Yes Please | Amy Poehler
The New York Times panned it, so of course I loved it. I hate when book critics refuse to review the book that is and instead critique the book that wasn’t. So it’s not a linear memoir or “proper” book of essays—who gives a rip? It’s Amy Poehler IN PRINT (and in wigs!) And it’s fabulous fun.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory | Caitlin Doughty
Absolutely fascinating. And funny. I loved this book as much as any human can love a book about what we Americans do with our dead people—and what we may be failing to do. Caitlin Doughty is a witty, insightful, and compassionate writer and tour guide. Highly recommend.
Not That Kind of Girl | Lena Dunham
I admire the heck out of Lena Dunham, and I will read everything she writes and says, with glee (and maybe a little bit of drool on my chin). Some of the essays in Not That Kind of Girl, unsurprisingly, exceeded my ick-ometer in much the same way Girls, (though I love and admire the show) can be a little too sexually explicit and raw for my delicate flower brains. But what I love about Lena Dunham is that she's so solidly herself - but always willing to self-correct (like when it comes to paying the opening acts on her book tour). And while she's enormously introspective (some might say self-absorbed, but aren't we all?), she seems genuinely interested in humanity. One of my favorite things in 2014 was this interview/conversation she had with Judy Blume. If you have time, listen to the podcast of the interview rather than just reading the transcript. It's well worth the time.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness | Susannah Cahallan
A young, successful journalist is stricken with symptoms (seizures, psychosis, slurred speech …) no doctor can treat or explain. A nightmare (and well-written page turner) that casts an eerie light on the limits of modern medicine and reminds us how vigilant we need to be in asking questions and pushing for answers when the diagnoses aren't adding up.
Tiny Beautiful Things | Cheryl Strayed
I’ve read it before, and I’ll read it again, and I’ll continue to foist it on friends and family until everyone sees the poetic genius of Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar, supreme ruler of the advice column queendom. (Not for the faint of heart. Or delicate of ears. But it's just amazing.)
Dry: A Memoir | Augusten Burroughs
Not just an outstanding memoir about alcoholism, but an outstanding (OUTSTANDING) memoir. And far less whacky and disturbing than Running With Scissors, if that one put you off. I really, really like Augusten Burroughs after reading this. (And I really, really like that we spelled our son's name the same way.)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? | Roz Chast
Comedy, crematoriums, inexplicable madness, despair, alcoholism … what’s next on the old nightstand? How about a heaping plate of dementia and dying, with a side of spastic bowels, incontinence, and hoarding tendencies? Needless to say, Chast’s graphic memoir is not your run-of-the-mill comic book, but it’s good. Honest. Real. Depressing as all hell. But also, oddly funny. I admire memoirists who keep it (very, very) real. My mother found parts of it a little too real, however, vowing to leave "no sad little items" in her drawers for me to photograph and blog about when she's gone.
Seducing the Boys Club | Nina DiSesa
I love books about women in advertising. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m a woman, and I work in advertising—or it might have something to do with the fact that women who succeed in the world of advertising have a healthy dose of curiosity and a damn good sense of humor. Our agency's creative director knew Nina DiSesa when he worked in Manhattan, and he gave me this book to read. It’s quick, smart, and entertaining. And while I wasn’t initially in love with the title and the metaphor of seduction as a woman’s secret to success in business … there’s a fair amount of truth there. (If you like this one, you must also read A Big Life in Advertising by Mary Wells Lawrence. It's a fabulous taste of an earlier time in the industry.)
Carry on Warrior | Glennon Melton
If you’re not reading Momastery (rhymes with Monastery) you're missing so many of the things! Add it to your feed reader and initiate yourself with this book of essays. She's a Christian writer the way Anne Lamott is a Christian writer (but with a lot less trashing of Republican presidents whose last name rhymes with tush.) No hypocrisy in these pages. Just straight up inspiration, served funny-side-up, the way I like it.
When Women Were Birds | Terry Tempest Williams
Mormon women, Tempest Williams tells us, are expected to keep a diary. When her mother was dying, she left her journals to her daughter, with instructions not to read them until she was gone. When Terry finally sat down to read her mother's journals—beautiful cloth-bound books, stacked high in her closet—all of the pages were empty. Understand that this is not a memoir in the traditional sense – it’s a blend of memoir and meditation, which is Williams’ signature, but it makes for quiet beach- or bedtime reading, and it makes you think.
The Working Poor | David Shipler
Need a little help understanding why poor people buy cigarettes and cell phones, and moon pies instead of healthy produce? Wonder why they don't have the "willpower" to save? Why they can't just pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps? Here's why. Horatio Alger fanatics won't want to bother. But anyone who is open to understanding just how difficult (and often impossible) it is to lift oneself out of poverty in this country, should consider this required reading.
