Review: Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft

off-the-ropes-coverOFF THE ROPES: THE RON LYLE STORY, Candace Toft. Hamilcar Publications, $27.95 (214p) ISBN-13: 978-1949590012
Publication date: Oct. 31, 2018

What you learn from a book is what really dictates its value. What the book reveals. What the book confronts. What the book asserts. Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, is the definitive biography about one of boxing’s “the most known and unknown” (homage to Three Six Mafia) heavyweight, Ron Lyle. At a time when the heavyweight division was inarguably at its height—the 1970s—Ron Lyle was unquestionably the most feared and avoided heavyweight. He has had more fights cancelled due to excuses by his opponents than any top-tier fighter in history.

Muhammad Ali only agreed to fight Ron Lyle after he (Lyle) lost to an unheralded heavyweight named Jimmy Young. Joe Frazier and Ken Norton wanted no part of Lyle. George Foreman agreed to fight him only AFTER losing his title to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” which was fought in Kinshasa, Zaire. Jerry Quarry was only willing to fight Lyle a second time when offered a king’s ransom. Of course, as he got older, there were more suitors, (i.e., Jerry Cooney et al), however, Lyle was still a threat to any heavyweight because of his extreme punching power. Earnie Shavers, who is considered by most boxing experts to be the hardest punching fighter in history, declared that no one hit him harder than Lyle.

But, Lyle’s story is so much more than his boxing exploits. He was one of 19 children. His father was a cleric and his mother was devoutly religious. Even though Lyle’s upbringing was strict, his GPS was set to mischief, and then morphed into petty crime. Lyle was convicted of murder, learned to box in prison, served 7 ½ years, became a professional boxer, met a woman—married her—had a child, and pursued becoming heavyweight champion with a level of zeal that would be considered extreme—even for Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

Like many boxers, Lyle had more “downs” than “ups” and managed to find trouble. However, his devotion to children was second only to his devotion to boxing. We learn that Lyle was charitable, deeply private, overwhelmingly mistrustful, and overburdened with demons. The writer, the late Candace Toft, uses plain language to tell a very complex story. Her writing style allows the reader to gain traction rather than be distracted by language that overreaches. Hall-of-Fame boxing journalist, Al Bernstein, wrote a compelling foreword. Off the Ropes is as good as any boxer-bio/memoir ever written and would be an even better feature film.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Review: GuRu by RuPaul

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GURU, RuPaul. Dey Street Books, $25.99 (208p) ISBN: 9780062862990
Publication date: October 23, 2018

If there is anything RuPaul is more passionate about than being unapologetically fierce, it is probably helping others tap into their fierceness—unapologetically, of course. Now, let’s take it further. It’s great to be fierce and fabulous, but how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? In his new book, GuRu, RuPaul doesn’t just empower readers to live their best life, he understands that this can effectively be accomplished when people are prompted to take an honest look at themselves and reflect on where their thoughts come from and how much of them are influenced by society. When is the last time you watched, let’s say, a YouTube video and formed your own opinion before looking at the comment section?

GuRu has a plethora of dazzling images that showcase the icon’s versatility in supreme drag queen aesthetics and is an asset to your coffee table. However, it is more than a pretty book with colorful quotes; it is a book that is there whenever you need a reminder that you’re not alone (RuPaul does get personal in the pages), or you need a pick-me-up, and/or a boost of motivation to keep moving forward in life with your head, standards, and heels (if you wear them) high.

Previous book by RuPaul: Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (It Books, 2010).

Rating: So Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, Courtney Young!

courtney youngCourtney Young carefully considers our question: whether it is enough for people to write a manuscript if the thought of doing so crosses their mind. Understandably so, the executive editor at Riverhead Books believes it is different for everyone; in other words (no pun intended), like many things in life, it depends.

“I will say writing a book is a lot of work, and you have to be, especially on the nonfiction side, prepared to go really deep on your subject and on working on the book,” she told So Booking Cool. “Be prepared for it to take years to get to the outcome. It’s not easy and the hardest thing is to commit to a book that your heart isn’t in.”

Young can relate to doing something that her heart wasn’t in. Prior to embarking on her 12-year career in book publishing, she pursued engineering. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother. However, Young realized her true passion was in English, prompting her to take it on as her new major. She worried about disappointing her family (and to an extent she did), however, leave it up to a book to become the solution. Her father would later gift her The First Time I Got Paid for It: Writers’ Tales from The Hollywood Trenches by Peter Lefcourt (Editor), Laura J. Shapiro (Editor).

“ ’Well, I guess people can make a living if they’re not engineers, and I assume you’ll be okay,’ “she recalled her father saying. The Detroit native also had a stint working at NASA in California as a technical writer, where she edited proposals and journal articles. She was grateful for the opportunity, but, again, this wasn’t her ideal career. Her vision clear, she relocated to New York City and officially began her publishing career at Penguin Random House’s Portfolio Books, a business imprint. She has not looked back since.

