Educated

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

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It’s rare for me to hear about a book and then actually get to read it right away. In this case, a friend was raving about it and when I said it sounded good, she brought me the book to read right away. And then I managed to convince my book club to read it a few days later.

This book was hard to put down. I read it on my vacation to Colorado so that means I finished in just a few days…which is a miracle for me right now. But Tara’s life is so interesting and the writing so beautifully done, it was impossible to quit turning the pages.

The story is disorienting at times as Tara herself is not quite clear on all the facts. And some of those facts have been deliberately obscured over the years. But even more disorienting than Tara’s memories are the truths she recounts in Educated. The truth that some people today are living this way in the United States. That there are children out there, growing up completely shielded from the truths of the world by their parents.

I deeply admire and respect Tara’s resilience in triumphing over her circumstances. Brigham Young University is not an easy school to get into, much less stay in. I think about my own college experiences and I cannot imagine college being my first formal educational experience, showing up to lecture not knowing what the Holocaust was or what a textbook is for. I surely would have failed miserably.

But Tara didn’t. And she not only succeeded, she did well enough to earn herself the opportunity to study at Cambridge and from there, her career and her destiny really took off.

The ending of Educated was really moving and heart-wrenching. I was reading it on the flight back and I was hurrying to finish it before the plane landed, otherwise I knew I’d have to park myself somewhere in the airport to finish the last handful of pages.

Educated was a really “Wow!” read and Tara is obviously incredibly intelligent and a gifted writer…I will definitely be looking for more writing from her in the years to come!

 

S.H.E: Share Heal Empower Review and Interview With Author Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower by Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower unveils the stories of twenty-four women from around the globe and across all ages and cultures, who courageously reached within to overcome extraordinary obstacles. Author Shannon Hogan Cohen has carefully crafted each story into mini literary masterpieces and paired each with art from a female artist.

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Wow. Just wow.

That’s what I have to say about S.H.E. Share Heal Empower. For not being the type of book I typically pick up, it grabbed my attention and didn’t let me go.

Though maybe I shouldn’t say this isn’t my type of book because every single memoir I’ve ever read I’ve absolutely loved. From The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls to Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart to Playing With Dynamite by Sharon Harrigan to Educated by Tara Westover (just read, review forthcoming), I’ve found memoirs to be beautifully touching and affecting.

So rather than saying this isn’t the type of book I typically pick up, I should say that I avoid picking up these types of books unless prompted because I don’t like feeling my feelings lol. I feel enough feelings in an average day to last me a lifetime.

You could say my hang up about memoir is similar to the hang up I have about reading World War II fiction, which is well-documented on this blog. Almost always end up enjoying the book (or straight up love it and call it the best book ever), but boy do I have a certain amount of resistance about it.

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower contains twenty-four stories from real women, recounting some of the hardest and darkest troubles of their lives. Each memoir was powerfully moving and inspiring. Reading through some of these stories truly made me grateful for my own life and everything I have.

I sometimes grow fearful that my own struggles have thus far been relatively small – meaning that the hardest times of my life surely still lie in front of me. Sure, I have had some dark moments and days, but compared to what some people have gone through, it’s really nothing. So I try not to think about the fact that law of averages should dictate that there’s trouble somewhere over the horizon.

But for me, reading S.H.E. was inspiring because reading through some of these stories, of these women who have gone through the most terrible hurts and the darkest times, gives me courage that when trouble does come from me, I’ll know that I’m strong enough to withstand it.

Out of the twenty-four stories in S.H.E. I connected most with the stories of Barbara Jean, Desiree, and Sonia Marie.

Barbara Jean because hers is a story of a life lived among horses and animals. She also recounted some heartbreaking experiences that hit me like a stab in the heart and made me tear up.

Desiree because I cannot imagine what I would do if I experienced what she had experienced losing her child in such a horrific way. But her courage to continue on and fight through her grief to a place where she gives back to others is truly inspiring.

Sonia Marie because it’s clear she is a fighter. Not only did she fight through her own terrifying health crises, she fought to be a strong single mother for her two sons, one of whom has his own health problems. And not only did she fight, but she’s another woman who had taken her darkest moments and used them as seeds to inspire others.

