Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead by Paul Vigna #Review @paulvigna @deystreet

Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead cover

I am obsessed with The Walking Dead.

That’s right. I said it. OBSESSED. I own the entire series, and I make it a point to buy it as soon as I see it hit the shelf. When the latest season isn’t airing (IS IT OCTOBER YET?!), I binge watch the show from start to finish—once a month. (And no, I don’t think that’s excessive at all. My family on the other hand… well, that’s a different story.) I’ve watched it so much, I’ve unintentionally memorized pretty much all of the dialogue. We have a TWD trivia game, but no one wants to play it with me because I always win. I like to point out little inconsistencies on episodes. (Example: “Chupacabra” [season two, episode five] After Daryl Dixon [Norman Reedus] is thrown from his horse, and hallucinates a conversation with his brother, Merle [Michael Rooker]? Pay attention to the dirt on Daryl’s mouth. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.)

Like I said… obsessed.

Needless to say, when the opportunity came along to read an review copy of GUTS, I was all over it like the walkers who took out the Anderson family in “No Way Out” [season six, episode nine]. I was thrilled to be approved, and promptly tore into it like… well, you know. (And I swear, that is the last time I do that in this review… no more walker jokes. Promise!)

Vigna has put together a comprehensive guide to everything The Walking Dead. From how both the comic and the show came about, to season recaps and the rundown on its phenomenal ratings, and even a bit of philosophy, this book has it all. There are several areas in the book where the author gives detailed thoughts on particular events that happened during the show—such as Glenn Rhee’s (Steven Yeun) miraculous escape from certain death by conveniently hiding under the dumpster after Nicholas’ (Michael Traynor) commits suicide and causes them both to fall off the top of the dumpster into a hungry herd of walkers gathered below. His stance on why it shouldn’t have happened and how the show broke its own ‘rules’ in order to pull it off was one of my favorite parts of the book because the dumpster-death-that-wasn’t annoys the hell out of me every time I see it.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is how a goodly portion of it discusses things of the show that my family and I often talk about. Whether it’s nitpicking little things (like the length of the grass) or discussing mistakes made by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in his role as leader, etc., it was nice to see many of those same topics in the book.

The chapter discussing a Walker Stalker convention in Charlotte, North Carolina was especially fun to read, because it gives the reader a peak into the sincere appreciation the cast members—such as Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene Porter), who were there that day—have for fans of the show, and how much they enjoy the time they spend talking to them. (And, likewise, the regard the fans have for the cast members.) Reading about (or better still, experiencing for yourself, if you’re fortunate enough to do so) such genuine warmth and appreciation just makes you feel good as a fan.

There is SO much more to the book than the few things I’ve touched on in this review. Suffice to say that in this reader’s opinion, GUTS: THE ANATOMY OF THE WALKING DEAD would make for a fine addition to your TWD collection. It’s a must have for fans!

So now there are two things to look forward to in October. This book, and the long-awaited start to season eight!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Dey Street Books and Edelweiss.

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Author: Paul Vigna

Title: Guts: The Anatomy of The Walking Dead

Genre: Performing Arts, Television

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017 by Dey Street Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

In this first and only guide to AMC’s exceptional hit series The Walking Dead, the Wall Street Journal’s Walking Dead columnist celebrates the show, its storylines, characters, and development, and examines its popularity and cultural resonance.

From its first episode, The Walking Dead took fans in the United States and across the world by storm, becoming the highest-rated series in the history of cable television. After each episode airs, Paul Vigna writes a widely read column in which he breaks down the stories and considers what works and what doesn’t, and tries to discern the small details that will become larger plot points.

So how did a basic cable television show based on a graphic comic series, set in an apocalyptic dog-eat-dog world filled with flesh-eating zombies and even scarier human beings, become a ratings juggernaut and cultural phenomenon? Why is the show such a massive hit? In this playful yet comprehensive guide, Vigna dissect every aspect of The Walking Dead to assess its extraordinary success.

