Tag Archives: nonfiction books

Reading Around the Country: 50 Books for 50 States

They say that books are the cheapest form of travel…and with this list of 50 Books for 50 States, you can make your way around the US from the comfort of your own couch.

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Start your journey at the Whistle Stop Café in Alabama (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café), then journey into the Alaskan wilderness in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.  Travel back in time to 1800’s Chicago for the Chicago World’s Fair in Devil in the White City, then get a true taste of Wyoming’s beautiful landscape in Annie Proulx’s collection of stories, Close Range.

This is the ultimate reading list for those looking to learn about the eclectic culture of the US, from the rough and tough landscapes of the American southwest to the picturesque mountains and valleys that abound on our coastal states.

Reading Around the Country: 50 Books for 50 States

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  • Alabama – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg
  • Alaska – Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
  • Arizona – Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
  • Arkansas – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • California – East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  • Colorado – Kings of Colorado, David E. Hilton
  • Connecticut – Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
  • Delaware – And Never Let Her Go, Ann Rule
  • Florida – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

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  • Georgia – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
  • Hawaii – The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings
  • Idaho – Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech
  • Illinois – Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  • Indiana – All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
  • Iowa – The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller
  • Kansas – In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  • Kentucky – Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Louisiana – The Awakening, Kate Chopin

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  • Maine – It, Stephen King
  • Maryland – The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth
  • Massachusetts – The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  • Michigan – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Minnesota – The Good Girl, Mary Kubica
  • Mississippi – The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  • Missouri – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  • Montana – A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Norman Maclean
  • Nebraska – O Pioneers!, Willa Cather

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  • Nevada – Desperation, Stephen King
  • New Hampshire – A Separate Peace, John Knowles
  • New Jersey – American Pastoral, Philip Roth
  • New Mexico – The Milagro Beanfield War, Joe Mondragon
  • New York – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • North Carolina – A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
  • North Dakota – The Round House, Louise Erdrich
  • Ohio – Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Oklahoma – The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

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  • Oregon – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  • Pennsylvania – Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  • Rhode Island – The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
  • South Carolina – The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
  • South Dakota – The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Ann Weisgarber
  • Tennessee – A Death in the Family, James Agee
  • Texas – Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger
  • Utah – The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff
  • Vermont – Where the Rivers Flow North, Howard Frank Mosher

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  • Virginia – Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
  • Washington – Border Songs, Jim Lynch
  • West Virginia – Rocket Boys, Homer H. Hickam, Jr.
  • Wisconsin – A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick
  • Wyoming – Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger Book Review

He was the music maker…the dreamer of dreams.  He brought some of our favorite characters to life, including Dr. Frankenstein, Willy Wonka, Leo Bloom, Sigerson Holmes, and Skip Donahue.  From his humble beginnings as a Shakespearean actor to his amazing collection of movies he made with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder challenged the comic genre.  He pushed himself, pushed his directors.  He poured himself into each project, owning and enveloping each of his characters with all the energy he could muster.  He may have been a simple Midwestern boy at heart, but Gene Wilder was nothing if not a believer in the extraordinary.

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In his very intimate and personal autobiography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger, Wilder opens up and exposes his deepest secrets, talking about how his sick mother influenced his career path and his very real and emotional experiences with psychoanalysis.  He opens about his love affairs and marriages, including his sometimes tumultuous relationship with fellow comedian, Gilda Radner, and his difficult relationship with his adopted daughter, Katie.

While he does talk briefly about his projects and films, Kiss Me Like a Stranger is not a tell-all about a chocolate factory or a secret laboratory.  At its core, this book is about an actor’s search for truth, love, and acceptance.  It’s about mistakes and choices.  With eloquence and grace, it turns this larger-than-life comedian into a real person, a humble person.  A man who falls in and out of love, who struggles with raising a daughter not his own, and who – just like the rest of us – is just looking for love and fulfillment both personally and professionally.

