Thank the Lord for audio books or else my reading slump would be even more dire than it already is. I've been on a bit of a non-fiction kick of late. Here's a round-up of the most recent listens:
Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker by Stephen Galloway
Dang if I can remember where I heard about this book now, but it was mostly likely through work-related reading. I vaguely recognized Sherry Lansing's name, but knew nothing about her and a Hollywood biography sounded appealing. I ended up liking this book a lot, although some will likely find it problematic. Lansing started out as an actress and moved through the ranks to become the first ever female studio head (at 20th Century Fox). Ultimately she retired as CEO of Paramount. She produced such movies as Fatal Attraction, The Accused and Indecent Proposal - and was instrumental in green-lighting Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and keeping Titanic afloat. She ultimately left Hollywood to pursue her philanthropic endeavors (which are varied and vast - she considers former President Carter a mentor).
That being said, readers looking for a feminist read may be disappointed. Lansing was a ground breaker, but in typical fashion it's not like her and the other female studio execs in Hollywood were all that chummy early on. There's no backstabbing here - but it doesn't occur to them that there's room for all of them at the table (this is honestly very typical regardless of the field. Women getting pitted against each other or trying to survive on their own means they don't think to band together). Also, Lansing has worked with Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson and....has stood by them both. That's an automatic nope for a lot of readers I know.
Final Grade = B
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I don't watch The Daily Show. I have never watched The Daily Show (outside of the occasional viral clip). I can't watch political shows. Even ones that skewer politics. It just makes me too angry. So I keep abreast of political shenanigans by reading about them and avoid TV. Why did I pick up this book? Well, KristieJ loved it and my Mom bought it and I kept hearing about it - and OK, I was curious.
I really, really enjoyed this. It's funny and touching and sad and makes you think. Childhood stories have this amazing universal appeal. Noah may have been born and raised in South Africa, in the shadow of Apartheid, but the tales of his childhood were amusing and interesting and approachable to this white girl from the American Midwest.
My only quibble? The way Noah chooses to end this story. You end up feeling pure, unadulterated rage for what happened to his mother and what she (and her family) have had to endure. Yes, it was real life and yes, Noah definitely should have put it in the book, but to end the book with it? It overshadows the joyful moments and leaves the reader on a "down note." I would have restructured the book and put that story earlier on. I'm sure the decision by author and editor was to put it at the end for the greatest emotional impact. But, quibble. Go read it.
Final Grade = B+
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
It's seems impossibly stupid of me now, but I went into this expecting a straight-forward memoir. Instead it was the audio book equivalent of herding cats. Have you seen Izzard's stand-up? Basically it was that. If I heard "footnote," "end of footnote," or "long windy footnote" one time, I must have heard them 6549 times. He'd start by, presumably, reading his book and then it would be like, "Squirrel!" and off Izzard would go on a tangent. Some of these tangents apparently are in the print book, and some aren't. So the audio book does have "exclusive content" - rambling though it may be.
If you're a fan of Izzard's stand-up, this likely won't be a stumbling block for you. I have liked some of his stand-up, but I'm a bigger fan of his dramatic work (go watch The Cat's Meow and OMG, he's playing Edward VII in the upcoming Victoria and Abdul!). I wanted more of that. But in between the ramblings you do learn about Izzard's childhood, the death of his mother, his years spent in boarding schools, the early days of his comedy career and his sheer tenaciousness. It wasn't what I wanted, but it was still OK.
Final Grade = C