TMI: My Life in Scandal by Perez Hilton

The phone call from Perez Hilton came two days earlier than planned.

“He can do it now instead,” his assistant emailed me on Wednesday.

I was totally unprepared. Hilton’s autobiography, “TMI: My Life in Scandal” (Chicago Review Press) — the one we’re supposed to talk about — sat unread on my desk.

Thinking “right now” might mean I had a few minutes to speed read, I reached for it. The phone rang.


“I love your book,” I said, just to start it off. That’s all it took.

“Thank you,” Hilton responded. “I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it. There’s so much of me in it, I’m one of the most transparent and honest people there are. People like that, and they like nostalgia and that’s me, I’m a dinosaur.”

Jurassic throwbacks seem a little bit overdone. Hilton hit the scene 20 years ago, garnering almost instant attention with his blend of gossipy take on celebrity distilled through his blog, podcasts, personal appearances and general lifestyle. He didn’t just report of celebrities, he hung with them. If he didn’t like them or had a juicy story, he reported it. His blog quickly was dubbed the “most hated blog in the world,” though he garnered millions of followers.

But the more he talks about being a dinosaur, it starts to make sense. He was one of the first bloggers.

“I started in 2004,” he said. “There are 13-year-old kids who don’t know about blogging, they’re doing TikTok. There were names that were big that no one thinks about anymore. You may luck your way into celebrity, but you have to have perseverance to be a success. You have to learn to reinvent yourself. I reinvented by going into podcasts; I have two YouTube channels. I started Instagram way back in 2011 when it first came out. It’s about knowing when the next trend is coming, and I’ve always been good at that. I’ve outlasted a lot of the stars I wrote about.”

But Hilton is still worried. Sure, he’s constantly metamorphosing, but he’s learned some lessons and he wants to share a few with me, starting with how important it is to live below your means.

“I have three children, I have to save for their education, I have to take care of them,” he said. Does he know about that new purse I bought? I wonder, vowing to return it.

He also worries about the Kardashians. I should note that by this point, I realized Hilton doesn’t have a filter, which is one of the many characteristics that make him so delightful.

“People reach a tipping point,” he said, explaining why he’s concerned about these glamorous, fully-endowed women who seem to have the most beautiful jewelry, homes, children, clothes, husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends and a fascinating jet-set lifestyle.

I know about the jet-setting because last year, when I was on Providenciales, one of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, we’d made reservations to have dinner at the Conch House, a beach joint where fisherman dive for conch right off the shore and the cooks turn the meat info fritters, stew and all sorts of conch delights. But then the restaurant called and canceled our reservations. Why? Well, the Kardashians had just flown in and wanted to eat there, and they didn’t want non-cool people around. Their evening was filmed for their show. I didn’t watch it. We went the following Kardashian-less night.

But Hilton knows about tipping points. He reached his own a while back and it taught him lessons even if the Kardaashians aren’t listening to his advice right now.

“Now I’m the cheapest person I know,” he said.

Born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and raised in Florida, he graduated from New York University, dabbled in acting and public relations but found career success in his ability to feed our celebrity fascination.

“I’m sharing stories in my new book,” he said, “because I want to make money.”

All the juicy escapades with and about stars that I read when I finally read his book are delightful, but they come at a price.

“I work 17 hours a day,” Hilton said. “I never rest. But that’s part of perseverance. The more you work, the more you notice the patterns and you can see how they’re coming together, and which ones will become trends. That’s how you know what the next thing is going to be.”

For your information

What: Perez Hilton Virtual Event

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 30

Cost: This is a ticketed event, and a purchase is required to attend. Anderson’s offers a variety of ticket options. Every book ticket will include a signed copy of “TMI: My Life in Scandal.” 

FYI: To obtain tickets for the Perez Hilton virtual event, visit 

Merrill Markoe: Comedian turns childhood diaries into book

Merrill Markoe. Photo by John Dolan.

The first time I met Merrill Markoe — the multi-Emmy award winning comedy writer who created such segments on the David Letterman show as “Stupid Pet Tricks,” “Stupid Human Tricks” and “Viewer Mail” — was in the living room of Barbara Stevens, who at the time was living in Hobart.

