Anna is Portland KATU TV's book & podcast critic.

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JANUARY, 2023:

 

Superconnector by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

Juicy AF: Stop the Drinking Spiral, Create Your Future by Kay Allison 

Blank Canvas: How I Reinvented My Life After Prison by Craig Stanland

The Rescuer: One Firefighter’s Story of Courage, Darkness and the Relentless Love That Saved Him by Jason Sautel

 

 

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NOVEMBER, 2022:

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

What’s in It for Them by Joe Polish

Rigging the Game by Dan Nicholson

Unscatter the Chatter by Bob Shenefelt

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OCTOBER, 2022: PODCASTS!

Apocalypse Soon

Watch What Crappens

Lizzy Cooperman's In Your Hands

Fed Up

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SEPTEMBER, 2022:

Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi

Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Dr. Anna Lembke

And You May Find Yourself: Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen-X Weirdo by Sari Botton

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

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AUGUST, 2022: PODCASTS!

 Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen

The Opportunist: Chris Bathum

Scam Goddess

Who The Hell is Hamish?

Scamfluencers: The Hollywood Ponzi Scheme

READ ANNA'S REVIEWS
 

 

JULY, 2022

Hurricane Girl by Marcy Dermansky

Out of the Corner by Jennifer Grey

When the F Will He Text?: And How to Know If He's Worth the Wait by Sara O’Neil and Jacqueline Kravette

Bumpers by Nic Peterson

The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

 

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APRIL, 2022

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

Embracing Bliss: 108 Daily Meditations by Jeff Kober

Brat by Andrew McCarthy

You're Leaving When?: Adventures in Downward Mobility by Annabelle Gurwitch

Last Resort by Andrew Lipstein

 

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MARCH, 2022

Miss Aluminum: A Memoir by Susanna Moore

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway

Midlife Bites: Anyone Else Falling Apart, Or Is It Just Me? by Jen Mann

Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture by Caroline Dooner

Hell Yeah Or No: What's Worth Doing by Derek Sivers

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FEBRUARY, 2022

Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

READ ANNA'S REVIEWS
 

JANUARY, 2022

Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup by Zara Barrie

Skip the Line by James Altucher

The Middle Finger Project by Ash Ambirge

The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

READ ANNA'S REVIEWS
 

NOVEMBER, 2021

The Gap and the Gain by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy

Habit That! by Dr. Jaime Hope

Free PR by Cameron Herold

Life Gives to the Giver by Joe Polish

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

READ ANNA'S REVIEWS
 

OCTOBER, 2021 

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Famous by Now by Via Bleidner

No Filter by Sarah Frier

Traction by Gino Wickman

Book Wars by John B. Thompson

My Addiction and Recovery by Ed Kressy

READ ANNA'S REVIEWS
 

JULY, 2022 SELECTIONS

Hurricane Girl by Marcy Dermansky

Even though this is a novel about a woman who buys a house, immediately loses it in a hurricane and then has a vase smashed over her head by a random cameraman she goes home with, it’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in ages. Dermansky is the master of the droll, dry one-liner that manages to also be descriptive and move the plot along at a tidy pace. The truth is it wouldn’t matter what story she was telling or who her characters were: I just wanted to stay in any world she describes, laughing at times that feel inappropriate, relating way more than I want to and just hoping there will be a sequel. Hurricane Woman, maybe?

Out of the Corner by Jennifer Grey

As someone who was practically raised by the movie Dirty Dancing, I absolutely devoured this memoir. And Grey did not disappoint. She pulls no punches, with herself and all the fascinating people she’s known over the years, from Matthew Broderick (spoiler alert: not a great boyfriend) to Patrick Swayze (turns out that electric chemistry on screen was really just a result of their challenging relationship) to Johnny Depp (he blew her off before dating Winona Ryder, who lived in her building) to the doctor who gave her a nose job (he sucked). Unlike many celebrity memoirs, it’s clear that Grey really stretched herself to create a brutally honest and beautifully written story about her life. And because of her honesty about so many of the bold-faced names she knows, it makes the loving descriptions of her relationship with her dad (the iconic Joel Grey) and best friend (Tracy Pollan, wife of Michael J. Fox) resonate all the more.

When the F Will He Text?: And How to Know If He's Worth the Wait by Sara O’Neil and Jacqueline Kravette

This is one of those advice books that feels like a frank friend giving you the news you may not want but have to accept. Written in a back-and-forth style—one of the authors is married and the other is chronically single—When the F Will He Text is a bit like the modern-day version of He’s Just Not That Into You. It’s technically for women who are hooked in a sort of love addiction cycle and need the harsh reality said to them in a loving way. And the two authors deliver. They also make you laugh out loud while swallowing the bitter pill.

Bumpers by Nic Peterson

Nic Peterson is one of those thinkers who doesn’t come along very often. As in every century maybe? He’s become an icon in the crypto space but, despite being in his early 30s, has already been successful in numerous other fields. Bumpers isn’t about crypto at all. Instead, it summarizes Peterson’s life philosophies which, at their core, are centered around prioritizing your personal needs so you can spend time doing things you love (he, for instance, loves naps). The title is a metaphor for the bumpers in a bowling alley, and the book guides you through how to design your personal bumpers so you can play “all in” just doing the things you love. After reading the book I ended up abandoning two projects I was working on because of one part of the book, which says if you can’t see yourself doing something forever, you shouldn’t do it at all. So consider this a warning: you may want to quit your job after reading this book. And it will probably be a great thing.

