Neil Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography provides a fun, though fragmented, reading experience that provides some insight into the life ofNeil Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography provides a fun, though fragmented, reading experience that provides some insight into the life of NPH. Harris's book emphasizes several major threads of his life, including early experiences in acting, fascination with magic, work in Hollywood from Doogie Howser on, coming to terms with and accepting his homosexuality, family life with his husband and kids, and stage acting both on and off Broadway. These different aspects of Harris's life are recounted in a well-paced narrative with many puns and much good humor. I'd really rate this one a 3.5/5.0.
Because the book is in a "choose your own adventure" format, the reader skips around from section to section, often following one of the above threads through different stages of Harris's life. While this does make for a fun reading experience, it also makes it a challenge to keep the chronology of different events in order. Sometimes, too, just like a real Choose Your Own Adventure, you can get stuck in somewhat of a loop. After reading what I estimate is half the book, I went back to the beginning and started reading pages in order, skimming sections I had already read. I actually liked that better than skipping around.
There are some standout sections of the book, such as time spent with Elton John and the narrative of how Harris and his husband David Burtka became parents of twins, but other parts of Harris's life were, for me, underserved. Being a fan of How I Met Your Mother, I was disappointed by how little a role it plays in the book. But that's a personal preference.
While I enjoyed this book and would recommend it if you are a fan of Harris, I did not get to know Harris as much as I would like after having read an autobiography. Part of this, I think, stems from writing an autobiography where the main character is "you" (rather than "I").
Part of it, too, is a focus on performance; that is, the book itself is a performance where Harris is on stage/page. For example, there are some sections which are set pieces that appear almost as a comedy sketch (I'm thinking particularly of Harris's memories of vacations with David). These are interesting and amusing, but I don't feel like I gained insight into Harris's personality from having read these sections. Throughout the book, Harris discusses his fascination with going behind the scenes and learning the secrets to how things work, and that's exactly what I wanted more of from this book. I don't mean to suggest that Harris never takes us backstage, because he does--I just wanted to spend more time there.
My favorite quotation: "The weekend makes you realize that you have no excuses for being the slave to your own story."...more
Us begins with Connie telling Douglas--the main character and narrator--that after more than 25 years together, she thinks she is ready to leave him.Us begins with Connie telling Douglas--the main character and narrator--that after more than 25 years together, she thinks she is ready to leave him. Having met when they were in their twenties--then, he was a nerdy scientist working to build what would become a successful and admirable career while she was an arty party girl well enmeshed in London's bohemian scene--Connie feels that as their son, Albie, prepares to leave for university in a few months, it may also be time for her to leave as well.
Complicating matters is the long family vacation--a Grand Tour through continental Europe--originally planned as a celebration before Albie's departure for school. While Douglas wants to cancel the trip, Connie insists they go, causing Douglas to view the journey as his last chance to repair his relationship with Albie and save his marriage.
David Nicholls tells the story through an intertwined narrative, as chapters move between the vacation of the present day and the story of his relationship with Connie, beginning some 30 years earlier. I found the plot line of the relationship between Connie and Douglas more engaging, as it following the highs and lows (both of which are significant) of the relationship and the ways it changes and evolves. This extended flashback, however, would not be as effective without the parallel events of the Grand Tour and the view of the characters as they are in the present day.
Douglas is an interesting narrator. As a scientist, he possesses and presents a fairly matter-of-fact view of his world; negotiating feelings, both with Connie and later Albie, presents a challenge, especially when experiencing his own strong emotions. Douglas is not always a likable character, but he is not without humor, either. To laugh with him, you'll have to like your humor extremely dry--evaporated, almost. Although he is a scientist, he is an effective storyteller, with good timing and a well-developed sense of dramatic pacing.
