A very funny but sometimes self-indulgent account of life chasing art and avoiding responsibility.

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THE JOB PIRATE

AN ENTERTAINING TALE OF MY JOB-HOPPING JOURNEY IN AMERICA

Christopher (Emily’s Little Pilot of Loquacious Weather, 2013, etc.) has figured out the secret to consistently landing a job on the quick: brazenly, confidently lie about your credentials. Here’s his comedic, meandering quest to find quick employment and avoid a long-lasting career.

In the midst of an ailing job market, this is an especially timely book. Covering two decades and 81 jobs, this series of first-person essays charts an eclectic and in some ways strangely impressive tour of jobs. Christopher visits both the highs and lows of employment, working as a writer, a mortuary driver, a plumber’s assistant and a copy editor of gay porn. At that last gig, once outed as a heterosexual, he was the victim of sexual harassment perpetrated by a female superior. The tone is always breezy and ironic, though the constant posture of cleverness can sometimes grate as it becomes a kind of “too cool for school” aversion to bourgeois careerism. Thankfully, the book can be lively and genuinely hilarious as well as bracingly self-critical. Somewhat frustratingly, though, despite a few mentions of personal autonomy and being “the protagonist in your own living novel,” it’s not exactly clear why the author insists on such an itinerant lifestyle. “I’ve never subscribed to that old-fashioned American Dream of having just one career for 35 years, followed by a cane-bound trance of heart medications, hip problems and Law & Order,” he says. “Nothing scares me more, to be honest, even as I near dangerously close to middle age myself. Instead, I prefer to taste life. I prefer to taste many lives, actually.” Responding to a command from his father to essentially get a job, not to mention a life, he reflects: “But then from out of nowhere springs a statement so profound and so uncommonly logical as: I need to live life in order to write about life. So simple yet so philosophical—existential, even.” What redeems much of the shallowness here is that Christopher is much more than what he claims to be, “a professional pretender for a decent paycheck and health insurance.” After all, while tasting many lives, he’s written four books.

A very funny but sometimes self-indulgent account of life chasing art and avoiding responsibility.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990573203

Page Count: 294

Publisher: BH Publications Pte Ltd.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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