Tag Archives: nonfiction books

13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

It seems like books of all genres are getting the Hollywood treatment. Just last year we’ve seen several books come to live on the big screen, and 2017 will be no exception. The Circle, Captain Underpants, The Dark Tower series, and The Bell Jar are just SOME of the books that will be turned into screenplays in 2017…and honestly, I’m really looking forward to a few of these!

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But, like any true student of literature, I just must read the book first…so I’m powering through a few of these books before they are released as movies later this year (I’m on The Circle now – this one is gonna be intense).

So if you’re looking to kill some time between now and when Beauty and the Beast comes out – because let’s be serious, that’s happening – here are 13 books that are getting the movie treatment sometime in 2017!

13 Books to Read Before They Become Movies – 2017 Edition

The Zookeeper’s Wife
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This true story follows the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who help save hundreds of people from the Nazis during World War II by smuggling them into empty zoo cages.
Movie Release:  March 2017

Wonder
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Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy who is born with a facial deformity, and his struggle to fit into his new school.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Lost City of Z
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This national best-seller tells the story of how a British explorer got lost searching for an ancient, fabled civilization in the Amazon in 1925.
Movie Release:  April 2017

The Circle
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A young woman named Mae Holland gets a job at a tech-savvy company (most likely modeled after Google), and learns things both amazing and scary about her new job and the company she works for.
Movie Release:  April 2017

Before I Fall
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After Sam dies on February 12th, she’s forced to relive that day over and over again, eventually unraveling the mystery of her death.
Movie Release:  March 2017

The Dark Tower
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Stephen King’s magnum opus is a series that follows a gunslinger through a magical society, looking for the mysterious Dark Tower.
Movie Release:  July 2017

The Mountain Between Us
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Two strangers must rely on each other to survive after a plane crashes in the wilderness and leaves them stranded.
Movie Release:  October 2017*
*Just a PSA that this movie is set to star Idris Elba and Kate Winslet…so, you know, despite the content, it will be just beautiful to watch!

Murder on the Orient Express
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This classic mystery follows a detective as he pursues a murder on a famous train.
Movie Release:  November 2017

The Nightingale
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Two sisters in France end up in different positions during World War II; one fights with the resistance, the other becomes a prisoner.
Movie Release:  TBD

Thank You For Your Service
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A non-fiction account following the lives of soldiers who have come back from overseas, most still suffering from PTSD.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Glass Castle
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A memoir of Jeannette Walls, chronicling her bizarre upbringing and her strained relationship with her parents.
Movie Release:  TBD

The Bell Jar
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The story of author Sylvia Plath’s battle with mental illness.
Movie Release:  TBD

Big Little Lies
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Things take a turn for a group of moms whose perfect lives begin to unravel.
Movie Release:  TBD*
*This is actually slotted to be a mini-series on HBO.

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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It’s a Long Story Book Review

In the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson live at Ravinia in Chicago.  Together with Alison Kraus and the Union Station band, Willie filled the night with amazing music and helped open my eyes (and ears!) to the beauty of classic country tunes.

After seeing Willie live, I ran to the store and bought two or three of his albums, including his recent duets album titled “To All the Girls” – which is fantastic, by the way.  I quickly fell in love with Willie’s unique way of singing and the wonderful stories he tells through his music.

Not surprisingly, Willie is a master of songwriting.  After all, he has 80+ years of experience to pull from!  And in his autobiography, It’s a Long Story: My Life, Willie tells the story behind the stories, diving into his own life in a series of memories told “as clear as a Texas sky and in the same rhythm that I lived it.”

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Filled with stories about growing up in Abbott, Texas, of selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias, of writing song after song and trying, despite all odds, to strike big in the music business, It’s a Long Story is an intimate and candid look into the life of the man who influenced the art of songwriting.

One of the most surprising things I learned in reading It’s a Long Story was the massive influence Willie Nelson has had on the music industry…not just in his style of singing or his love of musical storytelling, but in the lyrics he’s written, both for himself and other artists.  Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, and Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” are just SOME of the popular tunes that were actually written by Willie Nelson.

A funny and honest story about true love, wild adventures, friends and family, It’s a Long Story opens the door into the life of one man who entertained millions with his tales of adventures on the road, at home, and on the road again.

