Book Reviews

(Will be adding much more shortly…)

How to Murder Your Life: Cat Marnell

One of the few memoirs I have read. This book was hard to put down. I didn’t want it to end, and when it did, I was covered in tears. Cat Marnell is heartbreakingly honest in this memoir about her battle with drug addiction and how it affected her career, social life, relationships, Image result for how to murder your life booketc. I could relate to an abundance of feelings she described in the book, although I never struggled with drug addition. Throughout the book, you continue to cheer for Marnell, hoping she will finally pull herself out of this self-sabotaging rut. Marnell has a self-deprecating sense of humor as she jokes about all the wrong decisions she made throughout her twenties. As someone who also lives in NYC, I was able to paint many of the scenes she talked about in my head with conscious familiarity. The reader visits the dark depths of addiction and the various life-threatening side effects attached to it. The thing I liked most about this book was how Marnell was able to be so transparent with the audience – not avoiding any extreme or disturbing recollections – while also maintaining a humorous/playful voice to make the novel less heavy.

Ego is the Enemy: Ryan Holiday

This book was phenomenal. I remember seeing this book on someone’s Snapchat about a year ago. The title caught my attention right away – short yet powerful. Anyone who is familiar with the teachings of Sigmund Freud can recall his theories about the Id, Ego, an Superego.Image result for ego is the enemy book This book obviously focuses on one part of the human psyche, the Ego, which Holiday argues can grow to be your biggest weakness [if you let it]. Most of us are familiar with people we’ve encountered in life and say that they “have a huge ego” – characterized as being narcissistic, conceited, pompous, etc. Holiday includes some of the most in depth research on a topic I have ever seen, with credible examples of people who we’ve either heard of or are entirely familiar with. This book has some of the most extensive notes I have ever wrote in the the little spaces on the perimeter of the pages. Parts of the book are very scientific and filled with copious amounts of research data and studies, however, it’s not something that too overwhelming to comprehend. This is the kind of book that you want to read over whenever you feel like you’re struggling/hitting a plateau in your career, relationships, etc. It’s a book that I reference in many conversations both in my social life and professional life.

#GIRLBOSS: Sophia Amoruso

I feel like this book is the cult classic reading reference for female entrepreneurs and go-getters. Amoruso is known as the creator of NastyGal, a popular online fashion boutique. This book is important – reading about the bumpy and roller coaster ride of failures and Image result for girl boss booksuccesses upon becoming a business owner, especially a female business owner. Amoruso didn’t grow up rich or entitled. She talks about hitchhiking in California and reaching into dumpsters for breakfast at one point. She saw the gap in the market she was interested in, and realized the importance of responding to customers online (and truly knowing the customer). This is an easy read, and Amoruso has a very humorous tone reminiscing on her past mistakes and screw ups. It’s definitely inspiring and enjoyable, however, Amoruso came off a bit too pompous in many chapters of the book. I can’t lie, I would probably be a bit cocky too if I had an inspiring ‘rags to riches’ story, but since Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, I’m a little convinced that maybe Amoruso’s ego finally got the best of her. I still would recommend this book to a friend who is feeling uninspired in their career path, or in need of a motivational read to help kick start their plans.

Born A Crime: Trevor Noah

 For the past year and a half or so, Trevor Noah has taken the legendary title as being my top celebrity crush (I saw him in stand up March 2017 and am seeing him again at Radio City January 2018! #FanGirl). Trevor’s primarily known for replacing Jon Stewart on The Daily Show – which was initially not a very positive response from comedy and TDS fans. It seemed to be one of those replacements like when Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen for Two and A Half Men – a failure. However, Trevor quickly proved to be one of America’s up and coming comedians (named one of TIME magazine’s “Next Generation Leaders” of 2017) – distinguishing himself as “Trevor Noah” rather than “Jon Stewart’s replacement.” If you’re still not convinced that Trevor has the ability to fill Jon’s shoes, this is where his book comes in.

As stated earlier, I typically don’t read memoirs – IDK, just not my preferred genre. However, if I am particularly interested in someone’s profession or aura, (or just think they are extremely handsome/hilarious/perfect) I’ll Google pretty much everything about them. Trevor conveniently came out with his memoir in late 2016 – and just when I thought I couldn’t be any more creepily obsessed with him, he hit me with this hilariously honest and incredibly eye-opening tear-jerker. Seriously Trevor, why you do this to me? You KNOW that I cry over a freakin’ Jif peanut butter commercial – and then you give me this?! #Dramatic – don’t worry, the book isn’t THAT sad. It’s mostly hilarious and just ultimately shocking. Before reading this book, I was only merely familiar with the heartbreaking reality of living in South Africa under apartheid. Trevor titles his memoir Born A Crime since his actual conception was illegal under South African law. He was born to a white father and black mother. If this type of relationship was discovered by the government, it would result in five years behind bars. Therefore, Trevor’s mom tried to keep him as sheltered as possible, as his cafe-colored skin was confusing and suspicious to others – white or black? People were confused, as segregation/racism was alive and well – almost as alive and well as it seems to be nowadays… #NotThatMuchOfAnExaggeration.

