Category: Book Reviews

Confessions of a Casting Director

confessions of a casting director jen rudin harpercollins 2014Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room, by Jen Rudin, 3/5

This book provides an interesting perspective into the more prosaic side of glamorous showbiz.  I really enjoyed the variety of personal anecdotes, not just from the author, but from a variety of people associated with the entertainment industry.  The whole audition circuit sounds intense and I’m amazed how much rejection aspiring actors can endure while still maintaining the will to live.  I guess it helps that the focus seems more on finding “the one” for each role than on weeding out bad actors.  So even if you’re not “the one,” it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  The author’s attitude is very positive and encouraging overall, giving all-purpose advice that emphasizes the importance of professionalism and self-confidence.

Why I read it: thought it looked interesting while wandering around the library.


Sophie’s World

sophies world jostein gaarder farrar straus giroux 1991Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder, translated by Paulette Møller, 2/5

The most thought-provoking aspect of this reading experience was simply trying to understand how a book featuring such peculiarly bad writing could be published at all, much less become an “international bestseller.”  Half of it consists of dialogue between two-dimensional characters, so stilted and unnatural it has to be read to be believed.  The other half reads like increasingly vague course descriptions for philosophy classes taught by someone who considers Wikipedia articles to be the pinnacle of literary accomplishment through the ages.  In my experience, fiction writing this bad generally relies on themes like sex, mystery or fantasy to attract readers, so I guess in a twisted way this book’s very existence is a testament to the powerful appeal of philosophical ideas and the ubiquity of existential angst.

Why I read it: recommended to me by a gym friend.

Beach Stones

beach stones josie iselin margaret carruthers harry n abrams 2006Beach Stones, photography by Josie Iselin, text by Margaret W. Carruthers, 5/5

Great photography and informative descriptions make for a book that is as beautiful as it is interesting.

Why I read it: a random library find.


The Best Life Stories

best life stories reader's digest 2013The Best Life Stories: 150 Real-life tales of resilience, joy and hope–all 150 words or less! collected by Reader’s Digest, 5/5

I enjoyed the wide variety of writing styles, perspectives and meaningful experiences represented in this concise collection.  The fact that these stories were collected from the general public via Facebook just goes to show that you don’t have to be a famous writer, poet or personality to express beautiful insights about the human experience.

Why I read it: found it while wandering through the library looking for something light and inspirational to read while cutting weight for my first MMA fight.


Go Add Value Someplace Else

go add value someplace else scott adams andrews mcmeel publishing 2014Go Add Value Someplace Else by Scott Adams, 4/5

This probably would have seemed funnier if I hadn’t read it while sitting in a sauna, cutting weight for my first MMA fight.  Still, it made the time pass!


The Last Lecture

last lecture randy pausch hyperion 2008The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, 2/5

Is it the mystery of death or mere crass curiosity that makes people so fascinated by “last words”?  For whatever reason, the appeal is undeniable.  However, it is also undeniable that everyone dies and, heartless as it may sound, imminent death is no philosophical or literary credential.  Mostly according to himself, Pausch was a great success as a human being: intelligent, successful, hard-working, loved and loving…but this short book somehow still left ample opportunity for me to repeatedly wonder when it was going to get profound, insightful, or helpful in any way.  It felt rather like a Wikipedia article written about someone, not because they had such a noteworthy effect on the world that it deserved lasting mention, but merely because they died.  (Interestingly, I later looked up Pausch’s Wikipedia article and that is almost exactly what happened–it was created the month he got his terminal diagnosis, not at any time during his career).   Perhaps people who are dealing with life-threatening illness would have a different perspective, but I felt this book had very little to offer besides voyeuristic appeal, though I’m sure that as a memoir for his family, it is beyond value.

Why I read it: My gym friend, Tyler, thought I might enjoy it and lent me his copy.



helium rudy francisco button poetry 2017helium by Rudy Francisco, 3/5

By the time my library bought this book for me (have I mentioned how much I LOVE libraries?!) and I got around to reading it, I had forgotten why I requested it in the first place and only remembered a vague feeling of excitement and anticipation.  Despite the positive feelings going into it, I didn’t really connect well with most of Francisco’s poetry and found the vocabulary a bit forced, cliched, and melodramatic.  It wasn’t until I reached the penultimate poem that I remembered why I had looked the book up in the first place and also why I wasn’t enjoying it.  Earlier, I had come across Francisco’s powerful spoken-word performance of “Complainers” and it had inspired me to find out more about his work.  Turns out, spoken-word poetry needs a speaker just like a song needs a singer.  Both the artist and the performance are such an integral part of the art that it is virtually lifeless without these elements.  So, this book has value as a physical collection of Francisco’s writings and as a way that fans can provide financial support for him, but to really explore his work, I think YouTube is a better option.