Appropriately, given the book’s title, I devoured this book in a couple of days, pausing to laugh out loud often and sometimes share a thought with someone nearby while I was reading. I love Jennifer Weiner — I like her novels a lot, but I like her even more, through her social media presence and her non-fiction essays about everything from weight and body image, to gender bias in literary reviews. Many of those essays are collected in Hungry Heart, interspersed throughout memoir chapters as Weiner tells her life story and examines what made her the writer she is today.
It’s funny, challenging, thought-provoking and heart-warming (and occasionally — look out for the chapter on her miscarriage! — a bit more graphic than you might be expecting). I have never read anyone who has written as well as Weiner does here about the pain of being unpopular as a teenager, and believe me, it’s a subject I know a lot about. Even when she writes about subjects I couldn’t care less about — like her obsession with the TV show The Bachelor, a perfect example of everything I hate about reality TV — she’s entertaining and engaging. I couldn’t get enough of Hungry Heart.
Rock ‘n’ roll memoirs are not generally my speed, but if it’s Springsteen, I have to make an exception, because I love the man and his music. This is a very obviously not ghostwritten memoir which sounds like it was written by a rock poet who has beautiful turns of phrase but also overwrites a bit — there are lots of rambling sentences, multi-hyphenated passages of description, and long-winded philosophizing. But there’s also plenty of insight here into Springsteen’s early life, his roots in the music business and how he and the E Street Band got famous, his struggles with mental illness, and much, much more. I can’t imagine anyone who’s not a Springsteen fan really loving this book, but if you are a fan, you shouldn’t miss it. You’ll definitely come away with a deeper insight into the man and his music.
I’ve seen this book referenced by a lot of people and was glad to finally have a chance to pick it up. It’s a short but powerful read, published posthumously, so you know going in there’s going to be no happy ending.
Paul Kalanithi was an extremely successful young doctor, finishing a residency in neurosurgery and looking forward to a brilliant career, when he got the news that he had cancer. His career, his marriage, and most importantly his whole view of who he is and what his life is about are shaken by the news. Well, they would be for anyone, wouldn’t they? Getting cancer in your mid-thirties is disruptive to any life. But if you’ve based your whole life around training for a career that takes years and years of exhausting preparation, and you’re just at the cusp of finishing that preparation and ready to reap the rewards when you’re diagnosed — then that’s going to lead to some deep soul-searching.
That’s what Kalanathi does in this book, and it helps that he considered a career as a writer and studied English literature before specializing in neurosurgery, because he tells his story well. An afterword by his wife brings the story up to and beyond his death. It may be trite to say that reading someone’s cancer memoir delivers the message that you should live every day to the fullest, but this one does a good job of making that potentially tired message come alive.