All three of these woman (and the twenty-one others in this book) have exhibited great courage in sharing their stories with the world. I have always believed that the best way to heal is to share with others. I think of it this way: when you are burdened with a terrible pain or hurt, every time you tell the story, you break off a small piece of your pain and give it to someone else to hold onto for you. And the people around you that love you are glad to do this for you because your tiny piece of hurt does not hurt them in the same way it hurts you. So they are able to help you shoulder your burden and over time, your own pain diminishes through this process of retelling and giving away a piece of the hurt.

If you’re looking for a moving, inspiring book to read with your book club or share with all the women in your life, don’t miss S.H.E. Share Heal Empower!

I was able to interview author Shannon Hogan Cohen shortly after the release of the S.H.E. audiobook and at the time of this publication, she is giving away a free copy of the audiobook to one lucky winner. Head on over to the S.H.E. Facebook and Instagram accounts to enter. Good luck!

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What Inspired You to Create the S.H.E. Book?

Growing up, I experienced tension between my mother and father and knew my mother was silently suffering but unaware of the extent. As she slowly revealed her untold stories in my late twenties, I began to understand that this woman was not weak, which is how I always perceived her, but primarily a victim of social circumstance. She had done everything she could to conceal her struggles with my alcoholic father, his death at age thirty and her strained second marriage. My probing became healing for her. Her sharing became empowering. This book became an opportunity for other women to feel safe and do the same. I have learned, we are all wounded, we all worry and we are all weighed down by feelings of unworthiness. For me, the bedrock of love, friendship and community is vulnerability. These heartfelt exchanges provided me with connection and consolation, which is my hope for the reader.

Whose Story Did You Relate to the Most Out of the Twenty-Four Women You Interviewed?

Chapter Twenty-Four, Joni…my mother and who I dedicated the S.H.E. book to. Her rock solid resilience and unimaginable human spirit is inspiring. Nevertheless, each of the women who honored me with their profound stories gave me both a sense of courage and camaraderie that I had never known before. It has taken me years to put the jagged puzzle pieces of my life together. Life offered me clues to help solve my puzzle, but I ignore them at times. It was refreshing recognizing parts of myself in each of these women, who courageously reached within themselves to overcome extraordinary obstacles. These women and their stories together with the many others who have come into my life have created a circle of sisterhood. S.H.E. was born in the spirit of this.

How Did You Come to Include Art in the Book Alongside the Stories?

Once the chapters began to take shape it felt that a simple snapshot image of each woman was not enough. In addition to that, several of the women in the book chose not to have their actual likeness portrayed. I spoke with my sister Shelby, who is an amazing artist and she liked my idea.  In short, it felt right to invite twenty-four different women artists to create a unique portrait of each remarkable woman based on her storyline. I mindfully paired the artists who were able to read their woman’s chapter and were asked to fashion a specific stylistic piece. I continue to marvel at the insight and perception of each altruistic artist. Their representations came from all types of visual expression: pen and ink, fused glass sculpture, to traditional acrylic painting, and more. All the artists in the book are of different ages and abilities, which match the women they were interpreting.

What Was Your Writing (and Rewriting) Process Like?

I describe myself as an amateur scribbler. My writing process is very raw and rewrites only come after I have my husband read through the initial rough draft (of which he calls “homework”- but politely obliges). An author friend once told me years ago to read my pieces out loud and include inflection. This is extremely helpful during my writing and rewriting process, as I have the ability to be very verbose. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful editor, who understands my messy mind and has the ability to make my words pop off the page. Without her, these stories would not be architecturally solid.

Do You Use a Computer or Write By Hand Before Transcribing?

I am old-school; ink on paper. After each interview with a woman, I will listen to our conversation again and begin crafting the chapter in a black composition notebook. I am a tactile person. It is difficult for me to create from scratch on my computer with a blank screen staring at me. For some odd reason, a blank piece of white, lined paper is more inviting. Uni-bal Air rollerball gel pens are my preference. A cup of steamy coffee is mandatory.

What Were Your Biggest Takeaways From the Journey to Become a Self-Published Author?

