Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

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Bruce, you are amazing. Done! See you next time.

Just kidding, but really, this memoir was absolutely incredible. There is not one thing I didn’t love about it. I had been procrastinating reading Born to Run… it’s long (over 500 pages, and LONG pages)… until I heard Taylor Jenkins Reid who wrote Daisy Jones and the Six  absolutely raving about how amazing Bruce Springsteen’s book was. She said the rumour was he had a huge advance, because he had promised to tell all his deep dark secrets. So, I dove in head first.

My brother was the one who got me hooked on Bruce. We would sit in the basement of my parent’s house, and he would tell me all the stories behind the tracks, while we listened to the albums. Then I heard Thunder Road, and was in love. A rock band, that incorporated the piano like that, it was incredible. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, Clarence comes in on the sax, and your mind is blown.

Writing about yourself is a funny business. At the end of the day it’s just another story, the story you’ve chosen from the events of your life. I haven’t told you “all” about myself. Discretion and the feelings of others don’t allow it. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind. In these pages I’ve tried to do that.

God, I could go on and on about how incredible his lyrical prose was, and how poetic this whole book was… but you would probably get sick of it. So I’m going to give you a few things that I absolutely loved about it:

  • It’s nostalgic. Whether you can relate to the memories of childhood, loving the home you grew up in, or listening to music that inspired you as a child… Bruce has you covered.
  • It’s honest. His rocky relationship with his parents, he was a bit of a player, and his battle with his mental health. It’s all so honest, and troubled.
  • Clarence Clemons. Bruce’s words on his talent, their relationship, racism, and then in the end, his death, made me cry. It’s beautiful.
  • Garage Land. There is one chapter that he talks about when he’s given the opportunity to sing Tumblin’ Dice with The Rolling Stones… and I almost died. It’s everything.
  • Lastly his talent. Just listen to the lyrics of the songs he writes. After reading this memoir, you realize how much work he put into these songs and albums. He’s a perfectionist, and found how to blend many types of music into an incredible rock band.

See, I told you. Not one thing I didn’t like about this one. You don’t have to be Bruce’s #1 fan to read this book, because if you a reader you will have so much appreciation for this incredible piece of work.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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By Chance Alone, by Max Eisen

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If there is one very important book that you read this year, read By Chance Alone, by Max Eisen. Although you will learn by the end of this review, the content is extremely heavy, it’s an incredibly readable book. It has been on my radar only since the the Canada Reads nominations came out. And, lo and behold, it won!! I read it shortly before the winners were announced, but it’s taken me a long time to sum of my thoughts on this incredible story of survival and character.

More than 70 years after the trauma that Tibor “Max” Eisen had survived at Auschwitz, he decided to write By Chance Alone detailing the slave labour at Auschwitz I, the “death march” in January 1945, and the journey of his life after the liberation. He details the experience of dealing with the physical and psychological trauma that he was worked in these 70 years. And now, Eisen has made his father’s final wishes come true, he is educating the world about the Holocaust in hopes that something of this tragic does not happen again.

Then he said, “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened here. Now go.”

Max’s title By Chance Alone, could not have been more perfect. There are many moments where Eisen’s survival is based solely on luck or circumstance. I’m not saying that he’s just “lucky” to be alive, but what I am saying is that his luck, his will to survive, and his intelligence is what led him to survive. Between being the right age, and meeting/making friends within Auschwitz with the right people, Eisen made the right choices, even while he was starved and had trouble thinking, to keep on living. 

Eisen had eventually after the liberation, made his way… which was NO easy task… to Toronto, Canada. When his oldest granddaughter asked him to accompany her overseas Auschwitz for a class trip, he decided he would go back for the first time. Since then he has made it his mission for the past 22 years to educate people about the Holocaust. His first public speaking engagement was in Barrie, Ontario, to a grade 5 class, and now he travels all over Canada and the World.

“Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” – Heinrich Heine

Every Canadian, and every person, should read this book. I’m so thrilled that Max’s book won the Canada Reads, because he has given us the chance to dig down into the prejudices, and radical thinking that happens in this world and that we have the chance to change. Max Eisen is donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding. SO after I read my copy from the library, I went out to buy a copy for my own personal library. 

Please, do me a favour, and read this book. 

 

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

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Let me begin by saying, when I started this book I had heard of Trevor Noah’s name, but never listened to any of his content. I knew he was a comedian, but nothing more. After reading Born a Crime, I now know Trevor Noah is so much more than a comedian.

Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa, in which he was literally born a crime. His mother being a black Xhosa woman, and his father a white Swiss man, meant his birth was punishable by five years in prison in his parents were caught. Noah tells the story of his childhood through eighteen personal essays in which he transforms from a wild, mischievous kid, to an ambitious, and ultimately successful man. His transformation was based around the relationship he had with his mother, or as he calls her, his teammate. She was the one who was determined to save his life, and for his life to have a bigger meaning.

The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.

