Friday, August 4, 2017

A Flag Worth Dying For
By Tim Marshall

We all know how we feel when we see our flag flying. The Stars and Stripes evoke a strong emotion whether it be positive or negative. But that is not an unique story. Many other flags across history and the globe have had that same affect on people. This is their book.

Tim Marshall is a journalist and broadcaster and has traveled extensively around the world. His first hand knowledge expands the scope of this book. I very much enjoyed the chapter on the United States flag because 1) it is my country's flag and 2) because Marshall is British and writes it from an outsiders perspective. 

The chapters on the Middle East and the subtle and unique pieces of their flags also intrigued me. Take, for example, Saudi Arabia. They have the shahada (Islamic declaration of faith) written on their flag. Because of the shahada is considered holy there is a very strong rule to never fly their flag at half-mast and to never print it on clothes or items. FIFA one year had plans to print a soccer ball with all of the FIFA Cup teams represented and Saudi Arabia asked not to be included because having the shahada kicked around was completely improper. 

If you are like me and like to flesh out your knowledge of things we see every day (or if you need random knowledge for Trivia Night!) then this is the book for you. It is well written and easy to follow.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Night of the Grizzlies
By Jack Olsen

In the history of Glacier National Park there had never been a fatal bear attack, until the night of August 12th-13th, 1967 when two separate bear maulings happened 9 miles and 4 hours apart. Two unrelated incidents, two young women who didn't know each other, two different bears, the first two humans to die from a bear attack in Glacier.

All on the same night.  

At the time, it was calculated the odds were greater than 1 in a million for a single bear attack but the odds of two separate attacks in a 4 hour time span were beyond measure. This book, while published a few years ago, caught my attention quickly. It is an enthralling read, detailing the whole summer before the attacks and what a lead up to these horrific events.

As someone who has lived in the shadow of Yellowstone Park all of my life this book strikes home with how the relationship between man and grizzly has changed over the last 100 years. Night of the Grizzlies reads like a thriller but every so often while reading you remember this actually happened and you clutch the blanket closer around you and maybe double check the back door before you open it at night.

NOTE: don't read this book if you are about to go hiking and spend the night on the ground in a national park.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

You're Never Weird On the Internet (Almost)
By Felicia Day

Felicia Day has been one of my entrepreneur heroes for a long time. You might know her as Vi from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog but Felicia is also a gamer, social mediaist (Yes, I made that term up), geek, business owner, web series creator and now author. If you follow Felicia's work, you quickly realize that she is not one to fit into the mold. She is a free thinker, brilliant, funny and willing to stretch the boundaries to take creativity and her art to a higher level. 

You can imagine my delight last year when Day announced that she was writing a memoir. I pre-ordered it for myself and for the library. I actually listened to this book instead of reading it because Day recorded the audio herself. I would recommend listening to it as she is laugh-out-loud hilarious. The book is written in conversational writing that lends to the feeling of sitting at a dinner with Felicia and hearing her life story. (Falan also wrote a review on the audio book here. Check it out!)

Felicia grew up in a home that was anything but traditional. She went to college at 16 and graduated with dual majors in math and music. Her journey is full of witty stories. She highlights mistakes and successes, struggles and victories all with her sharp wit and ability to see the humor in life. Her stories of meeting celebrities for the first time had my sides aching from laughter. You follow her story through her inner dialog from the page. Felicia also talks very honestly about her struggles with fame, pressure and depression.You also get a glimpse into the world of female gamers and the intrigue and (sometimes) danger that comes with that.