The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer is one of those people who, if you’re on the internet enough, you know about. I knew she was a musician who was married to the author Neil Gaiman and I knew she had a lot of Twitter followers. Honestly, I was prepared not to like her when I picked up this book, probably out of jealousy because she has a million Twitter followers and got a foreword from Brene Brown. But reading about her journey from street statue (exactly what it sounds like—she stood still in the street for a living) to scrappy musician to successful musician to icon of the creator economy was undeniably entertaining. The theme that she weaves throughout—how to stop being scared of asking people for help—is a message all of us need to hear and she lays it out in such a unique, honest, compelling and inspiring way that I already loved her before I remembered I’d decided I wasn’t going to.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE JULY, 2022 VIDEO!

APRIL, 2022 SELECTIONS

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

I don’t tend to like mystery thrillers, usually because I don’t relate to the naïve seeming, vanilla characters. That’s why discovering Last Girl Ghosted was so, well, thrilling. It follows the story of a woman named Wren Greenwood (well, that’s sort of her name…you’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean). Gwen is beautiful, successful and looking for love. Swiping leads her to find it. But then, the guy ghosts her. Now most anyone who’s dated in the recent past has experienced that (even someone who’s writing this). It’s horrible. But it’s not nearly as horrible as having it turn out that the guy who ghosted you is actually wanted for the disappearance of the three women he dated before you. Perfectly combining modern life (Wren is a podcaster who occasionally pays in Bitcoin) with a creepy storyline that keeps you whipping through pages at a pace almost as alarming as the story you’re reading, Last Girl Ghosted is a must read. You don’t need to have been single in the age of apps to want to know what will happen to Wren—and whether being ghosted can be as dangerous as it seems.

Embracing Bliss: 108 Daily Meditations by Jeff Kober

Full disclosure: I’ve been reading Jeff Kober’s daily thoughts newsletter for years, every single day before meditating. Because I know him, I’ve long urged him to collect all his daily thoughts into a book, and my reasoning was selfish: I wanted to not have to go into my email before meditating because inevitably I would see something very not spiritual that would get me distracted from the peace I was seeking. And finally he listened! The book is a selection of his daily thoughts, which are a collection of all the spiritual books and experiences he’s read and head, all distilled into incredibly beautiful, helpful, accessible passages anyone seeking bliss can read and relate to. Jeff Kober is a successful actor but also a Vedic meditation teacher and the message of most of the daily thoughts is that all change is good, that negative feelings are just discomfort leaving your body and that we can’t use our logical brain to understand our feelings.

Brat by Andrew McCarthy

Now, if you’re a GenXer who was raised on John Hughes movies and had posters of most of the members of the Brat Pack featured on your teenage walls, a memoir from one of them is a big moment. While Andrew McCarthy always seemed to be the most reserved member of the group and has faded away far more than counterparts like Rob Lowe, he was endlessly fascinating to someone like, well, me. His memoir is astonishingly humble and he documents his rise from wanna-be actor to one of the world’s biggest movie stars in a sort of just-happened-to-be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time way. He’s ruthlessly honest, talking about both his issues with addiction and his discomfort with his role in the pop culture pantheon. And when he explains he wasn’t REALLY part of the Brat Pack and in fact always felt left out of the group, despite starring in movies with them, you actually believe him. In all, this is a rather sweet tale of an allegedly ordinary guy who, for a time, lived an extraordinary life.

You're Leaving When?: Adventures in Downward Mobility by Annabelle Gurwitch

You’re Leaving When? is a collection of essays by the prolific, hilarious writer, actor, commentator and podcaster Annabelle Gurwitch. For anyone who’s seen her on Bill Maher or heard her on NPR, it’s not surprising news that her tales of post-divorce, empty nest syndrome—complete with an adult child who’s both in recovery and non-binary—manages to make you laugh out loud and marvel at her warmth. Whether she’s bringing in a housemate for extra income or helping out a young homeless couple by moving them in, Gurwitch makes whatever she’s experiencing oddly relatable and always entertaining. There’s a reason Gurwitch has been compared to both Dorothy Parker and Erma Bombeck. She’s really one of the funniest writers out there and as the author of five non-fiction books, she has—luckily for readers—written about much of her well-worth-documenting life. 

Last Resort by Andrew Lipstein

Last Resort is one of those books that painfully portrays the desperation of an author trying to land an agent and sell a book. Having been there myself, I can attest to the fact that you feel like you’ll do anything to get what you want. But would you—or I—resort to what the protagonist Caleb does and take a story a friend tells you, turn it into a book and use that book to land the biggest agent in town? Probably not but then you have to ask yourself: is what he did so bad? There was a scandal last year when a New York Times story about a “bad art friend” went viral and it asked similar questions. If you’re going to look at the book’s plot for an indication of how bad the author thinks it is, it’s pretty bad. The book really makes you wonder: in the choice of recognition or money, which would you take? And if you feel you got the raw end, would you allow yourself to self-destruct? Caleb is one of those unlikable protagonists you’re not sure you’re rooting for but are interested in nonetheless.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE APRIL, 2022 VIDEO!

MARCH, 2022 SELECTIONS

Miss Aluminum by Susanna Moore

 A memoir by the much-respected author and Princeton writing professor Susanna Moore (who also wrote the novel In The Cut, which was made into a movie starring Meg Ryan), Miss Aluminum traces her early life which seems to embody where glamour and grim meet. She worked at Bergdorf’s but was dead broke, was acting in movies with Dean Martin while being abused by her husband and was just generally living a life that would make for good book material even if she didn’t have a gift for language. If we’re to trust her telling, she essentially stumbles into this life where she’s reading scripts for Warren Beatty, socializing with Audrey Hepburn and having dinner with John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion, all without any effort on her part. The title Miss Aluminum refers to a part she played at a trade show but the story is much bigger than that—it’s a thoughtful trip through a unique and uniquely recounted life.

