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Review: The Day the World Came To Town

911Recap: Seventeen years later, no one needs a book to tell them what happened on 9/11. But they might want to read one if it involves an aspect of that horrific tragedy that few know about, like the thousands of people who wound up stranded in Gander, Newfoundland in the days after the attacks. If you don’t know where Newfoundland is, you wouldn’t be alone. Author and journalist Jim DeFede takes care of that for us, describing the province, its people and the way they took in and treated the passengers who were flying to or over the United States when the attacks happened. As the planes were diverted to Canada, a small town became a town of many more thousands and opened its arms in their time of need.

The panic and chaos that ensued could have been much worse, but the truth it didn’t thanks to the helping hands of those living in Newfoundland. Families there invited these passengers — literal strangers — into their homes for a nice, hot shower. They offered them hand-me-down baby strollers. They showed them to the nearest bars, malls and stores. They cooked for them, clothed them, cared for their animals, ordered their prescriptions. Newfoundland essentially adopted the passengers who were so desperate to get home and so depressed over the recent events.

Analysis: Made famous more recently by the musical Come From AwayThe Day the World Came to Town is a beautiful take on the generosity of strangers, made even more beautiful by the fact that it’s a true story. A journalist at heart, author Jim DeFede does an incredible job of digging into every possible angle and acquiring hundreds of interviews to gather information for the book. The book is not flowery or eloquently written. As only a journalist would, it’s written very matter-of-factly. But it works. The content is so touching, the words don’t need to be.

The stories are woven in such a way, you are bound to connect with at least one of its characters — er, PEOPLE — whether it’s the New York state trooper who wishes he were home to help, the new parents that just adopted their daughter from overseas, the young professionals who rely on drinks and new friendships to get them through the pain or the woman whose firefighter son may or may not have died in the towers.

The Day the World Came to Town is one of those rare books that both taught me something AND made me feel. I truly cannot say enough good things about it.

Get The Day the World Came to Town in paperback for $13.59. 

Or on your Kindle for free.

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Review: 10% Happier

10 happierRecap: When ABC News anchor and correspondent Dan Harris was in his 30’s, he had his first on-air implosion: a panic attack on national television in the middle of a report. Did he handle it well? Of course. Like a pro. But it was clearly something had happened. It was only after that that he finally started seeing a therapist and learned his increasingly frequent panic attacks were a result of his cocaine addiction, a habit he picked up while covering the war in the Middle East.

TV reporting is no joke, folks. Harris knew he needed to make some massive changes. In this part memoir, part self-help book, Harris brilliantly and beautifully documents his long, dubious path out of his own darkness and into a space that’s at least 10% brighter. Harris tells the story of his downfall and his unexpected spiritual journey that led him to meditation. A skeptic, as many journalists are, Harris needed to understand meditation from all angles before he truly jumped in. In time, he has become a huge proponent of the practice. Being more mindful, he says, has helped him become a more relaxed, focused, less stressed, more loving person.

Analysis: This book had come highly recommended for years. But it wasn’t until about a year-and-a-half ago that I stumbled upon meditation itself. In sifting through and trying various meditation apps, the one I happened to like best was the 10% Happier app. Its guided meditations were the easiest to understand. They cut through the BS and gave it to me straight. They made me understand the purpose, point, goals and benefits of meditation. I was not surprised to learn that it was connected to the 10% Happier book, just surprised to realize the book had developed into the world of podcasting and apps. The more Dan Harris talked about his experience with meditation in the app and podcast, the more I knew I had to read the book.

Basically — everyone was right; this is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in the last year (and I have read a LOT). Harris’s story of ups and down in his personal and professional life were of course very relatable to me since I, too, am a TV reporter. But more than that, it’s his self-doubt, self-loathing and temper I related to most. I often shouted while I was reading this “He’s me! I’m the female version of Dan Harris!” I feel grateful that he did so much of the meditation and Buddhist homework for me, talking to various teachers and getting a plethora of insights.

It was hard to put this book down. Having written his second book, Harris often says he hoped that his first book (this one, 10% Happier) would make the case for meditation and was surprised to find that for most of his readers, it didn’t. I, however, found that it did. His spiritual awakening is inspiring and something I think we all could use a lot of these days. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a reporter professionally so his writing is obviously fabulous — leaving little tease-worthy bread crumbs at the end of each chapter. I find myself going back to his book frequently, reminding myself of some of his methods so that I, too, can become 10% happier. Because every little bit counts. And isn’t that what it’s all about on this journey to betterment?

