Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater by Frank Bruni

Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater by Frank Bruni

frankbruniBorn Round by Frank Bruni is satisfying memoir about a life-long struggle with food, a loving family and a journalist’s journey to find the beat he was born to eat… I mean, write.

I enjoyed all of Frank Bruni’s wandering memories. Like him, I grew up in a family where most of our gatherings center around food, eating, drinking and holidays. They still do.

Unlike Frank, I never tried “Mexican speed” or bulimia to try to manage my weight. Learning about some of the behaviors he used to maintain a weight he found acceptable was scary.

I can’t help but think that if we didn’t expect so much of each other, what a happier world this would be. Idolizing impossible body standards in the mass media does no one any favors.

When Frank goes on to become the food critic for the New York Times, I loved hearing about the subterfuges he used to hide his identity. I didn’t even know he was a food critic when I picked this book out of the digital audiobook pile.

But, of course, that is what the boy, who loved to eat, became. Isn’t it funny how our life’s paths find us?

There are some extraordinarily vulnerable moments in Born Round. Frank is honest and doesn’t sugarcoat some of his tougher times, especially with his mother.

This memoir could potentially be a trigger for someone who suffers from an eating disorder, but, it is mainly a story about overcoming all that and adopting healthier behaviors.

Recommended for people who enjoy honest and open memoirs about families, food and how one man became the food critic he was literally born to be.

Thanks for reading!


The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

theartofaskingAmanda Palmer is an extremely talented artist who has done it all- from performing in a punk rock band to posing as a statue on the streets.

I can see why readers are passionate about this book and the author. She just didn’t strike a spark for me.

Memoirs can drag on and become self-indulgent and ridiculous. I feel like that was a problem with The Art of Asking.

The tipping point for me was when she formed The Dresden Dolls with her friend and said (I’m quoting from memory here since I was listening to the audiobook): “I finally had the strongly emoting band I’d always dreamed of” or something like that.

I realized, I was strongly emoting on this book, but not in a good way.

I understand her internal struggles in forming a relationship with Neil Gaiman must have been difficult for her, but her “should I date him, he’s older and richer and more famous than me” just came off as silly and very first-world problems.

I get that she loves her fans, her art, her lifestyle- but it just come together to make a read that I enjoyed.

My apologies to her fans. If it helps, my favorite parts of the audiobook were the songs she put between some of the tracks. Those were actually pretty awesome.

And the over-arching theme of The Art of Asking was good too.

Society isn’t comfortable with asking. We don’t know how to do it, don’t feel comfortable with it and it prevents people from making the art that they were born to make.

You can get that part of this book by watching Palmer’s TED talk. Maybe you should do that instead of reading this.

Here ’tis:

Thanks for reading.

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane Von Furstenberg

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane Von Furstenberg

thewomaniwantedtobeThe Woman I Wanted to Be is the life story of the incomparable Diane Von Furstenberg. She starts with her parents’ harrowing early life in war torn Europe and continues through her own tumultuous love affairs and child rearing years. After a personal first half, the second half of her book is dedicated to how she entered and eventually became a living icon in the world of fashion.

I really enjoyed this book.

In an era where the media glorifies women who show off their bodies, cling to powerful men, and descend into drug addictions, Diane personifies the empowered woman who shows what she can do and build rather than living on how she looks or scandal.

That’s not to say that Diane hasn’t had a wild life, she has, but she owns it, has evolved from it and built it into an empire.

There are many moments in The Woman I Wanted to Be where Diane failed to be that woman. But instead of becoming mired in failure (she had to sell her business two separate times to avoid bankruptcy), she persevered to become a household name.

At another point, she gave up her identity and her business to spend time with a man who wanted her to be a blank slate. He ended up leaving her for someone else.

Diane didn’t crawl into a hole and wilt then either. With grace and dignity, she re-entered life and the fashion world. Diane went on to experience an even greater level of success than she had before her exit.

Diane provides some great general advice for life such as: when bad things happen, they can actually be good things.

Also, never play the victim- take responsibility for your life.

Embrace your age, whatever it may be.

These philosophies have enabled Diane to rise above any obstacles that have appeared in her path. She is an excellent role model and it was such fun to read about her incredibly exciting and almost unbelievably successful life.

Readers who enjoyed Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana may enjoy this memoir.

It’s far more glamorous than either of those two selections, but the underlying themes of female empowerment and reaching for the life of your dreams despite all the odds, are the same.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!

Thanks for reading!

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works  by Dan Harris

10 happierDan Harris had problems, like all of us, but unlike all of us, he was beginning to experience some of the messier symptoms of his dysfunctional inner world in front of millions of people.

He sought help and jumped into the meditation world with both feet. I think its why most people find their way into spiritual practices- something isn’t working quite right in their life and they need to change from the inside out. So, they look for a process of inner change and run smack into meditation.

However, Dan isn’t drinking the kool-aid of the new age movement. He questions every practice for its practical benefits and searches for scientific experimentation to back up those benefits.

In essence, he brings the investigative skills that he applies to his job as a news anchor to the practice of meditation and it’s a delight to read.

I loved this. Dan had the same initial reaction to Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra that I did. One of them seems too mellow to be real and the other seems to market himself too well to be that spiritual.

Over time, I’ve come to love both of those authors/gurus for their wisdom, but they are both just out of this world. Harris isn’t afraid to point that out.

In conclusion, I’d recommend 10% Happier to anyone who wants to become 10% happier- isn’t that all of us?