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway is a brash, confident, funny, often right thought leader, author, NYU professor and podcaster. The author of a slew of thought leadership books, most notably The Four (which was about how Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are taking over the world), Galloway argues in this book that the pandemic didn’t so much change the business world as accelerate changes that were already underway. The book came out in November 2020, which means he was writing it when it was still pandemic early days and everything he predicts in it certainly has turned out to be true so far. The book’s focus is on the industries that will continue to thrive in most pandemic life (technology), those that will struggle (education) and the opportunities that this provides for those who want to stay in the mix.

Midlife Bites: Anyone Else Falling Apart or Just Me? By Jen Mann

Jen Mann is a NY Times bestselling writer who started going viral online and has published a bunch of hilarious books—most notably People I Want to Punch in the Face. In Midlife Bites, she’s both honest and funny about things many aren’t (making friends, feeling scared about aging). And for this Gen x-er, she’s a truth teller extraordinaire! While she has many wildly entertaining books to choose from, I highly recommend Midlife Bites and not just because Reality Bites was the seminal movie of my 20s (hey, I told you I’m a Gen X-er). 

Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture by Caroline Dooner

Caroline Dooner is best known for her book The F It Diet, which is about how obsessing over dieting not only makes us miserable but also keeps us in a dieting and binging mentality. This new book takes off a little bit where the other one left off by focusing on how burned out she got in the hustle of life and how she “decluttered” her life. It’s mostly memoir with a dash of social psychology and a whole lot of funny, relatable and honest thoughts. For anyone who finds self-help books a bit prescriptive or anyone trying to do too much all the time, Tired as F*ck is for you.

 Hell Yeah or No: What’s Worth Doing by Derek Sivers

 After launching and selling the company CD Baby, Derek Sivers become a thought leader with a famous TED talk and a bunch of books that all have a very specific and unusual format: they each contain one-page, several hundred-word snippets—essentially, they’re books of non-sequiturs all based around an overall theme. He describes this one as “thoughts around what’s worth doing, fixing faulty thinking, and making things happen” and sometimes the entries are questions and sometimes they’re reflections on his own life (examples include “Loving what I Used to Hate” and “Are You Present-Focused or Future-Focused?”)  He doesn’t sell his books on Amazon or anywhere but his own site so if you want this one (or any of his others, including his most recent one, How to Live), you have to go to www.sive.rs). And you should!

TAKE ME BACK TO THE MARCH, 2022 VIDEO!

FEBRUARY, 2022 SELECTIONS

Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Harvilesky

I’ll be honest: Harvilesky is one of those writers that I could literally read as she dissected the phone book. She writes for the New Yorker, New York and the New York Times (as well as many other publications that don’t have “New York” in the title). She’s just a delightful writer—funny, self-aware, honest. And actually when an excerpt of the book ran in the New York Times in December, it attracted an onslaught of criticism from people who flinched that her depiction of marriage was negative. Reading the book, it’s clear that those people missed the point: Harvilesky excels at sharing those fleeting thoughts that don’t matter, aren’t real and are all too human. The difference between her and everyone else is that she had the guts to put them on paper. And she did so hilariously.

The Art and Business of Online Writing: How to Beat the Game of Capturing and Keeping Attention by Nicolas Cole

This is one of those rare writing books that offers just as much information about how to get people to READ your work as it does on how to WRITE. The author was the #1 most read writer on Quora and a Top 10 columnist for Inc and if you read this book, you’ll see that he didn’t just accidentally end up with those accolades. He WORKED for them. And in this book, he breaks down how anyone can follow what he’s done. It gets into topics, headlines, going “viral” and everything they essentially DON’T teach you in school about being a professional writer (take it from someone who majored in writing!) I see this as a book not just for quote unquote “writers” but for anyone who wants to have an online presence today.

Learn to Love Reading: 365 Powerful Quotes That Will Inspire You to Read More Books by Alex Wieckowski

This is exactly what it promises to be: a collection of a year’s worth of quotes about reading. It seems too appropriate for a segment devoted to books NOT to include. Alex is a well-known book lover who posts book recommendations and tips on social media. One of the best ones I got from him that I now use is to highlight books as you read, then write in the front the page number and why you highlighted it and then in the back how you’re going to apply what you learned. Anyone wondering if that’s worth the effort should read this book to find the motivation! My favorite quote in the book is probably from Lisa Kleypas and it’s “a well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

Your Creative Career: Turn Your Passion Into a Fulfilling and Financially Rewarding Lifestyle by Anna Sabino

This short book is packed with everything you need to know about being a creative person who can actually support yourself. Unlike a lot of books out there that just say “find your passion and the money will follow,” this book gives the actual steps you need to take if you’re not following the traditional 9-to-5 route but don’t know how to turn your art into income. It contains research and quotes from some of the most successful entrepreneurs as well as anecdotes about people she knows. But perhaps most importantly, it documents her personal journey in creating a thriving jewelry business and then becoming a career thought leader. It’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about. And once you read her book, you will, too! 

Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy

This is a hilarious memoir that came out a few years ago by a San Francisco-bred, Columbia University educated woman who ended up moving with her husband to New Zealand. Because their son was born with a rare genetic condition, they were seeking community and so they find themselves in a farming community where they are suddenly the owners of chicken, goats and sheep who making homemade wine and cheese and having all sorts of other unlikely farm adventures. As long as you like laughing and aren’t too easily grossed out by animal bodily functions, you’ll love this one.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE FEBRUARY, 2022 VIDEO!