Written about 10 years before his death, Kiss Me Like a Stranger is a frank, yet charming memoir that shows Wilder for what he truly was…a shy, gentle man who loved to make people laugh.  He was a dear friend, a doting husband, and a beloved actor who, like so many of his profession, had a series of serendipitous moments that propelled him, maybe unwillingly, into stardom.

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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25 of the Best Celeb-ographies I’ve Read So Far

For me, there’s no better beach read than a juicy celebrity biography…and lord knows I’ve read my fair share.  My brain seems to be packed with useless information about Russell Brand’s childhood, Carol Burnett’s seriously amazing friendship squad, and amazing life advice from Nick Offerman.  I don’t know what it is, but taking a look behind the curtain and seeing what these stars are like IRL just gives me a sense of comfort…especially since I will only read bios on the people I actually like!

Over the years I’ve read bios by and about everyone from Sammy Davis, Jr. to Bryan Cranston…and I’ve collected 25 of my favorites right here.  Need a new beach read this summer?  This is the perfect place to start!

25 of the Best Celeb-ographies I’ve Read So Far

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In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.
Wil Haygood

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An intimate look at a man who defined entertainment, this biography is one of the first I remember reading and thoroughly enjoying.  Sammy Davis, Jr. was a man who lived and breathed music and dance, and In Black and White is an amazing testament to the legacy he’s left behind.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
David Michaelis

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It should come as no surprise that Charles Schulz, the man behind Charlie Brown and friends, was a bit of a loner.  A raw and emotional story about the man who gave the world one of the best comic strips ever written, Schulz and Peanuts is also peppered with cartoons and illustrations to help his story come to life.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee
Sarah Silverman

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Any fan of Sarah Silverman will love this book.  Told in her voice with her raw sense of humor, The Bedwetter is an inspirational story about following your dreams, standing up for yourself, and conquering your fears.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain
Portia De Rossi

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In Unbearable Lightness, Portia De Rossi opens up about her struggles with anorexia and body image issues, as well as her journey to acceptance and love.  This one is emotional, guys…but very uplifting.

Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant
Jennifer Grant

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A short and sweet book packed with personal stories and family photos, Good Stuff gives readers a look at a man the world rarely got to see.  Though Cary Grant was one of the most famous actors of his generation, he was actually quite reserved…and this story of his life at home will have you loving him all the more.

My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up
Russell Brand

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I gotta say, I loved this more than I thought I would.  Packed with hilarious stories of growing up in the U.K., My Booky Wook is everything you expect it to be and nothing more.  A quick read that’s perfect for summer, My Booky Wook might help explain, just a little, the insanity that is Russell Brand.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Anthony Bourdain

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A mesmerizing look into the world of the culinary arts, Kitchen Confidential will open your eyes to the seedy, dirty, and terrifying world of restaurant chefs.  Where they eat, how they eat, and what really happens when you send your food back…it’s all here in black and white…and will forever change the way you order food next time you dine out.

Seriously…I’m Kidding
Ellen DeGeneres

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Love, love, love this book.  Ellen is everything you want her to be and this book is like having her right there in your living room with you.  An inspirational story about a woman who helped fuel the LGBT movement, Seriously…I’m Kidding will have you laughing, crying, and dancing for joy.

Choose Your Own Autobiography
Neil Patrick Harris

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Written in a fun choose your own adventure format, NPH’s autobiography is a fun and comic take on NPH’s rise to fame.  Filled with hilarious stories, cute drawings, and plenty of twists and turns, Choose Your Own Autobiography is everything you want in a beach read.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling

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I think Mindy and I are destined to be BFF’s.  A book for girls who love eating, laughing, drinking, and then eating again, reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? also requires a glass of wine, a platter of cheese fries, and a Netflix subscription…because you’re gonna want to start watching The Office all over again.

