Best nonfiction reads of 2018

Image: Pixabay

Holiday shopping can be stressful and books are good options, but only if you know they’re good! Here are five of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2018. Maybe one of these will be just right for your friends or family.


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – Charles Darwin was a worrier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler, and Howard Hughes had OCD. Was Andy Warhol a hoarder or simply a collector? Was Albert Einstein autistic or just focused? In this excellent collection of mini biographies, Claudia Kalb looks at twelve famous personalities and explains their known or likely battles with mental illness.


David Bowie – A Life by Dylan Jones – The story of rock legend David Bowie, who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered music, art, film and stage performances through ever-changing personas. A compilation of interviews and quotes from nearly two hundred people describing Bowie’s career. It is a terrific view into a complicated and private person.


Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – a young woman’s fascinating memoir about being raised in isolation by survivalist parents, tolerating her father’s mental illness and a brother’s abuse, and ultimately breaking free. Westover taught herself enough math and grammar to take the SATs and go to college, first at Brigham Young University. She later studied at Cambridge University and earned her PhD at Harvard.


Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann – a true-crime account of a shameful period of American history in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for the headrights to oil-rich land on their reservation in Oklahoma. David Grann tells this shocking story, including the investigation of the murders led by J. Edgar Hoover’s newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – Excellent memoir about being different. Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.


What are your favorite nonfiction reads of 2018?

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
(A Mostly True Memoir)

by
Jenny Lawson

Rating:

If you are looking for a great story about being different and making it anyway, I highly recommend Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream. Because Jenny Lawson is the opposite of mainstream.

Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.

Yes, Lawson is The Bloggess, here on WordPress, and you can read her latest post here. Nielson recognizes her as one of the Top Most Powerful Mom Bloggers and Forbes ranks her on their Top 100 Websites for Women.

Lawson may likely have had the most unique childhood, ever. She and her younger sister grew up in a rural town in western Texas. Their father ran his taxidermy business out of their house, never hesitating to share his enthusiasm for his unconventional job. Wild animals were frequent visitors, including squirrels, raccoons, chickens, armadillos and pigs, and they were all part of Lawson’s quirky family.

When she was a young girl, Lawson desperately wanted to fit in at school, but she did not. In high school, she suffered from an eating disorder, tried drugs, was into Goth, and had many other anxieties. But she also had a superpower: humor. And it saved her. I laughed out loud throughout her story, not because of her struggles, but because of how she describes them. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She holds nothing back. She’s full of human flaws and she gives herself completely to her readers. By the end of the book, I felt like I had made a friend.

Lawson’s chapters reveal a keen understanding of the human condition and a genuine appreciation of her life and family. She writes,

I can finally see that all the terrible parts of my life, the embarrassing parts, the incidents I wanted to pretend never happened, and the things that make me ‘weird’ and ‘different,’ were actually the most important parts of my life. They were the parts that made me me.”

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was published in 2012 and is Lawson’s first book. Furiously Happy was published in 2015 and her newest book, You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds was published in 2017.

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American history, Pilgrim marriages and a Thanksgiving memory

Image: Pixabay

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and, although here in the U.S. we are about to enter one of the busiest times of the year, it’s always good to take time to learn the history of our early American settlers, how the Thanksgiving holiday really came about and remember the important family moments that make contemporary holidays meaningful.


Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Do you think you know all about the Mayflower? Check out Nathaniel Philbrick’s comprehensive and scholarly account that begins with Mayflower’s voyage in 1620 and ends with the conclusion of King Philip’s War in 1676. These 102 Separatists and Non-Separatists struggled to survive when they arrived in Plymouth and did anything they could to keep from starving or freezing to death. Made up of printers and weavers and other tradesmen, women and children, they were woefully unprepared for the desperate conditions that killed nearly half of them in the first year.


Guest Post – Noelle Granger “A Little History of Pilgrim Husbands and Wives”

ushistoryimages.com

Noelle Granger, author of the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, has some great ideas for her first historical novel, based on the early Plimoth Colony. In this guest post, Noelle talks about her idea and about the history of Pilgrim marriages.