Vigna digs into the show’s guts, exploring its roots, storyline, relevance for fans and the wider popular culture, and more. He explores how the changing nature of television and media have contributed to the show’s success, and goes deep into the zombie genre, delineating why it’s different from vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. He considers why people have found in zombies a mirror for their own fears, and explains how this connection is important to the show’s popularity. He interviews the cast and crew, who share behind-the-scenes tales, and introduces a cross-section of its diverse and rabid viewership, from fantasy nerds to NFL stars. Guts is a must have for every Walking Dead fan.


About the Author

Author Paul Vigna
Author Paul Vigna

Paul Vigna is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and also contributes to the popular MoneyBeat blog. He is the author of two books (with Michael J. Casey), the critically acclaimed The Age of Cryptocurrency and The Blockchain. He lives in Verona, New Jersey, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son.

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Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder by Nancy Tystad Koupal #Review @sdhspress

Pioneer Girl Perspectives cover

Many of my earliest reading memories are about the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I first fell in love with her books when I was eight years old. Little House in the Big Woods was one of the first books I ever checked out of the school library, in fact. I remember how excited I was when I realized there were more books telling the story of Ma, Pa, Mary, and Laura. (And, of course, Carrie and Grace, a bit later.) I was as enchanted with Pa’s stories as Laura was, and I delighted in reading about Ma making cheese, or cooking supper over a campfire. I remember how I used to take in every detail of Garth Williams’ beautiful illustrations, as in love with the pictures as I was the words themselves.

These are the books of my childhood, the source of countless hours of entertainment for a little girl who was always happiest with her nose stuck in a book. Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to know more about the real Laura and what her life was like. When I noticed there was a Goodreads Giveaway for Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, so I entered immediately. I didn’t expect to win, so imagine my joy when I was notified as one of the winners!

The book is a collection of essays written by multiple writers. The research that went into these essays is impressive, indeed, and sheds light on who Laura really was, beyond the idealized version I read about in the Little House books. Despite claims made by both herself and daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, that the events in the Little House books are “completely true”  Pioneer Girl Perspectives makes it clear that they are not “completely” true at all. Certain things are altered, or left out of the books altogether—such as the omission of the family who lived with the Ingalls’ during the time of The Long Winter. Despite having lived in the Ingalls’ home for the duration of winter, Laura disliked them enough to erase them from the narrative completely when she wrote about it.

We also learn how “yellow journalism” influenced the writing of Rose Wilder Lane (and why she was sued by Charlie Chaplin over the biography she wrote about him). I have to admit the parts solely focusing on Rose were a bit of a chore to get through at times, but it was interesting to learn a bit about her.

There is a bit of repetition within the essays—certain facts being mentioned in multiple essays—but that’s to be expected in a collaborative work such as this. I learned about many things I was previously unaware of (such as: Garth Williams was not the first Little House illustrator), and I enjoyed seeing the photographs of people, places, and items that are scattered throughout the book.

This is a wonderful addition to Laura Ingalls Wilder collections, particularly if you’re interested in learning more about Laura, beyond the books. Any Wilder fan would be happy to have this one in their personal library, I’m sure!

I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways.

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Author: Nancy Tystad Koupal (Editor)

Title: Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder

Genre: Nonfiction, Essay Collection

Published May 1st, 2016 by South Dakota State Historical Society

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon| Barnes & Noble


About the Book

Published over eighty years after its inception, “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography” edited by Pamela Smith Hill gave readers new insight into the truth behind Wilder’s fiction. “Pioneer Girl Perspectives” further demonstrates the importance of Wilder as an influential American author whose stories of growing up on the frontier remain relevant today.

Quick Review: The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

The United States of Absurdity cover

If you enjoy reading about odd and ridiculous events in history, then this is the book for you. Let’s face it: the history we learn in school isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. All those events that happened throughout the centuries—while important to know about—are decidedly lacking in the humor department. This book has many funny anecdotes, but it’s not exactly the sort of history that would find its way into a school textbook.

