nonfiction

NonFiction Friday: Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss

springfieldconfidentialI grew up in one of the many Springfields scattered across the United States. Nearly all Springfield natives get asked the same questions immediately after naming their hometown, “Oh, like The Simpsons?” And we try to explain that no Springfield is the Springfield. Then the conversation continues until we are forced to identify the part of The Simpsons that is our Springfield. It is a testament to the joy and hilarity of the show that any Springfield kid still loves it and, in our heart, we are a little proud to have the connection.

When I saw Springfield Confidential, Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss I knew I had to read it. I love good natured backstage information about popular shows, especially one I grew up watching. And this book did not disappoint!

Mike Reiss is talented and funny and this book was well organized, easy to read and full of anecdotes for major fans and general comsumers fans alike. Even if you have never watched a single episode of The Simpsons you have probably seen Mike’s work as a television writer and script doctor (Despicable Me and more!). He is also a children’s book author, a four time Emmy award winner, and a former President of the Harvard Lampoon. He has all the qualifications of a comic and the rare gift of delivery as well.

Mike walks us through the early days of The Simpsons, how it came to be on the fledgling Fox channel, and how it has successfully maintained the popularity required to be on the air for thirty years. I may have picked the book up for the annecdotes and behind the scenes scoops but I found myself blown away by the amount of manpower that goes into a single episode! If you have ever wanted to write for television, especially illustrated television, make sure and look at Mike’s 23-step, 9 month process that is used for each of the twenty-two episodes. It sounds like a Herculean feat to me!

And, while the book’s main focus might be The Simpsons, the book is at least half a story of what it is like to work as a writer in Hollywood. I was fascinated to see Mike’s attempts (successful and failed alike) to become and stay a working writer. Mike also took two years off of The Simpson’s and tried to retire. During that time he worked as a script doctor, a children’s book illustrator and travelled extensively. In the end, though, he found himself right back with his Simpson’s crew.

If you are pondering a career writing for television I highly recommend this book. Likewise, if you are a Simpson’s fan, you will enjoy all the funny and interesting bits of trivia Mike discloses here. Either way, this was a fast and fun read.


Just in case you were wondering, my Springfield has the nuclear power plan directly on the man made lake. As a kid I was never allowed to swim in that water. Also, it is the home of Abraham Lincoln so we also claim (probably erroneously) that Homer’s Dad is named for our Abe.


Tell me, please!

How weird is it that The Simpson’s has been on for 30 years?!


nonfiction

Nonfiction Friday, February 1, 2019: Ikigai by Ken Mogi

The self-help section of a bookstore can be overwhelming. Occasionally, I will just bring a whole shelf home from the library and flick through them looking for something inspirational. I am always looking for something that feels realistic but doesn’t overwhelm me.  Ikigai really caught my eye. According to the jacket description Ikigai is a Japanese idea commonly understood as “your reason to get up in the morning.” I was curious as to whether this would support my some of my New Year’s goals.

ikigaiAwakening Your Ikigai, How the Japenese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi is a basic primer in what is Ikigai and how to cultivate it in your own life. Even my elementary understanding of the history of the Japanese people would lead one to believe that joy is a struggle for them to find. After all, Japan has experienced all the disasters Mother Nature has to offer and has repeatedly been ravaged by war. How could a culture with so much tragedy and one which prizes homogeny experience daily joy? After all, Americans are raised on the idea that individuality and success pave the road to happiness. It turns out, Ikigai is not far from my Mother’s own advice. Joy comes from within.

According to author Ken Mogi, Ikigai is the discovering, defining, and appreciating of life’s pleasures that have meaning for you. You can do this through the five pillars of Ikigai: starting small, releasing oneself, finding harmony and sustainability, finding joy in small things, and being in the here and now. Mr. Mogi explains that Japanese tea ceremony and Sumo wrestling as activities which contain all five pillars but emphasizes that anything that grows your Ikigai is going to result in a happier and more fulfilled life. He cites Jiro Ono making sushi and Hayao Miyazaki’s movies as examples of Ikigai in action. And he addresses the Japanese culture of conformity by explaining that our private joy does not need to be worn on the outside but rather can be kept close to our hearts.

I know people have used the idea of hygee to decorate their homes. It just did not resonate with me. That is just far too many candles and cozy blankets for my sanity. And, I know people adore KonMari method which empathizes minimalism and a tidy home as the path to happiness. But, while I could see what Marie Kondo was trying to accomplish, I don’t have that level of interest in tidiness to see it through. I felt like Goldilocks, this one was too cozy and this one was too cold.