 

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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A Life in Parts Book Review

Before Lyndon B. Johnson…before Dalton Trumbo…before Walter White, Heisenberg, Hal Wilkerson, and Tim Whatley…before the Tony and the Emmy Awards, before the guest star spots, the commercials, the plays, and the soap operas, Bryan Cranston was just your average kid.

Well, sort of.

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An actor by age 7, Bryan Cranston has held many roles in his lifetime, the least of which being on the stage and screen.  Before receiving international fame with his portrayal as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad, Cranston played several odd parts that helped landed him in the spotlight.  These were not unusual roles, and actually are roles several of us play in our own lives:  paperboy, farmhand, lover, husband, and father being a few.

In his intimate, funny, and inspiring memoir, A Life in Parts, Cranston takes us through his repertoire of performances, starting with his role as a son and brother, and taking us through his larger parts as father, husband, and actor.  Broken down into small chapters, each section of the book discusses a different part of Cranston’s life.  Those who have followed Cranston from his days on Loving and Malcolm in the Middle are sure to enjoy his stories about life on and off the sets…and he also gives an inspiring account of how he mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the challenge of playing President Lyndon Johnson in All the Way, a role that won him a Tony Award.

However, nothing came close to what he had to endure to bring the character of Walter White to life.  Fans of Breaking Bad will enjoy what Cranston has to say about his beloved cast and crew…and you’re sure to gain a new perspective on the show (and his character) after learning about what Cranston had to do, had to search for, to mentally and emotionally prepare for the role that would launch him into stardom.

Besides being a dossier of Cranston’s personal and professional achievements, A Life in Parts is also a love letter of sorts to the craft of acting.  It’s a deep and personal look into the devotion it takes to bring a character to life…the courage it takes to stand up for yourself and what you believe in…and the amount of creativity needed to really dive into a character’s motives and values.

In the great play of life, we all play many parts.  We act in our own shows and in the shows of our loved ones.  We play the hero, the villain, the friend, the comic relief.  We don masks, we hide in the shadows, we bare it all and, hopefully, don’t live to regret it.  We, as they say, wear many hats, and while some are more important than others, it’s all the roles we play – all the hats we wear – that make up our great story.  In A Life in Parts, Cranston breaks apart his life into the core characters that have molded him into who he is…it’s an intimate and honest look at the roles that have shaped him both professionally and personally and it’s an honest and true dedication to the craft he loves so dearly.

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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Born Standing Up Book Review

This year I had the absolute joy of seeing three of my favorite standup comedians on stage.  The adventure started in Milwaukee to go see one of the best, Brian Regan.  From there, it was down to Chicago to catch Louie CK (a bucket list item crossed off!), then finally up to Madison to chill with Bill Burr.  It was a great lineup of amazing talent…and I loved each performance for different reasons.

Though I don’t have experience in standup comedy, I do have experience in writing…and I know how challenging comedy writing can be…ESPECIALLY standup.  It takes a special person to take on that task, and it’s become quite clear to me overtime that, while all standup entertainers may technically be “comedians”, not all comedians can do standup.  It’s a skill, a talent, that only few and far between can do and do well.

And before all the great comedians of today, there was a little twirpy dude who put on some bunny ears, hopped up on stage and hoped for the best.  Little did he know that he would soon become the biggest concert draw in the history of standup comedy.

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Filled with hilarious stories of failures and successes and told in the unique voice of the author himself, Born Standing Up is an eye-opening autobiography from famed entertainer, Steve Martin.  Though most people today may know him as a banjo player/movie star/author, Steve Martin actually got his start doing standup shows…and Born Standing Up is an intimate look at why he decided to do standup, then walk away forever.

Steve Martin has quite the resume.  His “professional” life started at age 10 when he worked selling guidebooks at the newly opened Disneyland theme park.  A decade later, he worked the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm where he got his taste for magic and comedy.

Throughout the rest of his years, Martin worked to fine-tune his skills, highlighting in his book the sacrifices, discipline and originality that helped make him an icon.  By the early 70’s, Martin was the biggest concert draw in the history of standup and enjoyed massive success during his run on Saturday Night Live.

But, as we all know, heavy is the head that wears the crown…and as most talented performers will tell you, it’s quite lonely at the top.  In 1981 Martin made the choice to quit standup forever…and as a true and gifted writer, explains his story and his reasonings with elegant prose and lovely language.

A superb testament to the sheer tenacity, concentration and focus it takes to be one of the greats, Born Standing Up helps peel back the layers to this multi-talented performer and shows the world, with great gusto, one wild and crazy guy.

