Jessica Lamb-Shapiro takes readers on a fascinating — and often funny — foray into the world of the self-help genre. She attends a dating workshop led by the author of The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, reports on a seminar led by Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul, crafts a vision board, walks on hot coals, and takes a class for those with severe flight phobia (she suffers from the condition herself). But she also confronts real sadness and pain when she visits a grief camp for kids and finally begins to talk with her father about her mother’s suicide.
Another reason to read this book over break: Jessica is visiting Augustana on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Students will have a chance to meet her and hear her read from her work at 7 PM in the Wilson Center.
Neil Patrick Harris (“NPH”) hasn’t written a “typical” autobiography; rather than use a traditional linear, chronological approach, he’s adopted the style of some favorite books of his youth: the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, in which readers make decisions and choose the narrative arc of the story. Though he’s only 41 years old, NPH has already led a full and nuanced life; the book chronicles his early life in New Mexico with his family, his varied experiences in the entertainment industry from television to film to the Broadway stage, and his personal journey in recognizing his sexuality and starting a family with his long-term partner (now husband).
NPH’s writing style is very approachable, making the reader feel like he’s just sitting across from you telling you his life story; despite all that he’s accomplished, his humility and self-deprecating humor make him seem very “real,” like I’d want to set up a playdate for his twins and my son so our families could just hang out. (At his house. He has a pool.) However, I’m not sure I’m fully on board with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” conceit. I appreciated the novelty and the humor of it – and the inclusions of personal letters from key players in his life, magic tricks, recipes, and other random fun elements – but there came a point, after completing the story via a few different paths, where I wished the book had come with a map that would help me ensure that I hadn’t missed any “true” portions (NPH does include a few clearly fictional sidetracks, some of which end his fiery or otherwise calamitous death). But maybe that’s just an indication of how much I liked it – I wanted to make sure I read every bit!
From the very first sentence, this book is going to shift your perceptions. At the beginning of the book, a teenage girl has died, but her family thinks she is just upstairs sleeping. As the family goes through the stages of discovering that she is missing, and then dead, and then grieves for their loss, you see the fragile nature of the relationships between the family members. The secrets that once bound them together begin to tear them apart as they seek answers–or avoid them– about Lydia’s death.
All images come from Goodreads. Reviews are written by librarians at the Augustana Tredway Library.