her educational sites on becoming a scientist. Tabazadeh not only portrays a child growing up in fun-filled and happy environment, but also a young girl who is slowly coming to terms with the world beyond her blissful bubble when she gets to know Najmieha girl from impoverished means.
Tabazadeh’s plot shifts as she paints a drastic portrayal of life in the midst of highly turbulent times. While lacing her text with the driving emotional tension between Azadeh and family members, Tabazadeh’s descriptions reflect a dark tone as Azadeh’s short-lived contentment quickly shatters during the Iranian Revolution (1978), Ayatollah Khomeini’s reign. His full-covering edict for females (ages nine and up), the American Hostage Crisis in Iran, and especially the Iran-Iraq War when Azadeh, her brother, and cousin eventually flee the country.
Engaging readers from chapter to chapter, Tabazadeh’s deft storytelling carefully builds to Azadeh’s harrowing journey to America. Tabazadeh’s punctuates her plot with two aspectsa combination of Azadeh’s pleasant flashbacks and determination to studythat become a means of survival for the seventeen-year-old who is striving for a better life. A stark, yet inspiring, presentation of hope in the midst of hopelessness, The Sky Detective is one gripping page-turner that is a definite must-read by all.