The journey was extremely frustrating at times, but the end result was very rewarding. I spoke with several publishing houses, who wanted to tweak or modify my manuscript. This irritated me. I understand the need to “sell” books, but I was not willing to compromise certain women’s stories to appease them. Not knowing which direction to go at times was challenging at times, as I flailed forward not knowing if the decisions I was making were accurate. In the end, it all worked out. People came into my life at the right moments and were great mentors guiding me along the way. It feels fantastic to say, “I produced this masterpiece from start to finish.”

Will There Be a S.H.E. Volume 2?

Absolutely, in fact, I have twenty women already in my queue, who are ready to share their stories. It was prudent for me to take some time off and recharge. My goal is to begin interviewing and traveling to meet the women in late September of this year. My favorite part of the process is listening to the women share their life experiences, take those concentrated nuggets of wisdom and develop a storyline to celebrate their personal victories. I remind myself and the women I interview “We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can chose how we respond.”

S.H.E. book Volume One and the woman I am, and continue to become is the result of S.H.E. Sharing, Healing and Empowering.

 

Where Can People Find Out More About You, S.H.E, and Submit Their Own Stories?

On the S.H.E. website which is www.ShareHealEmpower.com. There is a tab called “Suggest a S.H.E.” which you can use to submit a story. And please connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube (as ShareHealEmpower) to see what we’re up to!

 

 

Tribe of Mentors

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice By the Best in the World By Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss, the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, shares the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book—a compilation of tools, tactics, and habits from 130+ of the world’s top performers. From iconic entrepreneurs to elite athletes, from artists to billionaire investors, their short profiles can help you answer life’s most challenging questions, achieve extraordinary results, and transform your life.

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Tribe of Mentors was actually my first Tim Ferriss book. It was a Christmas gift and I have been reading it off and on since the beginning of the year. I finally finished it this month as I knocked out the last 200 pages or so during my Miracle Morning reading time.

This was a good book, but it is dense. You don’t need to read it in order or read every page or even read it in a short span of time. Each interview is between 1-10 pages. There’s a forward by Tim where he discusses the methodology and how he chose the questions he asked. But he asked the same questions of everyone, though not all answers were included for each person. So really can just start anywhere in the book.

I read this book cover to cover as I read most things (unless I peeking ahead). But you could just open this book to random sections or just skim through to read the interviews with the people you know and like. I enjoyed the experience of reading cover to cover because I read interviews from a lot of people I had never heard of, but who had great advice to give.

This book is one I would recommend buying since you’ll likely want to underline or otherwise mark up passages. This book was so beautifully bound and pristine I was hesitant to start marking it up myself, but halfway through I decided I was leaving some of the experience on the table by not interacting with the text. At some point, I’ll have to reread the beginning so I can mark that up, too. This is a book I plan to hold onto as I’m sure I’ll revisit it often and get something new out of it each time I read it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading what successful people have to say and also to anyone who engages in personal development work – this book is a great choice for Miracle Morning reading!

I’ll leave you with the passage that resonated with me the most:

“The entire universe is not just outside, but also within us. We have unlimited power – the power to solve any problems facing us or facing others. We get to create our realities. It’s a simple and small belief, but it can change the course of humanity. Being mini gods mean we never lack. We know we already have everything. We don’t need a million dollars. We don’t need a trillion followers. We are complete. We are full. So full that we can give without counting. The day we will all start acting like mini gods is the day there will be peace in the world.”

Building a StoryBrand

Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media. Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.

Okay, so this book may seem like it’s kind of a niche interest, but it’s actually really good and is applicable to anyone building a company or building their own personal brand! Storytelling in marketing is super powerful. I think most people understand this on some level. Just think about your favorite brands…chances are they’re telling great stories!

Building a StoryBrand really lays out how to use storytelling to accelerate your brand’s results by discovering how to craft a message you’re customers want to and need to hear. It walks you step-by-step through the framework and explains the concepts in a clear, easy-to-read format.

I’ve also read Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson, the founder of Clickfunnels. While I liked that book a lot, I think Building a StoryBrand is easier for a non-marketing person to understand. The examples Donal Miller gives are a little more tangible and aren’t necessarily bound up with the online world. I think sometimes people who aren’t digital natives (and even some that are) struggle with concepts when they are tied up with the digital space. It’s a lot easier to understand an example from a movie, a book, or even a company that sells physical products like cars or t-shirts.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section introduces the concept and explains why storytelling is so powerful for brands. The second section is where you get to go through the StoryBrand framework and create a script for your brand. The third part shows you what you can do with your StoryBrand script once you have one.