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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Creativity Inc. Book Review

In my 30 or so years of existence, I’ve spent a good 15 to 20 years in the work force.  I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses.  I’ve had co-workers I’ve loved and who I consider family…and I’ve had co-workers I probably will never see again.  I’ve worked as a minion, a trainer, a key holder, and a manager.  I’ve had jobs that have changed me as a person and jobs that are completely weird and unique.  But in every job, no matter what it is, I need to be inspired.  I need to feel like I can make a difference and challenge myself to do better.  This is a feeling that has forced me in and out of companies and has helped influence several decisions I’m both proud of and ashamed of…

During a particular difficult time in my professional career, I was given the book, Creativity Inc. by my dad.  It was a pre-run copy that he got from the library where he worked and he allowed me to read it in the hopes it would inspire me to get out of my funk.  What resulted after reading Creativity Inc. was a life-changing moment…a defining moment…in my career.  It completely changed the way I view management, work life, and the humanity (or lack thereof) of corporate America.

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Written by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Creativity Inc. sets out to explore how we can bring fun and creativity back into the workday.  Meant for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, this manual of sorts aims to train individuals to inspire originality and positivity in the workforce.  By using examples of how he manages at Pixar, as well as how day-to-day operations are led at the studio, Catmull teaches readers how to build a creative culture, no matter what your company aims to do or sell.

It’s no secret that Pixar is a behemoth in the animation industry.  With 30 or so Academy Awards and movies that almost guarantee a box-office hit, Pixar knows what they’re doing.  So what’s the secret?  Why is Pixar so widely admired…and so profitable?  The answer is simple…the employees.

People at Pixar are encouraged to brainstorm.  They are encouraged to take risks.  They are encouraged to fail and encouraged to dream.  THEY LIKE WORKING THERE.  They’re committed to doing their best and pushing themselves because their success is everyone’s success.  There are no scary labels there.  No “rules” about who you can and can’t talk to.  Do yourself a favor and Google “Pixar Offices”…you’ll see that nearly everyone surrounds themselves with things they love, people they love, objects they love.  It’s a company that knows it’s only as good as the people that work there…and the people that work there love and respect that.

That’s not to say the path has been easy.  Pixar wasn’t always the amazing company it is today, and it took a long time, and a lot of training, to get leadership to where it is today…but when a company has leaders that believe in the message and that work WITH the team instead of ABOVE the team, well, then you are on the way to greatness.

At its core, Creativity Inc. begs to answer the following question:  What does it mean to manage well?  Everyone has their own idea of what a GOOD manager is, but what qualities in a leader make a team successful?  How does one learn those qualities and use them in a way that will encourage the team to motivate each other and encourage each other to succeed?  Filled with all kinds of helpful quips and tips, this book attempts to offer some suggestions on how to manage, how to lead, how to inspire, and how to motivate.  If a leader doesn’t lead or isn’t trusted, the results can be detrimental.

After I read Creativity Inc., I quit my job.  I came to realize that I was not happy and was not being encouraged and motivated in the ways I knew I needed to be.  After checking Pixar’s employment page (because I mean, I’d wash floors just to work there!), I embarked on a job search to find something I could stand behind, a company I believed in and a job I could be proud of…and I found it.  And everything changed.  My stress levels plummeted.  My interest in work and success improved.  Hell, my desire to just do my daily job was fueled by the fact that I was HAPPY.  This is the secret, folks.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, that will help fuel your success no matter what it is you do.  Pixar knows it.  Google knows it.  More and more companies are FINALLY coming to realize that when their employees are happy, the company benefits…and if companies big and small make this a priority in how to improve their business, well, I think corporate America can make a huge change for the better…and as individuals, we can make changes that will help us for the better, too…both personally and professionally.

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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Columbine Book Review

41r2b1sidfylColumbine High was buzzing with post-prom excitement.  Mere days away from graduating, the seniors of CHS were enjoying their last days of high school glory.  Some were getting ready for college, others were planning summer road trips or family adventures…and hidden among those graduating seniors were two boys harboring a dark secret that would completely change the lives of everyone in the small town of Littleton, Colorado.

