Want to Netflix and chill? Make sure you leave room for the Obamas.
Netflix announced last year that Michelle and Barack Obama had entered into a multi-year agreement with the media giant, and they planned to release several substantial fiction and nonfiction films and series under the name Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas’ production company. Since the announcement, details on the actual content the Obamas are working on have been sparse, aside from Netflix’s promise that the freshman production duo will be producing entertainment for an international audience.
Michelle and Barack Obama released plans yesterday to work on a feature-length biopic called Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom in collaboration with Netflix over the next few years. This adaptation will be based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel of the same name by American history professor and academic David W. Blight.
Frederick Douglass is only one project in the apple of the Obamas’ production company’s eye, however. Higher Ground Productions was founded by the Obamas last year as part of their partnership with Netflix. The couple will apparently focus their efforts on personalities and topics that are off interest to them.
For a more complete list of upcoming projects from the Obamas, click here.
Public statements from the Obamas reveal that they do not take this venture into the media industry lightly. Even if the turn from politics to media streaming services seems counter-productive, Michelle argues that two people who have such an immense following as herself and Barack should feel obligated to use their social standing as an opportunity to tell meaningful stories. In the same statement from Netflix last year, Michelle said:
“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others. Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”
The former First Lady has a smash hit on her hands. According to The Guardian, Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming, has sold more than 10 million copies and is on track to become the most successful memoir in history. Penguin Random House has revealed that the book was their biggest success of last year and is still growing. Becoming has been a global sales juggernaut since its release in November of last year, having been translated into thirty-one languages and the audiobook becoming Random House’s fastest seller ever.
Image Via The Guardian
Michelle Obama has been promoting the book on a press tour, having been visiting Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam, the USA, and Canada. The tour has proven to be hugely popular and she next plans to visit London on April 14th. The book itself details her life, chronicling her early childhood in the South Side of Chicago to her years as an early mother to her time serving as First Lady. Let’s hope it continues to keep climbing and breaking new records!
As 2019 continues on, we have a lot of book releases to look forward to. Heck, if you want to see the list of the top three books I can’t wait for, check out this list.
Thank you for clicking on that.
Now you might notice that one of those books, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee, is non-fiction. That book has not come out yet, but in honor of my anticipation here are five non-fiction books that have come out this year and are, above all, wonderful, eye opening, great reads.
Released on January 22nd, Stephanie Land’s autobiography beautifully describes her life, post-eviction, as she recalls being tossed onto the street, working as a maid in houses she could never afford just to make ends meet and struggling with poverty. With dreams of moving to Montana, attending college, and becoming a full-time writer, Land’s life-long goals are always just out of reach, pushed back by childcare fees, heating bills, and rent. It’s a memoir that takes you through the underbelly of America. Gritty, soul-crushing, this is one for the masses to take heart.
Don’t believe me? Well, look at how the Nation states, “[i]n the end, her life does take a turn that sets her on the path to becoming a published author. But it is not a kind of fairy-tale twist so much as a gradual confluence of good luck.”
Released January 15th, Joshua D. Mezrich’s autobiography describes the tribulations and hardships of being a surgeon. Questions like “How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves?” or “Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver?” are questions he faces on a daily basis, but nonetheless they are life changing.
A transplant surgeon by trade, the book opens with Dr. Mezrich, ferrying organs, getting aboard a small plane that winds up getting caught in a violent thunderstorm. The drama speaks for itself: not only are the passengers on the plane in danger, but the people who desperately wait for those organs are in danger of dying thanks to a storm they are far away from.
What’s going to happen? Read the book, but know that on CSL’s website Kevin Kovaleski, CSL Behring’s Senior Director and Therapeutic Area Strategy Team Lead-Transplant, said, “Mezrich’s book sheds light on a critical area of medicine, one that’s ready for advancements, innovations and breakthroughs”.
Despite its release on November 13, 2018, Michelle Obama’s autobiography is still going strong, and for good reason. The Guardian calls it “frequently funny,” Vanity Fare states, “surprisingly candid, richly emotional, and granularly detailed that it allows readers to feel exactly what Michelle herself felt at various moments in her life,” while theThe New York Times noting that the book is more about motherhood than politics.
But I know what you’re asking: What’s my opinion? It’s great!