Thanksgiving Memories When You’re Small

When you are little, the large holiday picture is not yet in view. The small memories make the biggest impressions. One of mine is sitting on my mother’s lap at the Thanksgiving table and playing with her gold bracelet.


What are your Thanksgiving traditions and special memories?

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What’s That Book? Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds by Nick Foles

whats-that-book

TitleBelieve It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds

Author:  Nick Foles, with Joshua Cooley

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating:  3.5 stars

What’s it about? This is a first-person account of the journey that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles experienced in the 2017 season, which culminated in the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. After entering the season as the backup, he was thrust into the starting role after the starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, tore his ACL. Foles embraced his faith in God and overcame countless odds to achieve the greatest feat in an NFL season—winning a championship.

How did you hear about it? I’m an avid member of the “Eagles Twitter” community, so I get most of my Eagles news from there. It was hard to not hear about the Super Bowl MVP’s book while following the aftermath of the championship.

Closing comments: I learned a ton about Foles in this book, including information prior to his days in the National Football League. I was glad he included these parts instead of just focusing on the 2017 season for the entire book. It was great to hear about how he was recruited in high school, his eventual transfer from Michigan State to Arizona, and even aspects of his personal life. He’s an honest and open individual, which quickly becomes clear when listening to his interviews, and luckily, this translated into an honest, humbling book. Of course, Foles is no author, so the quality of the writing (despite the help of a real author) is not going to blow anyone away. The book probably could’ve been cut by about 40 to 50 pages and still have been just as interesting, but it doesn’t drone on and on either. Personally, I found the references to his religion a little over the top at times. I am glad that Foles’s belief in God helped guide him through his experiences, but for readers who aren’t into that kind of thing, it might come off as him pushing his religion too much. I’m sure this wasn’t his intention, so I can’t criticize it too much. However, for many people who don’t have as strong religious beliefs, it can be easy to glaze over entire paragraphs because it becomes rather repetitive. Overall, though, this was a fun, easy read and gave me some great perspective into the man that’s going to be at the top of the list in Philadelphia for a long time.

Contributor:  Austin Vitelli is an assistant editor for a medical publishing company who recently graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism. He’s been a Philadelphia Eagles fan his whole life. His blog, which mostly focuses on the Eagles, can be viewed here.


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Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover

Educated – A Memoir
by
Tara Westover

Rating:

Imagine growing up in isolation, with a father who regarded the government with paranoid distrust, who prepared the family for an impending apocalypse by stockpiling food, fuel and ammunition and “head for the hills” bags. Who made his children work with him in a dangerous scrap yard, where they were often severely injured.  And who manipulated them with his skewed interpretation of the Mormon faith. With a mother who only occasionally homeschooled her seven children and deferred to her husband, despite being the primary breadwinner as a midwife and natural healer. With a violent and abusive brother. Could you get out?

Tara Westover did, but at a cost. She taught herself enough math and grammar to be accepted at Brigham Young University, stumbled on her ignorance, but eventually gained her footing and began reading and learning. Her pursuits took her to Cambridge and then to Harvard, where she earned a PhD. The cost was estrangement from half her family. The half that denied there was anything wrong.

Education is Westover’s memoir, an account of these years in which she left her home in the mountains of Idaho. She tells her story of universities and degrees, but more importantly, she describes her education about family, mental illness and abuse. And then she explains what she did about it, how, inch by inch, she moved away from both her father’s and her brother’s strongholds.

Educated is a fascinating description of a life that is nearly impossible to envision. As a reader, you can’t imagine how to get into college with no schooling. Westover may not have understood the abuse and dysfunction at age sixteen, but she knew enough that she had to get out. The most absorbing part of her memoir, however, is how she began to recognize her father’s behavior as mental illness. But suspecting this didn’t change the danger of her brother’s abuse, which was both mental and physical. Most disturbing was how she reached out to her mother and sister and how they didn’t back her up.

