Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

Always Looks on the Bright Side of Life is a sort of biography by Eric Idle – famous actor, writer, performer, comedian and singer-songwriter and famous along with the other Python comedian-writer British gents John Cleese, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin, for the cult classics Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s the Life of Brian, and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life to name a few. Eric Idle’s jet-setter lifestyle is a story of the rich and famous Brit rockers and British comedians spanning nearly five decades.

Can’t help but being a big Monty Python fan! So if you are interested in a bit of the Pythons back history from the viewpoint of one its members then you will enjoy Eric Idle’s personal story –  part memoir, part autobiography in this quick interesting read. Much of Idle’s stardom and famous relationships are unique….being friends with the likes of George Harrison, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Robin Williams, and Steve Martin to name a mere few, putting it in the readers face that he really “lived” a rock n’ roll lifestyle. His comedic writing is famous, his many songs and lyrics – especially “Always look on the Bright Side of Life” has become a legendary song as it is ironically the number one song played at British funerals making him a legend in his own lifetime…which Idle perhaps seemly discontent with the legend status seems to dislike and perhaps inadvertently fears a bit, being, no pun intended, idolized.

In his concluding chapters the true meaning of the book begins to emerge towards the end as to why he wrote the book in the first place. Eric Idle painstaking goes over the deaths of many of his actor/comedian/singer-songwriter friends that have recently died, especially David Bowie, Robin Williams, and Carrie Fisher, all of which he was very close to and the question of their mortality and his own mortality and legendary status seems to have been what spurred the writing on the account of his own life, mixed with a bit of personal history and the life and death of his close friends. Good read even with the bit of fluff about the lives of the rich famous intertwined throughout. He has really lived a glamorized and full life. Highly recommend.

The Best We Could Do: an Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

“The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui is a poignant, heart-rendering graphic novel about a Vietnamese family’s history and struggle emigrating from Vietnam to the United States during the Vietnam War. The story is set in current times with reflections and flashbacks referencing the author and her parents’ journey of war and struggle in leaving their home-country of Vietnam. The book references the wars and trials of the Vietnamese people before and during the Vietnam War but brings a specifically personal account of Thi Bui and her families journey, highlighting her family’s success and trials of making it out alive with their children only to then come to a new country to find new struggles as refugees or émigrés (which is an emigrant, but more fully defined as “a person who emigrates for political reasons”) learning a new language, culture, political system, and a whole new way of life in the United States.

“The Best We Could Do” is a graphic memoir, well written and painstakingly descriptive that will leave the reader haunted by the beautiful drawings and horrible atrocities of war. As it is a comic book, it is a super quick read that will leave the reader with a greater understanding of life and struggles of refugees and survivors of war as well as their immigrant struggles in living in a new country having survived. The memoir comes full circle by beginning and ending with life… “The struggle to bring life into this world is rewarded by [the cry of a baby]. It is a single minded effort uncluttered and clear in it’s objective. What follows afterward- that is, the rest of the child’s life – is another story.” And thus ends with the author having hope for her newly born child and the life they will live.

Get It Together! An Interior Designer’s Guide to Creating Your Best Life by Orlando Soria

Love, love this book and it’s tongue-in-cheek writing. Orlando Soria is super hilarious in his common sense, life-style decorating, and overall life advice in this interior designer’s guide to creating your best life. I absolutely enjoyed his very frank and non-superficial attitude and talk about decorating your stupid space with your stupid stuff! Love this! I am currently redoing and fixing up an old home, so after reading tons and looking through 50+ interior decorating and do it yourself guides, this breath of fresh air on not taking oneself seriously is a great and funny read with some good tips to boot. So if you’re in for a laugh and want to take yourself less seriously check out Orlando Soria’s Get It Together! An Interior Designer’s Guide to Creating Your Best Life. And if you are interested in further reading, check out his hilarious blog Hommemaker.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Image result for calypso by david sedaris amazon Now, while I don’t normally listen to books on CD or audio, I truly enjoyed listening to Calypso by David Sedaris, read by the author himself. And I must say that it was a lovely, riveting, and a hilarious ride….ride I say….. in that I only listened to the book on CD while I was riding around town or making my entire family listen to it when we took a short road trip over the Labor Day holiday weekend….and believe it or not, they actually listened, although they did let me know at times that the language was not appropriate for teenage ears….but whatever is all I have to say about that! As the video games I have seen them play are way worse than anything that could have ever been written in this novel. Sedaris’ prose is almost autobiographical writing mixed with what seems to be comedy bits that could have been written by his comedic actor sister Amy Sedaris.  Calypso will keep the reader and/or listener engaged, entertained and especially amused in the comical sense and laughing in a very familial relatable scenes with parents, adolescence, and aging. Check out Calypso David Sedaris’ latest book and you won’t be disappointed….instead it will leave you crying with laughter…at times.

The Little Book of Lykke (Looka): Secrets of the Worlds Happiest People by Meik Wiking

Meik Wiking’s concise The Little book of Lykke (Looka): Secrets of the Worlds Happiest People  is a practical, quick read, with international statistics and easy to read graphs that gives a nice synopsis of his company’s (the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen) analysis and overall synopsis of the worlds happiest people and how not necessarily money, but time allocated and spent, from work schedules, to parental paid leave, welfare, healthcare, commute times, compassion, kindness as well as getting to know your neighbors, and helping others all play important parts in the overall happiness of individuals. Denmark is the place to be if you’re into free higher education, equal pay, equal parental leave, free healthcare, and a work culture and society that promotes walking, riding bicycles, and taking public transportation that is effective and efficient. Well…but you might say I’m not going to move to Denmark or planning on marrying a Dane. Which is good that The Little Book of Lykke gives small and big examples of things to do or changes to make in your daily life.