JANUARY, 2022 SELECTIONS

Girl Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup: The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together by Zara Barrie

For those of us who are looking for something a bit edgier than Rachel Hollis, Zara Barrie has created a book of essays that puts it ALL out there: sex, drugs, mental illness…all the unmentionables are not only mentioned but also analyzed, detailed and essentially smashed open. Barrie made a name for herself with her brazen, honest pieces for Elite Daily where she also wrote and starred in the popular original web series “Lez Get You Laid: Sex and Dating Advice To Men From A Lesbian.” Equal parts self-help, memoir, confessional and comforting, Girl Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup shows the highs and lows of life in the proverbial fast lane. Call it Sex and the City’s grittier younger sister: a book that really shows what it’s like to be a woman coming up in the media world today.

Skip the Line: The 10,000 Experiments Rule and Other Surprising Advice for Reaching Your Goals by James Altucher

This is the latest book from the investor, author and altogether creative genius James Altucher and it’s all about getting to the top in more efficient ways possible. His thesis is that in this ever-changing world, we don’t have time to subscribe to the Malcolm Gladwell philosophy that it takes 10,000 hours to excel at something. Instead, he subscribes to what he calls the 10,000 Experiments rule, where you try reaching your goal in a different way every day until you find the most efficient method possible. Altucher is a leader among entrepreneurs everywhere and his quirky style has earned him legions of followers, readers and podcast listeners. This book is among his best. 

The Middle Finger Project: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve by Ash Ambirge

This is by one of the funniest women creating content today: Ash Ambirge. The reason I call it “creating content” and not “writing” is that Ambirge is probably best known for these amazingly hilarious emails she sends out where she urges women to go out and create the life they were meant to. But rather than stopping with bland “you go, girl” aphorisms, Ambirge literally walks readers through how they can do what she has: go from growing up in a trailer park and then living in her car in a K-mart parking lot to creating a successful business and by-her-own-rules life by being tenacious, unique and clever. And she pulls off the seemingly impossible by telling the tale of her mom dying in a trailer park in a way that’s equally touching and laugh-out-loud funny. 

The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty by Ryan Taraborrelli

Taraborelli is the king of the thorough, classic, entertaining celebrity biography, having penned New York Times bestsellers on everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Sinatra. Call this one the love child of business book and salacious Hollywood gossip because it traces how Conrad Hilton was able to build a hotel empire but it’s complete with tales of his crazy marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor and then moves into his complicated relationships with his sons, including Nicky (who was briefly married to Elizabeth Taylor) and Baron (father of Rick Hilton, aka grandfather of Paris). It’s as much a tale of what to do as an entrepreneur as what not to do as a parent and though it clocks in at over 500 pages, it’s gripping throughout.

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

At first Fake Accounts seems like a dryly witty novel about dating in our modern age. And then it remains that but adds a truly modern twist: what do you do if you accidentally discover the guy you’re dating is secretly moonlighting as an online conspiracy theorist? In the case of Fake Accounts, a never-named narrator chooses not to immediately confront him nor break up with him but instead continue making her way in a world where we all create our own narratives for whatever situation we’re in. Don’t mistake this book for some sort of a fluffy story about life in the Big City: it’s written by a contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Times magazine and it’s a searing yet funny look at what is truly happening in our increasingly fractured world that’s often ruled by social media-delivered fake news.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE JANUARY, 2022 VIDEO!

NOVEMBER, 2021 SELECTIONS

The Gap and the Gain by Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan

This is the second book from leading business coach Dan Sullivan and psychotherapist Benjamin Hardy, and it’s the perfect follow up to their insta classic Who Not How. Also based on principles Sullivan has spent decades honing for his mega successful company Strategic Coach, The Gap and the Gain is geared toward entrepreneurs whose ambition may be their downfall. While Who Not How broke down how greater success comes not from working harder but from working smarter through strategic partnerships,The Gap and the Gain focuses more on the importance of being mentally healthy while pursuing your ambitions. It’s really the closest a business book can come to being spiritual since it’s all about how changing your perspective on your accomplishments can make the difference between surviving and thriving. 

Free PR by Cameron Herold and Adrian Salamunovic 

Cameron Herold has multiple classic business books that could be recommended—including Meetings Suck and Vivid Vision—but I chose this one because it could save any entrepreneur or thought leader tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars by showing them how to generate media attention without having to hire a publicist. Herold and his co-author show how Herold was able to grow his former company, 1 800 GOT JUNK, from $2 million in revenue to $106 million in six years, in part due to his ability to have team members reach out to members of the media successfully (in turn getting Cameron coverage everywhere from The New York Times to Oprah). The book walks readers through how company founders can become a help and not a hindrance to journalists by coming up with great story angles, rather than just reaching out and asking for publicity like most people do. 

Habit That! by Dr. Jaime Hope

Jaime Hope is not only an ER doctor at one of Detroit’s busiest hospitals but also a huge public speaker and health advocate. All of this shows in her no-nonsense guide to building great habits. She first reveals something many of us have heard but it doesn’t seem to stop us: diets don’t tend to work. But rather than stopping there, Hope gives us a lot of hope by showing us how we can, in five minutes a day, reinforce the four pillars of health: eat, sleep, burn, and release. And unlike most health books, her personality shines through—it feels like a friend who happens to be a doctor giving you no-nonsense advice that somehow no one else ever tells you.

