Tag Archives: autobiography

Review: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

nphRecap: You may recognize him as Doogie Howser. Or that other weird doctor, Dr. Horrible. To you, he may be Barney Stinson. Or a very angry Hedwig. Or he may just be the high guy from Harold and Kumar. Either way, Neil Patrick Harris has made quite the imprint on Hollywood in the past 25 years he’s been in the business. Like many other stars, he uses his celebrity here to write his own memoir, but NPH is far too cool to just run your everyday, run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. After all, he loves magic. So he makes his memoir a little more magical by writing it in the form of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books of yesteryear. Finish a chapter, and choose between options like this: “If you need a drink to calm down, turn to page 45. If you need to wake your brain back up, turn to page 150. To continue your stage career, willkommen/bienvenue/welcomeim/au/to page 130. To attempt to relaunch your movie career, turn to page 124.”

Some chapters are silly absurdist fake short stories he’s written about his life. Some are recipes for his favorites food and cocktails. Some are magic tricks. But most are real stories from his life, including his time as a child star, the years when he was “washed up” in his twenties, his various stints in theater, his comeback into movies and television, his coming out of the closet both personally and publicly and the process he and his husband went through to have their children.

NPH has led every kind of life you can feature in an autobiography, so he gives us, the reader, the choice to read whichever one we like.

Analysis: The truth is I didn’t follow the choose your own adventure format and just read straight through the book. I think most people do — considering NPH wrote in an extra page in the book that no chapter urges you to turn to; clearly he knew people would find it because they’re lazy like me and just reading straight through. That said, the book is enjoyable either way. It zigs and zags through his life — some of it in order, some out of order. Some of the absurdist fake story chapters had me rolling my eyes thinking ‘why did I even bother to read these two pages?’ But the rest of the book more than makes up for it.

The struggles he’s faced in his career, in figuring out his sexuality and in having a family are as real as they get. NPH may appear to have it all, but it took him a long time and a lot of strife to get there. The sections about his children moved me to tears. He keeps his sense of humor throughout every page of the book, even if it’s in just the directions at the end of a chapter. His Barney Stinson silliness wreaks havoc on the book in the best way possible. This was by far the most creatively written memoir I’ve ever read and easily one of the most enjoyable, fun, and deeply moving.

Get Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography in hardcover for just $4.29.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: When Breath Becomes Air

41ozmb3iwvl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Recap: Paul Kalanithi is on the up-and-up. He is an aspiring neuroscientist with big dreams of performing difficult surgeries, saving lives and eventually writing a book in his later years. With degrees in medicine and literature, he has his whole life mapped out. But his marriage is failing. And with his graduation from residency within his grasp, he begins to experience fatigue and horrific back pain. As a doctor, he knows this can only mean one thing: cancer.

After lots of tests, doctors and people in disbelief, it turns out he is right. Kalanithi has a rare form of cancer, at the age of 36. He goes into treatment. He strengthens his relationship with his wife. He fights it. He gets better. And then he gets worse. He knows the end is near. And suddenly he must fast forward his life plans. But by how much? How much time does he have left? He ultimately learns there’s no way of knowing, and he has no choice but to accept that. But as his life comes to an end, he writes this beautiful, touching memoir. Kalanithi now lives on forever in his words and leaves the most important lessons he’s learned for all of us.

Analysis: I purchased this book in the final days of my father’s life. At the time, I was desperate to understand — medically — what was happening to him. He had Alzheimer’s and was unconscious, so I knew he had  little, if any, logical brain activity. But his breaths were fewer and fewer each minute, and his skin had begun the mottling process. I was suddenly hearing terms I’d never heard before and wanted to know everything about them. Ultimately, the hospice nurses encouraged my mother and I to leave my father’s side and not come back. I wondered if she was trying to imply that maybe he was holding on simply because we were in the room with him. Or maybe she just didn’t want us to see all the other horrible — and gross bodily things — that happen when a person dies. So we left, and my husband and I visited what has always been one of my favorite places in my hometown:  Barnes and Noble. I purchased this book along with a self-help book. I was seeking answers that day.

