An average game with no triple word scores.

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WORD NERD

DISPATCHES FROM THE GAMES, GRAMMAR, AND GEEK UNDERGROUND

The co-author of the bestselling Everything SCRABBLE© returns with a motley collection of anecdotes, advice, and autobiography—all relating, more or less, to the game he loves.

Williams’ text follows his decades of experience as executive director of the National SCRABBLE Association, a tenure that ended recently due, in part, to the profound changes in the landscape of the gaming world. There is a little bit of everything here, including an appendix of proscribed game words (the naughty, the insulting), a mildly ranting chapter about grammar and usage, and a chapter that includes advice on how to tell someone that he or she has committed a solecism. Williams tells us a bit about his own playing career—he had early success, then quit studying so much and fell from grace—and about his joining the SCRABBLE team with owner Hasbro Inc. He relates stories about the spread of the competitive game, even into schools. Middle school, he and his team discover, is the best level. (A high school kid once called him a dork.) There is a dull chapter about adult championships, and there are some near-fawning chapters about the author’s experiences with TV and movie celebrities. (Actor Jack Black is a devoted player; on his show, Jimmy Kimmel played against scholastic champions; the producers of the 2001 film The Wedding Planner ignored his counsel.) Williams also tells about declining an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart because he feared an ambush, and he includes an awkward section about why men/boys seem to win all the championships. The author chronicles his interviews with some top women players, who, unfortunately, don’t shed much light on this issue. Williams takes a few pokes at some of the Hasbro executives he worked for (he also praises many others) and seems quite happy that his appearance on an episode of Martha Stewart’s show is still on YouTube.

An average game with no triple word scores.

Pub Date: June 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-87140-773-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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