Host of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars unsentimentally breaks down the curious world of buying and selling pre-owned merchandise.

Harrison’s straight-shooting business style adapts well to the pages of a memoir brimming with stories of his 20-plus years at the family-run World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. Before dropping out of school in the 10th grade, the author recalls a San Diego childhood spent people-watching and reading, yet marred by debilitating grand mal seizures and “fatalistic” drug abuse that led to rehab at age 14. Since his father (“Old Man”) was a gold dealer and his “new-era” mother dabbled in real estate, both livelihoods honed his interest in commercial commerce. When the family relocated to Las Vegas, the author was hooked. Trolling swap meets fed a need to unearth the “overlooked treasures” of estate sales, and once his father opened his dream pawn shop, Harrison and Keown dictate a continuous strand of stories about the customers pawning their frequently odd sale items at Harrison’s “poor person’s bank” (there’s a 10 percent monthly interest rate). Desperation takes many forms. Twenty bucks can sell a pair of alligator cowboy boots or a Gucci bag, but more lucrative (and outlandish) sales feature a gold tooth (extracted on-site) or one of the shop’s prized possessions: authentic Iwo Jima battle plans hand-drawn in color. Throughout his career, Harrison has balanced failed business endeavors (in-house gold refinement) with impeccable negotiation skills and eagle-eye appraisals that have prevented the acquisition of fake Confederate swords and Rolex watches. The author lives and breathes his subject matter, but his voice, too-often oscillating between a hard-nosed tradesman and a starry-eyed TV personality, lacks the immediacy of his on-camera persona. Fans of unorthodox trades will find his tales shocking yet tastefully delivered, yet lacking the punch of the visual medium. A fascinating guided tour of what Harrison calls “the greatest business in the world.”


Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2430-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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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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