My dad died two days after that. And yet, I didn’t begin reading When Breath Becomes Air until five months later. Mostly I was busy and wasn’t reading very much at all. But when I went away on a short vacation five months later, I knew this was a book I could knock out in just a few days. (I am not a fast reader.) Retrospectively, I wonder if I waited to read it because I subconsciously knew I needed time to digest my father’s death before reading about Paul Kalanithi’s death. Or maybe I was jealous of the way Paul passed away — not jealous of his age or his condition but of his ability to process his oncoming death in a way that my father mentally could not.

Either way, this book helped me process not just my father’s death, but death in general, which was something I desperately needed. After reading this book, I have accepted that ultimately we all face death and never know when it will hit us. In the way mortality often does, this memoir reaffirms the necessity  of living life to the fullest and cherishing each day. But it also tells us that it is okay if certain dreams aren’t achieved in our lifetime. It’s not what we do that’s important, but who we do it with and how we lived — in more general terms. Though he spends most of his life seeking the meaning of life and death, Paul Kalanithi doesn’t find his answer until his end. But he does the most heavenly, generous thing of all: he gives us all a glimpse into what he learned, in the hopes that we will all live more fully. So I will do that — for Paul and for my dad.

Get When Breath Becomes Air in hardcover for $17.50.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

scrappy-little-nobody-9781501117206_lgRecap: Actress and singer Anna Kendrick proves she’s as funny as you think she is in this bestselling memoir about her path to becoming a Tony and Oscar-nominated actress, best known for her role in Pitch Perfect. Like Tina Fey’s BossypantsScrappy Little Nobody reads as if Kendrick is speaking to you with silly lines that you can hear in her voice like “if i saw ‘advanced’ in the corner of a Martha Stewart Living recipe, I’d think, Bring it on, you crazy bitch” or “Player WHAA.”

Her memoir tells her story, including growing up in Maine and becoming an unlikely child star on Broadway, being nominated for a Tony, continuing to work in theater and then movies, dating guys, losing her virginity, meeting celebrities, and being nominated for an Oscar while still not being able to afford food or toilet paper. But it also includes more introspective stories as well, about mourning her grandmother while shooting a movie, about witnessing Drew Barrymore having a “moment” to herself after winning an award, about getting advice from acting legends, about dealing with her anxiety.

Analysis: It’s too much for me to count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading this. She’s witty and silly while still being analytical and finding subtle ways to let the reader into who she really is. She also tells stories in great detail. She described premiere dresses, scenes from movies, references to camera shots during awards shows in such a fun way, I found myself Googling photos and YouTube clips so I could see everything. She wrote the book, knowing that would happen too, specifically when she includes a photo of her stoned at that red carpet and wrote “Here’s a picture of my stoned face, so you don’t have to Google it later.” (How does she know? She just does.)

Scrappy Little Nobody includes all the things a celebrity memoir should: fun facts about shooting her most famous movies and skits — like how she lost her shoe while performing at the Oscars, the complete ridiculousness of being famous — like how she showed up stoned to a red carpet about a brief hospitalization,  what it’s really like to work with Zac Efron (spoiler: every bit as incredible as you think), and the fact that she’s just a real person who often can’t believe her life is her life.

Get Scrappy Little Nobody in paperback for $8.06.

Or on your Kindle for $13.99.

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Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ Memoir: Seven Years in the Making

rs-227987-btr-700x1057Set to be released next Tuesday, September 27th, Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run, is expected to run right off the shelves.

The iconic singer has been secretly penning the book for seven years — a task he took on himself without even contacting a publisher, according to The Wall Street Journal

Springsteen got the bug to write something other than a song after writing a first-person account on his web site about his experience playing the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2009. Shortly after that, he started writing Born to Run, which includes details about his childhood growing up in New Jersey and the start of The E Street Band. Then back in 2014, he published Outlaw Pete, an illustrated book for adults based on one of his songs.

In a video released on his Facebook page this week, he said “Writing prose has its own set of rules. You’ve got to create the music without the music.”

Speaking of music, Springsteen will also be releasing retrospective companion album called “Chapter and Vers” on September 23. The album includes five previously unreleased tracks.

Born to Run is already a bestseller on Amazon, and considering the book will be released in 22 countries, and considering “The Boss” is “The Boss,” it’s sure to be a bestseller on just about every other list out there.

 

Born to Run in hardcover is now available for pre-order for $19.50. 

Or for your Kindle for $14.99.