Life Gives to the Giver by Joe Polish 

Entrepreneur Joe Polish is called the world’s best connector for a reason—he knows everyone and can therefore introduce people who would otherwise never meet, whether that’s Sir Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss, Paula Abdul or any other people you’d never otherwise connect to one person. His book, Life Gives to the Giver, is a collection of his philosophies he sends out to his newsletter subscribers, but this is the first time they’ve been gathered in one place. It’s divided into four sections (Wellness, Success, Marketing and Entrepreneurship) and the overall theme of the book—that those who give the most end up receiving the most—emanates throughout.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Let me be the zillionth person to recommend the book that has become the business world’s tome for how to negotiate and win. A former hostage negotiator and teacher of the Master Class everyone always seems to be talking about, Voss shows how the tools you use when negotiating with a kidnapper are not that different from the ones you use when negotiating with a business associate or even hotel clerk. The book’s best tips include: ask open-ended questions until the person you’re negotiating with gets worn out and just gives you what you want and, when someone requests something you don’t want to give them, make them question if they’re being fair by asking, “How am I supposed to do that?” Try these things; they work!

TAKE ME BACK TO THE NOVEMBER, 2021 VIDEO!

OCTOBER, 2021 SELECTIONS

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier

A thorough examination of the creation of the social media platform that has come to take over many people’s lives, this comprehensive page-turner shows how an app created in 2010 came to be purchased by Mark Zuckerberg in less than two years for a billion dollars—and then the power struggles that ensued from there. The author, who’s a reporter for Bloomberg News, where she reports regularly on Facebook, Instagram and the other social media platforms, has earned awards and come to be considered an expert on the whole social media game. The book caused a bit of a sensation when it came out because it delved into Zuckerberg’s obsession with controlling Instagram, despite having assured the creators that they could have independence, just at a time when Facebook’s PR was getting worse and worse.

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Famous By Now: True Stories From Calabasas by Via Bleidner

Written by a 21-year-old and published by a major publisher, this book is basically the female, modern day version of Fast Times at Ridgemont High if Fast Times was immersed in Kardashian culture. The author is wise beyond her years, painting a hilarious story that manages to cover adolescence in a way adults will find entertaining and illuminative. The most amazing part about it isn’t its wisdom or humor but the fact that the author is so witty and positive that the plastic culture she describes doesn’t seem tragic…just oddly real.

Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing by John B. Thompson

Covering the recent history of an industry that has undergone a more rapid transformation in the past decade than it had in multiple decades before, this is a decidedly intellectual book by a British author that manages to be incredibly approachable and actually something of a page turner. It’s clear this author has done his research and is particularly compelling while doing a meticulous breakdown of why companies that seemed to be on the cutting edge of capitalizing on the emergence of ebooks failed. (In short: no one could predict where the ebook market was going; people originally thought entrepreneurs would be the big ebook readers; turns out it’s the romance crowd because they love to devour series books and besides, romance books aren’t necessarily ones you’re proud to put on your shelf!)

Traction by Gino Wickman

This isn’t a new book but it is one of the clearest explanations of how to grow a business that I’ve read in a while. It focuses on six components a business needs to be profitable—Vision, Data, Process, Traction, Issues and People—and gives tips like keeping scorecards for every week, accountability charts for team members, issues lists and process documents. It also stresses the importance of having Rocks—otherwise known as 90-day goals. There are charts, questions to answer, worksheets and examples aplenty. It also emphasizes the importance of creating company core values so that everyone you hire and every decision you make can be weighed by whether or not they fit them.

My Addiction and Recovery: Just Because You’re Done With Drugs Doesn’t Mean Drugs Are Done with You by Ed Kressy 

Don’t let the kind of basic title or cover of this one fool you. My Addiction and Recovery is one of the most sophisticated, original, gripping recovery memoirs out there. A first-person account of how a man from an upper middle-class family descended into meth addiction, this is one of the most riveting accounts of addiction I’ve come across. While describing the paranoid delusions he had that he was being tracked by the FBI because he had played a part in 9-11, Kressy introduces himself as a new voice to the Quit Lit movement. His story is one of going to a place that few survive and even fewer document. Even if you think you’ve read and seen it all, I guarantee you’ll find yourself as shocked by Kressy’s story as you are moved by his writing.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE OCTOBER, 2021 VIDEO!

AUGUST, 2022 SELECTIONS

Con artist edition:

Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen 

This is the one that really got me hooked on the con artist pod. Chameleon has now released several seasons but this first one was #2 on the Apple charts and got the pod named one of 2020’s best podcasts by everyone from Spotify to Rolling Stone. I don’t want to give too much of it away because the fun is in learning what’s going on at the same time as the hosts, so I’ll just say that it’s about a bunch of people who are lured to Indonesia to work on Hollywood movies…except there are no movies. And no real motive for the person luring them. Except to wreak havoc. From top journalists Vanessa Grigoriadis and Josh Dean, Hollywood Con Queen keeps you scratching your head long after you stop listening.

The Opportunist: Chris Bathum

The Opportunist, which tells “true stories of regular people who turn sinister,” spent one season focused on Chris Bathum, a hypnotist who had such a skill for manipulating people that he managed to open multiple rehabs, convince everyone there he was a therapist when he had no licensing whatsoever and actively do drugs with his clients. His scam included running over 20 unlicensed sober living homes, outpatient clinics and medical labs across Southern California and Colorado and he was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison for running a $175 million fraudulent healthcare billing scheme for services never completed. As the podcast explains, through interviews with many of his victims, Bathum was able to get away with all of this for as long as he did because of a confluence of factors, primarily the surge in opiate addiction and the fact that Obama care had just started covering the costs of rehab so there were many loopholes for a con artist to exploit. It’s an unbelievable story and the only satisfaction comes from the fact that the guy is in prison life for life (he received a 52-year sentence in addition to his 20-year one). 