There’s so much going on in this book, it’s hard to characterize it as anything but “eye-opening.” It’s honest, sad, shocking, insightful, and conversational. After reading this book, you will [hopefully] view Trevor as one of the most humbled and cultured celebrities. You will appreciate him more than ever after reading through some of his childhood nightmares, which makes an average American childhood seem like a walk in the park. Lastly, Trevor’s mother is an enormous part of this book. You will gain an enormous amount of respect for this incredible woman as she portrays a new and different interpretation of WonderWoman.

This book has nearly a perfect rating on Amazon – 85% five stars – need I say more?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k: Mark Manson

 If I had to recommend one book out of every book I have read over the past 12-18 months, it would be this one. As the title portrays, this isn’t a typical “self-help” book. Essentially, Manson criticizes all of the self-help and “help-me guides” of the past decade that have been redundantly telling us to just ‘think positive’ and ‘believe you are awesome.’ Manson argues this is all BS. “You are not special. You are not unique.” Our whole lives people [teachers, parents, coworkers] have been telling us these sugar-coated strains of advise that essentially brainwash our minds from seeing the real, cold-hard truth of life: it’s fucking hard. Life is hard.  Life is not supposed to be fair or golden or easy. You are going to fail today and probably tomorrow and probably next week. The thing that Manson stresses is that we are often too hung up on ‘giving a fuck’ about such stupid things in life – comparing ourselves to others, finding who to blame, focusing on being more positive, etc. We do not accept failure – instead, we blame external factors and make excuses. Life is never going to be 100% positive, so it’s nonsensical to only be OK with positive outcomes. We need to accept the negative, accept failure, and accept fear. Lastly, Manson closely observes and explains the power of value. One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “Who you attract [or don’t attract] into your life, and who you keep [or don’t keep] in your life boils down to what you value.” He forces you to question what really matters to you in your career, relationships, etc. Most of us our concentrating on the wrong things – moving further away from our goals and desires. Manson teaches us how to ‘start giving a fuck’ on the things that will truly help us succeed in life – emotionally, mentally, and financially.

 

Girl Code: Cara Alwill Leyba

 Most people who receive a book for Christmas have to do that fake awkward grin that makes it seem like they aren’t completely disappointed as their relative is smiling at you from ear to ear in excitement. However, me, I love getting a new book for Christmas, my birthday, etc. Since I share most the books I read on my social media channels, it’s pretty easy to tell which genres I am interested in: psychology, self-improvement, comedies, etc. My best friend Sam got me this book for Christmas last year and I’m pretty sure it took me just a few days to finish. Firstly one thing, it’s not a long book. Secondly, it’s super conversational and the topic of the book isn’t heavy or condescending to the audience. Cara Alwill Leyba has such an inspiring voice throughout the novel, as if she’s the head cheerleader guiding women around the world to follow their dreams. She includes a selection of short interviews at the end of each chapter with other female entrepreneurs. The thing is, Cara is not a celebrity or someone who you would recognize if you passed by her in the street. Yet she has made such a strong connection with women all around the world – that you start to question why you haven’t heard more about her. This is not a business work or a 101 on how to become a successful entrepreneur. This book is more-so an outlet to help change your perception about your own talents and abilities. Many women are overlooked in business, misunderstood, underappreciated, and taken advantage of. Cara helps you see your own self-worth, and gives you advice on how to find your own undiscovered talents, whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not. Essentially, this is a book is a great tool to get you motivated and out of any personal ruts you may be suffering through. Cara has a great sense of humor which contributes to it’s modern appeal. A lot of books like this tend to be outdated to the current-day working women. Everyone is working in a different industry and has a different journey, so it’s impractical when other writers list these black and white steps to succeed. Cara is honest about her struggles and the struggles that you also may come across. Towards the end I thought the book was dragging on a bit, hence the lack of a perfect 5-star rating in my opinion. But it definitely was something that raised my confidence and increased my optimism toward my own personal future and career. For anyone who needs a kick in the butt about revamping their motivation or even getting it started, this book is for you.

 

Invisible Influence: Jonah Berger

 This is truly an insightful read, especially for those just looking for a basic introduction to human behavior and social psychology. This book is not complex, which is beneficial for a lot of people who are just starting to become interested in this very broad topic of social and external influences. It talks about the well-known nature vs. nurture debate, in addition to how your social environment (which is often underestimated and “invisible” or not taken as a large consideration in most scenarios) affects everything from perceived attractiveness, economics, birth order talent/intelligence, career paths, and more. What I love about this book is that it really just makes you think. It makes you think back about all the past [or even current] experiences you have had, and question things that you may have not even realized or noticed prior. It’s a well-known cliche to say “the little things matter most,” but this books paints an even bigger argument that these “little” things are not little at all when they affect so many [underestimated] aspects of your life. As someone who has studied social psychology and human behavior for many years, as early as taking AP psychology in high school, and who currently works in social media… I wish this book digged a bit deeper into the certain case studies and focus groups, talking more about the insights they found in relation neuroscience/biology, etc. Basically, just narrowing down some of the insights to a conclusion that was less broad. Nonetheless, this is still an awesome read that I learned A LOT from, and would still recommend to anyone interested in social sciences, psychology, and/or human behavior in this current digital era.