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy
Rainn Wilson

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And if Mindy’s book doesn’t convince you to revisit Dunder Mifflin, The Bassoon King surely will.  With a forward by Dwight Schrute himself, The Bassoon King will make you fall in love with Rainn Wilson all the more.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
Cary Elwes

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OK so this isn’t a BIOGRAPHY so to speak, but I couldn’t leave it off this list!  A MUST for anyone who loves the movie, As You Wish takes readers behind the scenes, giving them a glimpse into the making of the most romantic story of all time.  There are also personal stories from Fred Savage, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal and many more about filming, production, and casting.

It’s a Long Story: My Life
Willie Nelson

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I didn’t know much about Willie before reading this book, but I just found it so enjoyable and warm.  I actually listened to this book on tape, so there were moments when I heard Willie playing in the background, which I think made me like this book even more.  A very personal look into a life that was torn, rebuilt, and torn again, It’s a Long Story makes it easy to understand just how much Willie Nelson has influenced the music industry.

Is You Okay?
Glozell Green

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Glozell, a self-proclaimed internet-tainer, has taken YouTube by storm with her various “challenge” videos.  She rose to amazing success after posting her “Cinnamon Challenge” video and has created many more since then.  She comes across as a bit of a loon online, but in reality, she’s quite the go-getter…and this book was surprisingly inspirational and motivating, especially for young girls just starting on their career paths.

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
Scotty Bowers

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Hahahahahaha, I can’t think of this book without laughing.  So insanely ridiculous in nature, Full Service is a story about the sex lives of the Hollywood stars we know and love.  While some of these stories seem absolutely insane, others could be quite plausible…and as Bowers says himself, there’s really no way to know, as most of the celebrities in this book are now dead.  Even if it’s all fake, Full Service certainly is the ultimate beach read and is attune to reading a long, juicy, trashy magazine.

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages
Kristin Chenoweth

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You might know her from Wicked, Pushing Daisies, Glee, or just from her work on Broadway…but this little pint-sized star packs a serious punch…and the stories of her rise to fame are so inspiring that you may find yourself singing “Defying Gravity” as you read it.

Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
Marc Eliot

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The thing I love most about Jimmy Stewart is that he is everything you want him to be.  Kind, good-hearted, genuine, classy…he was all of those things and more.  A sweet book to give to dad or grandpa for Father’s Day, Stewart’s biography truly showcases a wonderful life.

Yes Please
Amy Poehler

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If you were to take The Magic Schoolbus into the mind of Amy Poehler, it would look like the pages of Yes Please.  A book you could easily read in a few hours, Yes Please is like a scrapbook of Poehler’s life, told with her wit and sarcasm, and the genuine care and attention to detail of her foil, Leslie Knope.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living
Nick Offerman

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If Nick Offerman had his choice, this book would probably be hand-written and bound with leather and glue.  A story about growing up in rural Illinois and making a future literally by hand, Paddle Your Own Canoe is a life-lesson in creativity, romance, and manliness.  It’s most likely Ron Swanson’s favorite book, TBH.

A Life in Parts
Bryan Cranston

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Any lover of Bryan Cranston’s work will enjoy this book.  Told in several small vignettes of characters Cranston has played in his lifetime (both personally and professionally), this book really is a life in parts.

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star
Jenna Jameson

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This was another book that was a total surprise.  Juicy gossip, sexy pictures, and lots (LOTS) of tips and tricks of the trade fill this beast of an autobiography.  Word to the wise…many libraries have stopped carrying this book for…reasons…so if you’re interested, invest in your own copy.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
Carol Burnett

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If you loved her then, you’ll love her now.  A sweet celebration of love and friendship, This Time Together is humorous, genuine, and – like Carol – a true treat.

My Father’s Daughter: A Memoir
Tina Sinatra

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Almost everyone in the world knows who Frank Sinatra was…but not many knew him the way his kids knew him.  A very emotional, raw, and empowering book about a father and a daughter, My Father’s Daughter holds no bars…opening the door to her father’s friendships, love affairs, and struggles…all told from the perspective of one of the girls who truly loved him the most.