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Some of Young’s favorite titles she’s edited include the New York Times bestsellers What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe; Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North; Spineless by Juli Berwald, just to name a few. Young also discussed some of the forthcoming projects that she is excited about, such as Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (May 2019), who wrote the bestseller, The Sports Gene (she also worked with him previously).

the sports generange bookThe Sports Gene is a really fascinating, wide-ranging book that a lot of people came to, and he found the thing that most people were interested in is this idea of early specialization,” Young said. “The idea that if you want to truly be great at something, especially sports, you have to start early and focus; be kind of like Tiger Woods, and just sort of get ahead of everybody else. And David was turning over all this research that said the opposite, that the people who are actually most successful aside from those few stories like Tiger, are generalists.” In his new book, Epstein presents information on why thinking broadly and having diverse experience and various interest will enable an individual to thrive.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, her insight on what makes a strong editorial team, some of the proudest moments of her career, her insight on book reviews, and the other upcoming projects she looks forward to sharing with the world. Don’t be a stranger, visit Young on her official Twitter.

Interview With Writer, “Wild N’ Out” Star, & Author of “Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y,” Julia Young!

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Comedian, Producer, Actress, Improviser and Wild N’ Out star Julia Young has expanded her skills of television writing and rapping into co-writing her newly-released book, Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide. The adult picture book, published by Animal House Media Group, was co-written with comedian and entrepreneur Matt Harkins, and illustrated by Laura Collins. The impetus for the book came after this past presidential election, in which Young felt upset, but inspired.

When asked what she hopes readers will takeaway from her debut, Young replied, “I hope that they get a laugh first of all. I think people who are buying this book don’t like Trump, it’s a very divisive book. But I hope people realize things need to change, and obviously it’s never okay to grab women by their genitalia, and maybe just come away with a little bit of a laugh in these very, very difficult times,” she told So Booking Cool.

Young, who has produced for Desus and Mero, has written for many hit shows including Brain Games, Girl Code, Hack My Life,  Impractical Jokers, TRL, Safe Word, and Celebrity Death Match, among many others. Before joining Wild N’ Out as a cast member, she was a consultant for the show. She has also taught creative workshops for improvisation. Her road to success has not been a linear one, as she describes, which can actually help people get closer to their dreams.

“I think you just have to say yes to every opportunity. I got on Wild N’ Out because I was consulting for them. I was there and people thought I was funny and after one season, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to be on camera?’ I also think I’ve succeeded in comedy and in this world because that was never not an option…I can’t do anything else, therefore this will happen.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Young, including her approach to comedy, her book publishing experience, how she overcame bullying, her favorite authors, and more! For more information, visit Young’s official website.

Interview With “Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story” Author, Marc Shapiro!

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While New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro likens the life of a writer to that of a roller coaster, he also believes that as a creative, the psychological benefits of the craft are high. He would know. Shapiro has written everything from articles, horoscopes, short stories, poems, to approximately 80 celebrity biographies, including the bestseller, J. K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter. Lin Manuel Miranda (check out our review here on Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story, An Unauthorized Biography)Mary Tyler Moore, George Harrison, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Adele, and Fifty Shades of Grey author, E.L. James are among the high-profile lives he’s penned. He even wrote one about the hit rock song “Hey Joe.” Recently, he revealed that he finished writing the late Senator John McCain‘s life story (this interview was done prior to the senator’s death).  Shapiro, who says he’s always been attracted to creative people, is also interested in finding out what makes them tick.

“Some days it’s a pain in the butt to make a living doing this, but more often than not, it’s fun. You’re doing what you love to do and making a living, and getting paid for it,” he said.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shapiro’s projects, both past and present, including the recent release of his debut short story collection, Short Story Collection: Stories of High Strangeness, the execution of Renaissance Man, his insights on being an author, and journalist, and the time he had three weeks to write the LA Times bestseller, Total Titanic: The Most Up-to-Date Guide to the Disaster of the Century, and more!

Review: The Art & Science of Respect: A Memoir by James Prince

JPRINCETHE ART & SCIENCE OF RESPECT: A MEMOIR BY JAMES PRINCE, James Prince. N-The-Water Publishing, $29.99 (296p) ISBN-13: 978-0999837009
Publication date: July 6, 2018

Memoirs can be vain, exhausting, narcissistic treatises that tell you next to nothing about the subject (person); however, that is not the case for the James Prince Memoir, The Art & Science of Respect. If you read between the lines, Prince probably gives up too much information—almost to the point of incriminating himself. Written in a conversational style, it’s as if you’re having a conversation with the former street hustler turned music mogul, boxing manager, and entrepreneur.

And he doesn’t hesitate to name drop. So, you’ll hear him provide intimate anecdotes involving Drake, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Baby & Lil Wayne (Cash Money), The Geto Boys, Sir Mixalot, Suge Knight, Master P, Biggie, Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Andre Ward, Don King, Lou DiBella, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, Irv Gotti, et al.

Prince doesn’t make it a point to bash or embarrass, but he has had some “uncomfortable” moments with some of the aforementioned. Sometimes, the “disagreements” were handled amicably—and sometimes not.