I enjoyed reading Westover’s story, however, I would have been interested in knowing more about her college and later years, including her relationships with other students and new friends. I finished the book wondering what she’s doing right now. I think these details would give the reader a better understanding of who Tara Westover has become. It’s interesting to watch her book tour interviews and you can check out this Christiane Amanpour interview on CNN here. Westover also has a beautiful signing voice. You can listen to Tara Westover sing a Mormon hymn on PBS NewsHour here.

I recommend Educated to readers to enjoy memoirs and autobiographies and also those who like reading about overcoming adversity.

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Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb

Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder
Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities
by
Claudia Kalb

Rating:

Charles Darwin was a worrier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler, and Howard Hughes had OCD. Was Andy Warhol a hoarder or simply a collector? Was Albert Einstein autistic or just focused? And how do these and other personalities compare to the rest of us? You might be surprised at how similar their quirks and problems are to our own personality oddities.

In this excellent collection of mini biographies, Claudia Kalb looks at twelve famous personalities and explains their known or likely battles with mental illness. In her extensive research, she studied medical journals, interviewed mental health professionals, and consulted numerous scientists and academic researchers. In addition to a compassionate explanation of the problems these entertainers, artists, musicians, leaders, writers and groundbreakers suffered, Kalb wonders how many would have fared had they been accurately diagnosed and treated with modern methods. Some would have been better able to battle their conditions, but would others have lost their creative sparks?

Here’s a quick summary of the successes these famous people achieved and the problems they faced.


Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes and Andy Warhol

    

Marilyn Monroe was a sex icon, but she likely suffered from borderline personality disorder. An empty and lonely childhood left her feeling abandoned and, while she rose to superstar status, she never overcame these feelings. She sought help, but the treatment at the time did not necessarily help her. Modern therapy for this condition teaches patients how to move forward with their lives.

Howard Hughes made his millions in filmmaking and aerospace, but he was an obsessive worrier about germs. As an adult, Hughes became progressively obsessed with the rituals of germ avoidance and also became addicted to painkillers. Hughes would probably have benefited from modern treatment which includes behavioral therapy and mindfulness treatment.

Andy Warhol was fascinated with many things and could not throw them out. He believed and lived that more was better. Kalb writes, “Hoarding may provide comfort to those who feel neglected,” but would he have been able to create and become a famous pop artist if he’d received treatment?


Princess Diana, Abraham Lincoln, Christine Jorgensen

    

Princess Diana was always in the public eye and her marriage to Prince Charles was not the fairy tale we thought it would be. She dealt with these pressures in private and developed bulimia nervosa. To her credit, she went public with her battle and helped others by raising awareness about eating disorders.

Abraham Lincoln knew he was depressed and sought treatment, but many argue that the 16th President of the United States was a better leader during the Civil War because he was able to realistically view both sides of the battle. Lincoln was also known for his sense of humor. Perhaps he instinctively understood that laughter made him feel better.

Christine Jorgensen was born male, but from early on, she knew she was different. In 1950, she went to Sweden, had sex reassessment surgery and came back a woman. Kalb explores the many questions of gender identity and sexual orientation. In this case, Jorgensen took charge of her gender dysphoria and led a happy life.


Frank Lloyd Wright, Betty Ford, Charles Darwin

    

Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous architect, but he may also have had narcissistic personality disorder. He wasn’t much of a family man and was slippery with his facts; instead he focused on his building designs. Perhaps his creative mind would have dulled if he’d been treated.

Betty Ford was First Lady to President Gerald Ford, but she was also an alcoholic and addicted to painkillers. She made her battle public, and opened the Betty Ford Center to help others overcome addiction. Just like Princess Diana, telling the world of her struggles led to better understanding and treatment for others.

Charles Darwin suffered from anxiety, but he managed to develop the controversial theory of evolution. He had stomachaches, headaches and many other ailments, including panic attacks and was certain he would die of these conditions. Doctors were unable to find a cause.