It is difficult to choose a Favorite Quotation from this book, because I noted many passages, but I picked this one, because it serves, perhaps, as a good snapshot of Douglas and the way he thinks: "Light travels differently in a room that contains another person; it reflects and refracts so that even when she was silent or sleeping I knew that she was there."...more
I've read Jim's Journal since the first book, I Went to College And It Was Okay, was published in 1990 (the same year I went to college), and it is prI've read Jim's Journal since the first book, I Went to College And It Was Okay, was published in 1990 (the same year I went to college), and it is probably my favorite comic strip. This collection is a prequel of sorts, as it begins during Jim's last few weeks of high school. By the middle of the volume, Jim is in college, just as he is in the first Jim's Journal collection. So the second half of the book covers some of the same time as I Went to College, and a few strips from the earlier collection appear in this volume. However, it is mostly new content--old time frame but new strips.
It is hard to summarize a collection of Jim's Journal since the individual strips are often unconnected and deliberately so. But if you have seen the strip before, you'll meet many of the usual cast of characters: Jim, of course; his roommate, Tony; and Jim's McDonald's coworkers, though Ruth plays only a minor role in this volume.
I enjoyed this collection as much as any Jim's Journal volume, and since the strip did not appear for about 10 years while Scott Dikkers took a break from it, reading the book was like meeting old friends....more
Rainbow Rowell's Landline is a study of marriage--or, more accurately--of a specific marriage after many years and a couple of children. Georgie, theRainbow Rowell's Landline is a study of marriage--or, more accurately--of a specific marriage after many years and a couple of children. Georgie, the wife and character with whom we spend the most time, is a television writer in Los Angeles, and as the book begins, she is, along with her writing partner, Seth, on the verge of landing a deal for her own series. A short deadline necessitates her staying in LA while her husband and kids make their annual trip to visit Neal's parents in Omaha, Nebraska.
Splitting up for Christmas--Georgie even worries that they've spilt up for good--causes Georgie to consider the different ways their relationship has cracked and frayed around the edges in the years since they were married and, especially, since they first met and fell in love.
It would be difficult to go into more detail about the plot without some serious spoilers, but as the novel progresses, Georgie continues to consider how and why she and Neal first fell in love and if that magic can be rekindled and how.
Landline is not my favorite of Rowell's books (that's Fangirl), and a major plot line goes unresolved, but I still enjoyed it very much and would recommend it highly. In the end, the main question about marriage is examined with thoughtfulness, depth, and good humor: knowing what you know now, would you do it all again?
Favorite quotation: "Georgie hadn't known back then how much she was going to come to need Neal, how he was going to become like air to her. Was that codependence? Or was it just marriage?"...more
This is a good and useful edition of Austen's book. I don't want to recap the events of the plot, sicne this book is so well known, but I will say thaThis is a good and useful edition of Austen's book. I don't want to recap the events of the plot, sicne this book is so well known, but I will say that the annotations throughout this edition are informative and illuminating. Patricia Meyer Spacks provides copious amounts of information, with a particular emphasis on literary context and fashion. Many notes link Austen's texts to novelists who influenced Austen or whose novels were published in the early 1800s. Further, many notes focus on fashion and what is fashionable; before reading this edition, for example, I was not aware of how much the Bingleys position themselves (through dress and even the time of their meals) as on the cutting edge of fashionable society. I think that even the most devoted Austen fan will find something new in this edition....more
You might remember the title Yes Man from the film version of this book, made a few years ago and starring Jim Carrey. While I haven’t seen the movie,You might remember the title Yes Man from the film version of this book, made a few years ago and starring Jim Carrey. While I haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend the book.
Following the end of a long-term relationship, author Danny Wallace fell into a pattern of negativity of repetition. He stopped seeing his friends, said no to social engagements, and spent most evenings at home. After several months of this behavior and concern fom his friends, Wallce decided to say yes—first, to say yes for an entire day and then for an entire year. He chose to say yes to everything, from spam emails asking if he could help a foreign prince to opportunities to condsider new professional avenues. Yes Man, Danny Wallace recounts this year of yes. Along for the ride are Ian, Wallace’s best friend and the only one who knows about the commitment to saying yes; Wag, another friend who does not know; Hanne, Wallace’s ex, with whom he remains cordial; and Lizzie, an Australian woman Wallace meets and dates.
In saying yes more, Wallace runs into many adventures, some of which are positive: his job prospects improve, he sees friends more, and he travels. Some of the results are negative: there are awkward conversations, somewhat dangerous moments (Wallace, at one point, answers yes when a muscular man in a pub asks if Wallace was looking at his girlfriend), and expenses that result from saying yes. Sometimes when Wallace says yes, the results are just weird (as when he attends a group meeting focused on conspriracies and paranormal occurances).
