Readers struggling with depression will likely find comfort and solidarity in this account.

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THE HAPPINESS PLAYLIST

In this debut memoir, a musician offers a brief meditation on loss and grief, explaining how songs helped heal his heart. 

Mallman’s panic attack started a year and a half after his mother’s death in an accident—a delayed reaction. A doctor told him: “Sometimes the brain waits to process a trauma.” Nothing seemed to help; even some of his favorite music became “terrifying” to him in its sadness. The author decided to make a “Happiness Playlist” of inspiring and cheerful songs to try to help break him out of his funk. The playlist included Bob Marley, the White Stripes, Pharrell, and Gorillaz. His therapist suggested that he “surround” himself with people who would “lift” him up. A few weeks later, a woman named Annie came into his life. He listened to his playlist nearly exclusively as he battled depression through the fall and winter months, bantering with an eclectic group of friends and artists in the Minneapolis scene and celebrating Thanksgiving at home with his father. Many of the interactions seem slight—going to the mall with Annie; glibly commenting on an art exhibition to his friend Eugene. But it was all done to keep Mallman from dwelling on his mother’s death. And it seemed to work. The author’s epiphanies are somewhat esoteric, and there is no one moment where he declares victory over sadness. It comes in small bursts, as when he’s writing songs: “Make certain to sing through your mouth from your heart, not with your mouth from nowhere.” Perhaps as a result of his musical background, his prose also delivers staccato, declarative lines: “The asphalt beneath us is fresh with sleet. It sprays the surrounding cars as we speed by them. My window doesn’t close tight. A whistle sings in my left ear. Everywhere is music.” While the prose is economical, it can feel terse until the rhythm settles in. Overall, observing Mallman fighting grief feels like watching a fishing bobber battling a strong current. Still, this book should offer solace to anyone grappling with a similar situation.  

Readers struggling with depression will likely find comfort and solidarity in this account.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9863607-3-2

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Think Piece Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2019

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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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