This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t by Augusten Burroughs

This title is Augusten Burroughs take on the traditional “self-help” book. This book is anything but traditional with various chapters titled “How to Ride in An Elevator,” How to be Fat,” “How to Remain Unhealed,” “How to Be a Good Mental Patient,” and the chapter I found the most valuable “How to Lose Someone You Love.” In this chapter, Burroughs gives his firsthand account of losing a loved one to terminal illness and how the most unbearable situations can somehow become bearable. My favorite quote from the book “I learned that the proper way to prepare for someone’s death is being alive in the same room with them for as long as you are allowed,” is housed within this chapter. While some may find the author’s writing style blunt, raw and even offensive at times, others may find his style refreshing and to the point.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  If you can look past the book’s rough language and the author’s extreme disdain for the fake it until you make it philosophy of positive thinking, you may discover a message about hope and the resiliency of the human spirit.

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Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley Anne Jones

I consider Freddie Mercury one of the top five vocalists of all time.  Just visit any local stadium on a Friday night to hear Queen’s classics like “We Will Rock You or We Are the Champions,” to reaffirm that his music from the 1970’s-1980’s stands the test of time.  I wanted to read this book not only because I am a huge fan of Freddie Mercury, but because the author had actually spent some time with Mercury as well.  She did not receive all of her information second hand.  This biography covers Freddie’s upbringing from his birth in Zanzibar to boarding school in India, his rise to fame in England, The United States and Worldwide to his early death in 1991 from AIDS.  Yes, Mercury’s life was excessive but he was also extremely giving and loyal to those around him.   What I found the most interesting part of this biography was not about Freddie Mercury’s life, but about his relationship with other members in his band Queen.  Queen was probably the most educated rock band in history.  All four members of Queen Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor received their college diplomas.  Two members working on advanced degrees had to suspend their studies when the band became successful.  Once Queen’s line up was complete in 1971 with John Deacon joining the group on bass, the line up never changed until Freddie’s death in 1991.  This is unheard of in the Rock World, especially when the lead singer is considered a superstar like Mercury.  Something even rarer was that Queen kept the same business manager from the early days of the band to the end.  It is important to note that although each member could have taken individual credit for writing some of the most well-known songs in rock such as Somebody to Love (my favorite Queen song) written by Mercury and Another One Bites the Dust by Deacon all members were given equal song writing credit regardless of the original author.  Queen was a band with much talent and little ego.  This is not to say that the band didn’t argue, because they did.  But their mutual respect for each other as artists always won out in the end.  In this day and age when rock bands break up at the drop of a hat for the silliest of reasons, it was refreshing to read about a band that remained so loyal to each other.

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The Story of Baha’u’llah: Promised One of All Religions

I actually enjoyed this book quite a lot. It’s not what I was looking for, or expecting, but in its own way it’s very good. I was looking for an objective biography of Bahá’u’lláh. What I found was a rather detailed, mostly devotional story of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh written by a believer. If that’s what you’re looking for, or are willing to read, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book. The language is clearly influenced by the style of the English translations of the Bahá’í Writings. It seems a little stilted and old-fashioned, but that’s not necessarily off-putting. There are lots of notes and references for those who like that type of thing. Personally, on a first reading, I generally ignore end notes. If they’re footnotes at the bottom of the page, I’ll read them. In this case, the notes are almost exclusively supporting references to source material. I ignored them this time. I would likely pay more attention on a second reading, or if I were using this book for research.

If you’re looking to learn more about the founders of this lesser known faith, this is an excellent place to start. It is more useful if you already have some understanding of the Bahá’i faith. I would recommend a more general work, such as Bahá’u’lláh And The New Era: An Introduction To The Bahá’í Faith by J.E. Esslemont if you have no knowledge of the faith. I also recommend it for students of world religions.

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