Audiobook: Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story

by Bono
Read by the author
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Content: There is swearing, including a few f-bombs. it’s in the Music section of the bookstore.

I was never a super huge U2 fan, but I liked them quite a bit, in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. War, Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum, and Actung Baby were the albums that I really liked, and listened to a lot. I never did see them live, a nagging regret I have, and one that was definintley made greater after listening to this book. At any rate, when I heard that Bono had written a memoior, I was absolutely in: I adore celebrity memoirs, he’s reading the book himself, what’s not to like? (I even snagged a signed copy at work, yay!)

And I was not wrong. Listening to this book is an experience. Not only does Bono read the book, he sings the lyrics, and they got the rights to the U2 songs to play snippets at the beginning of each chapter. There are sound effects (bells ding, crowds yell, and they put echos on his voice sometimes). The book is loosely chronological, though he does jump around telling stories as they fit in. It’s also loosely thematic, as he chooses the U2 song that best fits the theme of the chapter. He ranges through evertyhing, from the forming of U2, to his relationship wih his wife, to his work in activism, to the many different directions fthe band has gone. He’s introspective and often hard on himself – every time the ban nearly broke up, he says that it’s his fault – and often brings up his faith and doubts. It was absolutely worth the 20 hours listening to it, as I fell into a reawaking of the affection I hd for U2 as a teenager, and rediscovered so many of their songs that I rememberd loving.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved this one. Yes, it’s a celebrity memoir, but it’s also so much more than that. Highly, highly recommended.

Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie

by Lisa Napoli
First sentence: “On August 18, 2019, Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts, age seventy-five, did what she’d done for thousands of Sundays.”
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Content: There is some swearing, including a couple of f-bombs. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

Nominally, this is a history of how NPR became what it is today. Napoli focuses on the four women who were hired near the beginning of NPR’s tenure. Although she briefly illustrates the four women’s pasts and how they landed at NPR, the majority of the book is about the influence they had on shaping the way NPR became the influential reporting pwoerhosue that it is today.

I picked this up because I really liked Dinners with Ruth, and I was curious to know more about how NPR became NPR. It’s billed as the story of the women, but it’s really the story of NPR as a whole. There were ups and downs that I didn’t know about as NPR struggled to become relevant in the 1970s and 1980s, including a bankruptcy scare. and although the four women played a big role in it, they were not the only ones.

It was a good book, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I liked learning the history of NPR, and learning what it took to get a national radio station off the ground. I was impressed, again, by the challenges women faced in the workplace in the 1970s, and the gumption that these four women had to become successful at a time when the odds were stacked against them. It’s not going to be my favorite book ever, but it was interesting and I enjoyed it.

Audiobook: Nerd

Adventures in Fandom from this Univers to the Multiverse
by Maya Phillips
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Content: There really isn’t anything that I can think of. It’s in the Film section of the bookstore.

In a series of essays, Phillis – a cultural critic for the New York Times – deconstructs her relationship with fandoms over the years. I liked her groupings – the first one is about the way New York shows up in comic books and movies, and a later one talks about Gods and the supernatural. I liked her insights, even when I disagreed (she took on Firefly, and it didn’t come out well, which I mean, sure, but leave my show alone!). It was a fascinating look at fandoms through the eyes of someone who has been a fan of things since she was young (though I didn’t get many of the anime references), and someone Black and female. It wasn’t your usual perspective on these sorts of things, and I appreciated that.

She was a good narrator of her own book, as well, and it made me feel like a friend was sitting there chatting about her thoughts on all sorts of geeky things.

Recommended.

Audiobook: Dinners with Ruth

by Nina Totenbrg
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Content: There is some mild swearing including one f-bomb. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

The book’s subtitle is “A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, ” which really sums up the book. Nina (I can call her Nina from having listened to her on NPR for decades, yes?) reflects not only on the close friendship she had with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg but on the friendships that have gotten her through her life. She spends a lot of time not just reflecting on having friends, and how it’s possible to be friends with people you disagree with (which is something we’re losing I think, as a society), but also on how those friendships have enriched her life. It ranges from supreme court justices to her colleagues at NPR to her family and the friends that introduced her to both of her husbands.

I really recommend getting this one on audio. Totenberg is a radio journalist, which means she knows how to tell a story. And she is delightful here. From her small chuckles when she reads something funny to the emotion in her voice when she talks about RBG’s death. It’s truly delightful to listen to.

Very highly recommended.

Mother Brain

by Chelsea Conaboy
First sentence: “What does it mean to become a mother?”
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Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy provided by the publisher
Content: It’s very science-y and gets in the weeds with the science sometimes. It will be in the Science section of the bookstore.

I picked this up because my boss pulled it off the ARC shelves at work, and asked if I would be willing to give it a look-over and maybe nominate it for IndieNext. I figured I’d just read a few pages and give it a look, but I soon found myself engrossed in it.

The basic premise of the book is Conaboy’s experience being a pregnant person. She didn’t have the “ideal” and “expected” experience with pregnancy and mothrehood, and that lead her to look into the science of it. She’s not a scientist but rather a journalist who covers health and science, which gives her an interseting angle into the subject.

learned so much, and felt so validated with my own experience being a pregnant person. There were a lot of times that I underlined and dog-eared the pages because what she wrote resonated with me. It was so validating to know that the science – as little as there is – validated what I was feeling, that there isn’t one way to be preganant and a new parent.

