Readers are likely to run out of patience before the author has run out of pages.

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EATING VIET NAM

DISPATCHES FROM A BLUE PLASTIC TABLE

A celebration of Vietnamese street food, with some offerings that will make readers squirm as much as the author initially did.

This is the adventure-travel version of a food memoir, one that puts Vietnamese food in fresh perspective yet ultimately proves more repetitive than exotic. What began as a blog while Holliday was teaching English in Southeast Asia—living in Korea as well as Hanoi and Saigon—still retains some elements of that form, with a penchant for lists and a tendency to revisit the same themes and make the same points. Small restaurants and food stalls that serve only one dish tend to prepare it very well, and there’s often an inverse correlation between the cleanliness of the preparation and the quality of the food. Ask a native Vietnamese for a recommendation, and he’ll often tell you where tourists like to go, or what places are really popular, rather than divulging where he thinks the food is best. Eat and run is the expectation for uncomfortable street diners, since lingering hurts profits. Yet most of the cooks and proprietors, operating at the margins of legality, proved cooperative and helpful to Holliday, though almost uniformly, they had little idea how many bowls of pho they serve in a day. They know that they’ve made money when they’ve sold out and generally lost money when they have food left over. Though he initially shocks the reader with “boiled uterus” and “ pig’s intestine,” he quickly explains this as “the unlikely beginning of a long-running affair with Viet Nam and Vietnamese food. It was just unfortunate that I’d gotten started at both the wrong end of the menu and the animal.” Ultimately, he writes, “[s]treet food is a bit like smoking. It can seem somewhat disgusting at first, it takes a little time to get into it, but before too long, you’re addicted.”

Readers are likely to run out of patience before the author has run out of pages.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229305-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Anthony Bourdain/Ecco

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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