Stevens, who has since passed away, was the mother of my friend Andy Prieboy; Merrill is his partner of almost two decades. The two live in Santa Monica, California with their two dogs. Andy, a musician, and I both grew up in the Indiana Harbor section of East Chicago.

I know a lot about their romance, not from them, but by reading “The Psycho Ex Game” a darkly humorous and ultimately romantic book they wrote together about two friends competing to see whose ex is the craziest. How autobiographical it is, I don’t know for sure, but the basics are very factual. Merrill’s ex was David Letterman, though she changes his name slightly in the book. She not only was his original head writer but also his partner for 10 years. Google her name and up pops the description of her as “the key creative force behind” the Letterman show.

Recently I learned more about Merrill by reading another of her books, the recently released “We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe.

Andy set up a Zoom meeting so Merrill and I could talk about her book. But first he and I had to share a few stories about Indiana Harbor — we didn’t know each other growing up but we knew a lot of the same people. And Indiana Harbor being what it was, there are always stories. Merrill, as usual, was very polite about it all, but I don’t think she quite gets our enthusiasm for an old steel mill city.

And since California is always on fire, we chatted about how they’d been without electricity for 24 hours when the electric company shut off everyone’s power to prevent further conflagrations during a raging thunderstorm. “Were there fires near you?” I asked, and Andy said there are always fires. I guess it’s the new normal.

It turns out that Merrill kept diaries from her youth, and a few years ago she rediscovered them in a box she was sorting through. Many women around her age will remember these diaries — they often were protected by a tiny lock that supposedly could only be opened with a tiny key.

“I wondered what did I do that was so secret I had to keep it under lock and key?” Merrill said. Nothing it turned out, which was a good thing because those locks are very flimsy.

When she began reading the diaries, it was as if they belonged to a stranger.

“I didn’t remember two-thirds of the stuff I’d written,” she said about the years covering elementary school to college, or as Merrill puts it — spelling bees to an acid test party put on by Ken Kesey.

As she read, she drew. Merrill graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a master’s in art with the goal of becoming an art professor. She segued into comedy writing out of necessity.

“It was easier for me to get a job writing for TV than getting a job teaching art,” she said. “It hadn’t occurred to me before then that comedy was a career, that I could be doing stand-up. I had learned at that point I could write jokes, but I wasn’t someone who could write them while walking back and forth on stage in front of an audience. I’d stay home and write them.”

Illustrating her diary excerpts was part of her search into her past.

“I was looking for that spot when I turned into myself,” she said. “Where I wasn’t 12 or 13 years old observing stuff around me and making jokes. But that’s the core of myself — observing, stepping away from it and writing jokes. When I was hospitalized recently, the first thing I did was make a joke.”

Since we’re on the subject of jokes, I ask who her favorite comedians are.

“I can’t say because whoever I leave out will get mad at me,” she said.

How about dead comedians? She’s got a list: Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker who were famous in the 1920s in New York; Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Alley from the days of black and white television in the 1950s; W.C. Fields; Ernie Kovacs; and Lily Tomlin.

I pointed out she was still alive.

“I know, but I couldn’t do what she did with all those characters she played,” she said. And then we talked about how her drawings and diary passages turned into a book.

“I showed it to Andy and some friends, and they said that’s a book,” she said. “I showed it to my agent, and he sold it.”

So what does she, after all this time, think of her younger self?

“I think she was kind of an idiot,” said Merrill. “At least until she moved to Northern California.”

What: Merrill Markoe Virtual Book Event

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 2

What: Merrill Markoe online event

For more information:

Signed Copies of Derrick Rose’s New Book Available at Anderson’s Bookshops

While supplies last, Anderson’s Bookshop locations have autographed copies of I’ll Show You, by former Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose. A unique gift for any Bulls fan!

I’ll Show You was written by Rose with award-winning sportswriter Sam Smith. From a kid raised in one of Chicago’s roughest neighbors, Derrick Rose showed himself to be capable of ruling the basketball universe! D-Rose’s inspiring story is candid, difficult at times and illuminating.