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‘Pretty Little Liars’ Star To Release Book of Essays

ian-harding-01-2015Is life imitating art or is art imitating life here? According to Entertainment Weekly actor Ian Harding, who plays teacher and writer Ezra Fitz on Pretty Little Liars, is releasing his own book of essays entitled Odd Birds this coming May.

His character on the teen phenomenon of a show is a writer and author, so it’s interesting to learn he writes in real life. While I’m deeply curious as to whether he got into writing since playing a writer on the show or if the show creators wrote that into the series, knowing that Harding himself liked to write, I’m also a little confused about the description of his book, as Isabella Biedenharn explains.

Harding will publish his essay collection, Odd Birds, in May 2017, EW can announce exclusively. Odd Birds will chronicle Harding’s life in Hollywood — including anecdotes from PLL — through the lens of bird watching, making it a fascinating and funny journey for readers of both celebrity memoirs and nature books.

How someone tells anecdotes about a teen television series through the lens of bird watching is pretty baffling to me. But I am interested to know if he’s as a good a writer as they make his character out to be on PLL!

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Bryan Cranston To Release Memoir This Fall

“I am the one who knocks” on your…bookshelf? That’s right. Actor Bryan Cranston, who played the infamously beloved Walter White on five seasons of Breaking Bad, is set to release a memoir, A Life in Parts, October 18.

According to Entertainment Weekly, it will includes sections about his most famous roles, including Walter White and the dad on Malcolm in the Middle, as well as sections about his real life.

The best part, though, are the front and back covers of the memoir, which portray Cranston’s uncanny ability to be seemingly friendly and seemingly ferocious. (Truth be told, my fiance and his family ran into Bryan Cranston a few years ago in New York City and said he was extremely friendly.)

Aside from being a big Breaking Bad fan, I have always been fascinated by actors who can vacillate between comedy and drama, as well as those who hit their prime later in life like Cranston did. Coming off one of the most best television series in recent memory, Cranston’s memoir is sure to sell well.

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Movie vs. Book: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

tina-fey-whiskey-foxtrot-tangoKim Barker has a fine life — boring, but fine. She works for a newspaper. She has a boyfriend that she might, kind of like. She’s in her 30’s, but she’s as lost as a teenager. Then 9/11 happens. Suddenly, she has found new meaning. She’s going to Afghanistan to cover the war on terror for The Chicago Tribune. 

Kim Barker’s memoir of her years covering the war in Afghanistan — or as she calls it, The Forgotten War — is as real as it gets. It’s full of bombings, political corruption, shootings and journalist kidnappings. But hers is also the story of “Kabul High” as she likes to call it — partying, heavy drinking and drugs, competition amongst reporters, adrenaline rushes, hookups and backstabbing. She tells the stories we don’t expect to be happening between reporters and their sources and reporters amongst themselves. But it does happen. It’s the rush of it all that sucks Kim in to the Middle East and keeps her from returning home to the U.S. for more than six years.

In Barker’s memoir, she tells her story in vignettes — an interview with a warlord here, a failed vacation with her boyfriend there, but there’s no plot, per se. It’s more of a diary of her experiences abroad and a depiction of her inability to leave what’s become her new home.

The movie, however, changes that, and that may be for the best. Tina Fey as Barker is a perfect fit — a little bit of hot mess, but still focused on her work and a good woman overall. The movie adds a little drama to the story — making the several journalist kidnappings at the end of the memoir the main plot of the film, when it happens to a boyfriend of Barker’s who never actually existed in real life. In fact, the movie combines several of the men in Barker’s life into one hunky journalist boyfriend. It also creates a fellow female journalist with whom Barker has a competitive frenemy relationship. The movie also makes Barker a TV journalist. All of this does nothing, but add plot and pizzazz.

While typically, I like a movie to stay true to a book — especially if that book is a memoir, in this case, I thought the movie did a good job in adding what the book lacked. The memoir — while interesting — is dense and gives a lot of descriptive detail about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Some sections are hard to get through, especially as I sometimes waited for a juicy plot twist. A movie without a focused story wouldn’t have been good as a movie. So in this case, the movie is more of an interpretation of the memoir, with juicy plot twists. The book’s juicy plot twist was the overall journey and how it changed Barker’s life.

Get Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in paperback for $11.96. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $11.99.

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