However, Ikigai resonated with me as a way to find my own unique path to joy. A just right for me approach if you will. And, the most poignant part of the book for me was the selection which discusses “focusing illusion” or the grass-is-greener mentality. Ken Mogi emphasizes that happiness is accepting yourself today and finding joy in your path for tomorrow rather than believing happiness will happen when something occurs or if a goal is met.

This short book has really inspired me to accept who I am and be happy with that person. That doesn’t mean I need to live in stasis. Rather, developing my Ikigai will help me grow into the best version of myself.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a self-help book that really resonated with you?


nonfiction

Conan Doyle for the Defense

I will readily admit that while I adore all things Sherlock Holmes, I am more in love with the character and the idea of Sherlock than I am the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Still, when I saw Conan Doyle for the Defense being highlighted during this year’s NonFiction November I was so excited. A nonfiction story of how the creator of the world’s most famous detective interceded on behalf of wrongly convicted individuals….perfect.

conandoyleUnfortunately, this book has me feeling as though I just finished a Sherlock story. I feel as though I am in love with the idea of the book and certainly the hundreds of details I learned but it was, like Conan Doyle’s writing, a little boring to actually read. While this is a positive review (as all are on SilverButtonBooks) this little note needed to be said from the beginning.

One of the struggles the book tries to overcome is the sheer amount of knowledge that you must have in order to comprehend how important Conan Doyle’s intervention was at the time. Author Margarit Fox tries to explain the historic problems with the criminal justice system in Scotland. She also highlights the erroneous and unethical police work of the time. And, she includes the background, training, and ethical rules of the great Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. Furthermore, Ms. Fox weaves into the book societal issues including, immigration, selectively prevailing Victorian attitudes, and changing views towards Jewish people. Finally, there are a great number of letters written back and forth between the prisoner and his family that are important to read but come abruptly into and out of the narrative. The book could have been broken down into several separate books or edited in a way that more gracefully highlights the pertinent facts but it did not. Still, with all of this, I challenge you to read this book and not be blown away by the experiences of all involved.

Like most stories of wrongly convicted men, this book left me indignant as to the treatment of Oscar Slater, a German Jewish immigrant who is imprisoned for nearly twenty years for a murder he did not commit. I was also surprised by the lack of appeals courts in Scotland during that time, a fact I had never really given much thought. And, of course, the unethical police work was simply shocking. From the very first clue, Oscar should have been taken off the list of suspects. Add to the the prevailing ideals of the day and the prejudices against both immigrants and Jewish people and it is no wonder that Oscar was arrested. How could an immigrant living with a woman of dubious morals who makes money as a card shark expect to receive a fair and impartial trial?

And into all of this mess wades Arthur Conan Doyle. Newly married to his second wife, this was not Conan Doyle’s first foray into righting the wrongs of the criminal justice system but it would be his longest and his most important. His steadfast morals combined with his eye for detail honed through years living inside of Sherlock’s head brought him at the right time to correct this enormous wrong. Still, it wasn’t quick work and Conan Doyle fought, on and off, for years for justice for Oscar.

This book has left me wanting to know so much more about Arthur Conan Doyle and the man on which he based Sherlock, Dr. Bell. Conan Doyle for the Defense also gave me so much new information about a time period I thought I understood. Some times, the best thing a nonfiction book can do is feed your curiosity. This book does that and more even though it was certainly not the easiest book to read.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever loved a character or information from a book even though you didn’t completely enjoy reading the book?


nonfiction

NonFiction Friday: Atomic Habits by James Clear

When I started graduate school I put on unwanted weight for the first time in my life. I didn’t own a scale and I lived in an apartment with no full length mirror. As such, I didn’t even realize the weight was there until the fateful day I went swim suit shopping. This is the major downside to always buying clothes that are comfortable, they fail to send you early warning signs before you try on a bikini. I needed to work out but I didn’t know how to start or what to do. I joined a gym and I figured that going and doing something – anything – was better than sitting in my comfy clothes feeling gross about my health. Little did I know that I was employing what James Clear has labelled an, “atomic habit.” I made it a habit of showing up at the gym four to five times a week until I felt great about my fitness level for the first time in my life.

atomichabitsJames Clear began by writing articles on his website in 2012. He had been experimenting with habits for years and started publicly sharing his ideas and in a little over a year found himself with 100,000 subscribers (color me jealous). After reading his simple strategies for changing your life one habit at a time I can see why he has become the habit guru he is today. If I had an extra $300 I would be tempted to enroll in his Habits Academy.

