If you’re in the mood for a well-written, relatable, rock-bottom recovery memoir, this will hit the spot.

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A MEMOIR OF DRINKING, RELAPSE, AND RECOVERY

A Seattle-based political reporter recounts her tumultuous, nearly deadly dance with the bottle.

Writing a recovery memoir seems to be Step 13 for many professional writers of nonfiction who make it out the other side of addiction: Pete Hamill, Leslie Jamison, Mary Karr, David Carr, Caroline Knapp, and Sarah Hepola are just a few of the names that spring to mind. Perhaps because such authors have claimed truth-telling as their life’s work, and because addiction involves so many lies, putting an honest version of this story in print is a necessary part of reclaiming their identities as writers. The problem, of course, is that it’s usually the same story, which puts a heavy burden on prose style. Barnett rises to the challenge with a witty, self-deprecating, sometimes snide voice. (She describes her boyfriend’s friends as “well-adjusted in ways that made me nervous, with carefully curated lives filled with long-haired, gender fluid children, camping trips, and backyard chicken coops.”) The author engagingly chronicles her Southern roots and her school years in a Houston suburb, including some heavy teenage drinking, and then moves on to her first jobs, at the Texas Observer and the Austin Chronicle. In Austin, she found that “the grown-up world replicates high school in ways we don’t always recognize or acknowledge,” and her attempts to fit in with her new peer group led to her first blackout drinking. Barnett's journey involved an almost unbearable number of relapses, and readers may begin to feel the way her family and friends did: out of patience and sympathy. Nonetheless, this is the truth, and she tells it openly. Like many others, she utterly denied that AA was right for her—until it became the only way to save her life.

If you’re in the mood for a well-written, relatable, rock-bottom recovery memoir, this will hit the spot.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52232-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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