Memoirs

Broken by Jenny Lawson

Now I have to go out and read everything by Jenny Lawson! She is absolutely hilarious in this memoir dealing with her perspective on her mental health issues. She writes at a frenetic pace, which takes some getting used to, but that pace also pulls you along and, as you hang on to the tide, you can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Lawson is wry and sardonic in her humor and is compelling in each of her chapters, but also touching. Her stories create an understanding with the reader, reaching out to say “I see you” to those struggling with their own issues.

I was new to Lawson’s work, but I am now a fan.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic advanced copy of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling

I listened to the audiobook version of this and I highly recommend it. Hearing the essays in Kahling’s voice added another layer to the book. Her stories are entertaining and touch on culture, dating, Hollywood, and a writer’s life. I’m going to listen to her other book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Fierce by Aly Raisman

I wish I’d had this book when I was 8…or 10… or 13. All through those years when I was so insecure about how I looked and so unconfident. While I was never going to be an Olympic athlete, or any kind of athlete, I would have really taken inspiration from this book. I was one of those girls who watched gymnastics (especially Olympic gymnastics) and admired all the gymnasts and felt like I knew what the sport was all about. I still watch, loving how the gymnasts get to see the results of their hard work (or feeling for them when they have deductions that kick them out of the medals). Aly has a body positive and inspiring tone to her book. More than just a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Olympic gymnastics (though there’s plenty of that), its a look into the mind of an ambitious young woman where ambition isn’t always rewarded as it should be.

I loved how open she was about her life while still maintaining her privacy (especially about the sexual abuse she suffered, something I wrote about for my job as a news writer when the Larry Nassar scandal broke). She maintains her dignity while still speaking out for survivors and for young girls who could find themselves in a difficult situation. She’s a great role model for young women, especially, but also for boys on how to relate well to girls and women. 

I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not huge into sports, but especially if you are into the Olympics and/or gymnastics.

Rating: 5 stars

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain provided a deep dive behind the scenes of some of New York City’s famous (Rainbow Room) and not so famous restaurant kitchens. A gritty (and foul-mouthed) look at what it’s like in the militaristic hierarchy on the kitchen line, Bourdain shows the interesting, and sometimes ugly, side of where upscale food is made. He minces no words about his own experiences starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to chef in various restaurants. The book was written while he was chef at Les Halles, before he went on to host his own travel-food show on CNN. He outlines his successes, his many failures, and the inner workings of restaurants. The book is filled with colorful characters (many pseudonyms are used) unique insights into human character, especially his own.

Some parts of the book unappealingly gritty or revealing, but anyone who’s ever thought that they wanted to be a chef (not me, especially not now) needs to read this book. It also a good book for restaurant patrons who want to be “in the know” about the origins and etiquette surrounding their food.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, which is narrated by Bourdain whose own voice adds more life to his words. I recommend it.

Rating: 5 stars

The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley

Andre Leon Talley is a pillar in the last 40 years of the fashion industry. And insider, first at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, then at Women’s Wear Daily and W, and finally at Vogue, Talley has all the scoop on those in the know of the fashion industry. This dishy book names names and gives an inside look at Talley’s 40 year friendship with Chanel’s late Karl Lagerfeld and a unique look at his on-and-off friendship with Vogue editor Anna Wintour. He name checks throughout the book, with talk of YSL, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, even a bit about Alexander McQueen. The book also focuses on his experiences as a black, gay man in fashion and his continuing battle with his weight. He serves up the scoop with manners in line with his Southern heritage. It’s a great ride for anyone with an interest in fashion, but could feel a little dense for those who don’t know all the names (especially the early ones). This is definitely aimed at fashion fans, not fashion beginners.

Rating: 5 stars

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

I listened to this on audiobook, which I love to do with books of essays. It’s read by the author and the work comes through in a much more touching way through audio. The author shares about her life and work and family, all tied together with a quote from her son which makes the title of the book.

It’s not really a how-to, lessons on life type of book, but you certainly can learn from Philpott’s experiences. The essays give insight not only into her life, but into how we shape our lives as well. Never preachy, Philpott shares her experiences in a way that is relatable and gives you hope that your life is full of interesting experiences too.

Rating: 4 stars