Mr. Clear argues that, “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” And by improving yourself just 1% at a time you’re changing yourself on an atomic level. Perhaps the change isn’t detectable but eventually the fruits of your habitual labor will be tangible or visible. He backs up his theories with powerful anecdotes and lays out a clear four step method to either build up a good habit or break down a bad one. I thought the following paragraph summed up his ideology perfectly.

We rarely think about change… (in terms of the smallest action) because everyone is consumed by the end goal. But one push-up is better than not exercising. One minute of guitar practice is better than none at all. One minute of reading is better than never picking up a book. It is better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.

After being inspired by Badass I wanted to work towards my awesome life. Atomic Habits lays down the foundation for me to make small changes that will bring that new amazing life 1% closer everyday. Or, as Mr. Clear says, “Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”


Tell me, please!

Do you think changing your habits can change your life?


nonfiction

Non Fiction Friday: You are a Badass…by Jen Sincero

I love New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, I just love making goals. I also make birthday resolutions and summer resolutions. New Year’s Day is a great time to harness the energy to start working on them. I am usually trying to pick up a new skill or cultivate a habit. But, if you are unhappy with life and want a major change what do you do? I recommend starting that journey by reading You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero.

YoubadassHow many of us are living the life we have always dreamed of living? If you are then thank you for making my blog part of your ideal life! If not, perhaps you are getting in between yourself and happiness. Jen Sincero is a self made life coach and, while I have never had any life coaching, I wish I could hire her. Her positive, no nonsense approach to setting goals, believing in yourself, and expecting good things to come in life is inspirational.

Typically, these types of book start with an author talking about their own personal roadblocks and points are usually given for traumatic / terrifying / mind-blowing awful experiences. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this author just wanted to live a happier life. No trauma required. She was just broke and not living anywhere near her dream. That meant that listening to her transform into a badass was, more than anything else, great fun to listen to. Also, it made me feel like pushing myself and setting higher goals didn’t mean that I was unhappy now, just that I could be even more fulfilled.

The author begins by focusing on self identifying our own preconceived notions about life. I thought this was an ingenious place to start becoming a badass. So many people I know believe that a “good job” is what their parents had – even though they know full well that their parents were never happy. Or, they have ideas about relationships or money that are subconsciously are keeping them from living that awesome life. The idea that the journey to self-reinvention has to start with self awareness seems to obvious after reading the book but I never really reflected on this before.

I borrowed the audiobook version of this book and the author narrates it herself. While I really enjoyed listening to her, I need to get a physical copy of the book. I want to live that awesome life and to do so I need to revisit some of the ideas in this book! There is one thing she ingrained into me: You start with you. Embrace your badassery. Then live that awesome life!


Tell me, please!

What would be your ideal job?


 

nonfiction

National Trivia Day!

I received the cutest calendar for Christmas that tells me something I can celebrate everyday of the year. Yesterday was Women Rock and so I attended a showing of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, photography, and fashion. Today is National Trivia Day! My Dad got me hooked on trivia as a kid and I love it. I didn’t realize how many trivia books I owned until I went looking to celebrate toady. Here are a few of my favorites.


50875087 Trivia Questions and Answers by Marsha Kranes, Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius is where my trivia collection began. My Dad gave me his copy and I brought it on a long road trip with my best friend as a way to keep ourselves entertained. We took turns asking each other questions and laughing at how much we didn’t know. It is a big wide world of information out there people! I have owned this book from long before you could just say, “Hey Siri / Alexa / Cortana…” and I still flip through it for fun.

 

orderofthingsThe Order of Things is not a pure trivia book but it is one of my favorites to spark an interest in new subject matters. It lists, in order, all of the things in the world and until you look through it you won’t believe how deeply our world is interconnected.

 

 

 

Daily Dose of Knowledge and The Handy History Answer Book are both trivia books around my pet subject. I love anything historical and have used both of these books sporatically to foster a lifetime of learning about history.

condensedI love mental floss so when I saw this irreverent guide I had to have it. The Condensed Knowledge reads like mental floss, full of information and ripe with humor. The perfect combination!

 

 

 

 

thirtyThirty Days Has September, Cool Ways to Remember Stuff by Chris Stevens is the absolute best book for taking all that trivia and putting it together in ways that help you memorize it and seamlessly regurgitate it. If you ever have to cram for a pub trivia night this is the book for you.