The Opposite of Loneliness | Marina Keegan
Young, Ivy League essayist and short story writer—precocious and promising (and likeable)—dies a sudden untimely death. Her writing is compiled here, and it is all the things Marina was--precocious, promising, lovely—and cut off before her writing could fully blossom.
Hand Wash Cold | Karen Maezen Miller
I read this very early in 2014, and frankly, I had to google it to remember what the hell it was about. Take that review with a grain of salt, however, because my memory is not so fresh these days—and I’d hate for any author to suffer because of it. I remember enjoying this meditation on daily routine—and how fulfillment and meaning can be found in small tasks, gestures, and moments. I just can’t quote it back to you.
BOOKS I READ FOR WORK
How to Say It to Seniors | David Solie
One of my clients is a retirement community for seniors. I love this client, because they are exceptionally kind and fair and open to ideas and direction. Part of my job is to identify the insights that make an audience click – and while I love my elders, I don’t necessarily have a handle on what’s happening inside their heads. So I turned to geriatric psychologist David Solie for insight. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this book to anyone who isn’t actively seeking ways to communicate better with the elderly, one insight really stuck with me. In this country we tend to view old age as a period of diminished capacity. We are burdened by our elders, rather than revering them. Solie shows us that old age, not unlike infancy, toddlerhood, or puberty, is a developmental phase like any other. And it's marked by two characteristic drivers: the need to maintain control, and the need to understand one's legacy. He describes this as "all-consuming work" for seniors - and offers communication strategies that support, rather than stand in the way, of it.
The Fortune Cookie Principle | Bernadette Jiwa
Interesting anecdotes from the branding world, all of which can be summarized thusly: People buy the fortune, not the cookie. The most successful brands have a story at their heart--and that's what people are buying . Without that, they're just another commodity.
BOOKS I READ INSPIRED ME TO BECOME A VEGAN*
The China Study | T. Colin Campbell
Diet for a New America | John Robbins
Great books. Very convincing. And yet: the bacon force is strong, y’all*. Stronger than I. More on this at a later date, because I have quite a lot to say on the subject of food and diet and being a whatever-a-tarian. My current dietary position (however much I resisted it) falls squarely in the court of moderation. #sigh
I'm stunned at how little fiction I read this year. I probably started and stopped about a dozen novels--some of which I intend to finish ... some day. But here are the ones I completed.
The Interestings | Meg Wollitzer
Genius. My Art of Fielding of 2014.
Wonder | RJ Palacio
I read this to the boys, and they didn’t want it to end. In fact (and this is horrible to admit) it's the first chapter book that has kept both of them interested long enough for me to finish it. The story is told in a series of first-person accounts that offer multiple perspectives on the main character, a fifth grader who has a severe facial deformity. We hear from his sister, his friends, his enemies, and from Auggie himself--all of whom are sympathetic characters in the end.
The Dinner | Herman Koch
Curious. Fast. Entertaining. But it never made it’s way into my heart. Dark like Gone Girl, but smaller, and not quite as riveting.
ART & ADVERTISING
The Doodle Revolution | Sunni Brown
I love books about creativity and sketching and writing and concepting and what makes artists make the choices they make. I eat them up. When I take notes in meetings, I always draw doodles and pictures to help me remember what I’ve heard. For years, I worried that people thought I wasn’t paying attention—but still, my recall depends on it. Seeing this Ted Talk by Sunni Brown (and then reading her book) inspired me to stay the course. If I take visual notes, I remember almost everything a client says. If I just write the notes, I have to go back and reread them.
The Sketchnote Handbook | Mike Rhode
Steal Like An Artist | Austin Kleon
Show Your Work | Austin Kleon
These three are in the same writer/drawer/professional notetaker vein as Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution (though I think perhaps their works preceded hers … not sure. They’re all good, clever fun.
An Illustrated Life | Danny Gregory
I like to learn as much as possible about the artists behind the illustrations I love—so this book was like an enormous bowl of beautiful brain candy. I keep going back to it for inspiration.
Hello NY: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Five Burroughs | Julia Rothman
Beautiful, fun. A nifty gift for creative friends and fans of the Big Apple.
The Practical Pocket Guide to Account Planning | Chris Kocek
I’m an account director in a smaller agency, which means I also do the work of an account planner and creative strategist. If you’re curious about what the hell an account planner does this is a GREAT overview. If you're curious about why they call it "Account Planning", you'll have to look elsewhere. And let me know whose hair brained idea it was.
Advertising Concept Book | Pete Barry
Classic ads in concept (sketch) form show the importance of idea before design. A good idea works in black and white pencil. Every time. Check it.