George Gershwin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Einstein

    

George Gershwin was a prolific composer and he most likely had AD/HD. He ran wild as a boy, but music rescued him. It was his way of finding focus and was also his salvation. Would he have written “Rhapsody in Blue” if he’d been treated?

Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested for political crimes, was subjected to a mock execution and sent to Siberia for four years. He had a tumultuous personal life, was forever in debt and became a compulsive gambler, but he also wrote Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Idiot. Dostoevsky was determined to quit gambling and he did at age 49.

Albert Einstein had a larger than normal brain, preferred to be alone and was always disheveled.  He also came up with the theory of relatively. Perhaps he was on the autism spectrum, but could he have envisioned his theories if he’d been treated?


The above summaries give you an idea of what these famous people faced, but Kalb goes into greater detail and helps you understand their conditions as they relate to the general population. I recommend Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder to readers who enjoy history, biographies and studies about mental health.

Images from Pixabay and Wikipedia

I read Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder  as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a book suggested by a librarian.

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Other books of interest:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – historical fiction about Frank Lloyd Wright
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam – autobiographical account about struggles with OCD
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – biography about Steve Jobs, his career and personality
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer reviewed by Austin Vitelli – great fiction about a 9-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome who loses his father in 9/11
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – romantic comedy about a guy on the autism spectrum and his search for a wife

David Bowie – A Life by Dylan Jones

David Bowie – A Life
by
Dylan Jones

Rating:

Some rock performers are successful because they have a spark and are in the right place at the right time. Rock stars are in a different category. They reach the top because underneath, their image is a genius that propels them. They are vulnerable to the same insecurities and excesses, but their need to create results in an expression that rises to the top.

Dylan Jones brings out this quality in his book about David Bowie, a rock legend who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered music, art, film and stage performances through ever-changing personas. David Bowie – A Life is a compilation of interviews and quotes from nearly two hundred people and spans the performer’s career until his death in 2016. It is a terrific view into a complicated and private person.

Born in 1947, David Jones grew up in a suburb of London. His father was an entertainment promoter and introduced his son to many types of music, as did his older brother. He attended art school, formed a band called the Spiders from Mars and, in 1969 had his first hit, “Space Oddity.” He married Angie Barnett in 1970 and they had a son in 1971. Their lives were anything but quiet and domestic, however, as they lived in an apartment in Haddon Hall, a large villa outside London, filled with artists and musicians, including the Spiders, and a place that became an intensely creative and collaborative community.

From the beginning, Bowie reinvented himself many times, adapting personas and performing before larger and larger audiences. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will remember Ziggy Stardust, glam rock, the Thin White Duke, and many other later shifts in image and music. Bowie had his hand in all types of creative expression. He wrote, painted and appeared in several films and also onstage, including a highly praised Broadway performance in The Elephant Man. He continued to create until just before his death and his final music video, “Lazarus,” is widely viewed as the singer’s ultimate goodbye.

Quotes from band members, friends, agents, producers, journalists and random one-time meet-ups give a big picture of a complex person. While often manipulative of the press, Bowie is credited with, through his androgynous persona, making a generation of youth feel comfortable and accepted with their sexuality.

Readers will also learn about the cutthroat business of rock music, about agents, promoters, being on the road, bad feelings about borrowed ideas, as well as how his records were made. Bowie’s vast amount of knowledge reflects an insatiable curiosity in everything that was going on about him and is part of all his music. I especially enjoyed reading about his competitive friendship with Mick Jagger and about his longtime personal assistant and gatekeeper, Coco Schwab.

Bowie had many demons including lifelong feelings of isolation, a family history of schizophrenia, a failed marriage and a cocaine addiction. These factors both contributed to and taxed his creative years. As for the drug addiction, Bowie admitted that what made him quit was his realization that he had become a horrible person. Bowie married supermodel, Iman, in 1992 and they led a quieter life his later years, however, during that time, he surprised his fans with two albums he had written and recorded in secret.