 

 

 

 

 

commonCommon Phrases and Where They Come From by John Mordock and Myron Korach is the trivia book for etymology enthusiasts.  If you have ever wondered why we say things like “on the fence” this book is for you. A warning: this is the kind of trivia that helps you find friends for life or enemies in the office. Use sparingly.

 

 

 

 

 

2548 best thingsAnd, this one is not really trivia, but The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said is more like trivia-eque quoting at its best. I have always wanted to be savvy enough with quotes to use another person’s words to capture my own ideas. Since this quote book is divided up into subject matter it is perfect for me. Now, when I need something to say about marriage or taxes I have a selection to choose from!

 

 

 

 

good job brainGood Job, Brain! is from a popular pub quiz podcast (unbeknownst to me until I saw this book!) and I grabbed it during my quick trip to the library yesterday. I already love the Q and A style of the book and I plan to find a willing victim to play trivia with me sometime this weekend.

 

 


Happy National Trivia Day!!

Tell me, please.

Do you enjoy trivia?


Audio Book · funny · nonfiction

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

One of my longstanding personal quotes is, “Laugh or Cry, you choose!” I say this to myself when I become overwhelmed and I try to reflect on the humor in the situation. But, I know that mental health is no joke and it can rob people of the ability to control this choice. So what do you do if your life is deeply affected by mental health? Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) forced herself to be “furiously happy” to balance those times her mental illness makes her unfathomably sad. She invited us on her journey in accepting her mental health and the hilarity of it all in her new book Furiously Happya Funny Book about Horrible Things.

furiouslyhappyI have never read Jenny Lawson’s blog, I didn’t follow her on Twitter and, honestly, she wasn’t on my radar at all.  But, someone highlighted her book on WWW Wednesday and I dutifully added it to my to-be-read pile. Mostly, I fell in love with the hilarious taxidermy raccoon (Rory) on the cover of the book. When the audiobook caught my eye I downloaded it simply because I needed something to listen to during my commute and it was immediately available. All of these cosmic connections resulted in my listening to and falling deeply in love with Jenny Lawson. (I hereby promise I will not stalk you Jenny, tell Victor not to worry).

Now see how I have referred to this total stranger by her first name? And, I write as though I know her husband? This is the talent of a well-written memoirist. They make the reader feel like they have a new friend, one they know and understand on a deeper level. But what elevates this memoir to a whole new level is that my new friend Jenny managed to weave awareness and understanding of mental illness through her book so seamlessly. After listening to her read her own story I feel like I have a much better understanding of mental illness, taxidermy, depression, the perils of traveling through Australia, and the power of acceptance in equal measure.

Jenny’s decision to live Furiously Happy has changed her life. Perhaps her book will alter yours. All I know is that I would really like to thank her for explaining the nuances of mental health to me. And I would really like to hold Rory for a bit. Please?!?


Tell me, please!

What books do you recommend for understanding mental illness?


Audio Book · nonfiction

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I remember hearing long long ago that Carrie Fisher did not love Princess Leia and she was tired of being compared to her. I vividly recall being crushed by that idea. Princess Leia was my hero growing up. She was strong, confident, beautiful, smart, capable…basically the total package. If you had become famous and synonymous with a character, wouldn’t Princess Leia be the ideal?! But, as I grew I began to understand how having your personal identity become confusingly intertwined with a fictional character might be difficult. When I saw that Carrie Fisher had recorded her audiobook of The Princess Diarist I wanted to listen to it and I hoped she would be able to explain her complex feelings about one of my favorite sci-fi characters.

The Princess DiaristI was thrilled that Carrie spent a great deal of time in her book addressing her lifelong relationship with her silver screen alter ego. Of course, there were some wonderful stories about her childhood and adolescence, her experience auditioning for Star Wars, and the long hidden affair she had with Harrison Ford. But her beautiful words about her ever-changing perception of herself and how being identified interchangeably with Leia affected her were truly life changing for me. Her story helped me redefine how to reconcile self-identification with the public’s perception of who they think you are.

I cannot talk about Carrie Fischer without stopping to reflect on her amazing writing skills. Her daughter, Billie Lourd, read the diary sections from her time filming Star Wars and her writing skills at 20 were jaw dropping. I found myself sitting, parked in my car, just letting the gorgeous phrases roll over me. I knew that Carrie had worked as a script doctor and I have read at least one of her prior books but, truly, I had not taken the time to recognize incredibly talented she was as a writer.