After reading the book, I went online to MyStoryBrand.com where you can actually fill out the framework for yourself. Even though it’s been a little bit since I finished the book, the notes at the end of each chapter helped me quickly remember what each part of the framework was about and fill out my StoryBrand script.

Even if you don’t run a company or have anything to sell, this book is great for anyone who is building a personal brand, running an organization, or just managing an entity that needs an identity. This book makes the concept of storytelling easy to understand, develop, and implement!

Crushing It!

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk

In his 2009 international bestseller Crush It, Gary insisted that a vibrant personal brand was crucial to entrepreneurial success, In Crushing It!, Gary explains why that’s even more true today, offering his unique perspective on what has changed and what principles remain timeless. He also shares stories from other entrepreneurs who have grown wealthier—and not just financially—than they ever imagined possible by following Crush It principles. The secret to their success (and Gary’s) has everything to do with their understanding of the social media platforms, and their willingness to do whatever it took to make these tools work to their utmost potential. That’s what Crushing It! teaches readers to do.

In this lively, practical, and inspiring book, Gary dissects every current major social media platform so that anyone, from a plumber to a professional ice skater, will know exactly how to amplify his or her personal brand on each. He offers both theoretical and tactical advice on how to become the biggest thing on old standbys like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat; podcast platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud, iHeartRadio, and iTunes; and other emerging platforms such as Musical.ly. For those with more experience, Crushing It! illuminates some little-known nuances and provides innovative tips and clever tweaks proven to enhance more common tried-and-true strategies.

Crushing It! is a state-of-the-art guide to building your own path to professional and financial success, but it’s not about getting rich. It’s a blueprint to living life on your own terms.

I REALLY enjoyed this book! I haven’t read much this year so it’s maybe less significant when I say this is my favorite book I’ve read this year, but I’ll say it anyway: this is my favorite book I’ve read this year.

If you’re a business owner, content creator, influencer, or desire to be any of those things, I think Crushing It! is absolutely required reading for 2018.

I didn’t read Crush It! until September of 2016…basically seven years after it came out. While I liked Crush It!, it did feel dated at that point in time. I suspect how I feel reading Crushing It! now is how some people felt who read Crush It! soon after it came out.

The first half of Crushing It! reads like a motivational, personal development/business book. I highlighted so many great nuggets in this section. It’s like listening to one of Gary’s podcast episodes except that it’s laser focused because someone took an editing pen and applied a tight structure to it. The second half drills down into specific platforms and gives ideas on how you can use them and where those platforms are going. So if you want to know how to kill it on Instagram, Gary’s got advice for you. Want to be a podcaster? That’s in here, too.

Crushing It! also includes many case studies of people who were able to put into practice the things Gary wrote about in Crush It! and have been able to really dominate with their brands and companies. One of the things I think that’s really important in the personal development and business space, whether it’s a book, blog, video, or podcast, is to give examples of real people who are doing the things you’re teaching about. It’s easy to assume one person’s success is a fluke, but once you start giving examples of others who have had success, it’s hard to argue it away as, “Well, you’re Gary Vaynerchuk. That would never work for me”.

Aside from this book being pure Gary Vaynerchuk (meaning if you don’t like Gary, don’t read this book), the thing I found most significant about Crushing It! is that whenever I stopped reading, I felt really inspired and motivated. One of the things that most excites me about with my new business (Minute Marketing) is the chance to experiment and try new things to create better and more impactful content. And that’s true not only for Minute Marketing, but for my clients and even this blog! I had some great thoughts while reading this book about both of my brands and I’m looking forward to getting back to being creative and playing around with content.

I wanted to share one quote I really liked from the book with you:

“When you really own it, and you put yourself out there and be you, your vibe is going to attract your tribe, and you’re going to be able to make change in this world.”

So here’s my commitment to you: to be really authentic and unapologetically myself. To be less strategic and more focused on putting out the best of the best. To crushing it in all spaces and places.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.”

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.

I really, really enjoyed this book! Which is not something I often say after reading a biography. Most biographies feel like work even if you’ve chosen to read the book for pleasure. They all seem to invariably contain sections that can only be described as just “a slog”. Not so with Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk.