Bossypants
Tina Fey

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Let’s be honest, you’ve read this, right?  Everyone has to have read this by now…so there’s really no use explaining how amazing this is.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
Julie Andrews

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This woman is practically perfect in every way.  An amazing singer, actor, and writer, Home is a look into the very early years of Andrews’ career…starting from childhood and ending with her boarding the plane to star in this little Disney movie called Mary Poppins.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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29 Audiobooks Read by Celebrities

As an avid book-smeller, there’s really nothing that can replace sitting down with an old book and a warm cup of coffee…snuggling up under a blanket as a storm rolls in…or watching the late summer afternoons slowly turn into night…those are my favorite times to read – but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to find moments in the day to actually sit down and relax with a book.

Try as you might, the laundry still has to get done, dishes have to be cleaned, kids have to be transported from one activity to the next…not to mention when you finally do have time to sit down, opening a book and reading might just be enough to instantly put you into a deep sleep.

Thankfully, us bookworms can still get our shizz done and enjoy a little literary flair with the invention of the audiobook.  Though books on tape, books on CD, hell – even books on 45’s – have been around for a long time, the ability to listen to a book via the Internet is certainly a game-changer…and readers of all ages and types are enjoying services like Audible, Libravox, and even iTunes to listen to their favorite books as they drive, walk, work, or cook.

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And, when it comes to audiobooks, the voice is the thing…a dull voice makes for a dull story.  To help introduce readers to older classics and new possible best-sellers, publishers have started to reach out to celebrities to offer their voices to the words of Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Earnest Hemingway, Roald Dahl, and so many more…and celebrities of all calibers have answered the call.

So whether you’re jumping in your car for a summer road trip or snuggling up under a blanket watching a late summer storm, these audiobooks are sure to keep you company…soothing you, entertaining you, enlightening you – like an old friend – with a voice you’ve come to know and love.

 

29 Audiobooks Read by Celebrities

The End the Affair, Graham Greene
Narrated by:  Colin Firth
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Narrated by:  Anne Hathaway
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Narrated by:  Nick Offerman
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The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Narrated by:  Claire Danes
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To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Narrated by:  Nicole Kidman
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A Rage in Harlem, Chester Himes
Narrated by:  Samuel L. Jackson
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Being There, Jerzy Kosinski
Narrated by:  Dustin Hoffman
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Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Narrated by:  Diane Keaton
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The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
Narrated by:  Susan Sarandon
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Dracula, Bram Stoker
Narrated by:  Alan Cumming
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The Human Comedy, William Saroyan
Narrated by:  Meg Ryan
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Life, Keith Richards
Narrated by:  Johnny Depp
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Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Narrated by:  Maggie Gyllenhaal
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A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Narrated by:  John Slattery
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A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
Narrated by:  Tim Curry
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Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Narrated by:  Jeremy Irons
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Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Narrated by:  Rachel McAdams
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Matilda, Roald Dahl
Narrated by:  Kate Winslet
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To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Narrated by:  Sissy Spacek
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Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
Narrated by:  Reese Witherspoon
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Narrated by:  Stephen Fry
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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Narrated by:  Rosamund Pike
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Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
Narrated by:  Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Lena Dunham, and more
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The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Narrated by:  Bryan Cranston
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The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Narrated by:  Jake Gyllenhaal
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Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Narrated by:  James Franco
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Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Narrated by:  Gary Sinese
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
Narrated by:  Eddie Redmayne
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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
Narrated by:  Michael C. Hall
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Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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What Book Should You Read Based on Your Favorite FRIEND?

You know you’ve got one!  You may SAY you love all the FRIENDS equally, but we all have our favorites…by now you should know who mine is!

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Whether you’re more drawn to Chandler because of his clever one-liners or Phoebe because of her love of everything whimsy and imaginative, your top FRIEND choice can help dictate what’s next up in your reading list!

So no matter who’s been there for you when you needed them, if you’re still missing FRIENDS, you can get a little taste of your favorite TV BFF with this collection of FRIENDS-inspired books!