It is clear that, for Wallace, saying yes is overwhelmingly positive, even when the results are less than ideal. Wallace details his life and his interactions with a generosity of spirit and great good humor. You’ll enjoy reading Yes Man, and when you’re through, I think you’ll be asking yourself, “Shouldn’t I be saying yes more frequently, too?”
Favorite Quotation: “Even the ordinary can be magical.” ...more
Charles Finch’s In The Last Enchantments, follows 25-year-old Will Baker, who, after working for the 2004 John Kerry campaign, leaves the United StateCharles Finch’s In The Last Enchantments, follows 25-year-old Will Baker, who, after working for the 2004 John Kerry campaign, leaves the United States to spend a year in graduate study at Oxford University. Leaving behind his girlfriend and fellow campaign worker Alison, Will falls into a close circle of diverse friends at Oxford: the aristocratic Tom, the Indian economist and gangster rapper Anil, the German historian and kindhearted Anneliesse, and most importantly, Sophie, an Englishwoman who both fascinates and frustrates the protagonist.
The Last Enchantments covers a lot of ground: American politics, relationships both new and old, life at Oxford, and unrequited love and desire. Ultimately, the novel is about being twenty-five: the excitement and anxiety of that transitional part of life when one leaves college years behind and heads unsteadily into adulthood.
The book, which is told in first person, never reveals from what vantage point the author speaks; that is, we don’t know how much time has passed since Will’s year at Oxford, but that time is recounted in an atmosphere of nostalgia, of time that has passed, which gives the book a pleasantly melancholic, autumnal tone. But I have to say that although I could identify with some of Will’s conflicts and confusions, I did not feel engaged by him, and I became less interested in his story as the book continued. For all his looking back to the past, he seems unable to recognize how his actions have influenced his life or how he might grow from those experiences.
Favorite Quotation: “Once more I could look upon the coming years, as I had for so long, and see a future full of nothing, full of everything, before all the choices I made started to become irreversible.” ...more
If you enjoyed Matthew Quick's Silver Linings Playbook<\i>, then I imagine you will also like The Good Luck of Right Now<\i>. Told throughIf you enjoyed Matthew Quick's Silver Linings Playbook<\i>, then I imagine you will also like The Good Luck of Right Now<\i>. Told through a series of letters written to Richard Gere, this novel tells the story of Bartholomew Neil, a 38-year-old who has always lived with his mother, who has, as the novel begins, only recently passed away.
Newly on his own, Bartholomew must now learn to navigate a world that is often mystifying and, for him, particularly unkind. Bartholomew seems to have Asperger's, though the novel never states this outright--we get only Bartholomew's recollection that kids at school called him "retard." Surrounding him are an unusual support group: Father McNamee, a manic-depressive alcoholic who, after renouncing his priesthood, moves in with Bartholomew; Wendy, Bartholomew's grief counselor who is fighting her own demons; Max, and exceedingly foul-mouthed yet sensitive man mourning the loss of his cat; and Elizabeth, the girl who volunteers at the library and says she was abducted by aliens.
Throughout the novel, there are strong themes of growth and learning to fly, despite the particularly heavy baggage life has dealt many of the characters. There is a fair bit of speculation on the meaning of religion and spirituality, as Bartholomew attends Saturday Mass regularly, has an ex-priest living with him, and discusses the Dalai Lama in the letters to Richard Gere. In the end, though, I think The Good Luck of Right Now<\i> is most about acceptance--of the past, of those whose lives surround us, and ultimately, of ourselves.
Favorite quotation: "I have to say that everything seems to be unraveling lately. Or maybe it seems as though I am a flower myself, opening up to the world for the first time. . . . I wonder if the first thirty-eight years of my life were spent within the stem of me." ...more
Fangirl tells the story of Cather Avery, a bright, reserved young woman, who, despite her introversion, maintains Internet celebrity as Magicath, theFangirl tells the story of Cather Avery, a bright, reserved young woman, who, despite her introversion, maintains Internet celebrity as Magicath, the most popular writer of fanfiction for the fictional Simon Snow series of books. As Cath begins her first semester at the University of Nebraska, she is faced with several challenges: she must contend with the difficulty of fitting in to a new location when she prefers a lack of change; the impending end of the Simon Snow series and her own largest fanfic story; worry about her father, left living alone for the first time; and separation from her twin sister, Wren.
