Bossypants

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Hilarious and motivating. I can’t believe I hadn’t read this earlier. My advice: Read it.

Some of Tina Fey’s advice:

“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”

“Sometimes if you have a difficult decision to make, just stall until the answer presents itself.”

“When choosing sexual partners, remember: Talent is not sexually transmittable.”

Bossypants is a comedy infused memoir. Knowing little about Tina Fey and having watched SNL only a few times, I still loved the book.

This is not a book of advice. It is not a book like Lean In or #Girl Boss (both fantastic books) that is directly aimed at inspiring women to make a mark in their profession. But it inspiring all the same. Valuable life tips come across in the form of jokes and true stories.

Light hearted, good for almost all ages, and a fast read. Bossypants is one of the better books that I have read this year.

Why I picked it up: I got it for my roommate a couple of years ago because I knew she liked Tina Fey. She loved it, so I decided to buy it when I saw it again a few days ago.

Why I finished it: As I said earlier, great book.

Who I’d recommend it to: Young adults onwards. Women will probably like it more, but if you like SNL, funny people, good books or 30 Rock…you’ll enjoy this.

Lost in Shangri-La

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Lost in Shangri-La was an average book. The problem with reading a fascinating historical book, like Unbroken, is that everything afterward of that genre pales in comparison. I made the mistake of going into Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff thinking “wow a World War II story involving a hidden valley and complex rescue mission, this’ll be as unbelievable as Unbroken.” It wasn’t.

I’m not saying Lost in Shangri-la isn’t worth a try. But it’s not a life-changing, perspective altering, crazy addicting read. It’s a somewhat dense fact-laden story that occasionally got bogged down in details that I, an average reader with no aviation experience or military training, didn’t always follow or care about. 

The book focuses on the three survivors of a plane crash in a remote valley in New Guinea and the rescue team that worked to save them. Although the rescue was a difficult feat and the the survivors interactions with the natives of the area (who had previously never had contact with the outside world) was anthropologically significant, the story lacked many “whoa, that’s crazy” moments.

The author doesn’t quite bring make a connection felt between the reader and the characters, which kept me from feeling emotionally invested in the outcome of the book. I liked the characters well enough, but I didn’t love any.

Every once in a while, I’d hit a patch that was great- I’d read and read- then suddenly, it became dry again and I would slow back down. If I could go back in time, I still would have read it, but I don’t foresee more of Zuckoff’s books in my future, since they seem to be written in similar style to this one.

Why I picked it up: As I said before, I thought “wow a World War II story involving a hidden valley and complex rescue mission, this’ll be as unbelievable as Unbroken.”

Why I finished it: This book didn’t live up to my expectations, but it was well-researched and a decent read.

Who I’d recommend it to: History enthusiasts that don’t mind a factual, informative book with some good narrative bits mixed in. 

Brain on Fire

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Wow. Horrifying and incredible. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan is a stunning memoir of a young reporter who, suddenly and inexplicably, goes mad.

Cahalan writes her story about a month that she still can barely remember- the month when a recently discovered autoimmune diseased caused her body to attack her brain.

The book is a scary journey from the early signs of paranoia to full-blown catatonia to slow recovery. Although some of the medical parts of this story get a little dry, they only last a couple of paragraphs and are useful in giving us a more complete background for understanding the wild events that take place.

Brain on Fire is unique, both in the narrative itself and in that Cahalan is able to write her memoir with a distance from her own story that is typically difficult to find. Much of her information on that month comes from interviews, research, and videos. You get Cahalan’s perspective as both an outsider reporting on the anomaly, as well as the terrifying personal feelings of “what is happening to me??”

The fact that a good deal of others have had a similarly harrowing experience, many never diagnosed, haunts the goods news that arrives in the last few chapters.

If you give this book a shot, be prepared to feel both awed and mildly disturbed at this work of nonfiction.

Why I picked it up: Read the back cover or description on Amazon. How could you not read it after that?

Why I finished it: I couldn’t stop reading it, except for brief breaks used to recapture happy thoughts, before diving back in.

Who I’d recommend it to: It really is a good, fascinating read, but Brain on Fire is not for hypochondriacs or anyone that gets freaked out easily.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

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“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.” -Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken

I know I’m behind the curve on reading this. After all Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, has been on the New York Times Bestseller’s list for more than three years. Even though it’s now out in paperback, it is still a hardcover nonfiction bestseller (as well as #1 on the paperback nonfiction bestseller’s list).

But still, as possibly my favorite book that I’ve ever read and from experience working in a bookstore and encountering people that have also missed the memo that this book is unforgettable and undeniably amazing, I think it deserves a review.

Unbroken is a book that could be two books, three books, or even four books. Louis Zamperini lived (he unforutnately passed away recently) a life that goes from troublesome boy to internationally-known runner to prisoner of war and survivor to inspirational speaker. It is incredible what he endured- so incredible that if this book had been fiction, you probably would’ve laughed at the implausibility.

Even more astonishing is the thread of hope and unrelenting determination that exists throughout the book and the ultimate message of forgiveness that Zamperini lives by in the aftermath of his hardships.

It is a combination of both Zamperini’s story and Hillenbrand’s ability to write that makes this book such a hit. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, the book sets up readers to constantly be shocked and moved as Zamperini’s powerful story is revealed in details carefully researched by Hillenbrand.

There is so much packed into each page that it is the type of book that would typically take me a while to get though, but Unbroken is so riveting that it is hard to put down.

Why I picked It up: Everyone kept telling me it was a must-read.

Why I finished it: Because they were all right.

Who I’d recommend it to: Everyone from middle school on up should read Unbroken.

Also, Unbroken is released at movie theaters December 25th, 2014. I highly recommend reading the book before then. Watch the Unbroken Trailer here.