Prince has more than his fair share of personal baggage as a child of Houston’s notorious Fifth Ward, and he dishes dirt on himself. By no means does he portray himself as some saint. Prince was in the streets, and he earned every bit of his reputation. His riches came with a price: death or the penitentiary. He knew it, and he got out of one game and into another. Prince used his street hustle smarts to make it big in the music industry, and then spun off into other industries.

Here is an example of his transition: “All of my life, I thought the only way to make money off grass was by selling weed—until I started selling hay.” The former illegal “grass” seller became a legal “grass seller”—and I don’t mean medical marijuana. He purchased several acres of land and made money selling hay. Exhibit A of his brilliance.

At the root of Prince’s success is—believe it or not—his spirituality. He has always incorporated it in his thinking, even during his “street” life days. Prince also has an insatiable appetite for success, a maniacal work ethic, and a keen ability to see people for who they truly are (a.k.a., a B.S. Detector). Arguably, his best attribute is his generosity, whether he is providing the “homies” with opportunities to make legal money, buying homes for family members and friends, or building a community center.

The Art & Science of Respect is a quick read that is touching, educational, and inspirational.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale

Cool: Decent

So Cool: Good

Booking Cool: Excellent

So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Mathew Knowles, Ph.D, Author of “Racism From the Eyes of a Child”!

MNOWLESMathew Knowles, Ph.D, music mogul, professor, speaker, and author chatted with So Booking Cool about an array of topics including the parallels between music and book publishing, his thoughts on the digital age, being a writer, and his coined term “social courage,”  something he hopes readers will get out of his memoir Racism From the Eyes of a Child. He also dished on his first book, The DNA of Achievers: The 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals, in which he interviewed a number of accomplished individuals from various walks of life including the former L’Oréal President, Joseph Campinell, and Roy Willis, who made history by becoming the first African American graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia.

“I started thinking about me and my path, and my kids’ path to success. Passion is by far the number one trait…and what co-exists with passion is work ethic,” says the professor, who is among the Board of Directors of the Make A Wish Foundation. He later recalls the time he asked for mentorship when he first started working at the Xerox Corporation prior to accomplishing his goal of becoming a top sales executive at the company.

Mr. Knowles revealed that ten of his students at Texas Southern University co-wrote his upcoming book, The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music (6/1/18), now available for pre-order, and he’s currently penning Destiny’s Child: The Untold Story. Listen to the full interview to learn more about the Alabama native, including his childhood, racism, the three biggest misconceptions about him, and the book that he keeps in his office for motivation. For more information visit his official website.

A Review: “Perfect is Boring” by Tyra Banks and Carolyn London

TYRAAPERFECT IS BORING: 10 THINGS MY CRAZY, FIERCE MAMA TAUGHT ME ABOUT BEAUTY, BOOTY, AND BEING A BOSS, Tyra Banks and Carolyn London. TarcherPerigee, $27.00 (320p) ISBN-13: 978-014313230
Publication date: April 3, 2018

Tyra Banks and her mother, Carolyn London, have created a resonant Girl’s girl (and guys, too, they don’t discriminate) self-help memoir in Perfect is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, And Being a Boss. The candid and humorous mother and daughter guide embodies the young female experience with topics from from menstruation, dating, sex, and career to (of course) beauty and body image. “I think that in the future, the most prized looks will be the flawsome ones (flaws + awesome ones), not the perfect ones,” Banks writes.

The model recalls the time she advised a fellow contestant on America’s Next Top Model to minimize her gap, a decision the executive regrets today. She also divulges her own share of criticism she’s faced throughout and even prior to her modeling career.

Surprisingly, Banks was a bully and was eventually bullied herself. Her mean-girl behavior and awkward stage were both short-lived, and helped inspire Banks to become an active supporter of other girls. Before launching her then talk show, Banks and London had a camp devoted to helping and empowering young women.

Perfect is Boring also reveals the supermodel’s self-described misguided attempt at a singing career (did you know she’s collaborated with Kobe Bryant and Pharrell Williams?) before realizing it was not her calling. Throughout the pages, Banks and London possess an entertaining and we’re-rooting-for-you way of dropping both wisdom and laugh-out-loud admissions, but the dynamic of the book that especially shines is the beautiful bond between mother and daughter.

Catch Tayari Jones, Author of Oprah’s Pick “An American Marriage” On Her Ongoing Book Tour!

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Award-winning and now New York Times bestselling author, Tayari Jones, is currently on tour in support of her new novel, An American Marriage. The love story centers on a newlywed couple, Celestial and Roy, whose marriage is ultimately tested when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Celestial believes her husband to be innocent, but is it enough to remain devoted to him during his extensive absence? Will she fall for her friend, aka the best man at her wedding? What will happen when Roy returns home after five years and aims to reclaim who he believes to be his soulmate?

An American Marriage is Oprah‘s newest book club pick and has debuted at number 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. It is published by Algonquin Books.

Jones is also the author of Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. For more information on Jones’ events, check out the following websites:

http://www.tayarijones.com/events/?date1=2018 and

http://www.squarebooks.com/event/tayari-jones-american-marriage