Musk is obviously an interesting person with an interesting life. But so was Steve Jobs and others on the biography shelf – you don’t write a biography about an average person after all. What elevates Elon Musk above the rest, though, is Vance’s writing. Vance is a supremely talented writer, spinning together complex sentences that are both highly readable and devastatingly exact. Even if you don’t actually read this book, just pick it up and read a few pages to see this mastery in action. I am an official Ashlee Vance fan.

Another thing I enjoyed about this biography, besides the writing, was that Vance wasn’t afraid to deviate from the timeline. Most biographies run in a straight line from birth to death (or wherever the subject was in their life at the time of writing). Vance did go chronologically up to a point. But after he detailed Musk’s “darkest hour” in business in 2008, where he nearly lost Tesla and SpaceX, Vance devoted a hefty chapter each to Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City/the unifying principles that connect Musk’s businesses. This was a really good way to lay out the remainder of the book and actually made it really easy to then follow the development of those three businesses into what we see today.

On the subject of what this book was actually about, I emerged with a new respect for Musk. I’ve admired his work but didn’t know that much about the person behind the companies. Even when I did a little research into the Tesla Car earlier this year for one of my Writing Project Wednesdays (they’ll be back, I promise!), I only scratched the surface of who Musk was. What I admire the most about Musk is that he didn’t just build phenomenal, world-changing businesses….he managed to build phenomenal, world-changing businesses that fit into and serve his overall vision for his life’s while also being interconnected with each other. Absolutely amazing.

This biography was published in 2015. Since then, Musk’s star power hasn’t dulled any. If anything, he enjoyed a little boost from another high-profile relationship with an actress, Amber Heard. I’m looking forward to seeing what Musk does next…and hopefully, I’ll one day have a Model S of my own!

The Lost City of the Monkey God

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world’s densest jungle.

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn’t until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.

I remember that I was at work in 2015 when I first saw the story of Douglas Preston’s trip into the jungle of Honduras to find a real lost city come up on Facebook. I just remember being in awe that there are still lost cities left to find and that somehow one of my favorite authors got to go along on the journey to find one. To me, that was complete author goals: to not only be a best-selling novelist, but to also have the opportunity to go on such an incredible journey. Of course, now having read The Lost City of the Monkey God, I am 100% certain I would be bitten by a fer de lance within 0.5 seconds of walking into the jungle, but that’s not going to stop me from romanticizing the idea of being an author/adventurer.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have been two of my favorite authors for a long time now. I think I must have been 14 or 15 when I read Relic, the first book in the Special Agent Pendergast series. Since then I’ve read nearly all of their other books, including their individual works. It’s actually surprising to me that I waited long enough to buy this book that it’s now come out in paperback. But it worked out well because it was on the bestseller shelf at the airport in Las Vegas when I needed to buy a book.

For those of you who are avid fiction readers, rest assured this is one of those works on non-fiction that proves to be as interesting and engaging as a work of fiction. Preston’s storyteller’s gift is on full display in The Lost City of the Monkey God as he tells the story of The White City in five parts: quest, discovery, exploration, aftermath, and my favorite section of the whole book, connecting past to future.

On its surface, this book is about the discovery and exploration of one of the few untouched places remaining on Earth. Preston and a team of scientists journey into the Honduran rainforest to find a city that has been lost from time for over five hundred years. But, as all good storytellers know, finding the lost city is only part of the story. The more interesting part of the story is determining why the city was abandoned at all and left to the march of time.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that that line of reasoning has profound and chilling impacts for our modern society. Especially as, at the time I’m writing this blog post, the President seems more interested in fighting with professional athletes over Twitter than helping the people in the US territory of Puerto Rico.

I have not read read either of these, but I suspect if you enjoyed either of Jared Diamond’s books, Guns, Germs, and Steel or Collapse, you will enjoy The Lost City of the Monkey God. Both were referenced in the book and as both have long been on my TBR list, I can safely say this book will appeal to Diamond fans.

And I would be remiss if I closed this review without mentioning the “horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease” that Preston and others on the trip contracted in the jungle. While not as frightening as the way ebola is depicted in The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, the diseased that Preston et al picked up is almost more terrifying because it’s another example of how looking to the past can have frightening implications for our future.