Scam Goddess 

180 degrees away from Chris Bathum is Laci Mosely, the Black, bisexual comedian host of Scam Goddess, which features a different comedian every week discussing a different scam. While many of the more serious scam pods cover similar cases, this is the only one where you may hear the host side with the scammer (as Laci likes to say, “I like that for her"). Mosley, who’s been on everything from Insecure to A Black Lady Sketch Show, is so fast and funny that even her hilarious guests sometimes can’t keep up. Her show has covered everyone from Anna Delvey and Milli Vanilli to Hilaria Baldwin and The Fyre Festival, and her “congregation” eats up everything she does, even sending in emails that she reads about the various scams they’ve tried.

Who the Hell is Hamish?

Stories about men scamming women are all over the place, from The Tinder Swindler to the Dirty John podcast and TV show. But Hamish McClaren puts all other scammers to shame. For decades, he duped people all over the US, amassing an estimated $70 million, and eventually was sentenced to jail for swindling 15 people (including his then wife) out of more than seven million. He went by different aliases and tried different methods but his most common one was to convince people to invest in a “can’t lose” investment, produce amazing dividends for a while and then come up short. A podcast “pick of the week” by The Guardian, Who the Hell is Hamish is produced by the Australian newspaper in Australia. 

Scamfluencers: The Hollywood Ponzi Scheme

Scamfluencers covers a number of different people who are able to exploit other people due to their influence and it’s co-hosted by two experienced journalists. Over time, it’s focused on everyone from a Brazilian supermom spiritual guru who was actually a murderer to a woman who convinces a slew of people to invest in her Coachella real estate company for real estate she never bought. But the most interesting of the seasons to me was on Zach Horowitz, a guy who really wanted to be a movie star and also live the high life and so he gave himself a more actor-y name (Zach Avery) and launched what became a $690 million Ponzi scheme where he convinced people they were investing in movies (he also gave himself parts in the movies they were paying for). He’s now in prison for 20 years and, to add insult to injury, is, alas, a terrible actor.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE AUGUST, 2022 VIDEO!

SEPTEMBER, 2022 SELECTIONS

 

Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi

This autofiction defies many rules about books: it doesn’t tell Listi’s life story, nor does it tackle a specific era of his life or experience he had. But first a word about autofiction: it is, technically speaking, a combination of autobiography and fiction. Yes, that’s weird. It’s sort of like the reverse of a roman a clef—a novel that’s based on an author’s life. In the case of this particular book, a large part of it is him writing about his struggles to write a book. How could that possibly make a great book? I have no idea but it does. It delves into his marriage with equal parts sweetness and honesty, focuses a bit on what it’s like to be a creative in a world that doesn’t always reward creativity and covers, in a completely non self-pitying way, the realities of raising a disabled son. And yet, even though Listi talks a great deal about his struggles, there’s nothing depressing about this book; in fact, it’s oddly uplifting and life-affirming. Listi is the host of a popular podcast where he interviews authors, the founder of the literary website The Nervous Breakdown and the author of the LA Times bestseller Attention. Deficit. Disorder. Does he tell us everything? No idea. But what he does tell us is insightful, entertaining and truthful.

Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Dr. Anna Lembke

Many of us read a lot about how overstimulated we are today—how social media, drugs and other aspects of modern life are depleting our systems by giving us too much, too much of the time. But the New York Times bestseller Dopamine Nation breaks that information down in a way that is infinitely readable and entertaining. The author, Anna Lembke, is Chief of the Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University and in her second book, she deftly combines stories of her clients (with their permission and with identifying characteristics changed), the latest research and her own dopamine-fueled obsession with romance novels. In doing so, she makes us see that whether it’s sex, drugs or any other escape, the same brain chemistry is at work and all the dopamine seeking we do is out of a desire to avoid pain. Much like a spiritual leader, Lembke highlights how the healthiest way to handle the inevitable pains of life is to experience it and the way to enhance pain is to try to seek pleasure to avoid it. For anyone who loved Lori Gottlieb’s memoir Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, or anyone who wants to get solution-based information about the addiction crisis, Dopamine Nation is for you.

And You May Find Yourself: Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen-X Weirdo by Sari Botton

First of all, I love this title so much because it does exactly what a title should: it made someone who might get the reference 100% know it was a book for them (most Gen Xers will read “And You May Find Yourself” and immediately hear David Byrne singing and finish out the sentence “in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, And you may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?" I know I grew up thinking that’s what life was going to be: suddenly waking up and realizing your life is amazing but you don’t remember building it. May have been a Gen X thing. And actually in my experience it’s been kind of true. But back to the book! It’s done in a way I’ve actually never seen: it’s a collection of essays but they are completely stand-alone pieces, which means that you might read about someone in one essay and then get to a later essay and this same person is introduced as someone new even though you may know who he is. I thought doing the book that way was brave and I admired it. And there’s a way the author has of writing about dating the wrong people, making a living as a creative person and grappling with growing up in a way that was quite original and unflinchingly honest.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

