Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares

 

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Thank you to She Writes Press for providing me with an advance copy of Sherry Stanfa-Stanley’s Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– When Sherry Stanfa-Stanley turned fifty-two, she decided to challenge herself by facing fifty-two activities that would take her outside of her comfort zone. Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truth and Dares documents Stanfa-Stanley’s quest to seek adventure and push her boundaries.

LIKE– Stanfa-Stanley is funny and relatable. It’s easy to root for her as she overcomes personal obstacles, like conquering her fear of heights by going zip lining and riding in a hot air balloon. I think it helps that Stanfa-Stanley is a rather normal person chasing her dreams. She’s middle-aged and not in peak shape, yet she attempts adventures. She doesn’t have a large budget for her ideas and no one is financially backing her, another element that will make readers feel empowered: If Stanfa-Stanley can achieve her goals, so can you. Get off that couch!

My favorite challenge was when Stanfa-Stanley threw a party for strangers. She asked her friends to invite someone that they knew, but someone that she had not previously met to a party that Stanfa-Stanley was hosting. The friends were not invited, only the strangers. This meant that Stanfa-Stanley was hosting a party and didn’t know who was going to knock at her door and none of the other people, knew each other. It was a grand experiment that was a huge success. I absolutely love the idea of a strangers party, especially how it lent itself to diversity in the participants. Although it happened that only women showed up ( men were invited), the women were different ages and from a variety of backgrounds. I think this is a marvelous idea for expanding your social circle. It was heart warming to learn that many of the women stayed in touch,

DISLIKE- Previous to Finding My Badass Self, I had not heard of Stanfa-Stanley. I now know that she has a blog in which readers can follow her adventures. Finding My Badass Self reads like a compilation of blog entries, which I think it might have been. I question the necessity of turning the blog entries into a book. If I was following her blog, it would be delightful to read a few entries at a time and catch up with her life, but as a book, it was tedious. I think a fix would have been to change the format and provide more introspection before moving to the next challenge. There needed to be a bridge between the entries. Not all of the challenges were equally interesting or inspiring, which also contributed to the uneven pacing.

RECOMMEND– Maybe. I’d definitely recommend checking out Stanfa-Stanley’s blog. She’s humorous and you might find the inspiration to chase one of your own dreams. I’m just not sure that Finding My Badass Self is a better recommendation than just checking out her blog.

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002

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Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advance copy of David Sedaris’ latest book, Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Humorist David Sedaris shares his diary entries from the years 1977-2002.

LIKE– I’m a huge Sedaris fan and I was thrilled to be granted an ARC of Theft by Finding. I’ve seen Sedaris speak several times and at each show, he reads a handful of entries from his diary. Often, they are absolutely hilarious, especially his wry observations of fellow humans, including their conversations that he eavesdrops. I couldn’t help but hear Sedaris’ voice as I was reading Theft by Finding. If an audio version with Sedaris narrating becomes available, I highly recommend it. His tone is half of what makes the entries so funny.

Sedaris explains that the title is from a British law called “Theft by Finding,” in which a person can be punished if they find something valuable and do not turn it in. For example, you’re unlikely to get punished for keeping a pound, but if you find a wallet with a wad of cash and don’t hand it over, you’re guilty. Many of Sedaris’ diary entries involve snippets of conversation and characters that he “finds” by observing strangers. The title couldn’t be more perfect.

Artists will find hope in Sedaris’ career journey. At the start of the diary entries, in 1977, Sedaris is twenty-one. The early entries show Sedaris struggling to figure a career path and his attending art school. He works odd jobs, many involving manual labor, and like a lot of twenty-somethings, lack of money is a major issue. Even when Sedaris sells his first two books ( he earns a two book deal), he still doesn’t earn enough to completely quit his day jobs. As someone who is a late-bloomer with regard to career goals, I took heart in Sedaris’ story, especially that earning a solid living from writing didn’t happen until he was middle-age. Sedaris is a brilliant writer and his success certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’d also argue that some of his best stories come directly from that delayed success. If Sedaris had success young, he’d never have had to take a job as a Macy’s Elf and Santaland Diaries would exist. I don’t want to imagine a world without Santaland Diaries!

I was surprised by the tremendous amount of time that Sedaris has spent at IHOP!

DISLIKE– At the start of the diaries, Sedaris mentions that he envisions Theft by Finding, to be a coffee table type of book, something you’d pick up now and then, rather than read straight through. Since I had a review copy, I read it straight through. Sedaris has the right idea with his advice ( imagine, an author knowing what’s best for their own book!), reading it cover-to-cover in two days, was overwhelming. I found the more recent entries to be far more insightful and entertaining than the earlier ones, likely due to maturity and Sedaris becoming a stronger writer. It also may be that his later entries were written when he was around my current age, so I found them more relatable.

RECOMMEND– Yes. If you’re a Sedaris’ fan, Theft by Finding, is a must-read. If you’re not familiar with Sedaris, don’t make this your first pick. I’d recommend starting with Me Talk Pretty One Day or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I’m hoping that Sedaris will release a companion book with his Diary entries 2002-present.

Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg: One Comedian’s Tour of Not-Quite-the-Biggest-Cities in the World

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Thank You to Gallery Books for providing me with an advanced copy of Todd Barry’s, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg: One Comedian’s Tour of Not-Quite-The-Biggest Cities in the World, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Comedian Todd Barry shares travel notes from his experiences playing secondary markets ( smaller cities/venues), during 2015/2016.

LIKE– Previous to reading, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg, I had not heard of Todd Barry. I requested a review copy of his book, because I liked the concept. I like off-the-beaten-path travel logs. I was a clueless about his sense of humor, so I went in with no expectations. I read, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg, last night, during my flight from California to Oregon. Would Barry be my ideal travel companion?

Yes. Todd Barry made my two hour flight seem like seconds.

It was a risk going in without a familiarity with Barry’s comedy, but I quickly discovered that we have a similar sense of humor. Barry’s quirks and annoyances, like his self-diagnosed Misophonia, had me laughing. As I was currently dealing with air travel, I commiserated with his travel issues, such as a woman trying to guilt him into giving up his aisle seat. The nerve! I enjoyed his behind the scenes perspective of being a traveling comedian, the pains and joys of being on the road. What I most loved about his travel diary, was his recommendations. Hell yes, I’m going to visit the “railroad car/ future home of a corn dog restaurant” in Oklahoma. Cape Fear Serpentarium in North Carolina, I’m coming! Barry’s love of local coffee houses and sightseeing is right up my alley.

Barry’s witty observations reminded me of one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris, who always makes me laugh until I cry, when he reads from his travel diary during his live shows. The funniest stuff comes from observing other people, things too bizarre to make up.

DISLIKE– Not so much a dislike, but a suggestion; although, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg, is a quick read, don’t do it in one sitting. If I had parsed it out, I would have found it more enjoyable. I felt like I rushed it. Don’t rush Barry, he deserves better.

RECOMMEND– Yes. I’m sure his fans will be delighted, but even as someone with zero familiarity with Barry, I found, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg, to be a highly entertaining read.