Toting jackets and bags stuffed with bombs, guns, and knives, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High on April 20, 1999 with one goal in mind…destruction.  They made a pact to take out as many students and faculty as they could before blowing up their high school for good.  Though most of their plan actually failed, there’s no denying that the Columbine tragedy has gone down in American history as one of the worst domestic attacks of our generation.  It left 13 students and faculty dead and several more wounded, both physically and emotionally.  It was a horror story that left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, turning one high school, thought to be a safe haven for students, into a bloody hunting ground.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Columbine tragedy is the insurmountable amounts of unanswered questions…the most prevalent being why.  Armed with 10 years of reporting on the Columbine disaster, as well as a keen investigative eye as to the make-up of Eric and Dylan, journalist Dave Cullen attempts to answer that question.  Filled with amazing stories about the victims, the survivors, the killers and the facts of what actually happened that day in April, Columbine aims to shed light on this horrible tragedy and perhaps offer some sense of closure for those who were affected by this terrible act of aggression.

I was 15 years old when Eric and Dylan attacked Columbine.  I remember kids talking about it in the hallways and parents discussing it at PTA meetings.  Councilors were available near 24/7 for any student who wanted to talk about it and security was at an all-time high for my little high school which still sits on the boarder of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Before Columbine, the thought of a school shooting never even entered my mind.  I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do that to their friends and teachers.  School was supposed to be a safe place, somewhere I could go where the biggest thing I had to worry about was what to have for lunch.  I never felt in danger there, never looked at anyone twice or thought anyone at my high school would have the balls to do what Eric and Dylan did.  And really, most people at Columbine felt the same.

From beginning to end, I was completely mystified, engrossed, and disgusted with Columbine.  It is a brilliant, honest, and intricate account into the lives of Eric and Dylan and a true and unsettling retelling of the events that unfolded on April 20, 1999, as well as the days leading up to it.

Interspersed with the story, Cullen also offers a look into the lives of those who were taken on April 20th, including Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall, and the beloved coach, Dave Sanders.  After several hundred interviews with family members, witnesses, police officers, and others who were on the scene that day, Cullen attempts to rebuild this broken story in the hopes of offering some type of understanding as to WHY Eric and Dylan did what they did.

There are no excuses…no reasons…no explanations to completely satisfy this burning question, but Columbine does shed light on the lives of two troubled teens who felt so lost, so unaccepted and unloved that they were eventually driven to horrible deeds.  A story told with amazing respect and fairness, Columbine does not point fingers, it does not cast unfair blame or generalize in any way; rather, it offers what everyone has been searching for these last 10 years…the truth.

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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The Guinea Pig Diaries Book Review

825742What would life be like if you could outsource your emails, phone calls, and arguments? What if you could go to the Oscars disguised as a movie star or spend a month practicing Radical Honesty? In a collection of hilarious and thought-provoking experiments, author A.J. Jacobs becomes a human guinea pig, putting his life, his career, and his marriage on the line all for the sake of science (OK it’s not that dramatic, but you get the idea).

In The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, Jacobs spends a year committing to various social experiments. He begins by hiring a team in India to handle everything from unwanted emails to disagreements with his wife and quickly learns why so many companies decide to outsource overseas (I mean, after reading this…I’d consider it). He has a personal assistant to handle day-to-day dealings and also has someone to help him draft emails to pushy bosses and disgruntled friends.

After a quick jaunt outsourcing to India, Jacobs then spends a month practicing Radical Honesty – a movement that encourages us to remove the filters between our brains and our mouths…yup, it’s just what you expect.

An unnerving month spent telling the truth no matter what the cost is also followed by an undercover operation to the Academy Awards, a commitment to ultimate rationality, a religious following of George Washington’s Rules of Life, and then the coup de gras, a month spent at his wife’s every beck and call.

A funny and entertaining read, The Guinea Pig Diaries follows a series of other experimental books by Jacobs, including The Know-It-All, where he reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover in a quest to learn everything in the world, and The Year of Living Biblically, where he follows every single rule of the Bible.

Witty and conversational in tone, The Guinea Pig Diaries never failed to entertain…and Jacobs did a great job keeping me intrigued in his conquests. Just like the Morgan Spurlock’s and the Michael Moore’s of the documentary world, Jacobs puts it all out there, ignoring his pride and accepting full-fledged embarrassment all to answer one simple question…why?

Fun, entertaining, and quick to read, The Guinea Pig Diaries answers questions we have all had at some point in our lives…and may even inspire you to lead one or two social experiments of your own!

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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