I Can’t Make This Up, Life Lessons By Kevin Hart

IMG_20180705_171309_733This hilarious autobiography/ memoir is exactly the type of story we need to read in today’s stressful times as it will have you laughing out loud. Famous comedian, Kevin Hart takes the reader through a roller coaster of events that occurred throughout his life including the good, the bad and the ugly. Hart begins his story by taking us back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he grew up. From childhood to teenage stages, to being a young man to adulthood, Kevin provides insight and wisdom on life that he gained either through experience or via the characters that have entered and/or left his life. With each chapter being a new “life lesson”, we learn about his drug addicted womanizing father, his brother who was in and out of trouble but eventually got his act together due to the military, the co-worker who told him he should go into comedy and to Tory, his baby momma who added drama. We learn Kevin loved his Dad but never wanted to end up like him, and loved his brother but were two different people, to how Kevin was Mr. Awesome in high school but graduated with no plan and ended up working retail all while dealing with a love-hate relationship with Tory that all lead to self destruction, self discovery and relationship wisdom. Kevin provides us with keen insight into the hustle that he endured during the early stages of his career driving from Philly to NYC to perform in comedy shows that either paid little or nothing at all.

Throughout all the hustle and hardship that Kevin mentions in the book, he continuously makes references to his solid foundation that came from his rock which was his mother, Nancy. He comments on how she kept him consistently busy with activities like swimming lessons and then having to be watched by a neighbor everyday so he would stay out of trouble. He mentions how all she had to do was give “the look” and knew that he was in deep water. While he describes her as a strict, fierce, highly disciplined, church-going, bible-reading tough love kind of a mother, he also mentions how she was his everything and biggest supporter all along whether he was aware of it or not. Kevin mentions that it wasn’t until she got really sick and eventually passed away while he was shooting the film Fool’s Gold (2008) in Australia that he realized how much she meant to him and that life lesson number whatever is that there is nothing stronger than a mother’s love.

The take away from this memoir is a mix. By the end you feel as though Kevin is a good friend, yet also a comedian who provides you with life lessons that don’t always hold value but then shockingly your heart is melted by the fact that Kevin learned and shared the biggest life lesson of all. That lesson is that is life is short, and you should spend it with your family and loved ones and that you can’t expect 100% of anything when you give anything less that a 100%. That you should work hard everyday, stay disciplined and focused on your goals and that you will achieve success through all you hard work. 

My advice to the readers out there reading this article is to not read this book but rather listen to this book through audible.com or audio books via apple or the library with books on tape. Kevin Hart reads his own story and thus adds comments that are improvised throughout the reading that is not on page. Kevin’s energy throughout the reading makes the words come to life and fills the atmosphere with laughter, wit and love. Hard copy 4/5 stars, audible version 5/5 stars. 

The Deal Of A Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

IMG_20180101_011647_189The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrick Backman is a fast paced, easy to read novella that combines Fredrick’s blunt styled quirky characters with the humor and mysticism of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Backman never reveals the main character’s name, but the reader knows him as “Dad or Father”. The Father begins by writing a letter to his son, taking us through a short but vivid memory of his life. We (the readers) learn of the Father’s accomplishments as a well-known business man all the way to his short comings as a father. We learn that the Father was not the ideal parent and has regrets as to how he has raised his son. Time is short for Father due to the recent diagnosis of a rare form of cancer, (or so he thinks).

While in the hospital, the Father meets a brave little girl who puts on a happy face for her mother everyday (even though she too is dying from cancer). Low and behold the little girl has captured the Father’s heart and so when the woman in the grey sweater, with the folder and black pencil in hand comes to the little girl’s door, Father is heartbroken. Unfortunately, Father has seen this woman before (when all the people he has loved in his life have died) and he feels the urge to save the little girl. He snatches the folder, runs out the hallway and out of the hospital, into his car and hastily drives away. In despair, Father drives into a truck resulting in a obvious car crash. The woman in the grey sweater appears again to Father and he shouts “I can give you someone else to kill” (pg 51). Father says this in hopes of offering up his life to save the little girl, believing that the woman in the grey sweater is death itself. The woman in the grey sweater quickly explains that she is not death but rather a messenger and that one death cannot replace another death, but rather a life for a life. She explains to father that if he gives up his life for the little girl, not only would he die, but everything he has accomplished, worked for, created etc (including his son) would belong to someone else. It would be as though Father never existed, also meaning that his son would still be alive, but would have a completely different man as a father. 

With wit and humor, the woman in the grey sweater brings Father to see his son (who works at an old bar in town that represents nothing but nostalgia) one last time before he comes to a conclusion of his fate. At the bar, Father sees that his son his content and upon talking to his son, the son actually expresses how he is happy for his Dad. Father ends up experiencing flash backs to when he never showed up for his son and to all the times he “failed” him. The son smiles, kisses his Dad on the cheek and wishes him “Merry Christmas, Dad” (pg 61) and goes into the bar kitchen. The Father’s heart breaks again, and he suddenly knows what the right decision is for him. Walking out of the bar with the woman in the grey sweater, Father proceeds to ask if the little girl will live and the woman in the grey sweater assures him that she will and that she will watch over his son. As Father and the woman in the grey sweater jump into the river between Helsingborg and Denmark, Father writes to his son “You’ll never read this. You’ve never sat waiting on the steps outside your mother’s house. I never wasted your time……You’ll wake up soon. It’s Christmas Eve morning. And I love you.” (pg 64/65). 

Just like the Father, your heart breaks when you realize that he gave up his life and previous existence so not only could a little girl with cancer have a second chance at life, but so his son would never know the pain of a father not being there. He had the woman in grey take his life so his son could live a better life and a little girl can live. The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us once again of how parents always, at some point or another do a great sacrifice for their children and that time, no matter how much we think we have, is always fleeting and can never get it back. Make each day of your life count. A good novella to pull at your hearts and remind you to make good use of the time you have.  (3.5 stars – liked it)

How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh

IMG_20170819_220443_139Many know Thich Nhat Hanh for his words of wisdom and life alerting practices. Out of all of his books, I thought reading “How To Relax” would be a good first read, (considering I myself am in a constant juggling performance). I found it to be an easy and short read for anyone and can be finished within a day. Many books that are created to help individuals alter their life for the better are filled we things we’ve heard time and time again. What makes Thich Nhat Hanh so different? Aside from the fact that many are aware of his name, I feel that this particular book differs in its simplicity. Hanh is able to deliver words of wisdom and life altering practices in a clear and precise manner that they don’t intimidate or overwhelm the reader. Many “self-help” or “self-improvement” books can feel like diving into a text book filled with graphs, measurements, references etc, but “How To Relax” was relaxing enough just to read it. Straight to the point in a harmonic presentation in the section of “Notes on Relaxing” under the title “Lazy Day” he does just that. Under Lazy Day he says

“Do we have enough lazy days in our calendar? A lazy day is a day for us to be without any scheduled activities? We just let the day unfold naturally, timelessly. On this day we have a chance to reestablish the balance in ourselves”

His message is clear in that in today’s society we are constantly on “the go” even when we are not at work and that if we can allow days of no schedule, we can truly be at ease. Being at ease is what will restore the necessary inner balance to be one with ourselves and find peace. You don’t have to be a scholar or a book lover to realize the truth within his words and I feel that anyone and everyone can take something away from this novel. Go now, grab yourself this pocket sized relaxation and take from it what you will. I’m sure something will strike true…..Happy Reading!