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If Your Favorite FRIEND is Monica friends frustrated courteney cox monica geller stressed GIF

Read The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer
cvr9780743246262_9780743246262_hrConsidered to be one of the best cookbooks of all time, The Joy of Cooking is a staple in the home of any food lover.  While most chefs probably have a copy stained with food and filled with crumbs, Monica’s is probably in pristine condition upon her shelf.

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Read Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern
shitdadsezFilled with the best dad-isms you’ve ever heard, Sh*t My Dad Says is sure to be a little look into the future of Chandler Bing as a father.  Filled with amazing one-liners that even Chandler would be proud of, this collection of wit and humor couldn’t BE any better.

If Your Favorite FRIEND is Phoebe
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Read The Artist in the Office, by Summer Pierre
AITO_CoverThis inspirational and interactive book is great for all the Pheobe’s of the world…encouraging small acts of creativity to happen throughout the day, every day.  Take a picture of every coffee mug you see, take a lunchtime adventure, collect doodles and reassemble them…the possibilities are endless!

If Your Favorite FRIEND is Rachel
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Read The Glass of Fashion, by Cecil Beaton51UDgV-SMRLThe Glass of Fashion was written by iconic photographer, Cecil Beaton.  It explores the faces and models that shaped the golden age of fashion.  Filled with illustrations and personal stories about Chanel, Dior and Balenciaga, this is one book that Rachel would use as motivation and inspiration.

If Your Favorite FRIEND is Joey
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Read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman
The_Love_Affairs_of_Nathaniel_P._book_coverNate has it all…a rising career, his choice of beautiful women…but he’s constantly struggling with his own status anxiety and his search for what it really means to be happy.  An absorbing tale of women, sex and love, this is one book that Joey (hopefully!) wouldn’t have to throw in the freezer!

If Your Favorite FRIEND is Ross friends scream ross david schwimmer friends tv GIF

Read Jurassic Park, by Michael CrichtonJurassicparkThe ultimate in dinosaur fiction, Jurassic Park is a classic that Ross would surely have on his bookshelf.  Much different from the movie of the same name, the novel explores the science behind these dinosaurs…a topic Ross would probably love to discuss and argue about to anyone gullible enough to listen!

 

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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My Story Book Review

At the tender age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knife point from her family home in Salt Lake City, Utah.  For 9 months she remained missing, being raped, abused, and threatened daily by her captures, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.  They hid in the western mountains, traveling through Utah, into California, and back to Utah again before Smart was eventually rescued by police in March 2003.

The story of her kidnapping and rescue efforts captured national attention.  Her face was on every news channel, in every newspaper, and you couldn’t eat or shop in public without hearing someone mention her name.

Nearly 10 years after her rescue, almost to the day, Smart released her memoir about her abduction and rescue.  Her book, titled My Story, chronicles the moments right before her abduction to the moments after the trial of her captures.  With great detail and amazing courage, Smart recounts the fear she felt upon seeing Mitchell in her room, the feeling of his knife at her back, and how scared she was during that long, dark walk up to Mitchell’s camp, where she would remain, just a mere 2 or so miles from her home,  for the majority of her capture.

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With heartbreaking tales of torture, abuse, greed, starvation, and sacrifice, Smart leads us on a journey back to her darkest days, doing her best to bring us into the moment, to feel the fear and pain she felt all those years ago.  In the 9 months she remained missing, Smart had no choice but to remain strong and fight, despite her situation, and her force, determination, and God-loving courage is so evident in this memoir that I had to keep reminding myself that this poor girl was only 14 when her life completely changed forever.

Unlike many child abduction stories, Smart’s story actually has a somewhat happy ending.  After her rescue, Smart became a strong activist and journalist, bringing the stories of other children into the public eye.  She founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to educate children about violent and sexual crimes and she currently works as a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons cases.  Now a happy wife and mother, Smart has made great and amazing strides to normalize her life after her abduction.

Told in her voice, in her way, (and read by her if you do the audiobook!), My Story is an empowering and emotional read that gives readers a glimpse into the personal life of one girl who was pushed unwillingly into the spotlight.