As an American, one can only imagine, that the United States scores very low in most of these categories, especially some of the more important ones like welfare, healthcare and parental paid leave. I just heard on NPR recently that… “suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent. In the wealthiest country in the world we American’s are somehow still missing out on how to take care of each other, especially our children and our elderly. Wiking’s book focuses on measuring happiness and he provides tools and encouraging tips on small changes to begin making in one’s daily life. Each chapter has several “happiness tips”. In the promotion of trust and kindness he suggests set time aside weekly to practice “Five Random Act of Kindness to do This Week:

  1. Leave a gift on someone’s doorstep.
  2. Learn the name of the person at the front desk, or someone else you see every day. Greet them by name.
  3.  Make two lunches and give one away.
  4. Talk to the shy person who’s by themselves at a party or at the office.
  5. Give someone a genuine compliment. Right now.

“The point of all this is that while we can improve trust levels in the short-term by training our empathy muscles and teaching our kids to cooperate rather than compete, there is something we need to address in the long-term to improve trust and happiness…And it is judging our societies not by the success of those who finish first but how we lift back up those who fall.” So perhaps we as individuals are not going to be able to change suicide rates in our state or country, we can however, start making small changes like walking or biking to work one day a week, or being supportive of a neighbor or a co-workers endeavors. Start a community garden. Create a rewards system that promotes those around us that lift other up. Or move to Denmark. That’s what I’m thinking.

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

 

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham is a great read. Sharp, twisted, vengeful, and delightfully macabre with the sense that justice no matter how dark it might be, is nice when served with a slice a fashion.

The story enfolds in a 1950’s small Australian town called Dungatar where all the characters come together in their dark histories and lucid small town cantor. This is where the story begins and ends with Tilly Dunnage who has just returned from Paris haute couture fashion houses where she’s become an esteemed and accomplished dressmaker, to visit her ailing mother Molly Dunnage.  The town and Tilly have a cloud of bad energy encircling the twisted past of Molly’s daughter who was separated from her mother and sent away suddenly when she was a child.

The dark twists and turns of this novel will keep you reading, and the revenge Tilly erroneously or knowingly (reader’s interpretation) bestows upon the town and it’s misfits is quite laughable in a dark and entertaining sense. However, there are moments of sadness sprinkled throughout but overall a good and enjoyable read.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One … love this title … and come on … that title pretty much says it all. A bit of misandry wherein I prefer feminism (equality of the sexes) but this is a quick powerful read for that witch in all of us both male and female. Seems to be written at the height of the 2016 election and the women’s marches thereafter. Here’s an excerpt from page 127:

forget

being ladylike

(whatever

the hell that means)

& allow

yourself to

show

the world

just how

unapologetically

angry

this

inequity

makes you.

let it all

go.

-throw flames like a girl.

Thought provoking, anger provoking, female power provoking read. Very short and quick. Check it out to give yourself a bit of a punch of always needed fire.

The Blue Zones of Happiness: A Blueprint for a Better Life by Dan Buettner

New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner’s second book delves deeper into what factors aid in an individual’s happiness, as well as “the macrocosm” of one’s dwelling in a specific place, be it a small town, city and even how a country’s national policies can play an important role in individual lives. Buettner expounds on how the actual environment, green space, traffic, etc. play a huge role in one’s personal happiness. The Blue Zones of Happiness is full of useful information that is both realistic and constructive. You will enjoy reading this book and taking a more realistic look at the current place, be it a farm, city, small town and state where you live.

The book encourages all of us to look objectively at the environments in which we live and find areas to make change. His scenarios and qualitative data are a resource for local communities and towns and city councils looking to make their spaces more pedestrian and green space friendly whilst at the same time improving upon the health and well-being of the lives of its’ local citizens, making the areas more attractive for new business and providing leverage and economy to flourish.

One example Buettner gives is Boulder, Colorado. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s corporate redevelopment companies wanted to build into the mountains and foothills and build the city up, meaning high-rises and tower building. However because of a concentrated effort to keep the mountain views open and a campaign of environmental activism in keeping the city limits drawn and the green spaces pedestrian friendly and high-rise free, today Boulder is a thriving city economically and considered one of the best places to live in the world.

The Blue Zones of Happiness is a great tool if you are interested in solutions for your own neighborhood or as a tool to educate elected officials and make aware the importance of healthy, environmentally and pedestrian friendly spaces that improve upon community members’ healthy lifestyles such as walking and bicycling. This book is a useful manual for individuals and communities to take the initiative toward happier, healthier lives.

The Sun and her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and her Flowers, a 2017 Top Fiction and Literature book of poetry as well as a New York Times Bestseller, is the second brilliant poetry book by Rupi Kaur.

Kaur’s Poignant second book is another incredible work helping all of us relate to our human condition and the common thread binding us between each other…..this thread of humanity, raw emotion, depression, tears, joy, love and life in all of it’s glorious and dark forms.  Excerpt from the book:

“this is the recipe of life

said my mother

as she held me in her arms as i wept

think of those flowers you plant

in the garden each year

they will teach you

that people too

must wilt

fall

root

rise

in order to bloom”

Life is hard. We all do our best. Be kind, do your best. Go to your local library and check out this book.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Young but wise beyond her years, Rupi Kaur’s words in Milk and Honey will move you perhaps to tears. Amazing how only a few words can have so much meaning and can translate across time, space, and language.

This poetry book is a must read whether or not you are a poetry lover or hater. Do yourself a favor and read it. Moving, raw and riveting, Kaur takes you on a journey of love, loss, and rebirth. Experiencing the human condition through her thoughts and words there will be something for each one of us humans to relate to and perhaps find some meaning and understanding through our own trials of love, loss, and living in general.