The New York Timeswrites that “[i]n Wang’s kaleidoscopic essays, memoir has been shattered into sliding and overlapping pieces. . . . Her multifaceted arguments can be gratifyingly mind-expanding” and this book truly is mind-expanding. Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, this collection of essays has stories that will break your heart, make you cry, and teach you about living with mental illness, as noted by The Paris Review which writes how it “examines schizophrenia from historical, medical, social, and emotional perspectives, and looks at the myriad ways it is misunderstood, including by the psychiatric community and schizophrenics themselves.”
The book shows that living with mental illness isn’t pretty, isn’t horrifying, but at its core is completely human.
Released January 8th, this book details the foiled plot to murder George Washington. George Washington, in case you didn’t know, was this General guy who became President or something.
I kid. It’s actually remarkable.
Back in 1776, the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City conspired to assassinate George Washington. It might have worked too, if it weren’t for that pesky would-be counterfeiter and that iron mill foreman. It’s exciting and is something straight out of a movie. It would be unbelievable, if it wasn’t true. (Here’s the SparkNotes-esque version on History Channel for those who don’t like to read)
Don’t believe me? (Why? I trust you, George) National Public Radio says, “The First Conspiracy is an excellent book, enthralling and beyond fascinating, and it’s sure to delight both fans of thrillers and American history.”
Check it out.
Also check out Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee when it hits bookshelves May 7th.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is the largest literary gathering in the country, attracting over 150,000 people to a massive celebration of culture. Categories include First Fiction, Current Interest, Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Graphic Novel, Thriller, History, Science & Technology, and Young Adult Literature. This year, the nominations are as exciting as they are nerve-wracking—not all of them can win! Here’s the conundrum: they all deserve the prize. Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at some of our most distinguished nominees.
Image Via The Chicago Tribune
Michelle Obama’s Becominghas already become a staggering success. Penguin Random House paid over $65 million for the rights to Michelle and Barack’s autobiographies, making it one of the most expensive book deals of all time. This figure is also unprecedented among other presidential figures: Bill Clinton earned an advance of $15 million for his own autobiography, which, as you might have noticed, is less than half of that sixty-five. Critics have called Barack Obama “that rare politician who can actually write,” and The New York Times reviewed Dreams From My Fatheras a literary masterpiece rather than another ghostwritten memoir. But Michelle isn’t doing so bad—Becoming sold a record-breaking two million copies in only fifteen days, and it went on to become the best-selling book of 2018. (And yes, Barack put his wife’s book on his famous reading list.)
Other titles in the category include Michael Lewis’ incisive The Fifth Risk, which critically examines the Trump administration. Given increased visibility regarding issues of immigration, human rights, and the possible border wall, Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a Riveris also a timely inclusion.
Image Via The International Anthony Burgess Foundation
Though Becoming is a memoir, judges have classified it within the Current Interest category—which means, fortunately, that it isn’t competing against Tara Westover’s Educated, a memoir of triumph, persistence, fanaticism, and violence that earned the world’s attention in 2018. USA Today called it the best memoir in years, and with good reason: it’s been a finalist for just about everything. (Of course, it was also on Barack Obama’s reading list.) The memoir chronicles Tara Westover’s journey from beneath Buck’s Peak, the mountain that looms in her childhood as enormous as the influence of her father’s survivalist views. By the age of seventeen, Westover had never seen a doctor nor set foot in a classroom—in fact, until her teenage years, there was no record of her birth at all. Westover has since received a PhD from Cambridge. While there are other books in this category, this is certainly a contender.
Image Via Bustle
Other titles in the running for various L.A. Times prizes carry serious weight—Elizabeth Acevedo’s YA novel The Poet Xis up for a prize after having won the National Book Award. Acevedo’s diverse novel explores poetry as means for personal freedom in an immigrant community with traditional (read: sexist) values. Particularly interesting nominations in other categories include Science & Technology’s Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted Americaby Beth Macy, a notable book in the wake of the opioid epidemic.
Image Via Medium
Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage: A Novel, a nomination for the Fiction category, was among Oprah’s 2018 book club picks and also featured on Barack Obama’s 2018 reading list. Of course, it has some fierce competition: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, an evocative depiction of the AIDS crisis, is also in the running. Renowned comedian Amy Poehler is currently optioning the novel for a TV adaptation—if that’s not good enough, it’s also one of the NYT‘s top ten books for 2018.
