Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
(Crown Archetype, 2014, 294 pages)
I was first introduced to Neil Patrick Harris when he was Barney Stinson on the show How I Met Your Mother (I was a little too young for Doogie Howser). I absolutely loved the show, and will defend its ending, so I immediately picked up NPH’s autobiography. But this celebrity autobiography is far different than any other one I’ve read before. NPH styled his autobiography off the Choose Your Own Adventure books where readers got to choose where the story goes. NPH sticks to this theme throughout the read and breaking into a first person narrative only when recounting his HIMYM days. He even included clever back stories on ways his life could have gone if he had made different choices, such as working at a deli or being eaten alive by piranhas.
I was pretty boring and read the book straight through instead of following the Choose Your Own Adventure style. I just didn’t want to miss anything but it would have been pretty fun to jump straight to the parts I was most interested in. Although there were never too many in depth stories, I did appreciate the small peeks we were given into his personal and professional life. I really enjoyed how clever NPH was with his writing and the contributions from other celebrity friends that were sprinkled throughout the read.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, 254 pages)
Doughty has had an interesting obsession with death since she witnessed a small girl fall over an escalator at a mall in Hawaii when she was a small girl herself. She decides to get into the death profession by applying to crematories in the area. She is finally hired by a crematory in Oakland, California and her career begins. Doughty takes you through her first year working at the crematory, whether its picking up corpses, caring for dead bodies, operating the cremation machine, or working with the families. She doesn’t hold anything (or any description) back.
I’ll admit this read probably isn’t for everyone but it peaked my interest. It was actually a pretty well rounded read that Doughty evenly included her own experience at the crematory, going to mortuary school, and life after mortuary school combined with history of death traditions and her own thoughts on where death customs should go in the future. While her own post-death idea might be a bit extreme, at least to me, but she brings up some good points on pondering your own plans before it’s too late.
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
(Little, Brown and Company, 2014, 360 pages)
Dabney hasn’t spoken to the father of her child, Clendenin Hughes, since the day he sailed away from Nantucket over 20 years ago. So she is shocked to receive an email from him announcing that he will be arriving on Nantucket the following day. With Clendenin, Dabney has always seen pink. Dabney has a special ability to see if a couple will be a perfect match by the color of their aurora that surrounds them; pink they’re a perfect match and green they should find someone else. Dabney has never seen pink or green with her husband Box but it was always pink with Clendenin. And their daughter, Agnes, who is engaged to be married, is surrounded by green.
This wasn’t my favorite read by Hilderbrand but it was easy to listen to in the car. The read was just a tad too predictable for me. I knew how the story would unfold between Agnes and her fiancé and the new boy she meets over the summer. I knew what choice Dabney would make if it came down to Clendenin and Box. Though Dabney and Clendenin had an interesting relationship, it was just a tad too predictable overall.
C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra: Reshaping the Image of the Cosmos edited by Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe
(Kent State University Press, 2013, 160 pages)
Perelandra, the second of C. S. Lewis’ three science fiction novels (known alternatively as the Space Trilogy, the Cosmic Trilogy, or the Ransom Trilogy), is an ambitious story which draws on classical and medieval cosmologies to address deep questions about the foundations of metaphysics and morality. It envisions Venus as a planet of floating islands populated by an original couple who are untouched by sin. Elwin Ransom travels to Venus and realizes that his task is to help protect this god-like couple and their paradisal environment from a demonic tempter.
This collection of essays considers the theological and literary significance of this unique science fiction novel. The collection is broken up into two sections, the first dealing with the novel’s cosmology and the second looking at the relationship between morality and meaning in the world that Lewis creates. The stand out essays, at least to my mind, were Michael Ward’s “Voyage to Venus,” which draws out the classical sources that influenced Lewis and the “Venereal imagery that underlies the whole subcreated world” (27); Sanford Schwartz’s “Perelandra in Its Own Time,” which shows how Lewis takes up and transforms the materialist evolutionary ideas of H. G. Wells and Henri Bergson’s notions about “emergent evolution”; and Michael Travers’ “Free to Fall,” which explores how Lewis’ philosophical understanding of free will is dramatically depicted in three of the novel’s characters. All of the essays in this volume display close and careful readings of Perelandra, coupled with incisive (yet non-reductive) engagements with the intellectual sources that helped to produce this remarkable work of fiction.
Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe have become major figures in the world of Lewis scholarship. Along with the other collection they have edited on Lewis, C. S. Lewis and the Church, they are also executive editors of The Journal of Inklings Studies. This journal has been producing wonderful scholarship on Lewis and his friends for a few years now, and the Wolfe’s have been facilitating and contributing to some of the most interesting and original scholarship in this growing field of theological and literary investigation. This volume is another example of just how fruitful this field can be.
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
(Harper Trophy, 2000, 240 pages)
This is how Adelaide summarizes The Horse and His Boy, the next in the Narnian chronicles. There are some spoilers here, so be warned:
“It’s about Narnia and Shasta. Shasta’s father, King Luna, one of his knights ran away cos he was evil and he stole Cor. One of his other knights got Prince Cor and sailed him safely away in a little boat.
“I like when Prince Cor and – what’s her name again? – Aravis got married. The characters are Aravis, Bree, Hwin, and Cor (or Shasta). I like the war between the Narnians and Rabadash and his two hundred horses. I like when Aravis and her friend meet again. Aslan scratched Aravis’ back. Aslan was with Shasta, and Aslan told Shasta his story, and Aslan said ‘I was the same lion every time.’ (There were lions throughout the book, and Aslan was every one. He was the one that attacked them and scratched Aravis’ back.)
“You should read it because it’s good. It’s an exciting book, not boring.”
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
(Random House, 2009, 351 pages)
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann received the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction. Even though I’d heard of the title I never thought to pick it up until recently when I saw it as I was perusing the shelves for my next audiobook. Set in New York City in 1974 the book is told from the point of view of a wide range of individuals. Each of these characters is linked in some way but that doesn’t really become clear until you get further in the novel. The “central” element in the story is the incredible tightrope walk performed between the Twin Towers. This act is caught by each of the characters referenced in the story and then we proceed to learn more about them through the lens of how this event impacts their day.
It’s hard to adequately summarize this book, but McCann does an amazing job capturing the essence of the many characters intertwined in Let the Great World Spin. The audiobook was well done with a full cast of narrators lending voice to each character in the story. I’m glad this book found its way into my hands.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
(It Books, 2014, 329 pages)
I was really excited when Poehler’s book was ready for me to pick up from the library. I think she’s hilarious and in my head I’m confident we’d be friends in real life – just because 😉 Poehler’s book is a collection of essays that reflect on her life growing up, how she entered the world of improv, Saturday Night Live, motherhood, through her involvement in the Worldwide Orphans Foundation. She’s an intelligent and accomplished woman and her book helps you appreciate that. There were parts where I laughed to myself, but I didn’t find it as entertaining and laugh out loud funny as Tina Fey’s Bossypants. That’s not to say it’s not worth picking up, because I did enjoy it. I just went into it expecting more humorous content to be at the forefront.
You can tell the publishers were excited about this title because the quality of the book is top notch. I’m sure the audiobook would be fun to listen to because the author and a number of other celebrities narrate. You should pick this up if you’re an Amy Poehler and/or SNL fan 🙂