reads lately: memoir edition

American Sniper by: Chris Kyle

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Goodreads description: He is the deadliest American sniper ever, called “the devil” by the enemies he hunted and “the legend” by his Navy SEAL brothers. From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyles kills. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle earned legendary status among his fellow SEALs, Marines, and U.S. Army soldiers, whom he protected with deadly accuracy from rooftops and stealth positions. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time. Kyle talks honestly about the pain of war—of twice being shot and experiencing the tragic deaths of two close friends. American Sniper also honors Kyles fellow warriors, who raised hell on and off the battlefield. And in moving first-person accounts throughout, Kyles wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their marriage and children, as well as on Chris. Adrenaline-charged and deeplypersonal, American Sniper is a thrilling eyewitness account of war that only one man could tell.

My Thoughts: to put it simply: WOW. I devoured this book, literally could not put it down. This book was impressive to me for a number of reasons, but the one i’m going to bring to the forefront is the honesty Kyle used to tell this story. he talked about things that are not easy to talk about, and he said some things i’m sure some people don’t want to hear, but it takes balls to be that brutally honest about something like war and honest he was indeed. I personally feel that everyone should read this book or a book similar to it, to really understand and appreciate the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us to maintain this freedom we so often take for granted.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by: Susannah Cahalan

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Goodreads description: A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.

One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter. Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.

My Thoughts: this book to me is the non-fiction version of What Alice Forgot. Because it is fiction, What Alice Forgot has the luxury of being entertaining and very funny at parts. Brain on Fire, however, was not the least bit funny. in fact, at some points it freaked the shit out of me. mostly, because of how unexplainable this woman’s disease was and how much it took over her life in such a short time. considering i am about the age right now she was when she started showing symptoms, the whole time i was reading this book i was suddenly picturing every headache i have ever had actually being the sign of a life changing and permanently debilitating neurological disease. webMD please!?!

Unbearable Lightness by: Portia de Rossi

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Goodreads descprition: Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day. From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues. Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.

My thoughts: I honestly knew very little about Portia besides the fact that she is Ellen’s wife. I freaking LOVE Ellen and i had heard some good things about this book so i decided to give it a read. it was honestly brutal to hear about this talented beautiful woman with seemingly everything she could ever want struggle so much with accepting herself. ATTENTION EVERYONE! THIS JUST IN: rich people have problems too. famous people have problems too. money and fame is not a cure-all as so many people seem to think, and this books hits that point home. i have no doubt in my mind it took major guts to write this memoir. kudos to you Portia!

Unhinged: A Memoir of Enduring, Surviving, and Overcoming Family Mental Illness by: Anna Berry

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Goodreads description: Despite all her best efforts to break the cycle of catastrophic, destructive patterns of mental illness, Anna Berry found herself at the end of her rope unemployed, penniless, homeless, and in the throes of a psychotic episode that threatened to destroy her life. Alone and unwell, she manages to find her grip on life, seeks the help she needs, and embarks on a life and career that illustrate that mental illness does not have to be ruinous. Unhinged: A Memoir of Enduring, Surviving, and Overcoming Family Mental Illness is a powerful memoir that chronicles Berry’s life as both a casualty and survivor of family mental illness.

This story shows the devastating impact of mental illness on whole families, but offers readers a message of hope and healing. Berry’s story is sure to resonate with the many people who deal with the mental illness of family members, and their own struggles to cope with their own diagnoses.”

My Thoughts: what i appreciated most about this book was that Berry shines on light on the fact that people with mental illness are often mis-medicated and/or highly over-medicaed. prozac has a place and a use, but so many medical professionals throw prescriptions at people and cause reverse effects. Berry’s story is inspiring and a true testament to the value of taking control and responsibility of your health and your actions. i enjoyed this book more than i thought i would.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Goodreads description: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My thoughts: this girl sucks. that basically sums up my thoughts completely. literally i did not like this girl AT ALL. the traveling aspect of the book i could appreciate and enjoyed, but she was awful. in fact, as i sit here and write this it annoys me very much that this woman, made millions of dollars selling this story. she lost her mother suddenly, that is tragic, truly it is, but i really found her to be an extremely shitty person in almost every aspect of her life. plus, we get it, you packed way to much shit in your backpack and your boots were a size too small, moving on now please!!!

thoughts on these books?

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  • Brain on Fire was one of those few books which stayed with me after reading it – not because it was amazing, but the fact that what she went through could happen to anyone, and that scared me… What irritated me about the book was that it was tagged as a memoir, which I don’t necessarily agree with – I think it is an investigative nonfiction since she has no memory of her time there. I really wanted to know what it was like being there and in her head at that time, but she didn’t know. She knows what she was told…

    I am torn with American Sniper – so torn I didn’t even rate it on Goodreads. It was very Pro-America which completely makes sense, but not being an American I guess I had a different insight/perspective/belief. Or maybe, my opinion on war is so shady/grey that I had a harder time with it. In one hand I believe “bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity”, but on the other hand not taking out the enemy and just being all sunshine and rainbows isn’t pragmatic. Ahhh I don’t know. The writing and his story was good, but the deeper aspect of it is what I have trouble with I guess…. Don’t hate me?

    Wild reminded me of a shittier version of Eat Pray Love – and I really disliked Eat Pray Love.

    • omg i could never hate you!! lol. i actually think a lot of people share your same opinion about american sniper. i can see how a lot of the things he said could rub people the wrong way.

      I agree about brain on fire, i think it was more like investigative journalism, it just so happened the person she was investigating was herself, which would normally be ridiculous, but considering she has little to no memory about that time it would make sense.

      i watched the movie version of wild this past weekend. 5 times worse than the book. i love reese witherspoon but her portraying cheryl strayed made me hate her the entire movie. it was just bad.

  • I need to read American Sniper….I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet! And, Brain on Fire was SO good and scary. My book club read it and…weirdly enough, I read What Alice Forgot soon after. I remember being annoyed with What Alice Forgot because I wanted to concrete medical explanation for what happened inside her head (I get that she fell, but beyond that) to cause her to lose her memory.

    • i felt the same way with what alice forgot. it was VERY VERY fiction in that there was never even close to an explanation for it. and american sniper is a must!! his wife actually just came out with a book of her own called american wife that i’d also like to get my hands on.

  • I’m really looking forward to reading ‘American Sniper’! I just put it on hold at the library. I love your review and, from what I already know, think all Americans should read this (or something similar!) We tend to take our freedom for granted so it’s good to refresh our perspective with stories such as this!

    Also – I COMPLETELY agree about ‘Wild’. It was so difficult for me to get through this book. I actually had to check it out from the library more than once. Cheryl Strayed = WHINY + SELFISH!

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