At 554 pages, this comprehensive book is expertly arranged. I took my time and often jumped onto YouTube to re-watch his many music videos and performances. I recommend David Bowie – A Life to anyone who enjoys music biographies and to anyone who likes to know about creative geniuses, for, whether or not you were a Bowie fan, he was one of those. In addition, while readers may never truly know who the real David Jones was, the universal comment from all was that David Bowie was always a charming man to meet.


I received a copy of David Bowie – A Life  from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I read David Bowie – A Life as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a book about a musician.


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Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon
by
David Grann

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating:

Killers of the Flower Moon is a true-crime account of a shameful period of American history in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for the headrights to oil-rich land on their reservation in Oklahoma. David Grann tells this shocking story, including the investigation of the murders led by J. Edgar Hoover’s newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After the U.S. Civil War, Native Americans from the Osage tribe were forced off their land in Kansas and relocated to Indian Territory. The land was rocky, there were no buffalo, but they were a smart nation, led by Chief James Bigheart, and two things seemed to be in their favor. One, they were one of only a few Native American nations to buy their own reservation and this gave them more rights. The second advantage was that, when the United States insisted the land be divided into parcels, to parallel the system of land ownership in the rest of the country, the Osage said okay, but with a stipulation. If any land was sold or leased to a non-native, whatever was underground belonged to the Osage.

The Osage became rich in the 1920s when oil was discovered on their land and, for a period of time, they enjoyed lavish lives. But the American government deemed the Osage unfit to manage their own money and appointed white guardians to control their royalties. Many of these guardians stole from their wards, and worse.

The coveted ownership of communal headrights, which could only be inherited, led to a shocking series of murders, headed by a prominent local American businessmen and carried out by a network of seemingly upstanding white citizens and career criminals. Dozens of Osage were murdered and many of them were from the same family. In Gray Horse, Oklahoma, Mollie Burkhart watched as her family was killed, one at a time, leaving her as the only one left. As she fell ill, she wondered, would she be next?

In desperation, the Osage hired FBI to stop the killings. The investigation was filled with bogus leads, false confessions, disappearing witnesses and unreliable informants. Grann provides details of the investigation and resulting trials, including updates on the key players from both sides and an interesting follow-up of the Osage today.

The events in Killers of the Flower Moon depict a deep-seated racism against the Osage, in which the white business leaders and citizens of the Gray Horse pretended to befriend and help the Osage, only to kill them for their money. Killers of the Flower Moon is a thorough historical account of the Osage murders, but this is one story you won’t see in school history books.

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Audiobook: Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Narrated by Christina Delaine


Audiobook
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything
by
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Narrated by Christina Delaine

Rating:

Here’s a detailed book about one of the most successful television sitcoms in American history, Seinfeld. TV fans will enjoy learning more about the show’s creators, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, their writers and everything behind the scenes. Loyal Seinfeld fans will love reliving the funniest and most memorable episodes and of course, hearing more about the cast, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer.

Many of the early episodes were based on Larry David’s own experiences and were written for both George and Jerry. Later, new writers were expected to draw on their own pasts for show ideas. I enjoyed learning about the writing staff and how competitive it was. Writers worked independently and had to pitch their ideas to David or Seinfeld. Getting approval to develop one show did not guarantee future success either. In fact, to keep the show fresh, writers were cleared every year.

Seinfeld’s success meant more than a nine-season run. The show was a huge money-maker for NBC during a super competitive time period. Shows airing before and after the Seinfeld time slot also benefitted. Thursday night “Must See TV” on NBC was a winner. I found this part of the book very interesting.

The author discusses many of the funniest and most memorable episodes and how the ideas came about. Who doesn’t laugh at the mention of the marble rye, Junior Mint, or the master of your domain episodes? Even the final episode, which was considered a dud, brought back memories and learning the backstories was fun.