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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20 Books that Changed My Life

As readers, we all have an ever-growing list of favorite books.  Books we’ve lived in, books we’ve cherished, and books we’ve read again and again…and tucked in that long list of favorite novels and stories is a much shorter list of books that have shaped and molded us as human beings…books that have altered our thinking and opened our eyes to new ways of looking at life.  These are the books that will forever hold a place in your heart (and on your shelf!) and may even be the books you find yourself coming back to again and again, if not just to smell their familiar smell or run your fingers up and down the worn cover page.

I was recently asked what this list would be for me…and let me tell you, it was a challenging task.  I feel like every book I read stays with me and becomes a part of me…and to fine-tune that list to a handful of books that have had such a profound impact on me that they CHANGED MY LIFE…well, that’s a tall order!

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But I love a good challenge!  After many, many hours of thought and a few cups of coffee to help get me through, here is my list of 20 books that have changed my life.  A few of these are also on my list of favorite books, but not all of them.  Books like Eating Animals and Being Mortal, though well-written and thought-provoking, were not what I would call ENJOYABLE reads…but they had such an impact on me that I had to add them to this list.

If you love reading and enjoy being swept up in literature, this is a fun exercise to try!  Take a moment and think back on your times spent snuggled in bed curled up with a book and see if you can’t recount the books that helped shape and mold you into the wonderful person you are today.

 

Books that Taught Me About Love and Loss:

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
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A marriage that looks perfect from the outside is anything but on the inside. A story that completely broke my heart and taught me that things aren’t always as they seem, Revolutionary Road is a raw and realistic portrayal of the “ideal American family”.

It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrehdt
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Filled with inspiring stories and quotes, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken was the book that got me through my first big break-up. Yes, it was super cheesy, but it told me the things I was unwilling to hear from my friends and family and it helped me get back up on my feet during a time I felt I had hit rock bottom.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
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No book, no person, no song has so perfectly described what it’s like to live with someone who is terminally ill. I read A Monster Calls a few years after my dad died and the wound was ripped right the F open. I related to this book on a deep and emotional level…and it so perfectly described feelings I never thought could be put into words.

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
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A book about dying with grace and dignity, Being Mortal tries to humanize the ultimate fate we all fear. Written by Dr. Gawande, this book takes readers into places like nursing homes and care centers to better understand how the elderly can age without losing their sense of humanity.

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
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A simple story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up, Peter Pan meant so much more to me after my first experience with death. The story of Peter Pan is quite different from what Disney would have you believe, and after experiencing loss, I felt myself relating so much more to this little boy who just wanted to stay young and joyful forever.

Books that Led to Professional Development:

Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
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I cannot praise this book enough. Creativity, Inc. is written by one of the founders of Pixar, Ed Catmull. In this management how-to, he discusses what it takes to be a good manager and a good employee. He lays the groundwork for what makes a productive business run and shows readers that it actually is possible to really love what you do. This is the book that inspired me to quit the job that had me in a near constant state of depression and to find something that challenged me intellectually and professionally.

The Artist in the Office, Summer Pierre
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An interactive book about how to have fun at a 9-5 job, The Artist in the Office helps readers find creative outlets throughout the day…encouraging imagination, inspiring creativity, and overall making happier and healthier employees…all while still making time for those dang TPS reports.

Books that Changed the Way I Think:

Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
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A brutally honest look at the cost of farming and eating meat, Eating Animals was a true eye-opener in the best possible way. Though Jonathan Safran Foer is a vegetarian, the point of his book is not to convert meat eaters, but to educate them. Foer pulls back the curtain on companies like Tyson to reveal what is really going on behind closed doors. This book made me sick to my stomach…and it forever changed how I eat and buy my food.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
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A truly inspirational story about listening to your heart and following your dreams, The Alchemist should be required reading for everyone. A story about a shepherd who yearns to travel the world, this book is equal parts fairy tale and spiritual enlightenment. Similar to The Little Prince in its message, The Alchemist – for me at least – was likened to a religious experience.