 

Silver Linings Playbook: Matthew Quick

 So, I saw the movie first. I don’t know if I just committed a reader’s sin, but I didn’t even know this was a book before I heard of the movie. I really, really, really enjoyed the movie. I was already a big Bradley Cooper fan from Wedding Crashers and The Hangover (I know, not the most intelligible choices, but men with a sense of humor are my weakness), so seeing him in a non-comedy movie was super interesting. After I saw the movie again recently (inspired after The Eagles winning the Superbowl), and falling in love again with the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, I decided to purchase the book from the rave reviews on Amazon (in addition to the super low price to purchase it. I think I bought this book for a dollar). This book did not disappoint. I am somewhat confused how to feel because I thought I was going to dislike the movie after reading the book (since most people and avid readers will argue the book is always better), but I didn’t. I still love the movie, and I still loved the book. To be honest, I thought the movie was an excellent representation of the book. Many of the lines were exactly the same, and I thought that all of the actors portrayed their book character phenomenally. The two main characters, Cooper and Lawrence in the movie, both suffer from mental illness (bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, mood disorder), which is often misunderstood in society and sometimes in movies as well. I definitely admired how you received more of a narrative/story-telling vibe in the book which was not portrayed in the film. The only thing that I wish the book included (*SPOILER*) more of (which was not in the movie either) was the relationship or future of relationship between Tiffany and Patrick as a couple battling their own mental illness individually, but would then be as a couple. I don’t know, I guess I am just wishing that I got to read more about their eventual happiness together since I was so happy to see these two passionate people together in the end. I guess I just wanted more, which just further exemplifies how superb the author did in telling this story. I am already a huge advocate of mental illness awareness, so I was truly happy to read a book that did not glorify nor mock the struggles and realities of mental illness. After seeing the movie, you really get to see the story unfold through Patrick’s eyes. I cried (of course) in the movie and the book, because you are rooting for Patrick this whole time, and in the end, you finally get to see him realize that his happy was right in front of him the whole time.

Stay Hungry: Sebastian Maniscalco 

 When I heard one of my favorite comedians was coming out with a book, I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t that excited. As you can tell, most of the books I read are about psychology or sociology or related to bettering my life/career. I don’t read a ton of memoirs or autobiographies just because I “read to learn” rather than “read for leisure/entertainment.” Of course, since Sebastian is a comedian, I assumed this book was just chapters filled with jokes and tales he tells when doing stand up. To my surprise, this book is SO much more than a bunch of jokes and stories. From beginning to end, I read this book in Sebastian’s voice. This is not one of those books where the ghost writer completely took over. No, this is written 100% in his voice and tone – the same kind of jargon and metaphors he uses on stage. This book is not necessarily written in chronological order, as Sebastian goes back and forth referring to times in the past and present. You learn even more about Sebastian’s upbringing in a traditional Italian household (which he already references a ton in his acts, but this takes a deeper dive), how he met his wife, how he worked at the Four Seasons for almost a decade before he started to work full time as a comedian, and more. What I appreciate the most about this book – that I didn’t expect to come out of it with – was the amount of motivation and inspiration I had after I finished reading the last page. Sebastian did not grow up with rich parents or connections. He didn’t grow up living in LA or NYC or Miami. He didn’t start working for his dad’s business and had “the easy way out.” He worked minimum wage jobs, lived in shitty apartments, worked 70-80 hours a week, sometimes worked 3 jobs at once, and failed… A LOT. Like a LOT. Sometimes I get down on myself with all the times that I go on job interviews, complete assignments, wait 4-6  weeks, and then hear back that I was not chosen for the job I felt 100% confident in. He failed, a lot, but he never quit. I know, it seems cliche… but when you see people in his field (entertainment, comedy, etc)… a LOT of those famous actors you see on TV either had wealthy parents, parents in the industry, grew up in LA, tons of connections, etc. Sebastian had none of that. He started from a blank slate and made it all the way up to where he is now (one of the highest paid comedians according to Forbes, selling out Radio City Music Hall, specials on Netflix) from pure diligence and drive. I was crying at the end of the book (shocker) out of pure joy and pride for his accomplishments. Although the book has a lot of important and serious lessons to learn from, it is written in his hilarious and relatable tone that makes it that much more enjoyable than a typical autobiography or self-help book. I would recommend this to anyone, and of course any fan of Sebastian, even those who do not like to read. (I actually went to his first book signing in Tribeca, NYC to buy the book, listen to his Q&A, meet Sebastian, and have my book signed. It was incredible.)

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