By the time I got a hold of this book, I’d heard about at least a dozen times, which is only remarkable since I got a hold of it pretty much the week it came out. Apparently it sold out on Amazon on release day and for good reason: you simply cannot put it down. It’s written by a child star who I’d never actually heard of but is an icon to Gen Z ers everywhere, and it’s really a sort of Mommie Dearest for today if Mommie Dearest had been hilarious and thoughtful and if the writer had been the star and not the mother. In essence, the book is about Jeannette’s mom: a mentally ill narcissist who forced her daughter to take up acting, encouraged her to have an eating disorder and did so many other wholly disturbing things that we could take up the whole show talking about that. But unlike what the author could have done—written a hateful diatribe with no sympathy—she shares her mom with us from her childlike point of view…when we’re seeking Mom’s love so desperately and before we understand that what she’s doing is crazy. And she somehow also manages to make the book laugh out loud funny. This is like no other child star tell all you’ll ever read. When she writes about how she wanted to be a writer but her mom told her she couldn’t because “I would never want your little actress's peach butt to turn into a big, giant writer's watermelon butt,” the reader understands that for however talented McCurdy is as an actress (and she is), her talent as a writer in undeniable. It’s clearly what she was always meant to be.

 

TAKE ME BACK TO THE SEPTEMBER, 2022 VIDEO!

OCTOBER, 2022: FUNNY PODCASTS THAT SHOULDN’T BE THIS FUNNY

Apocalypse Soon

Full disclosure: I’ve been on this podcast and the host Eddie Pepitone is one of my favorite people on earth. He’s considered one of the funniest people alive, having appeared on everything from Conan to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and hosted comedy specials on Amazon Prime. if you listen to this show, which he co-hosts with his producer Kevin Tienken, you’ll see why. Never before has someone been able to mesh dystopian dread with humor in quite the way Eddie does. Every episode features an interview or conversation about the end of the world, climate change and other aspects of societal collapse. Apocalypse Soon is billed as “the podcast with no upside” but the truth is it’s all upside and hilarity. Eddie is known as the Bitter Buddha because he manages to make ranting and raving oddly about connecting to other humans (there’s even a Netflix documentary about him called The Bitter Buddha). 

Watch What Crappens

There are plenty of shows that summarize reality shows but there’s not one that comes close to being as funny as Watch What Crappens (except Sexy Unique Podcast, which is actually a close second and quite similar). Hosted by Ben Mandelker and Ronny Karem, Crappens almost exclusively focuses on Bravo shows (hence the name; it’s a play on Bravo’s Andy Cohen’s show Watch What Happens), though they have taken diversions into recaps of non Bravo entertainment. The show has earned a cult following that has them selling out arenas across the globe and for good reason: the two hosts, both proudly gay, do impersonations of each of the characters they’re describing that are just the right amount of accurate and over the top (Ronnie’s imitation of Dorit on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is my favorite). But it’s the fact that these two seriously brilliant guys take the most trivial thing that a Bravo-lebrity says so seriously that really makes the show shine. They’re passionate about their favorites and the ones they hate and you can hear the conflict in their voices when one of the people they hated suddenly starts to become likable. This is one where you don’t even have to watch the shows that they’re talking about to be entertained.

Lizzy Cooperman’s In Your Hands

TV writer and comedian Lizzy Cooperman has been on Craig Ferguson, Lights Out with David Spade and numerous other shows and written for TV shows starring Nikki Glaser and Eric Andre. Now she’s come out with a podcast concept is utterly unique: every week, she asks listeners to help her make life choices. They vote on Instagram, and she does whatever they choose. So far, she’s become a tour guide for a TV show, hired a podcast publicist (it’s actually how I heard about the show because I listen to everything Lauren Passell says about podcasts), worked at Coldstone Creamery and burned her journals. She also brings on comedians as guests to help her decide what to do. It’s like a real life Choose Your Own Adventure!

Fed Up

A podcast about one Instagram influencer going after another because the other is promoting a way of eating that’s making people sick shouldn’t be funny but when it’s hosted by Casey Wilson of ABC’s Happy Endings, it somehow is. While summarizing the battle between Emily Gellis and F-Factor founder Tanya Zuckerbrot, Wilson manages to keep the pace lively, interesting and funny, interjecting in bits about herself that are always perfectly timed and never too self-promotional. The story in itself is interesting—Gellis uses her social media following to find people who had bad experiences using Zuckerbrot’s products, brings the story to the media and is sued by Zuckerbrot before countersuing her right back—but it’s Wilson’s narration that makes this show very much a cut above. 

TAKE ME BACK TO THE OCTOBER, 2022 VIDEO!

NOVEMBER, 2022: 

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan 

Let me start by saying I was a rabid fan of Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won a Pulitzer and is only notable for me in that I’m not the sort of person who loves Pulitzer Prize winning books. But there’s something about the way she weaves characters’ stories together with warmth and familiarity—and the way she seems to understand so many different worlds at once—that just captivates me. Candy House is a sequel of sorts to Goon Squad but it was released 12 years later and Candy House doesn’t focus on the main Goon Squad characters but rather obscure ones and then it delves into their kids’ lives and how these different people intersect. It’s actually a terrifying glimpse into a potential future where everyone the world is divided into those who have access to everyone else’s memories and those who won’t participate at all, when women have to sleep with men on spy missions where there are tiny electrodes in their bodies that essentially turn them into human IPhones and where characters crack up, succumb to addiction, abandon their children and basically royally screw up their lives. But it’s somehow beautiful, brilliant, funny and altogether captivating.

