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?

nonfiction

Nonfiction November Week 4: Should Nonfiction Read like Fiction?

I am running behind but determined to continue with NonFiction November! This week’s assignment is:

Week 4: (Nov. 19 to 23) – Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

The short answer: YES. But, not necessarily. Allow me to elaborate.


The Short Answer

First, what does “reads like a novel” mean to me? For me to enjoy a novel I like the story to build before me. I need character development, growth, change, internal or external conflict (preferably both) and momentum. And, for nonfiction I don’t think my criteria is all that different except I put a lot more emphasis on momentum in nonfiction than I do when I read a novel. Some of my favorite nonfiction books read like novels to me because they capture my imagination and send me on a journey. In my opinion, this is the escapism quality of fiction.


My favorite Nonfiction that reads like Fiction.

poisonhandbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum has separate chapters for each of the poisons. But, in each she introduces you to a problem, a murder, or a group of individuals that grab your attention. She gives you characters. And, as the science identifies the poisons we are off on a journey, a race against time, to stop the people from being exposed to the newly identified substance. I always say that this book reads like a procedural crime drama. Which is why I recommend it every single time.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other fine books about poisons that I have read and not one of the them pulled me in or stuck with me the way The Poisoner’s Handbook has for all of these years. I try at all costs to avoid negative reviews here at SilverButtonBooks so I won’t mention them but just know, you have seen them in bookstores and non of them read as well as this gem.


messyMessy by Tim Harford is another fantastic book that uses character driven or news worthy anecdotes to draw you into a problem. Then, the solution is delivered via information, statistics and science in a way that solves said problem. Messy was a fast paced read that used jumping off points like, plane crashes, man made eradication of nature and terrible situations to show how disorder can positively transform our lives.

Messy reads less like a novel and more like a podcast. But each chapter blends seamlessly into the next and the sum total of the book ends up feeling like a fantastic television show.


askanastronautAsk an Astronaut by Tim Peake reads like an epistolary novel. Much like Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments or Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, Tim responds to written questions. But it is how he answers the questions that takes this NonFiction book from Dear Abby format to a back and forth between the famous astronaut and the general public. He organized the book like a memoire but gives you the action, adventure, terrifying facts and love of space in his answers. I will NEVER go to space but Tim convinced me why he did.

 


Speaking of Celebrity Memoirs…

Most of the celebrity memoirs that I have enjoyed through the years also read like well written fiction. They certainly have a character-driven feel, they often show us personal growth despite internal and external conflict and they are (if well written) fast paced. I think that is why they are easily accessible to the novel loving readers out there. Some of my favorites include:

Homey Don’t Play That, The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner. Peisner sets the stage for the enormous success of In Living Color with the history of Black Comedy but keeps the momentum up through the interweaving stories of the cast members and all those involved with the rise and fall of this hilarious show.

Bossypants by Tina Fey might be the celebrity memoire that everyone has read but there is a reason for this. Fey’s ability to tell her childhood stories (including how she got that scar) and weave her personal and professional stories together is just simply fun to read. But, at a closer look, it is a fantastic look at the rise of female driven comedies.

So…That Happened by Jon Cryer is my new favorite celebrity memoire. I just listened to it as an audiobook and it was like driving around with a friend for nine hours. He hits all of the gossipy checkmarks without becoming mean or spiteful and I loved him for it. It was also a great story about how a broadway kid experienced movie making and television for the last three decades.

Canada by Mike Myers is another favorite of mine. My giant crush on all things Canadian lead me to this book which is part celebrity memoire and part history of Canada. I would not only recommend the book but also the audiobook for the wonderful accents and explanations by Mr. Myers himself.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell will always be highly recommended by me. The comedian (who was unknown to me before this book) delivers his own celebrity memoirs but with the added relevance of the ongoing issues for Black people in America.


To further elaborate…

Does good nonfiction need to read like a novel? No. But, it makes it more fun, easier to consume and far easier to recommend. I have read many other NonFiction books that are so far from a novel they may as well be a textbook but loved them all the same. So, while I will still read a nonfiction book that is clearly not novel-like authors who write nonfiction as though it is to be enjoyed will always be appreciated for their efforts.


Tell me, please!

Do you think good Nonfiction reads like a novel?

nonfiction

Nonfiction November: Week 3. Be The Expert

I am still running behind on my Non Fiction November postings but I refuse to give up! This week is hosted by Julz at JulzReads. The directions are as follows:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I am fairly new to reading non fiction but the majority of my choices are lead by sheer interest at the moment. I enjoy medical, social, personal improvement, and celebrity memoirs equally. The one section of non fiction I can never resist is those books which help me become a more enthusiastic or well rounded reader. So, for my expert non fiction books I give you the following selection of books about books!

