Available: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Hookups, Love and Brunch
Suffering from a breakup, the writer details his dating life. What saves this book from total misogyny is that it is funny and seems true. After a bad breakup, Perry determines to avoid his serial monogamy and have casual sex. His character is emboldened by these experiences. The transformation from a timid and self-effacing shy guy to a bold and daring character is entertaining. It culminates with travel to the millennial rite of passage: Burning Man. He gets drugged up and enjoys himself.
This book reads like a male version of Sex and the City. He has the requisite small group of buddies that share their adventures and ultimately their girlfriends. They meet and have brunch in a Los Angeles bonding ceremony. It is very funny how the writer describes the difference between breakfast and LA brunch. His coining of “manic pixie dream girl” for his girlfriend who dumps him is also very amusing. So, like many of us, the writer goes from naive to world weary, ultimately finding that one can’t outrun heartbreak; there is no cure except through feeling it.
Today, the phrase Drink the Kool-Aid may be one of the only widely known legacies of the Jonestown mass murder-suicides that happened November 18, 1978. Those born since that date likely have no idea where the phrase originated, even as those who were alive thirty-seven years ago surely know but give little thought so many years later to the event that occurred in far-off Guyana. The deaths of 909 people, almost all brought about by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid (not, technically, Kool-Aid brand), were the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001, as Wikipedia put it.
Kathryn Barbours memorial album of Who Died that tragic day is a sobering reminder that hundreds of good people lost their lives even as they had high hopes for living together in harmony, regardless of color or gender, sharing and working together. Barbour writes that she was a member of the Peoples Temple in California and knew many of the individuals pictured: the photographs show the dead as I last saw them, in 1976-1977, when Peoples Temple was at the height of its influence in San Francisco, its members full of energy and confidence.
The seventy-nine glossy pages with mostly full-color photographs memorialize every single person who was lost, with just a few spaces empty of a photo. Its a yearbook of the saddest kind, a remembrance of remarkable peopleaware, self-assured, and focused; of children of varying ages, of blacks and whites aspiring together for a better society free from the racial tensions of the time. Whenever there is a mass death we tend to think purely in numbers; we mourn but are still somehow separated from the reality of so many full lives being snuffed out. Who Died is valuable in its naming of each person, putting a photograph to each life lost. It will be a treasure for families and friends of the dead; it will be an important addition to libraries; it is a fine way for anyone to appreciate that whenever a mass killing happens, individuals are the casualties, and each life mattered.
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams
Louisa Adams was the sixth First Lady of the United States. She was far more complicated than a simple title. Louisa Catherine Johnson was born in London to Joshua and Catherine. Her father was a merchant who wouldn’t wed Catherine until after all their children had been born. Louisa would acquire an independent streak while spending time with good friends of her parents. Louisa would meet John Quincy Adams in 1795, John originally courting Catherine’s sister. John would hold off on marriage until his law practice was established, Louisa and her parents questioning the wait. John Quincy had held a position as diplomat in Holland and had been offered a position in Prussia. He would assume the job and marry Louisa in 1797. Financial trouble with her family would lead to martial strain, Louisa would make the most of her time in Prussia socializing with the royals while enduring the pain of multiple miscarriages. The pain would eventually subside with the welcoming of sons, George Washington Adams, John Adams. She would journey to America with her family where John Quincy would be elected to the Senate. Louisa would journey with her husband and youngest son to Russia in 1809 where John Quincy reigned as ambassador. Her separation from her other children, the loss of her only daughter, and her estrangement from John Quincy made for tough times. Her marriage weathered many crises and doubts, eventually John Quincy would be elected to the Presidency in 1824, making Louisa First Lady. Unfortunately, four years of quiet would not be in the cards.
Louisa Thomas’ biography of Louisa Adams reads like a novel. The book is full of complex personalities, such as Louisa, John Quincy Adams, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Adams, and Henry Clay. Louisa Adams is presented as a woman who loved her husband, her children, her family (Johnson & Adams), but also stubborn, depressed, and spoiled. She was possessed of a complex dynamic, but was never dull. She would be the story teller in writing her history, but not always completely honest with her readers or herself. The truth may not be what is wanted, but it is what counts.
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.
So As I Was Saying . . .: My Somewhat Eventful Life
The prescient quote above was taken on another dark day in American history, but it rings as true today; nothing has really changed.
For many years the author of this book, Frank Mankiewicz travelled with Robert Kennedy as his Press Secretary. Although Mankiewicz was born to movie industry heavy weights, he preferred to enter the world of politics. He helped found National Public Radio, served as a regional director of the Peace Corps and a mentor to many presidents and presidential contenders.
This is a “as told to” book based on the conversations the writer had with Mankiewicz over many years. Thus the book is anecdotal in nature. With such an interesting subject, I would have preferred a full on biography. I wanted more personal information about this famous player in American politics.
This book is filled with fragments and stories from a famous life and the people he knew. There are nice photographs included of Mankiewicz’s famous father, uncle, and family. If you have no famous favorite uncle to tell you stories, then this is the book for you.
Crowning Glory — An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise
Stacy has had an unhealthy obsession with her own locks since middle school, when a careless remark brought unwanted attention to her hairs deficiencies. Add to this the issues shes had with men and relationships, and going out in general, and shes had a lot to handle.
On a whim, she purchases a long, red wig, and notices not only the way people respond to her but also changes in her behavior. These events lead her to do an experiment using the same wig in various natural hair colors. In addition to doing important fashion research, it keeps her busy and focused for several weeks, perhaps stopping her critical evaluation of herself and her unpredictable states of psychosis.
She finds an assistant to help with observing and tabulating information, and sets up the experiment. She will wear basic black, tailored for various locations, in New York City, so the focus stays on the hair color. The last week, her control week, will be her natural hair, in the same clothing and the same general places. Her observations from each hair color red, black, blond, and brown include her honest take on her personality changes as she dons the locks about the city. She incorporates her assistants notes and includes related events that happen outside the experiments parameters.
Her honest recap of events sometimes borders on too much information, but helps to show her personal growth throughout the experiment. Her quick, witty self-evaluation during various phases of her experiment bring humor and lightness to something that could have been dry and boring, but is instead engaging and intellectually stimulating. Photographs that coordinate with each chapter help to bring visual interest. Even though the experiment did not strictly follow the accepted scientific research method, those reading this out of pure personal interest may find themselves agreeing with her findings and wondering about the role of hair color in society.