What’s in It for Them by Joe Polish

Joe Polish is considered one of the “most connected people on the planet” and for good reason: he is. I’m lucky enough to know him and so I know his secret: he’s always trying to help people. And that comes from actually a place of deep pain: his own struggles with loneliness and addiction and how much he doesn’t want other people to be in pain. Well now he’s written a book about his philosophy, which truly is the modern-day version of Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. In his book, Joe shares secrets that will not only make everyone want to pick up the phone when you call but also bring you business success. With questions to ask yourself so you can get truly self-aware before going out in the world and trying his tactics, What’s in It for Them shows you how to protect yourself from the takers of the world, how to deepen connections and even how to use basic marketing principles to find true love. If you want a business book with more heart than any business book has ever had before, this is it.

Rigging the Game by Dan Nicholson

An instant business book classic, Rigging the Game breaks down serial entrepreneur Dan Nicholson’s methods for helping purpose-driven entrepreneurs achieve success. It’s something his followers have been asking for, since his 20-week online course, Certified Certainty Advisor, is a pretty big commitment. Luckily, his book is the next best thing. In it, he writes about his personal operating system which, in short, breaks down how some people seem to get lucky over and over again. As Nicholson explains, they’re not lucky; they have just learned that uncertainty is preventable. He shows people how to start defining who they are and what they want and then identifying patterns in their thinking. Imagine if a brilliant mathematical mind created a formula for how anyone could succeed in business because that’s exactly what it is. It shows entrepreneurs how to build a business and personal life around things they truly value, turn goals into actual steps, beat the odds and essentially rig the business game so that they have full certainty in every business move they make.

Unscatter the Chatter by Bob Shenefelt 

Unscatter the Chatter by Bob Shenefelt is really for the same type of reader as Rigging the Game but Unscatter catches the entrepreneur a bit later in the journey, when they’ve already achieved success and are looking for the next mountain to climb. After decades of coaching high performers, Shenefelt knows that business leaders can get overwhelmed and he knows that that overwhelm can lead to a lack of clarity. He also knows that entrepreneurs often crave more in life and therefore find themselves seeking more meaning and fulfillment. Unscatter the Chatter is his solution to both; it helps readers clarify who they are, identify what matters most to them and follow their “North Star” so they’re following their own path and not anyone else’s. The creator of the IMatter Journey—a way of living that taps into your unique wisdom so you can expand your impact, Shenefelt is all about living your legacy while you’re still here. And Unscatter the Chatter shows you how you can do that—and keeping doing it.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE NOVEMBER, 2022 VIDEO!

JANUARY, 2023: 

Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

This is a book on networking for people who hate networking. Written by the co-founders of a community for young entrepreneurs——Gen Y-ers who grew up in the social media era but who want to form genuine connections—it’s been named one of the best books for leaders, managers and networks…and for good reason. It’s all about deepening your relationships, no matter what you’re inherently like (one of the authors is a self-proclaimed introvert while the other is an extrovert. According to the co-authors, a superconnector is about doing the opposite of what those people you meet who seem entirely distracted do. It’s using both old-school human behaviors (like asking substantial questions like “What are you working on that excites you?”) and new-school tech-enabled things (like making your Facebook profile not indexable by Google so you can have a divide between your public and personal personas)

Juicy AF: Stop the Drinking Spiral, Create Your Future by Kay Allison

This is a great option for anyone embracing Dry January or wanting to give up drinking for good, and I should clarify that in this context, AF stands for “as f*ck” as well as “Alcohol Free.” There are a lot of recovery memoirs out there and just as many books it seems about why AA is bad for women or why you should quit drinking by doing yoga. Kay Allison’s Juicy AF is none of those things. It’s a rallying cry for women whose lives are feeling blunted by drinking and it’s delivered in hilarious, ballsy, honest, unique and sassy language. While it documents Allison’s own experiences drinking, it also covers her five spiritual laws, includes meditations, energy work, actions to take, why and how to forgive and the importance of play. But Allison’s main message is perhaps best summed up with the last section of her book, which is called Show Up, Shine Bright and Live Juicy AF.

Blank Canvas: How I Reinvented My Life After Prison by Craig Stanland

This is an incredible memoir documenting the author’s experience exploiting the warranty policy of a tech company and getting busted by the FBI. It documents everything from the FBI knocking on his door to going to prison for two years, losing everything and then finding hope in prison by deciding to write this book so that he could help at least one person not to have to hit the spiritual and emotional bottom he did. And the story behind the book is as incredible as the story in the book: the author did a TEDx talk, got on the radar of some big influencers and started a Kickstarter to raise the money to publish this book. By offering everything from paperback and hardcover copies to Zooms with him where people could ask him anything they wanted about prison or his crime to coaching sessions, he was able to raise almost $15,000 and release the book to bestsellerdom. Today Stanland is a mindset coach and keynote speaker at work on his second book. His specialty is high achievers who, in his words, spend the first half of their lives chasing money and success only to find a “success-sized hole in their lives.”

The Rescuer: One Firefighter’s Story of Courage, Darkness and the Relentless Love That Saved Him by Jason Sautel

After growing up as the son of a Vietnam vet and being kicked out of school, Jason Sautel became a firefighter at the age of 18. Today he runs an emergency medical training business and shares his message about love and Jesus turning his life around with his hundreds of thousands of followers. But this memoir documents what happens before all that, when he was a fireman for the Oakland fire department, saving people’s lives and literally putting out fires in one of the world’s worst ghettos. In the book, he comes face to face with a person jumping off a bridge and realized he’s in danger of going down that dark path as well. The Rescuer is a gripping tale of saving lives, self-destructing and eventually finding love and then Jesus…or Jesus and then love. In short, it’s about desperation and destruction leading him to meet a beautiful girl who’s Christian so he buys a Bible before their date, and finds, in both, everything he needs.

TAKE ME BACK TO THE JANUARY, 2023 VIDEO!