It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is cool too) by Nora McInerny Purmort

It's Okay to LaughThis book is a satirical look at life through the rainy eyes of a dozen tears. The young head-strong Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job like a bad check. Her life was little more than homage to the hamster on the wheel. Then she met Aaron, a charismatic art director and her kindred spirit. They made mix tapes (and pancakes) and had rumbling conversations into the wee hours of the morning. They finished each other’s sentences. They just knew what they knew. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and married after his first surgery. They had a baby when he was on chemo. They shared an amazing summer filled with happiness and laughter. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora’s arms in another hospital bed.

His wildly creative obituary, which they co-wrote together, ignited a flame of sentiment and touched the world. Now, Nora shares hysterical, moving, and painfully honest stories about her life journey with Aaron. It’s OK to Laugh explores universal themes of love, marriage, work, (single) motherhood, and depression through her refreshingly frank viewpoint. It’s okay to look back at life in the review mirror. A love letter to life, in all of its messy glory, and what it’s like to still be kickin’, It’s OK to Laugh is like a long chat with a close friend over a cup of coffee (or chardonnay). –Evelyn Casey

3 Stars

Where’s Warhol? by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae

What do these movies have in common?

Funny Face

New York Stories

Beetlejuice

The Big Lebowski

Ghost World

WarholStumped? They all suggest that contemporary art — some of it, anyway — is a lie, a con job, or just a form of time-wasting practiced by the deluded. Lebowski’s Maude Lebowski, Ghost World’s Roberta, Beetlejuice’s Delia Deetz and Gregory Stark, the performance artist in Martin Scorsese’s section of New York Stories, are all either frauds or dupes. And that type is hardly limited to these movies. You can find it all over TV: in The Simpsons, Broad City, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Girls …

It’s not too surprising that this trope is so common, or that it should span decades. For many Americans, it seems to go without saying that the art world is a haven of emptiness and perfidy. Or, actually, it doesn’t go without saying: It gets said, and said a lot.

How, then, do you explain the instantaneous, bubbly appeal of Where’s Warhol? At a glance it’s clear this book will entertain virtually everyone who picks it up — art fan or no. It feels as buoyant as the silver balloons that drift across its cover. Its concept hardly needs explanation: Just like in Where’s Waldo, the bestselling kids’ series it emulates, Where’s Warhol challenges you to find one person amidst a crowded landscape. The difference is that these landscapes, real or imaginary, are all related to art history or pop culture: the Bauhaus, Studio 54, the excavation of Pompeii, a dinner party hosted by Salvador Dalí. And instead of looking for a goofy fellow in a striped hat, you’re seeking a too-cool fellow in a silvery wig and sunglasses.

The book’s focus on Andy Warhol is the key to its charm. It just wouldn’t be the same if it were Where’s Wassily? or Where’s Willem? There’s something about Warhol that seems fundamentally approachable, fundamentally democratic. Even before he attained the status of icon (that most democratic form of stardom) Warhol concentrated on subjects ordinary people know intimately: consumer products, Jackie O. –NPR

3 Stars

Sapientia: The 40 Principles of Wisdom by Alvin Conway

SapientiaSapientia is a Latin word meaning “wisdom.” Life has meaning. Life has a purpose. The author offers 40 insightful adages of wisdom to help guide you through the sometimes “uncanny and uncertain” corridors of life. This is a wonderful book that touches on everything from spirituality to philosophy without ever forgetting that it is the reader who is ultimately in control of his or her own life. It contains koans of wisdom that the intellectual and philosophically-curious will luxuriously gravitate to. It counsels on the best foods to eat for health and long life. It offers motivational advice on how to obtain and successfully reach your goals. It has a chart for age, weight, and nearly every hormonal peak your body will experience, as it ages. It may be the ultimate life textbook. The book retrospectively and analytically examines the psychological works of Freud, Jung, and Abraham Maslow.  It explores the wants, needs, and desires that drives us all in life – the very things that make us human and want to excel. This is one of the best motivational books I have ever read. It’s a book of wisdom that will seamlessly guide you along through life, as you age and mature under the lens of different life-altering experiences. Mr. Conway does a wonderful job of bringing all these existential elements together in one book that’s both enchanting to read and wonderfully illustrated to the point. –Evelyn Casey

Where to buy it – Lulu

5 Stars

 

Paul McCartney: The Life by Phillip Norman

Paul McCartneyJust as his 1981 book, Shout!, is considered by many to be the definitive history of the Beatles, so biographer Philip Norman’s Paul McCartney: The Life will be the once-for-all-time record of the lad from Liverpool whose song lyrics and boyish good looks broke hearts and whose career after the Beatles was almost as successful as his time with them.