I’d put this up there with Invisible Women as an important science book that just proves the need for science to include non-cishet men in their studies, in order to get broader picture of what it means to be human.

Highly recommended.

This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

by Tabitha Carvan
First sentence: “What are you thinking about?”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some talk about erotica and some swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the CreativeNon-Fiction section of the bookstore.

So, this is kind of a book about Benedict Cumberbatch. Or rather, Carvan’s obsession with the actor. It sounds silly going in: she’s writing about how she became obsessed and all the emotions and thoughts that went through her head after she realized her obsession. But, it’s more than that: it’s an exploration into the nature of obsession, of what it means to passionately love something and the nature of female-centric fandoms. She touches on how obsessions seen as acceptible for men (birdwatching, loving music, being into sports) are deemed “unacceptable” and “weird” for women. Caravan is a funny writer, and she often made me laugh. I absolutely related to what she was saying — especially how she lost herself once she became a mother — and how being obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch (you really kind of have to say his full name, don’t you?) helped her find her way back to herself. It’s a reminder that it’s good to have something you’re deeply in love with, something to call your own, and how important that can be to one’s identity.

I found it not only to be entertaining, but enlightening, and I appreciated it.

Audiobook: Easy Beauty

by ChloƩ Cooper Jones
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Content: there are some disturbing conversations about people with disabilites, and swearing, including some f-bombs. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this memoir about a woman who has gone through life with a rare condition that affects her physical appearance and the way she interacts with the world. But, it also affects the way other people see her, the way she is regareded in the world. She literally sits in aa conversaiton where friends of hers (friends!) debate whether or not her life was worth living. She is told by doctors that she can’t get pregnant and then she is left ot wonder if it’s “fair” to bring a child into her world.

The book also muses on connections humans make as she goes through dealing with her father’s multiple affairs, and on art as she tries to make sense of her world through the beauty of someone else’s imagination. She travels and experiences the world that way. It’s got stories, yes, but also thoughts about art and connection and life and motherhood that I found both insightful and valuable. I learned a lot about how Jones looks at the world and how being dismissive of the experiences of those with disabilities is damaging and limiting.

Jones was a good narrator, telling her own story and keeping me engaged throughout. It’s not what I usually read, but I am really glad I did.

Audiobook: Go Back to Where You Came From

by Wajahat Ali
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Content: There’s a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the humor section of the bookstore.

I had no idea who Ali was when I picked this up. I think it called to me because I’m always looking for immigrant stories, ones by people who don’t have my experiences. And although Ali is not an immigrant, he’s a first-generation American, which is just as interesting. It’s basically a memoir; Ali tells the story of how his parents came to America from Pakistan, his childhood, and then growing up and the trials he and his parents faced. (Spoiler: it’s a lot.) Ali tells his story with grace, keeping a reader/listener engaged with wry humor and just plain good storytelling.

It’s a good reminder of white privilege, and that there must be something bout this country if immigrants still want to keep trying to make a life here in the face of all the obstacles put in their way by white supremacy. Ali was a good person to spend a few hours with, and I feel like I learned something after having listened to his story. It was a good reminder that we’re all in it togeher in this huge melting pot we call America. Maybe we can even figure out how to make it work. Ali seems to have some hope for the future. I hope he’s right.

Audiobook: Wintering

by Katherine May
Read by: Rebecca Lee
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Content: There is some talk of mental illness and depression. It’s in the Self Help section of the bookstore.

This was all the rage at the bookstore the first Christmas of the pandemic. Everyone seemed to need a “self help” (t’s not really a book about how to make it through difficult times that Christmas. it’s a bit weird, i know, reading aboook about winter in the spring (but this is when the hold came through; I don’t remember when I put it on hold), but the thing is, while this book is set over winter and kind of deals with cold and snow, it’s really more about the down times in our lives. The “winters of our lives – and not just age, May insisted, and I think she’s right, that “winter” can come anytime when we’re feeling low, or fallow, or just not “summery”. Maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that I’m really attended to the weather, but somehow that resonated with me.

There really isn’t much else to the book. I enjoyed the narrator, she was delightful to listen to and kept me interested in the story. But, it was a compelling story: I was interested in what May had used to help her through her winters. And maybe I’ll figure out how to accept and cope with mine, too, as I get older.

Worth reading any time of the year.

Tiny Habits

by BJ Fogg
First sentence: “Tiny is mighty.”
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Content: It’s pretty basic, with nothing too technical. it’s in the self-help section of the bookstore.

I don’t usually read self-help books, but I heard a small interview with Fogg on the NPR book podcast and thought it sounded interesting. Fogg is a behavior psychologist (and someone my husband knew at BYU), and has spent years string what makes people tick. And how habits form and are kept. It really boils down to this: behavior is motivation plus ability plus a prompt. The problem with most self-help stuff is that it focuses on motivation. And Fogg breaks it down to something simpler: it’s not motivation, it’s the action. We are trying to do something too big. Anyone can do something tiny, right? So, start there. Find a place that a habit fits into your life (a good prompt) and then start super small. Floss one tooth. Take a sip of water. Design the habit to fit with your life. Oh: And celebrate every. single. time.

It’s kind of fascinating to think about, how staring small with something can help habits grow. He had a lot of good insights into behavior and forming (and breaking) habits. I think it got a bit repetitive by the end but it mostly was a good and interesting read. And maybe I’ll even start trying out some tiny habits.