Get 10% Happier now in paperback for $13.25. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $11.99.

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Review: A Race Like No Other

aracelikenoothercoverRecap: For some, it’s about running for those who can’t. For others, it’s about pushing through all levels of pain. For some, it’s for the vanity. But for all, running a marathon is about proving something to themselves. For those running the New York City Marathon, it’s about doing it on the biggest stage possible. New York Times sports reporter Liz Robbins captures the magic of the New York City Marathon — the diligent training of the athletes both professional and amateur, the difficult 26.2-mile course through the streets of all five boroughs of New York, the unity and generosity of the crowds pushing the athletes along, and the emotional turmoil and inner workings of the runners. Each has a story.

Robbins weaves together  the stories of those who ran the race in 2007. She tells the stories of the professional athletes, including their race history and personal lives and why they’re each hoping to win this race. She also shares the story of an alcoholic woman recently released from jail, hoping to reconnect with her family. She tells the story of a college graduate diagnosed with a rare form of cancer whose brother urged him to run. She also tells the stories of the non-runners — the choir and band leaders who let their players play at certain mile markers every year, the Polish bakers who hand out brownies along the course, the men who paint the blue line of the course leading up to race day. Because when it comes to the New York City Marathon, the crowds are as a vital a player as the runners.

Analysis: Where the New York City Marathon connects everyone in the city that day, Liz Robbins connects all runners everywhere with this detailed, inspiring read about the biggest race in the world. Each chapter details a different mile in the race, and Robbins magically transports us to each and every road, bridge and water station with her writing. You can practically taste the sweat of the runners. She makes it clear that the 26.2 miles run in just over two hours by a professional athlete is same 26.2 miles run by the amateurs who finish in more than five hours. Each mile is beautiful in its own way, whether it be filled with pain, filled with joy, filled with emotion or filled with surprises.

Her ability to take you to mile 17, for instance, and then to Kenya where the professionals train or to mile 20 and then to the hospital where the cancer patient is battling illness to get out and run is seamless. The stories are non-fiction, but they are spell-binding and powerful. Ending with the finish times and mini-epilogues of each runner she’s followed throughout the book will you as breathless as — dare I say it? — a marathon.

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Carl Bernstein to Publish Memoir

bernsteinForget Bridgegate! Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein is currently working on a memoir.

According to The New York Times, Carl Bernstein signed a deal with publisher Henry Holt & Company to write a memoir about his early years as a cub reporter in Washington.

That’s right — his years as a cub reporter. He opted to steer clear of writing about his days at The Washington Post, where he worked with Bob Woodward to break and cover the Watergate scandal. Instead, he’ll write about his time at The Washington Star, D.C.’s afternoon newspaper, which is no longer published.

He started at The Star as a copyboy, then worked his way up through the ranks. In a statement, Bernstein said he learned a lot about journalism, the world, and life in the five years he spent at the paper. The memoir, entitled The Washington Star, is expected to be released in 2016.

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‘Anchorman’ Ron Burgundy to Release Memoir

Talk about great movie marketing! Just months before the Anchorman sequel is set to be released in theaters, its star, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), announces plans to release a memoir.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings will tell the “true” story of Ron Burgundy’s childhood, career in TV journalism, and — of course — his many ladies. In a statement, Ron Burgundy said “I don’t know if it’s the greatest autobiography ever written. I’m too close to the work…I will tell you this much: the first time I sat down and read this thing…I cried like a goddamn baby, and you can take that to the bank!”

Ron Burgundy is the main character in the 2004 comedy Anchorman, starring Will Ferrell. The sequel to the hit, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, premieres in theaters December 20. The Ron Burgundy memoir will hit shelves and be available for digital download November 19.

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Writer Admits to Fabricating Bob Dylan Quotes in Book

A bestselling book was recently removed from bookstore shelves across the country and Amazon’s rankings after its author revealed he fabricated some of the quotes in his book.

Imagine: How Creativity Works, written by Jonah Lehrer, was released in March and reached the #14 spot on The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list as recently as last week. But according to The New York Times, the book was subsequently pulled when an article in Tablet magazine explained Lehrer fabricated some of the Bob Dylan quotes used in his book.