This memoir is a funny a lot of the times, sad at moments, and most of all makes you want to give your momma a hug. Trevor Noah has written a memoir about the stark realness of apartheid South Africa. One of the reviews that I read about it, was that this was essentially a love letter to his mother. And it is just that. It is the story of a boy whose mother stood up against the tidal wave of racism brought to a country, and decided to raise a child that would overcome it.

“Learn from your past and be better because of your past,” she would say, “but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”

There are essays in Born a Crime, that are absolutely, pee your pants funny. He has you killing yourself laughing into the spine of the book. This is definitely a necessary part of the story, because you are really hit with the fact that this country was torn apart from apartheid, and just how lucky we are in our country. Whether it’s the food on your table, the education you receive, or the safety you have in your home… this was not Trevor’s upbringing. But what he did have was a mother whom would do anything to propel him forward. The ending of this novel, left me feeling gutted and crying. 

The world needs this memoir, and also Trevor Noah. He’s exactly the type of person we need as role models in the world. Lastly, go listen to Oprah’s episode of Super Soul Sunday with Trevor Noah. It’s also brilliant, and funny.

Happy reading!

 

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

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I had been resisting reading Becoming, by Michelle Obama since there was so much hype around this book. Then when a client said it was amazing, I downloaded Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations with Michelle Obama, I was HAD to read it. Sidenote: If you want to be inspired, go listen to it. It’s just everything.

Michelle Obama has been proven to be one of the most inspiring and iconic women of this era. A lawyer, the first African-American First Lady of the United States of America, a wife, and a mother, she really has no limits that she won’t try to rise to. This memoir is a story of becoming herself. She invites readers into her childhood, on balancing motherhood and work life, and lastly on her experience in the White House. She is incredibly honest in her memoir, and also reminds you to reflect on your becoming, and how you got here.

To say I was going into this book skeptically is an understatement. I always head into a memoir like this, thinking that is going to be a version of the author’s self that they best want to represent. But friends, I will tell you that this book was not that. The more I read it, and the more I thought about it upon closing it, the more I keep thinking about it.

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.

This memoir is such a great insight to how Michelle, and her family in the past have had to overcome hardships and stigma to rise to the top. Michelle is an absolute powerhouse. From a young age she was a perfectionist. She could read before she entered school, and had extremely high expectations of herself. There are so many pieces of the book that will stay with me forever. There was one moment in particular that gave me goosebumps, and that was when she talked about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. She describes how deeply it affected her and Barack, and that they would never truly know how the families lives of the victims would forever be changed. We all know that feeling of knowing exactly where we were when terrible things happen. But having to face these families, knowing that nothing can make them whole again is a whole other hardship.

Becoming is just the most perfect title of this. Michelle says in the preface that she hates that age old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, as if growing up is finite and once you get there you are done becoming. Well, when you reach adulthood you realize this. And Michelle has totally captured the essence of growing as an individual, as a partner, a mother, and also a role model. This is an important book to read, and I think so wonderful for a young person who is finishing high school, or if you are curious about her life, or someone who continues to become yourself.

Anywho, that’s all for today. Have you read this one? I have so many thoughts about it that my head is about to explode, and would love to chat. Drop me a message in the comments so we can chat 🙂

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

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My mom had been pushing me to read The Boys in the Boat for almost a year! I had picked it up shortly after she suggested it at Vinnie’s Ptbo, and it has been sitting on my shelf since. This year I had made a goal of actually reading books that people suggest to me. Sometimes it’s easy to just get caught up in what you want to read, but there is so much pleasure in being able to share a the thoughts and feelings a great book can bring. The minute I finished this book, I called my mom to tell her she was right. This is a great book, in which you feel adrenaline, you cry, and you fall in love with the characters.

In the middle of the Depression you are introduced to Joe Rantz. He’s been abandoned at their family farm by his family when he isn’t even a teenager, and you learn quickly that even though Joe has nothing, he is unbreakable. He eventually goes to the University of Washington, and ends up on the rowing team. Here is where he meets the 9 man team in which will end up at the 1936 Olympics. This is the story that describes the making of a the boat, the mechanics of rowing, and the rhythm of a team in unison.

To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right… That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with the heart and head as well as physical strength.

Daniel James Brown was approached by Judy Rantz, the daughter of Joe Rantz, because her dying father was a fan of him and wondered if he could talk to him about the story of his rowing team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. What he learned was the incredible story that became this book.

What I loved about this story was so many things, but here we go… this is when sport was just purely raw, and beautiful. Before the protein powders, insane calculations about body mechanics, and blood doping. These are boys who literally worked as lumberjacks, farmers, and smoked cigarettes, and ate whatever their hands could get a hold of. Daniel James Brown built a non-fiction book that reads as exciting as a fictional novel. The whole time you have the back story of the dark looming cloud that Hitler would bring upon the world after Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics.

You are introduced to the team, and the coaches, even the man who was behind the building of the boat. I became so intertwined in their lives that I ended up crying several times during this book. I even felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins as the races were being described. It’s an incredible story, that I can’t wait to see in movie form. One of the most interesting things is that in 1936, they had to travel by boat to get to Germany for the Olympics. Some of these athletes partied pretty hardy, others lost tons of weight due to sea sickness, or gained tons of weight because they were eating and not moving for the 2 week journey.