Final chapters cover the cast after Seinfeld. David left before the eighth season and created Curb Your Enthusiasm. Seinfeld returned to stand-up and has been involved in several successful projects, including Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been very successful, with The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep. Whether it was the Seinfeld “curse” or what Jason Alexander simply calls “curse of success,” not everyone had an easy time. Alexander had a failed show and so did Michael Richards. And Richards very likely killed his career in 2006 when he went on a racist rant at the Laugh Factory.

Seinfeld episodes continue to air, twenty years later. It is the most successful show ever in syndication, which has kept its fandom alive. Seinfeldia’s angle is the show’s loyal and still-active fan base, a group that prides itself on knowing everything about the show, the cast, the details and dialogue, and strives to perpetuate everything Seinfeld.

Listeners will either like or dislike the audiobook’s narrator, who takes on the characters’ personas as she reads. Being new to audiobooks, I’m still getting used to this technique. Hearing someone impersonate Jerry Seinfeld and the gang is a little strange, but she does a pretty good job with the voices and in the end, I think it enhances the listening experience.

The Seinfeldia audiobook is a very enjoyable ten-hour listen. I may not have read it in print form, so I’m glad I took the chance on the audio version. I recommend it to anyone who likes behind the scenes stories.

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Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean
Brett Archibald

Rating:  3.5 stars

In April 2013, Brett Archibald, a 50-year-old South African businessman, was on a surf charter boat off the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. It was the middle of the night and the seas were storming. Archibald had food poisoning and went on deck to be sick. He lost his footing, fell off the boat and no one saw. He spent nearly 29 hours in the Indian Ocean before a miracle happened. That miracle was Tony “Doris” Eltherington, captain of an Australian charter, and a seafaring legend, who acted on a hunch and found Archibald bobbing in the vast expanse.

How Archibald survived, how his friends and Eltherington’s boat and crew persisted, and how his wife and family never gave up believing he would survive is chronicled in Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean. Already weak from dehydration, Archibald fought off raging seas, a shark attack, dive-bombing seagulls, stinging jellyfish and man of wars. He kept his wits about him by counting strokes, naming books in his library and singing songs from his iPod playlists. Despite these efforts, he was often overwhelmed by hopelessness. In addition, he was fooled by hallucinations. When he looked to the sky and saw a wooden cross, he was sure it was another trick of the mind. That cross was the mast of Eltherington’s boat, coming to get him.

The book is written from three points of view:  Archibald, his friends and other rescue boats, and his wife and family. While there were some who thought it was unlikely Archibald could survive, those who knew him believed he would. An intense personality and competitor, always pushing himself, Archibald was better off than most, despite the odds against him. From the moment he was rescued he was coherent and surprisingly strong. I was skeptical of this part of the story until I watched several live videos of his rescue. To see what I mean, check out the links at the bottom of the post. The euphoria after his rescue is contagious, Archibald is ridiculously upbeat, making you believe he had all the right stuff to get him through what would have been certain death for most.

Survival stories are hard to resist and this is an incredible one. I enjoyed learning the details of his hour-by-hour story. While lost in the ocean, Archibald reflected on his life mistakes and failed relationships and faced the grim possibility that he would never see his wife and young children again. It’s no surprise that he came out of the ordeal a changed man and the phrase “life is short” doesn’t seem nearly as trite.

My one disappointment is in how the book is presented. The cover and title and Archibald’s first person account made me think he had written the book, but the account is in fact written by an unnamed author. This fact is buried in the “Three Years Later” chapter at the end of the book.

In addition, readers are well-advised to give up trying to remember the hundreds of names provided, which tends to bog down the flow of the story.

All in all, however, an engrossing read that results in a happy, feel-good moment.

Check out these video links and see for yourself:

Today Show video about Brett Archibald’s rescue

60 Minutes “Miracle at Sea”

I fell off a white water raft once and got lodged underneath. But my friends pulled me back in within a minute. Doesn’t compare, but I was pretty scared! Have you ever had a close call at sea?

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