Home » Book Review » Harvesting Paradise: My Two Favorite books of 2015

Harvesting Paradise: My Two Favorite books of 2015

Jeff Linamen

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I don’t make it a habit to review a lot of books for my blog. When I do, there has to be something truly special about them than make me feel compelled to share. I am by no means what I would consider a professional book critic. I just love to read. Growing up, we didn’t live in traditional neighborhoods where we had access to a lot of friends. Quite often, books were our only friends, especially during the summer. My sister and I would beg our parents to take us to the library. Both of us often checked out the maximum of twenty books at a time, only to have read them all in a few short days and then we’d be begging to go back for more. This pattern went on into high school, when suddenly school and social lives had us putting books on the back burner.

At some unfortunate point later in life, I nearly stopped reading (for pleasure) altogether. Occasionally, I’d find myself in the mood again, or I’d have that vacation book to read on the plane or by the pool; but for the most part, I’d stopped reading altogether.

I’d always meant to start reading again, finish a book or two; and then find life as an easy excuse not to continue.

Earlier this year, I found myself out of excuses and accepted a challenge on the Goodreads website, committing myself to read twenty books this year. I believe that was back in March. Here it is now, August, and I’ve just finished reading my sixtieth book with no signs of stopping.

A good book takes you on a journey, unlocks your imagination and can empower your passion and desires.

I just finished reading the second of my two favorite books this year. Shortly after I started, I knew I wanted to review these two books together because they both had so much in common. In both cases the authors were young men… searching. Both searching for paradise of sorts; one in the form of the perfect pizza slice and the other in a deserted island. As a result, both happily found much more than either had bargained for.

HarvestSlice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

Simon & Schuster, Publisher

Pub Date Aug,11 2015

ISBN: 9781476705880

Available in Hardcover, Kindle, Audible & Audio CD Formats

New York and Pizza. Two things very dear to my heart. That’s all it took to draw me into this book. I try not to have too many expectations when I start reading but I’ll say I fully expected this to be more of a run down on pizza in NYC– more review based. Pleasantly, I discovered I was wrong. Slice Harvester is so much more. It’s part memoir, part history, part pizza critic…. mostly it’s a completely honest telling of one man’s unique journey to find his true self in one of the most amazing cities in the world.

While there are some short, mostly amusing tidbits of Hagendorf’s pizza reviews in the book, that’s only part of the whole. You can read all his critiques in their original blog form on his Slice Harvester site. I ended up spending hours there reading, after I finished this book– comparing opinions on places I’ve already tried and making notes on pizza I have to try on my next visit to New York.

This book isn’t a cheese slice– it’s an everything-and-more slice. All the ingredients are here in perfect amounts for a beautifully balanced, delicious read. I absolutely love this book.

Description from the Publisher:

Over the course of two years, a twenty-something punk rocker eats a cheese slice from every pizzeria in New York City, gets sober, falls in love, and starts a blog that captures headlines around the world—he is the Slice Harvester, and this is his story.

Since its arrival on US shores in 1905, pizza has risen from an obscure ethnic food to an iconic symbol of American culture. It has visited us in our dorm rooms and apartments, sometimes before we’d even unpacked or painted. It has nourished us during our jobs, consoled us during break-ups, and celebrated our triumphs right alongside us.

In August 2009, Colin Hagendorf set out to review every regular slice of pizza in Manhattan, and his blog, Slice Harvester, was born. Two years and nearly 400 slices later, he’d been featured in TheWall Street Journal, the Daily News (New York), and on radio shows all over the country. Suddenly, this self-proclaimed punk who was barely making a living doing burrito delivery and selling handmade zines had a following. But at the same time Colin was stepping up his game for the masses (grabbing slices with Phoebe Cates and her teenage daughter, reviewing kosher pizza so you don’t have to), his personal life was falling apart.

A problem drinker and chronic bad boyfriend, he started out using the blog as a way to escape—the hangovers, the midnight arguments, the hangovers again—until finally realizing that by taking steps to reach a goal day by day, he’d actually put himself in a place to finally take control of his life for good.

paradiseA Beginner’s Guide To Paradise: 9 Steps To Giving Up Everything by Alex Sheshunoff

Pub Date Sept 1, 2015

PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW

ISBN: 9780451475862

Available in Hardcover, Kindle

Pacific Paradise. This book sparked my interest because Michael and I are visiting the Pacific region later this year. I thought this book might give me some insight, or at least a point of reference on our trip.

Who hasn’t dreamed of giving up everything to live on a deserted island at some point in their life? Many of us long for, if not only the idea of Paradise.

As Alex Sheshunoff discovered and shares in his book, the search for Paradise may just turn out to be something entirely different than you’d expect. You may end up with much more than you bargained for; good and bad.

I loved so many aspects of this book. Like Hagendorf, Sheshunoff tells the story of his personal journey, honestly and unashamed. He also shares much of the history and traditions of the islands, taking readers on a full descriptive and visual journey in counterpoint to his personal one. It’s a beautiful story of life, love and exotic locales. In the end, he discovers that true paradise is in the heart.

Description from the Publisher:

So You Too Can:

– Move to a South Pacific Island
– Wear a Loincloth
– Read a Hundred Books
– Diaper a Baby Monkey
– Build a Bungalow

And Maybe, Just Maybe, Fall in Love! *

* Individual results may vary.

The true story of how a quarter-life crisis led to adventure, freedom, and love on a tiny island in the Pacific.

From the author of a lot of emails and several Facebook posts comes A Beginner’s Guide to Paradise, a laugh-out-loud, true story that will answer your most pressing escape-from-it-all questions, including:

1. How much, per pound, should you expect to pay a priest to fly you to the outer islands of Yap?
2. Classic slumber party stumper: If you could have just one movie on a remote Pacific island, what would it definitely not be?
3. How do you blend fruity drinks without a blender?
4. Is a free, one-hour class from Home Depot on “Flowerbox Construction” sufficient training to build a house?

From Robinson Crusoe to Survivor, Gilligan’s Island to The Beach, people have fantasized about living on a remote tropical island. But when facing a quarter-life crisis, plucky desk slave Alex Sheshunoff actually did it.

While out in Paradise, he learned a lot. About how to make big choices and big changes. About the less-than-idyllic parts of paradise. About tying a loincloth without exposing the tender bits. Now, Alex shares his incredible story and pretty-hard-won wisdom in a book that will surprise you, make you laugh, take you to such unforgettable islands as Yap and Pig, and perhaps inspire your own move to an island with only two letters in its name.

Answers: 1) $1.14 2) Gas Attack Training Made Simple 3) Crimp a fork in half and insert middle into power drill 4) No.

 Harvesting Paradise. It was a complete coincidence that I read these two books so close together. Both reaffirm the life journeys we all make– our passion and desire to find happiness and paradise; whether  it be on a deserted island or in an urban jungle. Paradise is within all of our reach. We can search the world and never find it. Harvesting the best of life and finding our own personal paradise can’t begin until we start the very personal journey of exploring within. Both of these authors found it, so can we.
I was very fortunate to receive advanced reading copies of both of these wonderful books from the publishers through NetGalley.

1 Comment

  1. […] top favorites and they remain my favorites now at the end of the year. You can read about them here and […]


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