The Best of Cooking Light, Cooking Light Magazine
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The Best of Cooking Light was the first cookbook I ever owned. I don’t remember where I got it, it may have been a gift or something I picked up in a budget bin at my local bookstore, but when I was living on my own, this cookbook was my bible. I lived off these recipes and I still use it to this day. It’s filled with food stains and the pages are crinkled from spilled water, but I still love it and cherish the memories of learning to cook with this book by my side.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Jenni Ferrari-Adler
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Filled with hilarious and relatable essays about cooking for one and living alone, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant was the friend I needed during a time when I felt so secluded.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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With such simple prose and a simple plot, The Little Prince digs deep into the psyche, unearthing thoughts about love, loss, friendship, responsibility, imagination, and so much more. I’ve read it several times, often in one sitting, and find myself smiling and crying time after time.

Books that Shaped My Childhood:

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
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The Lorax was the first book I read about what it means to stand up for what you believe in. It was my dad’s favorite Dr. Seuss book and he would read it to me often when I was growing up. Filled with inspiring messages about believing in yourself, encouraging change, and giving a voice to those who don’t have one, The Lorax had a profound impact on my understanding of mindless progress.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
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I still can’t read The Polar Express without crying. A magical story about the true spirit of Christmas, The Polar Express reawakens my love for Christmas every time I read it. The magic of hearing the bell is something I hold personally near and dear to my heart, as my dad had jingle bells all over the house all year long. Needless to say, I still hear the bells ring, year after year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
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In all honesty, every one of the Harry Potter books could be on this list…but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my introduction into the Harry Potter universe. After powering through the first three novels, I went to the midnight release (in costume) of this book and stayed up reading it all night long. I took it with me to the Taste of Chicago the following day and walked all over the city with this 600+ book in hand. It was this book that swept me up into the magic of Hogwarts and was my first introduction into the Harry Potter fandom culture.

My Father’s Daughter, Tina Sinatra
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My Father’s Daughter was not the first Sinatra book I’ve ever read, nor will it be the last…but I found it to be the most truthful. Written by his daughter, Tina Sinatra, My Father’s Daughter is an intimate, honest, and loving tribute to a man the world rarely got to see. Parts of it broke my heart…and parts of it made me love Sinatra all the more. Told with genuine love and respect for her father and her family, Tina Sinatra’s memoir offers a peek into the private life of one of the world’s most popular entertainers.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
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This is one of the only books I finished, then immediately started again. I’ve read this book so many times that the spine is starting to fray. A story similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but much, much darker, The Book of Lost Things is a story filled with evil monsters, big heroes, and journeys into worlds unknown. This book took me away and completely immersed me another world, something that rarely happens when I read fiction. The message of this book is quite simple, but the characters are so imaginative and interesting and I have a new experience with this book every time I read it.

Books that Shaped My Educational Development:

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
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The ultimate coming-of-age story about a young boy exploring the New York underground, The Catcher in the Rye is the book that made me fall in love with literature. I remember reading it in high school and again in college…both times it opened my eyes to the amazing character development and plot that this story lays out for the reader. Confused and disillusioned, Holden Caulfield searches for truth and honesty among a world of “phoniness” and finds it near impossible to place himself in this unforgiving culture. A novel that speaks to anyone who has struggled through their adolescence, A Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Solar Storms, Linda Hogan
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It was this book that inspired me to follow a Native American educational path during my time in college. I read Solar Storms in one of my English lit classes and fell in love with the Native culture and views on life and death. I felt an instant connection with this novel and it opened my eyes to an educational outlet I never knew was there for me.

The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim
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A brilliant take on fairy tale criticism, The Uses of Enchantment was the book that inspired a life-long obsession with fairy tales. As if it couldn’t get any nerdier, I actually read this book the first time FOR FUN, then again for required reading in my Fairy Tale class in college. This book breaks down the classic tales we all know and love and digs deep into the deeper meanings behind the red cape, the wolf in the woods, the prick of the pin and so much more.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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