Image Via Entertainment Weekly
There are too many excellent titles to list: with ten categories and five nominees in each, you could finish reading one by the time we described them all. Take a look at the 2019 finalists, and decide which one would be a winner on your bookshelf.
Most people would consider H. Jon Benjamin a comedy show business success. But he’d like to remind everyone that as great as success can be, failure is also an option. And maybe the best option. In this book, he tells stories from his own life, from his early days (“wherein I’m unable to deliver a sizzling fajita”) to his romantic life (“how I failed to quantify a threesome”) to family (“wherein a trip to P.F. Chang’s fractures a family”) to career (“how I failed at launching a kid’s show”).
As Jon himself says, breaking down one’s natural ability to succeed is not an easy task, but also not an insurmountable one. Society as we know it is, sadly, failure averse. But more acceptance of failure, as Jon sees it, will go a long way to making this world a different place . . . a kinder, gentler place, where gardens are overgrown and most people stay home with their pets. A vision of failure, but also a vision of freedom.
This book is a great way to open the year with! Let’s face it, we all have failed at one point or another. But it’s not something we like to talk about.
H. Jon Benjamin, who is famously known for his voice acting careers as Bob from Bob’s Burgers, and Archer from the animated series of the same name, reminds us that even with all the failures and embarrassments we inevitably go through we can find happiness.
If your new year’s resolution is to be less critical of yourself, this book is perfect for you!
Every day, Boston Globe advice columnist Meredith Goldstein takes on the relationship problems of thousands of dedicated readers. They look to her for wisdom on all matters of the heart- how to cope with dating fatigue and infidelity, work romances, tired marriages, true love, and true loss. In her column, she has it all figured out, but in her real life she is a lot less certain. Whether it’s her own reservations about the traditional path of marriage and family, her difficulty finding someone she truly connects with, or the evolution of her friendships as her friends start to have their own families, Meredith finds herself looking for insight, just like her readers. As she searches for responses to their concerns, she’s surprised to discover answers to her own. But it’s after her mother is diagnosed with cancer that she truly realizes how special her Love Letters community is, how this column has enriched her life as much, if not more than, it has for its readers.
Not everyone has all the answers, sometimes you have to go through life and discover things on your own, but not completely without the support of others!
I believe that is what Meredith Goldstein wants us to learn from her book.
So if love is what you’re seeking for the new year, this book may help support you in your search.
Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously.
The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.
One of the most lovable TV figures of all time, Mr. Rogers brought such positivity into our lives with his famous children’s series.
If you’re goal for 2019 is to become a kinder person, there is no better example than Mr. Rogers. This would be a great read for you!
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy–only keeping her from meeting her goals–she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.
The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.
The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food–and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.
If you are in search of true happiness, the kind that comes from non-material things, or just have a truly awful shopping addiction, let this book be the last thing you buy before the start of the year!
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.
Now if 2018 was a rough year for you, and you’re building yourself back up from a dark place emotionally or mentally, this is a story that will inspire you to overcome your struggles and find yourself again!
Krishan Bedi came to the United States in December of 1961 at the tender age of twenty. He had only $300 in his pocket, and he had made it out of his small village in India on sheer faith, determined to get education in the US. For him, there was no option but to succeed―so he began his new life in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had to adapt to the culture shock not only of being in the US but a Punjabi man in the South in the 1960s.
Engineering a Life is an examination of Bedi’s life, and how he has handled the plethora of curve balls thrown his way with determination, humor, and an unwavering faith that everything would work out. This is a book about values and faith and the importance of friendship, family, and hard work. It’s a story about achieving the American Dream, proving that no matter how thoroughly you map out your life’s journey, no matter how many blueprints you draw up, when you veer off the course you’ve plotted―as we all do, somehow, in the end―you end up where you’re supposed to be.
Bedi’s story is an incredibly inspiring tale, and perfect if career building is a part of your resolutions for the upcoming year! It’s also great for anyone in general trying to pave their way through life.
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
There are many things we can learn from this amazing and down-to-Earth woman. If you have a lot of pressure and expectations put on you, but are struggling with how to maintain your composure then the most recent of the First Ladies is surely a fantastic example to go by!
Michelle Obama is definitely someone who has had a great deal of pressure and still managed to look stunning, inside and out, and rise to the occasion.
So if this sounds like your goal for 2019, this will be a great book for you!