Book Review: Hungover

Author: Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall
Genre: Microhistory
Pub Date: November 20, 2018
FLW Rating: 3/5
Goodreads Link

Hungover was a total impulse buy (which is super rare for me these days!) There was something that really drew me to this micro-history when I saw it in the bookstore over the winter holiday. And so as to not let the attraction dwindle I decided to read it right away! It was satisfying, as far as impulse buys go, but probably not something to write home about (unless you have a blog like me 😉 ).

Hungover, as the subtitle explains, is one man’s quest for the cure to the modern hangover. Shaugnessy takes you on a journey of not only his hangovers but his life – his family, his relationships, and his career as a freelance journalist – all while getting drunk and talking about it how it feels.

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One thing that caught me by surprise is that, while the subtitle implies a global journey, Bishop-Stall’s journey is limited to a very small part of the world – primarily the US, Canada, England, and Ireland. To be fair, this is stated on the first page. Apparently I’m not a very good impulse buyer, because I didn’t read any of the book before purchasing it, just the front and back cover. One of the things I was most interested in was how they deal with hangovers in Asia because their medicine is so different from Western medicine, but alas this wasn’t what the book was about.

While I really appreciated a lot of the humor and the book as a whole, in general, I had some problems with the structure of the book. For one, there are “notes” at the end of each chapter, which stood on their own and I never quite understood the flow of them. And secondly, at times the book felt like it was written more for the author than the reader. He often talked about other writing assignments that were unrelated to the book, or other experiences in his life without giving the reader any context. This was particularly present in one of the middle chapters on England. There was a part where Bishop-Stall is recreating an old movie, and having not seen the movie, this overly long chapter did nothing for me, and instead made me question why I was reading this book in the first place and who, if not me, the target audience was meant to be.

I almost put the book down then, but I’m glad I didn’t because after that point, it started to delve more in to the hangover solution and the central conflict of is the best hangover cure, to abstain from drinking excessive amounts?

By the end of the book I found myself surprisingly invested in Bishop-Stall’s quest, and also really feeling for the guy as he dealt with the repercussions of this heavy drinking. While I wasn’t blown away, I was glad I read this book. I learned a bit and was entertained and, importantly, also fulfilled my curiosity that was sparked that day in the bookstore. I have a feeling if I hadn’t taken it home with me, I’d still be wondering about the outcome of his story.

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Book Review: Becoming

Newest hero: Michele Obama. I always knew I liked her – her clothes, her affinity for health and fitness, her strength –  but I didn’t really know her. That changed entirely while listnening (I highly recommend audio!) to Becoming over the last couple months. I came to know and understand Michelle and her values, and I think I’m a better person for it. Truly, this book is GOOD.

Becoming is the memoir of Michele Obama: former first lady of the United Sates. She’s a Princeton grad, Harvard law school grad, successful lawyer, wonderful mom, supportive husband, and a baller health and fitness advocate. Her story starts and ends in Chicago and her whole life is one wild ride.

I think what stands out to me the most in this book is the tone. This book came across as honest, self aware, satisfied, and humble. I find that a lot of celebrity memoirs try to be funny, witty, or sarcastic, but this book was never that. This truly felt like a desire of Michelle to be understood on her own terms. She never had to write this book – the public opinion of her was already extremely high – but the bravery and self understanding that it took to write a book as beautiful as this stood out on every page.

I also loved the themes – and to me two stood out. The first is the never ending question of ‘am I good enough?’ While it pains me to hear someone explain how they’ve asked themselves this question throughout their life, there is so much honesty in it. I think this is something and everyone should hear:even someone who is perceived as confident, beautiful, and successful struggled with her self worth from time to time. And while this theme is a great equalizer among all the readers, it also allowed me to feel like I was getting to know Michelle on a friend level, really really getting to know her.

The other theme I really liked was that is OK to love children and make that your number one priority. I feel like so often in my life, I’m putting that to the side – whether its due to the desire to not act like I’m ready for children in my relationship, or trying to live up to this persona of an engineer that I have in my brain, or to trying to distinguish myself from the teenage babysitter of years past; I loved that Michelle babysat her way through college, considered leaving the law profession to run a day care and pursue her true passion, and devoted herself to her children without another thought. There wasn’t a huge struggle between her keeping her job and taking care of her children, she just decided to take care of her children because that was her number one priority in life. I just love so much that that was enough for her — and that we all see her as strong, driven, and successful for that.

I could go on for hours about the things that I respect about Michelle, but I’ll leave you with this. This memoir is one of a kind and you should read it. You’ll be better for it and maybe even a little happier too. And if your hold line at the library is 353 people long, I’d reccomend you buy this one. It is one you’ll never regret keeping on your shelf.

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Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles

Author: Karen Piper
Genre: Memoir
Pub Date: August 14, 2018
FLW Rating: 3/5

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles was the fresh, witty, laugh out loud memoir I was searching for – until it wasn’t. And at first I was blown away with how much I was learning and how much I was enjoying this fresh new voice! But as the end got closer, the wit and humor seemed to have disappeared and I found myself feeling impatient for the ending.

A Girls Guide to Missiles is a memoir of Karen Piper’s life, from her childhood in China Lake — one of America’s secret military deserts — where her parents were working on the design of missiles during the Cold/Vietnam Wars. As Karen grows up and and tries to understand the world on her own terms, shes forced to answer many questions about where she was raised and how.

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The beginning of this book was my favorite – I was laughing out loud and underlining passages consistently. Karen’s understanding of how life/religion/politics worked as a child had me cracking up because really, she was so logical in an illogical world.

I also enjoyed learning about a period of history that isn’t yet well documented in either memoirs or fiction — the 1970s. To be honest with you, I know a lot more about the first half of the 20th century than the second. It always drove me nuts in history class when we would end the year right before we got to learn about the Vietnam War and I haven’t quite filled my reading life to make up for that! (Note to self: read more books set in the 1970/80s.) It was interesting to hear about Vietnam, and the American missile program, and even Nixon and Watergate.

Where the book lost me was after the second failed romantic relationship, when she wasn’t going anywhere fast, and the tone had shifted from comedic and witty to just kind of depressing. I was disappointed that a memoir that started so strong, didn’t maintain that momentum throughout, but I guess it’s the truth of what happened, and it needed to be written.

Overall, I think this is a fun memoir (especially the beginning) that’s pretty eye opening to what it was like on a military base in the 1970s — not a side of life we frequently see! If you’re at all interested in that or looking for a new perspective in a memoir, this book is certainly worth checking out!

Have you read this? What did you think?