1000booksThis book, 1000 Books to Read Before You Die, A Life-Changing List by James Mustich is reminiscent of a grown up Rory Gilmore’s to-be-read list. Paging through this book I never fail to be impressed by the number of wonderful books that are there to be read. I keep this one handy for when I want to feel challenged and I’m looking for a book that I “should” read.

 

 

 

booklust

Book Lust, by Nancy Pearl is one that I have just recently picked up. Who could resist having a book on hand with recommendations “for every mood, moment, and reason?”

 

 

 

 

1001books

And speaking of books for every mood, this one is a veritable bible for me. 1001 Books for every Mood, by Hallie Ephron, Ph.D. was out of print when I stumbled across it at the library. I felt so lucky to find my own copy and I use it constantly to find books for when I am sad, happy, or in the mood to be scared. I cannot recommend this book enough and my only wish is that they put out a new version every year.

 

 

 

myidealbookshelfMy Ideal Bookshelf is one that many of my book loving friends has oogled over. This book takes individuals perfect bookshelves and turns them into art. I have spend many an hour trying to figure out my Ideal Bookshelf in the off chance I ever become famous enough to have someone want to paint it. This book does make you re-think certain celebrities as well when you realize that someone you admire reads books you hate and vice versa.

 

thebookofbooks

And finally we have the newest of the new books on books – The Book of Books. This is supposed to be America’s 100 best-loved novels but I will tell you honestly, the way in which they gathered the data for this publication gives me great pause. Some of these books are, quite simply, just very popular books (you all know these books, the one book your friend read on vacation and talks about constantly because it is the only book they read last year! Sorry for the mini rant.)

nonfiction

Nonfiction November: Fiction and Nonfiction Book Pairs

The second post for nonfiction November gives you a choice. I have selected to pair a fiction book with a nonfiction book as in, “If you liked that, you might like this.” You can see many other pairings on this weeks hosting site Sarah’s Book Shelves.


My pairing takes the fiction story Me Before you by Jojo Moyes and pairs it with the nonfiction collection of stories In Sickness and in Health, Love, Disability, and a Quest to Understand the Perils and Pleasures of Interabled Romance by Ben Mattlin.

In the off chance you haven’t read Me Before You, watched the movie or read the sequel, the story features Louisa and Will. Louisa takes a job caring for Will who has been in an accident. Prior to his accident, Will was an adventurous individual and full of life.  Since his injury has made him a quadriplegic he is questioning whether he can continue to live when he feels so limited. Louisa learns that he has some drastic plans and sets to change his mind.

Initially, I didn’t want to read about the story of an able-bodied, typically developed individual “rescuing” a person with disabilities. Still, people praised the book and, in the end, I did enjoy it. You can read my full review here.

In Sickness and in Health is written by Ben Mattlin. Ben is a self described crip who has experienced life from a wheelchair since the age of 4. He is married to ML who does not have a disability. He wrote about their marriage in his first book Miracle Boy Grows Up and the overwhelming response resulted in his second book. Ben interviews many different interabled couples in order to gain insight into how and why their relationships work.  Throughout, he interjects his thoughts, feelings and reflections about his relationship to ML.

If you enjoyed Me Before You I encourage you to pick up In Sickness and in Health. Ben Mattlin writes not just from experience but with the lens of understanding that is key to gaining insight into interabled marriages. And, he is funny.


Tell me, please!

Do either of these books interest you? Would you rather read a fictional or nonfictional account of an interabled relationship?

nonfiction

Nonfiction November: My Year in NonFiction

I am woefully behind in participating in nonfiction November but today I turn it all around! Actually, I have been reading non-fiction all month, I have just been terrible about sharing my books and blogging my thoughts.

The first assignment is hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness and is to look back over your year in nonfiction. I made nonfiction a priority for the first time this year and featured a number of wonderful books on my Non-Fiction Fridays. Below, you can see the covers of nearly all the books I read.


What was your favorite non-fiction read this year?

I would have to say Canada by Mike Myers was my favorite. I listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author, and was fascinated. If you follow me you will know that I have an enormous crush on Canada. I read this when I returned from my first trip through Canada and it both fed my crush and deepened my interest.


Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more than others this year?

This year has absolutely been full of autobiographical memoirs and humorous books. I think everyone needed more things to laugh about in 2018.  I have also, as you can see above, been deep into some weird science books.


What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

poisonhandbook

Above all others I recommend The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. It reads like a procedural crime novel and is the gateway drug to nonfiction.

 

 

 


What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Truthfully, I want the opportunity to prioritize nonfiction in my book selection and read about other people’s love of nonfiction!


Tell me, please!