This is not the first time Leher has done something like this. He also writes for The New Yorker and admitted just a month ago that he recycled some of his writing from other publications for an article in The New Yorker. His boss reluctantly kept him on the staff, but not after his most recent stint. Lehrer has since resigned from The New Yorker, while publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt removes his bestselling book from bookstore shelves.

This is one of the more serious fraudulent writing cases in recent years, as Julie Bosman explains.

A publishing industry that is notoriously ill-equipped to root out fraud. A magazine whose famed fact-checking department is geared toward print, not the Web. And a lucrative lecture circuit that rewards snappy, semi-scientific pronouncements, smoothly delivered to a corporate audience. All contributed to the rise of Jonah Lehrer, the 31-year-old author, speaker and staff writer for The New Yorker, who then executed one of the most bewildering recent journalistic frauds.

As a journalist, blogger, and someday hopeful author, this is not just a mistake; this is an act of betrayal. Lehrer misconstrued someone’s words to fit his story, lying to his audience. Whether you consider yourself a journalist or not, that’s simply not right. I’m glad the truth came out, and hope other journalism frauds are also caught in the act.

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Review: My Story, My Song

Recap: Every person who has reached a high level of success has done so because of his or her parents. If the person had good parents, they motivated and supported their children. If the person had bad parents, he or she learned from their mistakes and chose not to repeat them.

That’s why the story of Lucimarian Roberts, Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts’ mother, is so inspiring. She is one of the good parents – a mother who encouraged her children to keep trying and who taught them the importance of love, kindness, and bravery. That’s the story we read in My Story, My Song, which was told to Missy Buchanan by Lucimarian Roberts. It also features chapter commentary from Robin Roberts herself.

­­Lucimarian Roberts was the first person in her family to attend college – Howard University on a scholarship, no less. She married one of the original — and few black — Tuskegee Airmen. She raised four successful children, and moved them around the world to 27 different places because of her husband’s job. She taught. She played piano, sang, and recorded a CD. She gave back to her community, participating in Church groups and local organizations wherever she lived. Not to mention, she lived through Hurricane Katrina, survived a bad case of pneumonia, mourned the loss of her husband in 2004, and dealt with her daughter Robin’s battle with cancer.

Lucimarian Roberts shares her story in this spiritual, uplifting book that makes you realize anything is possible.

Analysis: It’s clear that Lucimarian Roberts is a strong woman. She relies on God and music to fight through the difficult times. In My Story, My Song, she tells her story, lesson by lesson instead of chronologically. It works, allowing the reader to focus on what she did and not when she did it.

As a fan of Robin Roberts, however, I had hoped to hear more from Robin herself. Robin writes commentaries for each chapter, but they’re brief anecdotes that don’t entirely correspond with the chapter.  Lucimarian delivers small glimpses into Robin’s life, like the Thanksgiving she spent with Robin and Diane Sawyer after her husband passed away —  but it took me a while to realize this story’s not nearly as much about Robin as it is about Lucimarian.

The story is also very focused on religion, including Bible passages and hymns throughout the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not something that piques my interest. However, I respect that this is a large part of Roberts’ life and therefore makes sense that it’s included.

That being said, it’s still a moving story about a woman who has had to deal with so much and seems to have conquered it all.

MVP: Lucimarian Roberts. Read above.
Get My Story, My Song in hardcover now for $10.98.

Or get it on your Kindle for $9.99.

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David Sedaris Scrutinized for “Realish” Nonfiction

When you’re a humorist who writes memoirs, how much of your storytelling must be true? That’s what NPR is asking themselves about David Sedaris, the bestselling writer who reads some of his stories for the radio station. Sedaris is best known on NPR for his now classic Christmas story about the time he spent working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s.

But Sedaris is now under fire for how much of his stories are true and how much is fabricated. It all started when, according to The Washington Post, another writer, Mike Daisey, fabricated some of the facts in his story, which aired on NPR’s This American Life, as Paul Farhi explains.

According to host and producer Ira Glass, “This American Life” began discussing Sedaris’s contributions to the program after an embarrassing episode in March, in which it acknowledged that a monologue by writer Mike Daisey contained numerous fabrications. The show “retracted” the program it aired in January, in which Daisey described harsh working conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other products. Glass told listeners that Daisey had invented scenes, facts and people — which is exactly what Sedaris has said he’s done.

In fact-checking some of Sedaris’ tales, NPR found that he, too, had fabricated some details and characters. Sedaris admittedly called his stories “realish.”