If you have been a fan of Felicia for many years like myself or this is the first time you have heard her name; I encourage you to read(listen) to this fun, honest and impactful book. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty
By Diane Keaton

I know sometimes we think that being a movie star or being rich and famous is the top standard in life. If we can achieve this then we would not have to worry about small, everyday things like taking out the trash, shoveling snow, eating healthy or zits with bad timing. But honestly, if we stopped to think about it, those things don’t just go away because you live in a nice place in California. These people have real, everyday, battles just like you and me. They have to learn how to be themselves with more pressure than you and I do! (I think I have pressure to look nice when I come to work and I work with people who are my friends! I can’t imagine all the pressure from magazines and paparazzi, etc)

This is what Diane Keaton writes about in her new biography Let’s Just Say it Wasn’t Pretty. It is a fun, witty journal of her drive to being content with who she is and learning to stand out. What is real beauty? Is this fake, everyone-looks-the-same-Barbie-doll-version we have going on now in society real beauty? What if you don’t fit into the mold? Are you broken or are you a banner for individual style and expression? Keaton tells a few amusing anecdotes about her experiences in this area.

I enjoyed this clever look at an age-old question through the eyes of someone who seems to “have it all.” If you are looking for a fun, quick read I would highly suggest this book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Movie Will Require Dinosaurs
By C.W. Neill

I was walking by the new nonfiction book display last week and this title caught my eye. I picked up the book and was so glad I did.

Curt Neill is a struggling screenwriter who created and writes for the blog Untitled Screenplays ( He has a hilarious sense of humor about his own splashes of and lacks of creativity. Each page is an attempted screenplay that Neill has started. He never makes it to page two but he cleverly makes fun of the technicalities of screenplays and movies in general.  I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting but it would also be a wonderful book to read a few pages on occasion for a good laugh. I enjoyed the individual snapshots of screenplays. Some I wish he could have written more pages and fleshed it out to an actual screenplay and others I just laughed at and thought “That was a bad start!”

If you are looking for a light, enjoyable read I would highly suggest this book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
By Robert M. Edsel

Firstly, I am a huge history buff and a history major so a fair amount of the books I review on this blog will be about fantastic tales, or people, from history. Though, I will do my best to never recommend a dry, boring, this-is-taking-me-back-to-high-school history book. :) With that being said…

This book was published back in 2010 but the movie just came out in February so I bumped it to the top of my reading list. (A list which is pages long, in case you were wondering. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever reach the end.)

This book tells the remarkable story of an Allied special force at the end of World War II tasked to find and protect all of the fine art treasures stolen by the Nazi’s during their conquest of Europe. Hitler had hidden art from thousands of years of European and world culture and the Allies feared he was going to destroy it when he knew Germany would be defeated.

Numerous art curators, scholars, historians, architects and archivists, from over 13 different Allied countries, were tasked to spearhead this operation. The beginning of the book was rather slow but as soon as the treasure hunt picks up I was swept into the story as the men and women risked their lives to locate and restore thousands of years of art, statues and treasures from certain elimination at Nazi hands.

If you are looking for an exceptional story from a well-documented time in history, this would be a great read.

Friday, March 21, 2014

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir
By Jessica Hendry Nelson

Are you a memoir junkie? Do you enjoy books in which the writer overcomes high levels of adversity? Do you enjoy reading about flawed and relatable people? If you answered yes to any of these questions than I would strongly recommend Jessica Hendry Nelson’s debut “If Only You People Could Follow Directions.”

Those aren’t the only things that make this such a great read. Addiction memoirs are popular with publishers these days. For every great addiction memoir like “Smashed” and “More, Now, Again” there are dozens that fall flat. What makes Nelson’s memoir stand out is her unique and engaging voice. She writes in a way that connects with the reader and makes it easy to empathize with her situation. This is also a great book for those that may not typically read non-fiction. Nelson’s writing style is such that it reads more like a novel and I found that I had to remind myself I was reading a piece of non-fiction.

Jessica, her brother Eric, and her mother Susan are the central figures of the book. Other people in her life drift in an out and impact her in different ways. The memoir follows Jessica as she grows up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and oftentimes absent father. Addiction, mental illness, codependency, and drifting apart as we grow up are themes that are touched on frequently. Her mother holds the family together but when Jessica goes off to college and her brother's choices lead to prison, she also starts to spiral into addiction. The book doesn't follow a typical chronological progression but is more of a collection of essays based on her experience and are neatly tied together. After reading the book it is clear that the title reflects on the feeling of powerlessness we sometimes have when it comes to stopping loved ones from making destructive choices. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!