Drawing on scores of interviews with McCartney’s family, friends and associates, Norman delivers a sprawling, year-by-year chronicle filled with details about McCartney’s personal and professional life that will be familiar to many devoted fans. The book ranges from McCartney’s childhood and the devastating death of his mother—after which, he said, “I learned to put a shell around me”—to his love of rock ’n’ roll and his early days with John and George in The Quarrymen. From a young age, McCartney capitalized on his considerable appeal to the opposite sex. “Ever since kindergarten, he’d been aware of his attractiveness to girls and the infallible effect of turning his brown eyes full on them,” Norman writes.

The author chronicles the Beatles’ apprenticeship in Hamburg, the acrimony that tore the band apart and the beginnings of Wings, as well as McCartney’s relationships with Linda Eastman, Heather Mills and Nancy Shevell.

Along with the biographical narrative, Norman weaves in analysis of McCartney’s music as it evolved. For example, Wings’ 1973 album, Band on the Run, appeared at first to be out of control, but the band, according to Norman, “made a courageous journey through unfriendly territory” to emerge with a record that garnered “reviews as ecstatic as those of his previous albums had been dismissive.” On Ram, McCartney includes an instrumental to please his father, Jim, a former big band musician in declining health when the album appeared in 1971.

The author paints a portrait of a musician driven constantly to reinvent himself and a perfectionist who still deeply loves the process of songwriting. While Norman never shies away from revealing McCartney’s shortcomings (“the inexhaustible geniality Paul showed the world was not always replicated in private,” for example) his enthusiasm for the artist turns this book into a sympathetic look at McCartney’s life and his deep contributions to music. -NY Times

5 Stars

My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard – Book 5

My StruggleIn which our author, never at a loss for words, spends his 20s figuring out how to use the right ones. In the previous installment of Knausgaard’s six-volume autobiographical epic, the narrator was a teenager hoping to start a novel and put an end to his virginity. Now, just turned 20 and starting college at the national university in Norway, he’s adjusted his ambitions only slightly: can he get serious about writing and romance? In this book’s first section, both goals take a beating. He’s been accepted into the school’s prestigious writing workshop under the tutelage of national luminaries like Jon Fosse, but his output is desperately subpar. (“Apart from the stupid names and all the clichés, and the lack of psychological insight, I quite liked what you wrote,” one classmate tells him.) As for settling down, his brother, Yngve, winds up stealing away the woman he had his heart set upon. So in the 14 years that follow, Karl Ove becomes aimless and reckless, drinking heavily, playing in bands and hanging out with musicians (in one memorable scene he drunkenly vomits in Bjork’s apartment), taking menial jobs (including a stint helping the mentally handicapped) while launching a sideline as a book critic, and cheating on his girlfriend. All of this, of course, becomes grist for the mill, and the novel becomes a bildungsroman about literary victory snatched from drunken self-loathing. That makes it the most conventional book in the series, but its form echoes the urge for conventionality he’s seeking. And in the context of the entire series, it’s a self-deprecating study of how stories are made and found and how the best ones get ignored. His father’s death was a heartbreaking event in Volume 1, told from a decade’s distance. He elides it here, suggesting he lacked the literary and emotional tools to process it at the time. An admirably seriocomic look at a headlong leap into maturity. –Kirkus

The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux

Girl from Summer HillFollowing a bad breakup with a boyfriend jealous of her career success and a falling out with her too-demanding-to-be-borne-a-moment-longer boss, chef Casey Reddick has decided against getting involved in relationships for the foreseeable future. Her attention turns to other things. She is charmed by the town of Summer Hill, Virginia, and by the little guest house on the Tattwell plantation that the owner’s cousin is letting her stay in. All Casey needs is peace and quiet and a great kitchen in which she can cook to her heart’s content, and she’s good to go. Then one morning, she discovers a strange naked man showering on her front porch. He is unaware she is living there.

Tate Landers is a megastar in Hollywood and the owner of Tattwell, and he is back in Spring Hill for the first time in a long while. His cousin Kit is putting on a production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the local theater, and in a moment of weakness and familial love, Tate promised he would play Mr. Darcy. The last thing he needs is a woman he thinks is a reporter spying on him from the guest house, especially when he’s showering. However, it just so happens that woman turns out to be his new leading lady. At times, quaint and charming, and at others romantic – this book manages to have some fun without taking itself too seriously.  –Beth Frasider

3 Stars