It has been almost a year since Carrie Fisher’s untimely death. I could not have imagined listening to this audiobook earlier in the year but as the anniversary came closer and closer I craved just a few more minutes with my first Princess. The book gave me that and so much more. If you are even vaguely interested I heartily recommend listening to this Grammy award winning audiobook.


Tell me, please!

Who is your favorite Star Wars character?

Please, if you don’t love Star Wars, don’t admit it to me because then I will have to defend my fandom and I have huge chunks of time in the coming weeks that I can dedicate to this.

Audio Book · nonfiction

So That Happened, by Jon Cryer

The movie Pretty in Pink came out in 1986. I’m not sure how old I was when I saw it but I remember absolutely hating everything about it….except Ducky. Since the moment Andie chose Blane (for the love of all that is holy….Blane??) over Ducky I hated Molly Ringwald and pink dresses forever. But, I have held a special place in my heart for Jon Cryer. So, when I saw he had a celebrity memoir out I wanted to read it. I worried that he would stoop to gossip but I still wanted to take the opportunity to spend more time with the delightful actor whose career I have followed all of these years.

sothathappenedHe has wonderful stories of growing up in New York City and of his mother’s and father’s careers on Broadway. Truthfully, I didn’t realize how incredibly varied his talent was until I heard about his life. The sheer amount of work he put into honing his craft is impressive but learning that he attended the prestigious Bronx School of Science added an additional, and alluring, facet to the actor. Since he frequently plays neurotic or anxious individuals who are nerdy it is nice to know that he connects with these characters on a personal level.

With celebrity memoirs there is always the possibility of gratuitous gossip. Jon does talk about his first famous girlfriend (Demi Moore), his costars in Pretty in Pink, and a variety of other famous people who have crossed his path. But, at no time did I feel like he was being mean or spiteful. I didn’t learn anything about anyone else that I didn’t already know. He kept the focus on himself and his own drama. Still, when you work (twice) with Charlie Sheen and you have a front row seat to the implosion that was Charlie’s last year on Two and a Half Men it is hard to tell your story without including Charlie. I would argue that he did so in an incredibly respectful manner. In fact, I would have been comfortable listening to this book with Charlie Sheen.

Now, I did learn a whole lot about the movie business and how a storyline can dramatically change. For example, did you know that Ducky and Andie were supposed to end up together? But the test audience (those horrible people) thought Andie deserved the rich guy and they had to re-film the ending!! They ruined it. This and many other wonderful anecdotes were shared by Jon.

I had the added bonus of listening to the audio version of this book. Jon Cryer read it himself and he is as talented a narrator as he is a storyteller. I enjoyed the way he loved the characters he portrayed and you could certainly feel the his enjoyment he gets from acting.

My only complaint about this audiobook was it was only 9+ hours long. I could have spent at least another 9 listening to Jon’s stories. He may not actually be Ducky but he managed to make me love that character even more.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever loved a character enough to follow the actor forever?

nonfiction

NonFiction November Week 5: New to My TBR

I have finally arrived at week 5! I have loved every minute of my chaotic NonFiction November and I cannot wait to participate next year. It is hard to say goodbye to such a wonderful event but I am walking away with so many new books added to my TBR. This week is hosted by Katie at DoingDewey and the prompt is:

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

EatingAnimalsEating Animals I found on Rita’s site and she assures me that this book will give me the environmental and scientific principals behind and vegetarian / vegan diet without the scare tactics. As a former vegetarian I try to follow a quasi kind diet but perhaps this book will bring me back completely into the fold.

 

 

 

diaryofabooksellerAmy-Louise gave me two of my new-to-my-TBR books. The first one, The Diary of a Bookseller is a sure fire win for me because, obviously, it has a bookstore on the cover. Any book featuring maps or bookstores goes automatically on my TBR list.

 

 

the secret barristerThe second one from Amy-Louise is The Secret Barrister. The cover of this book looks like  a Sherlock Holmes novel and reads “stories of the law and how it’s broken.” I have to read it.

 

 

 

 

searchingforamazonsI’m always in the mood for strong women and so Searching for the Amazons really caught my eye when I saw it on Luna’s blog. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

 

 

 

 

 

conandoyleFinally, the book I am most excited to have found this month is Conan Doyle for the Defense which I spotted on the wonderful site, WordsandPeace.


Tell me, please!

If you have been participating in NonFiction November or following along, what have you added to your TBR?