Though Wren also attends Nebraska, she opted to live in a different dorm than Cath, leaving the latter to contend with her gruff roommate, Reagan and her ever-present extra extroverted friend, Levi, on her own. Cath also must also navigate her courses, including a creative writing class she shares with a handsome and deceptively good writer upperclassman, Nick. As the semester continues, Cath faces additional challenges as her sister becomes more distant, her creative writing professor accuses her of plagiarism, and her father stuggles to adjust to his life alone.
I really enjoyed Fangirl. Each chapter begins with a snippet from the Simon Snow series or from Cath's fanfiction, and the connections Rowell suggests through these juxtapositions are useful and add a level of depth the main plot. The supporting characters--especially Levi and Reagan--are well developed characters and add much. Most of all, I liked Cath. Rowell defines her character so sharply that it is easy to understand her motivations and reactions to others.
Favorite quotations: "When they turned down the hallway, they could see Levi sitting against their door. In no circumstances would Cath ever run squealing down the hall into his arms. But she did her version of that--she smiled tensely and looked away."
"And sometimes you held somebody's hand just to prove that you were still alive, and that another human being was there to testify to that fact."...more
S. is a book with a lot of moving parts; it is a story within a story. The story that is inside is Ship of Theseus, a 10 chapter narrative, purportedlS. is a book with a lot of moving parts; it is a story within a story. The story that is inside is Ship of Theseus, a 10 chapter narrative, purportedly written by a secretive and elusive author, V. M. Straka. The book follows the character S. through a series of surreal and fragmented adventures. The narrative begins with S. walking through an unknown city with no memory of his past. He eventually meets a woman named Sola, but he is kidnapped shortly after meeting her. He is placed on a ship and journeys, then, to different locations as he tries to frustrate the efforts of a war-mongering industrialist named Vevoda. While S. completes these actions, he continues to search for Sola and for his own identity.
In the margins of Ship of Theseus are written comments by two characters, Jen and Eric. Eric is a graduate student who has spend his graduate career and after studying Straka's like and work. Jen is a bored undergrad who picks up the book and begins answering Eric's marginal notes, which sparks a relationship based on continued interpretation of Ship of Theseus. As you read the story of S., then, you also read the story of Jen and Eric, as they pursue the elusive Straka, an author who seems to have much in common with the hero of Ship of Theseus.
I really enjoyed reading S.. It is a very demanding book to read, because I found myself shifting between the narrative of Ship of Theseus and the story told in the marginal comments, but eventually one can fall into a rhythm. I enjoyed the theme of S.'s pursuit of his identity, and even if not all the loose ends were tied up by the end, I found the end of his story, as well as that of Jen and Eric to be satisfying.
Favorite quotations: "If there is nothing durable in identity, there is no reason for any of us to value anything."
"All that ink, all that pigment, all that desperate action to preserve that which had been created--it is valuable because story is a fragile and ephemeral thing on its own, a thing that is easily effaced or disappeared if destroyed, and it is worth preserving." ...more
Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half is a graphic memoir, a published collection of autobiographical vignettes drawn from her popular blog of the same nAllie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half is a graphic memoir, a published collection of autobiographical vignettes drawn from her popular blog of the same name.
Many of the stories--particularly those drawn from Brosh's childhood and those about her dogs--are very funny, and I laughed out loud reading several of them. Some of the humor becomes a little repetitive by the end of the book, but perhaps that is inevitable in a book that is a collection of blog entries originally published over a long span of time. This detracted from the book a little bit, but it was only a minor issue for me.
Brosh devotes several sections to her own mental struggles, in particular a fight against depression. These chapters are emotionally sharp and deeply felt. Brosh gives two chapters to her depression, and they are probably the best representation of depression I have found in any book, fiction or non-fiction. ...more