How do you feel about nonfiction?

FrighteninglyGoodRead · nonfiction

FGR #5: Black Cats & Evil Eyes, A Book of Old-Fashioned Superstitions by Chloe Rhodes

I love to be obnoxiously in the know regarding little tidbits of information. I’ll never be smart enough to win a game of Jeopardy and I frequently miss major news headlines but I delight in sprinkling conversations with little know facts. And, since I also adore Halloween, a book that focuses on old-fashioned superstitions is perfect for me!

blackcats
A large black cat sits in the middle of a red and white book with other silhouettes of a ram and a crow.

Black Cats & Evil Eyes, A Book of Old-Fashioned Superstitions by Chloe Rhodes is a slender book stuffed full of superstitions and the history and basis for the belief. Each superstition is covered quickly – perhaps two or three pages – but so completely as to allow me to sound knowledgable about the subject. Perfection!

I immediately gravitated to superstitions that I actually practice. For example, picking up pennies. I have heard a lot of reasons to pick up or leave a fallen penny by now but the most prevalent one is certainly, “Find a penny, pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck.” However, the saying was originally, “See a pin and pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. See a pin and let it lie, you’ll feel want before you die.” Whether this saying originates with the encouragement to take pride in small tasks or the idea that pins are used in witchcraft remains a debate. But just think how much fun I will have throwing this little bit of information into everyday conversation!

Black Cats & Evil Eyes is the perfect book to read if you have always wondered why we believe things like; covering your mouth when you yawn is polite, putting shoes on the table is rude, burning cheeks means someone is talking about you, and (my favorite) the gift of a purse or a wallet should always include money. There are some really fascinating superstitions in this book and only a handful were unfamiliar to me.

Chloe Rhodes has written a book that makes me truly happy when I flip through it page by page. It is the perfect delightful mix of fascinating non-fiction information with a healthy heaping of Halloween feeling. An ideal Non-Fiction Friday Frightening Good Read!


Tell me, please!

What is a superstition that you hear frequently?

nonfiction

Homey Don’t Play That

homeydon'tplaythatHomey Don’t Play That!: The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner tells the tale of the formation, rise and dissolution of In Living Color. Peisner masterfully lays the groundwork for the success of In Living Color with the history of Black Comedy. This was a time when a lack of representation combined with the newness of stand up comedy to create a kinship among rising Black comedians. As they set their sights on fame like that experienced by Richard Prior, they honed their skills on stages in New York and Los Angeles. Some, Damon Wayans, were able to take his stand up one step farther.

Peisner also highlights the childhood and tight familial connectivity of the Wayans’ family. Keenan, Damon, Kim, Marlon, Shawn and their other five siblings all grew up in a small apartment in the boroughs of New York. Understanding how close they were as children and how they utilized that familial bond to deal with their economic and social struggles brings to light some of the many reasons that Wayans siblings work so well together.

The book further does justice to the lasting importance of In Living Color. The list of stars that started on In Living Color continues to weave through television, movies and music today. Not only did stars like the Wayans siblings come into the light on In Living Color but also Jim Carey and Jamie Foxx. Rosie Perez and Jennifer Lopez were Fly Girls. And, In Living Color highlighted hip-hop artists like Heavy D who wrote the theme song, Queen Latifah and Flavor Flav, Public Enemy and Ice Cube, and L.L. Cool J.

I remember when In Living Color debuted on television in 1990. This was when the Fox network was new and I was growing up in Springfield, Illinois. So, of course, I watched The Simpsons because every kid in every Springfield everywhere was out to prove that the Simpson family lived in their Springfield. In Living Color came on and I was hooked. My friends and I still say catch phrases we learned from David Allen Grier’s Men on Film, Jim Carey’s fire Marshall Bill and, of course, Jamie Foxx’s Wanda. In fact, every time I see a lone pickle in a jar I think of Damon Wayan’s Anton Jackson.

If you have never seen In Living Color, the comedy holds up better than the Fly Girl’s outfits. Of course there are a great many things that would never be acceptable to say on television today but the timing and deliver is still hilarious to witness. This book covers many of the controversies that were experienced through the years as well as the in-fighting and eventual departure and dissolution of the show.  I appreciated the depth of coverage the author offers as well as his neutral point of view. In fact, he often gives one dramatic or pivotal argument four or five different people’s recollections.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the history of comedy, the importance of representation in entertainment or if you were a fan of the show. I listened to it as an audiobook and found that it was difficult to keep all of the players straight. Also, the narrator had some unnatural pausing in his delivery that upset the flow of information. Still, these small issue should not stop anyone from enjoying this fantastic book.


Tell me, please!

Have you seen In Living Color? Any favorite memories?