Also, anyone who has read Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra may also enjoy this, if only for the surprisingly accurate descriptions of their foibles. Anyone who wants to try meditation but feels like they don’t have time, couldn’t do it if they tried, or doesn’t know where to start may find some inspiration from this book.

And, finally, anyone who is fed up with the hippie-dippie-trippie feeling that most spiritual memoirs give them, will find a kindred soul in Dan Harris.

Thanks for reading!

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

nightNight is Elie Wiesel’s memoir about his experiences during the Holocaust. It is shocking and sad, but worth reading because of the power of Wiesel’s witnessing one of humanity’s darkest chapters and his confession on how it changed him.

In the new introduction to the ebook version I read, Wiesel talked about the difficulty he had putting words to his experience. “Convinced that this period in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness. I also knew that, while I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them.” pg. 7, introduction

The original version of Night was written in Yiddish. I wish I knew enough Yiddish to read it. There’s something powerful about reading books in their original form.

Wiesel closes his introduction with his reasons for writing this book:“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” pg 12, introduction.

Even though a member of his community warned Wiesel’s village about the horrors that awaited them, they didn’t believe him. After they were placed in a ghetto, the Jewish population of Sighet thought that the worst was behind them. “Most people thought that we would remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Afterward everything would be as before. The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion.” pg 26, ebook.

If I had been in their place, I don’t think that I would have acted any differently. How could one possibly imagine the horrors that they were going to face?

Wiesel is starved, overworked and beaten in the concentration camps. He loses more than his family and faith: “One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.”pgs 110-111 ebook.

Another Holocaust survivor’s memoir that I highly recommend isMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Never forget.

Thank you for reading.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdorf

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms  by Ethan Gilsdorf

fantasyfreaksEthan Gilsdorf carried angst about his gaming habits for various reasons for years. This book could have been a healing for him, but he doesn’t seem to take that leap.

It made me sad. Yes, perhaps the start of his DnD experience coincided with his mother’s illness, but I think that was not the only reason why he entered the world of fantasy.

Some people are born wanting to see worlds beyond this one. Why that is, I don’t know. I just know that it is so. Ethan suggests, in Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, that it takes trauma to send a person in that direction, I disagree. I think some of us were born that way. 🙂

The content of the book is excellent. He travels from the UK to New Zealand and everywhere inbetween to find people who are engaging in LARPS, SCA, Tolkien, gamer conventions, WoW, EverQuest, and more.

I loved his interviews with the man/woman on the street. He’d ask why they were doing whatever it was they were doing and they’d answer with conviction. There’s something very satisfying in reading personal statements by passionate people.

The enthusiasm nearly drips from the pages. I loved that.

I was hoping that Ethan would learn from all of these people who absolutely loved what they were doing with no regrets. But, he seemed to go to his default mode of judging and self-pity rather than expansion.

Ethan made some steps towards self realization at the end of the book, but I wish he had gone further.

If you enjoy this book or topic, may I suggest Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. It’s a non-fiction read about Dungeons and Dragons. It lacks the comprehensive nature of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, but David Ewalt carries none of the emotional baggage of Ethan Gilsdorf so it feels more light-hearted.

Thanks for reading!

Across Time And Death: A Mother’s Search For Her Past Life Children by Jenny Cockell

Across Time And Death: A Mother’s Search For Her Past Life Children by Jenny Cockell

acrosstimeJenny Cockell retained memories of a former life. In these memories, she died young and left children behind. Across Time and Death documents her acceptance of the memories and her search to find her previous family.

In childhood, my dreams were swamped by memories of Mary’s death. … All this, however, seemed inconsequential beside my fear for the children I was leaving behind.” pg 1.

In the religion of my childhood, reincarnation was neither taught nor accepted. But, as I’ve read different books, I’ve come to believe that it’s true.

I was so curious about it, in fact, that I participated in a past-life regression therapy session. The recording of it is mildly interesting, but mainly traumatic. I saw abuse, a lifetime of servitude and then a death that was penniless and alone in the dark.

The therapist can be heard on the recording, murmuring niceties about being “safe and secure.” There was a lot of, “let it go into the light” and “breathe in and out, slowly.”

Still, I walked out of that session and haven’t gone to another one since. I most likely never will.

If we do indeed live again and again, perhaps there’s a reason that we retain no memory of it. That’s my two cents. Back to Across Time and Death.

As a child, Jenny understood her past life memories more clearly than when she was an adult. “I had no cause to doubt that these memories were real. I assumed that memories of this kind were normal, and I expected everyone else to have them too.”pg 12.

Culture has such power to shape our worldview. Isn’t it true that part of the process for choosing the next Dalai Lama is that the candidate has to recognize the previous Lama’s belongings?

Jenny’s experience with regression through hypnosis seemed to echo mine. “Hypnosis is a strange experience even without the element of regression. All sorts of memories which have been hidden deep within the subconscious and cannot ordinarily be reached can be brought to the surface. This is double edged – both a wonderful and a disturbing experience at the same time.” pg 34. Yes.

When Jenny is finally able to overcome all of her doubts and fears, she then has to consider what the, now grown, children are going to think of her. “I needed to ask for help because I was beginning to panic. I wondered if I had any right to disturb Mary’s children or, conversely, if I had the right to keep my story from them.” pg 107. Which is a legitimate concern.

I’d recommend this book for people who are on the fence or just curious about reincarnation. If your mind is completely made up one way or another, I don’t know that Jenny’s testimony will mean as much to you.

Thanks for reading!