Well, that’s about all I think I will say about this one, otherwise I will be gushing for a LONG time. And Mom… if you are reading this, great book pick and I can’t wait to chat more about it 🙂

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis

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Okay, guys…  I’m a little bit obsessed with Rachel Hollis. I was gifted this book from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for my honest review. Oh boy, I can’t even contain my excitement for this book to hold on to the review until it’s release date… which is March 12, 2019. I get that it’s super mean for me to rave and be so excited about a book that’s release date is so far away. BUT, I will make you a promise to re-release the review days before the book is set to hit stores.

Here’s why I wanted to get this review out. Girl, Stop Apologizing, is the follow up book to Girl, Wash your Face. I think that reading them in succession is essential! I think that the first one is about acceptance, then the second is about action.

Rachel Hollis has a knack for noticing the pitfalls that women fallback on to excuse their living into their full potential. Because Rachel has been there. She has been the woman who needed to change. But what she did was… actually change. WHOA, right I know, no excuses. She just executed the habits, and committed to the positive changes.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis is ready to arm you with a plan to start owning your life. She identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to adapt to your lifestyle that will help with positive growth.

Straight up, I loved this book. As a woman, these books are deeply freeing. They make you feel less alone in your own little crazy world. They make you realize that feeling like a hot mess of a woman is okay, but just own it. And maybe take some steps in your life that help your morning/evening run a little smoother. Accept that you can be a successful woman, and also an amazing family person. You may not be perfect, but you can damn well try your best each day to commit to being ACCOUNTABLE.

Our own insecurities on any subject either spark our curiosity or they feed our judgement.

In a world where we live on social media, and have constant comparisons, it’s easy to get sucked into the this shame cycle of scrolling through IG, Facebook, Twitter… whatever it is. But what Rachel Hollis reminds us is that we are the ones in charge of what we fill ourselves up with. It’s so easy to play the “comparison game”, but remember that you are the one who can cater your lifestyle. If the IG model makes you feel less beautiful… unfollow. If the news makes you feel anxious… shut it off. If your schedule makes you feel like a chicken with your head cut off… slow down. If you feel like you have no energy… fuel your body.

I’m learning that slowing down is okay, but being mindful of actually scheduling is what makes the day feel more balanced. Currently I’m sitting in my office, shovelling mouthfuls of my homemade salad into my my mouth, while typing this review. Sometimes friends, you just have to do it. You just have to commit to the small chunks of time that add up to the hours that get the job done.

This book has literally breathed motivation back into my life. It’s full of things I needed to be reminded of. Now, it’s time to implement some of them 🙂

Happy reading, friends!

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

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The best runner leaves no tracks. Tao Te Ching

Born to Run is a book that SOOOOO many people over the years have asked me if I’ve read it. I’ve been running for what seems like forever. It feels like its always been a part of my life. It’s the thing that energizes me when my batteries feel low, it’s the thing that calms me down when I feel crazy, and it’s a place of joy for me. So when I needed some mojo the week before my marathon, I finally decided to read it.

If you are starting to read this review, and thinking, “Meh, running book?!?! I’m out.” DON’T LEAVE!!! This book is definitely not meant only for people who run. It’s a great story, and has some really interesting facts sprinkled throughout it.

Christopher McDougall is a runner, and a journalist. He loves his daily runs, but his body doesn’t. When he is plagued with running injuries he travels to the Copper Canyons in Mexico to discover the running secrets of the Tarahumara Indians. He is perplexed by the differences in their footwear, diet, and habits, and their ability to run for many hours in their deadly terrain. McDougall discusses all these differences, along with a fantastic story about a great race in the Copper Canyons. It includes the running phenomenon Scott Jurek, and many other eclectic runners.

This story was amazing. I felt like it paced like a marathon. A medium pace while slowly picking up to a fast sprint by the end of it. Ultra running is a unique sector of the running world. I love to go to these trail runs in which there are tons of ultra distances… myself, always doing the distance below the ultra. But, this book makes me want to run an ultra. I felt like the true spirit of running was completely captured through the people in this book. Jenn Shelton was my fav.

Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling.

This past weekend I participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with my forever running buddy, Krystal. This was a goal that was in for My Happiness Project. I used to race a lot, then when I had kids, I just enjoyed when I could get out for a run. But this year I decided I would start doing the things that I used to love to do, and discover new things as well.

This race was determined for it to be different. To not be obsessed with time, paces, and proper fueling.  The gradual letting go of controlling the run, coincided with less injuries, more joy, and a surprisingly not much different on race day. In short… when I decided to stop controlling the run, it stopped making me it’s bitch!

So that’s what I did friends. I let go of the idea that I needed to run this marathon so fast that it felt painful… and ya know what?!?! I literally had people who were cheering compliment me on my smile. I was so damn happy this race, and it didn’t hurt. Lesson learned… let go, and let what happens be.

Next up… maybe an ultra?!?!