But Sedaris is a humorist. Daisey is a journalist. Therein lies the difference. Is Sedaris — who has never been considered a journalist — allowed to exaggerate parts of his stories? Or does his title not play a factor since his work airs on NPR’s This American Life program, which airs true stories about people? It’s a tough call, and one that NPR is now closely investigating to decide the best way to proceed.

I personally think NPR should just label Sedaris’ work as partly fiction or “exaggerated” before it airs. What do you guys think? Would love to hear your opinions on this one.

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Review: Horrible Man

Recap: If you’re intrigued by the Etan Patz case or have ever wondered what really happened to Amelia Earhart, this is the book for you. Horrible Man tells the true story of an unsolved double murder that took place in Portland, Australia more than 20 years ago. Called the Portland Hair Salon Murders, journalist Leonie Wallace writes about the homicidal act that led to the deaths of Claire Acocks and Margaret Penny. Acocks was doing Margaret Penny’s hair at her weekly appointment when someone came into the salon and savagely killed the two women.

Over the years, people have come forward, admitting to seeing a person flee the scene or hearing screams coming from the hair salon, but it has never been enough to pinpoint who did it. And after 20+ years of a case unsolved, many wonder if police will ever come to a conclusion about what happened.

Leonie Wallace takes us through the evidence, the police interviews and statements given by witnesses and family members, as well as insight from personal interviews she conducted with all the key players of the devastating tragedy. Wallace also discusses other similar murders that took place in Australia around that time. She talks about some of the prime suspects — and why they were never arrested or convicted. But most importantly, Wallace investigates who Claire Acocks and Margaret Penny really were, and how their loss has affected an entire community.

Analysis: What’s most intriguing about the murders is the fact that they happened in broad daylight on a Friday afternoon in a commercial downtown area. Before starting the book, I found myself wondering how something like this could possibly happen and go unsolved for this long. But Wallace’s journalistic prowess and research proves to us that there are so many different avenues, so many different options about what could have happened. Without proof and a lack of reasonable doubt, you’ve got nothing but a mystery.

Wallace writes the book in a way you would imagine a journalist would write it — straightforward, factual, mostly unbiased. While Wallace weaves in some of her own experiences about researching the case, she does an excellent job of simply informing the reader of the facts and not swaying us. She leaves us to come to our conclusions about what happened, and we find ourselves understanding why police were never able to come to a solidified conclusion.

Wallace’s research is extensive. But her interviews with the victims’ family members are easily the most heartbreaking portions of the book. These interviews are seamlessly woven into the facts of the case in a way that makes us want to finish the book in the hopes that there will be a happy ending, despite already knowing that is not the case.

MVP: Mr. Acocks and Mr. Penny. It’s impossible not to feel for the two men who lost their wives that day. It’s a shame that they have no clue as to why this happened or who did it, and that they probably never will. But their ability to continue living their lives and moving on as best as they can is inspiring.

Get Horrible Man on your Kindle for just $9.99.

Or in paperback for $29.22.

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Just in Time for Titanic 3D, an E-Book Short About Costa Concordia

On the heels of Titanic 3D‘s opening weekend, a new e-book about the modern-day Titanic is now available. Fatal Voyage, the Wrecking of the Costa Concordia, a Kindle Single — or e-book short — about the accident that happened with the ill-fated Italian cruise ship earlier this year, was recently published.

According to this article by The Huffington Post’s Gadling, journalist John Hooper quickly wrote the e-book. Hooper is the Rome-based reporter for the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. The e-book short includes first-person accounts from passengers and details about the Italians’ embarrassment over the ship’s Captain. That, allegedly, is a part of the story that was left out by American reports of the incident. It also includes a detailed account of the mistakes the Captain made once the ship went into crisis mode.

Though Gadling blogger Chris Gray Faust explains that the e-book has its fair share of errors…

The rush to publish does highlight the e-book’s faults. Hooper’s e-book, which reads more like a long-form magazine article, came out on Feb. 15, just a little over a month from the Jan. 13 sinking. As a reader, I wanted even more details from the survivors than Hooper collected. Every passenger who lived through that night has a chilling tale to tell, and while the examples that Hooper picked were jaw-dropping, I had more questions than answers when I finished the book.

…It still seems like a worthy read, particularly if you’ve ever cruised, plan on cruising, or are just plain shocked that something as severe as this accident could still happen in the modern-day world.

Get the e-book short now for just $1.99 on your Kindle.

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