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2017 Book List - Non-fiction

As You Wish:  Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. "It's not great literature but it's great fun. If you love The Princess Bride (and who doesn't, right?) then this is a real treat to listen to. Cary Elwes is the primary voice but Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal etc etc all chime in to tell you how much they enjoyed making the movie. Don't expect ANY dirt - this is a love fest and I loved every second of it".

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. “Thought provoking and, at times, difficult to listen to book - but one that I would highly recommend to everyone. It especially hit home now that I'm in those sandwich years between the kids/grandkids and the aging parent. Almost every story and aspect of this book was recognizable in my own life and made me think about how I need to deal with other people's health and mortality as well as my own. Sounds pretty heavy but Gawande makes it all very accessible. Highly recommend!”

Does This Volvo Make My Butt Look Big? Thoughts for Moms and Other Tired People by Annabel Monaghan. “Wherever you are when you read this book, you will spontaneously burst into laughter. All the absurdities of raising a family in this day and age, the impossible expectations thrust onto mothers, are in there.  In a series of essays, Monaghan renders with precision and wit our daily lives:  the grocery store runs, school fairs, parent-teacher conferences, and playdates. You will see yourself in here but mostly those ‘other’ moms who ruin it for the rest of us! You will learn to celebrate your cranky selfish side who is craving ’me’ time”.

I’ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich. "Memoir from a long-time personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman.  Shares her life story, social-climbing upbringing, divorce, depression, and clothes, clothes, clothes!"

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  This book was on the list in 2014, but with the release of a feature film based on the novel, and because a couple of people mentioned it again this year, I'm putting it on the lsit again in 2017.  "Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew." "A fascinating story of genetic research - its reality and ethics - and of its impact on the entire world of cancer research and one, very poor and religious, family in Baltimore - the relatives of Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cancer cells are still used in medical research today.”  And:  "I may be late to the Henrietta party but I loved this story of how one woman's cancer cells revolutionized medicine and how her family was affected by the research and then left out of the medical advances made possible by their mother's cells."

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. "I know that this book has been wildly popular this year, so I’m adding it to the list as the rare bad review.  Dr. Jahren writes as if her experience as a female in a male dominated field is universal, and includes sweeping stereotypes.  As a woman in almost the same field, I found the book derogatory and difficult to read.  Non-scientists may find it an interesting glimpse into the world of biology research, but should be warned that her story is not the story of all lab girls".

A Light on the Corner by Andrea Raynor. "A Light on the Corner is at once inspirational and accessible. Regular people living regular flawed lives are invited to appreciate life’s tiniest, most transformative moments, and suddenly we are aware of the sacred around us.  With humility and humor, Raynor gives us the gift of sight. I plan to keep this by my bedside to reread as necessary".

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. "Just read it.  Or, get the audio version because Carrie narrates it, and it’s brilliant.  Memoir where she reveals affair with Harrison Ford and other juicy nuggets from her Star Wars life".

A Princess Remembers by Gayatri Devi. “This is the memoir of the last Maharani of Jaipur.  It tells her personal story which spans one of the most interesting periods of Indian history, from the princely states under British rule to Indian Independence.  It is a very readable, interesting book that reads more like a novel than an historical memoir”.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy.  "You may have read her piece in The New Yorker ('Thanksgiving in Mongolia') about her devastating miscarriage.  This book picks up on that story, expounding on the author’s unconventional life – yet making her feel entirely relatable by the beautiful and poignant writing."

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. "The photo captions are enough reason to read this book.  Brilliant.  Some may love Nora Ephron, but I think Carrie has her beat with this one". Shockaholic tells the story of Carrie Fisher's upbringing as the daughter of Hollywood royalty. Filled with outrageous tales of celebrity gossip, Carrie Fisher gives readers an intimate look at the realities of Hollywood.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.  By Phil Knight.  "Knight’s unvarnished memoir about the company he birthed—Nike. Bill Gates puts it best, “Shoe Dog is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. In fact, the only thing that seems inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.” So many books written by entrepreneurs make their path to success seem like a pre-ordained endeavor that the entrepreneur somehow willed to success and fortune with careful planning and a well thought out business plan. Not Phil Knight’s journey. He shows the real path warts and all.  This is not a 'how to' book with another contrived formula for success. This amazing tale is real. A young man with no money assembled an unlikely band of misfits, lives precariously for a decade at the mercy of unmerciful bankers until an unlikely potential nemesis becomes a benefactor, he pays an art student $35 to design the swoosh logo because he needed one by the next day, he doesn’t like the name “Nike” but goes along with his staff’s suggestion and say’s what the hell,”maybe it will grow on us”.  Reading this book is as close as most of us will get to having a beer with Phil and letting him regale us with this extraordinary story, you will want him to relay one more experience, one more stroke of luck, one more personal tragedy. And then you will understand in the final pages why, despite all of the hardships he experienced along the way, Knight says, 'God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing.'"

South of Forgiveness: A True Story of Rape and Responsibility.  By Elva Thordis and Stranger Tom.  The author was date raped her senior of high school. She spirals out, does not do well in life for the most part, but eventually marries and lives a relatively normal existence. Then, thanks to the development of email - she hears from him, her abuser. He (the co-author of the book) confides in her that he has lived his life with regret and torment, realizing as he had children, that what he did to her was wrong. They communicate, via email for EIGHT years, and then finally meet. Their communication eventually frees her of the guilt and doubt she (like any date raped woman) carries about her role in it, etc etc. And he learns, with her permission, to forgive himself and move on as well.  The pair did a TED talk about their experience.  The book is controversial: feminists saying that it sends a message to people that you can date rape and get forgiven, be 'buddies.' Quite the opposite, their point is that men need to recognize what date rape is, women need to NOT blame themselves or question their role, and, most importantly, if it does happen, one has to reach deep and forgive themselves - both rapist and victim in order to live a healthy life. Fascinating."

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman. "A naughty but fun memoir of Kristin Newman’s wild adventures in her late twenties through her thirties. Newman takes the reader through adventures in sex, culture and adventure in Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Israel, New Zealand, and the Dominican Republic  and offers wry commentary all the way through the book. I found myself laughing out loud every few pages.   This book feels like a wild vacation without the guilt".