What you will find are stories about such notable moments as:

  • The 14-year-old boy who made nitroglycerin in an improvised “lab”, who eventually built a breeder reactor in his parent’s backyard.
  • Henry Heimlich’s campaign to make the Heimlich maneuver the preferred way to save someone from choking to death, followed by his attempts to prove malaria could cure cancer… and Lyme disease… and AIDS.
  • Harry Smolinski’s attempt to create a flying car… using a Ford Pinto.
  • A cheese wheel that was gifted to Andrew Jackson, which was four feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighed a whipping 1400 pounds.
  • The Straw Hat Riots of 1922, which began because some men were absolute heathens and wore their straw hats past the acceptable dates of May 15th to September 15th.

Some of the stories were more interesting than others (as would be the case with any collection such as this), and I was aware of a few—such as the story of the “Radium Girls”. I was in need of a light read, and this fit the bill nicely.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Ten Speed Press via Netgalley.

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Authors: Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

Title: The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History

Genre: History, Humor, Nonfiction

Published: Published May 9th, 2017 by Ten Speed Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

Discover illustrated profiles of the weird, outrageous (and true!) tales from American history that don’t appear in school textbooks.

From the creators of the comedy/history podcast “The Dollop,” “The United States of Absurdity” presents short, informative, and hilarious stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from United States history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn’t learn in history class, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, each accompanied by a full-page illustration that brings these historical “milestones” to life in full-color. Adding to the giftable history/comedy package, each story is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek trivia and timelines that help place the stories in context with the more well-known historical events that occurred around them.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann #Review @DavidGrann @doubledaybooks

Killers of thr Flower Moon cover

Oil brought unimaginable riches to the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the early years of the twentieth century, and made them the “richest people per capita in the world” by the 1920s. It also brought about the “Reign of Terror,” a period of time between 1921 – 1926  when racism and insatiable greed led to many of the Osage being murdered for their headrights, which were worth millions of dollars. When the newly-created FBI first investigated the case, they botched it. Once former Texas Ranger Tom White and his undercover team were put in charge, however, significant progress was made and the evil conspiracy that devastated so many families was finally exposed.

I don’t often read true crime, but I was drawn to this one because I’ve always been very interested to learn more about the cultures and histories of Native American people. I was further intrigued because it happened in my home state and I knew nothing about it.

As difficult as it was to read about the murder victims and how they died, it was nearly as upsetting to me to read about the way the Osage were generally treated and regarded. Bigotry was made worse by jealousy of their wealth, and they were regularly swindled out of their money by being charged exorbitant fees and forced to pay hugely inflated prices for everything. Many of the Osage were ruled incompetent to handle their own money, and had court-appointed guardians who decided how much money they would be allowed to access, and what it could be used for. These guardians often-times were in control of several people’s finances, whom they stole from ruthlessly and repeatedly. Once the murders and suspicious deaths began, the terrorized Osage  quickly lost hope of justice ever being served, thanks to shoddy investigations (if, indeed, an investigation took place at all) that wrapped up quickly and garnered no useful leads in finding the culprit.

What interested me as much as the case details was the portion at the end of the book, detailing visits and conversations the author had with descendants of murder victims. Grann was made privy to details known only to the families of the victims, leading to discoveries that are both shocking and heartbreaking.

Meticulously researched and written in an engaging, narrative style, Killers of the Flower Moon is simply excellent. Highly recommended for history buffs with a particular interest in Native Americans and true crime.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Doubleday.

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Author: David Grann

Title: Killers of the Flower Moon

Genre: True Crime

Published: April 18th, 2017 by Doubleday

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Penguin Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

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About the Author

Author David Grann
Author David Grann

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid to the presidential campaign.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, published by Doubleday, is Grann’s first book and is being developed into a movie by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company and Paramount Pictures.

Grann’s stories have appeared in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001; The Best American Crime Writing, of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing, of 2003 and 2006. A 2004 finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” Grann has also written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He currently lives in New York with his wife and two children.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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