A compact, illuminating memoir of an unapologetic Deadhead.


Diary of a Deadhead


In this debut memoir, Carson recounts her decades as a devout fan of the Grateful Dead.

“I think we, the Deadheads, all had an unfilled space in our lives,” writes Carson, remembering the moment she first heard the Grateful Dead, “and we did not realize we were searching for something real and tangible to fill that void.” While the music may not actually be tangible, the subculture that formed around the Grateful Dead during their 30 years of touring was a unique phenomenon in the history of popular culture. Coming from a Chicagoland household marred by the horrors of the Vietnam War, Carson took to the drugs and music of the 1970s at an early age. From first hearing “Workingman’s Dead” in 1972 to first seeing the Dead in 1979 to the death of Jerry Garcia and the end of the era in 1995, Carson recounts her nomadic lifestyle as it intersects with the ever touring jam band. Through personal hardship, spiritual questing, and attempts to deal (or not to deal) with the shifting times around her, the concerts shone like a trail of lanterns along a path that was not always as groovy as the traveler hoped it would be. Unlike the forever-noodling Dead, Carson is possessed of a disciplined succinctness: the book is a mere 112 pages, divided into 24 chapters that skip along at the speed of pop songs. Her voice may initially strike the reader as willfully bubbly, but Carson manages to sneak in dense, searing, insightful summaries of the times and places she found herself along the way. The worldview and spirituality discussed here won’t be shared by all readers (ditto for her claims about the brilliance of the Grateful Dead); Carson nevertheless offers a compelling narrative of her generation, revealing how baby boomer angst and 1960s disillusionment created an entire demographic waiting to be enticed away by a psychedelic Pied Piper. This memoir may not be a definitive chronicling of the Deadhead experience, but it’s an unexpectedly moving look at one life in which the Dead proved more alluring than anything else.

A compact, illuminating memoir of an unapologetic Deadhead.

Pub Date: July 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5118-6933-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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