About the Book:  In 2012, Derrick Rose was on top of the world.

After growing up in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Rose achieved an improbable childhood dream: being selected first overall in the NBA draft by his hometown Chicago Bulls. The point guard known to his family as “Pooh” was a phenom, winning the Rookie of the Year award and electrifying fans around the world. In 2011, he became the youngest MVP in league history. He and the Bulls believed the city’s first berth in the NBA Finals since the Jordan era was on the horizon. Rarely had a bond between a player and fans been so strong, as the city wrapped its arms around the homegrown hero.

Six years and four knee surgeries later, he was waived by the Utah Jazz, a once surefire Hall of Fame career seemingly on the brink of collapse. Many speculated his days in the NBA were over.

But Derrick Rose never doubted himself, never believed his struggles on and off the court were anything other than temporary setbacks. Rather than telling the world he had more to give, he decided to show them.

I’ll Show You is an honest, intimate conversation with one of the world’s most popular athletes, a star whose on-court brilliance is matched only by his aversion to the spotlight. Written with New York Times bestselling author Sam Smith, Rose opens himself up to fans in a way they’ve never seen before, creating a document that is as unflinching—and at times as uncomfortable—as a personal diary.

Detailing his childhood spent in one of his city’s most dangerous neighborhoods; his relationships with both opponents and teammates; the pain and controversies surrounding his career-altering injuries; his complicated relationship to fame and fortune; and his rise, fall, and reemergence as the player LeBron James says is “still a superhero,” I’ll Show You is one of the most candid and surprising autobiographies of a modern-day superstar ever written.

About the Authors: Derrick Rose currently plays for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. He played one year of college basketball for the Memphis Tigers before being drafted first overall by his hometown Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA draft. After being named the NBA Rookie of the Year, Rose, at age 22, became the youngest player to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2011.

Sam Smith has been covering the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for more than three decades, as reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune for 28 years, and currently for Recipient of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award from the NBA Hall of Fame, he also received the Professional Basketball Writers Association Lifetime Achievement award in 2011. He is the author of the classic bestselling book The Jordan Rules, for which he had unparalleled access to Michael Jordan and 1991-92 Chicago Bulls. He has written extensively for media outlets around the world, including, ESPN Magazine, NBC Sports, Basketball DigestThe Sporting News, and for major publications in Japan and China.

Anderson’s Bookshops are located at 123 W. Jefferson Ave., in the heart of Naperville (630) 355-2665; 5112 Main St., Downers Grove (630) 963-2665; or 26 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange (708) 582-6353. On visit online at

Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times

Scott Pelley sitting on a rock by a river holding a camera

              While other boys his age were reading Hardy Boy mysteries and articles about baseball, Scott Pelley was riding his bike down to the public library in Lubbock, Texas and checking out books on faraway places.

              “I kept a stack by my bed and when I finished those, I’d return them and get more,” says Pelley, author of the recently released memoir Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times Hanover Square Press 2019; $17.70)

              Pelley, a definite glass half full kind of guy, is thankful he’s been able to make his living for the last four decades covering stories around the globe.

              I ask if more than 40 years of travel has worn him out. But no, Pelley, an award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent, is always ready for the next assignment.

              “I’m 61 and by God, I still enjoy getting on a plane,” says Pelley though he does admit he gets a little tired of going to the same place over and over. “But I never tire of going someplace new, whether it’s nice or not.”

              So where hasn’t Pelley been that he’d like to see.

              “Anyplace that doesn’t have a pin stuck in it on my world map,” he says. “I’ve been to both the Artic and Antarctica numerous times, but I’ve never made it to poles though I’ve been just a few miles away, so I’d like to get there. And I’ve never been to Portugal and I’ve heard it’s very pretty.”

              Portugal? From a man who is a multimillion mile flyer and has covered stories in the remote jungles of Mexico, reported on the genocides in Darfur, was onsite when the planes hit the World Trade Center and watched first responders’ stream into the building, many to never come out, hoping to find survivors, He also was on the ground during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990 and the 1991 invasion of Iraq (indeed, he’s seems to have visited Iraq as many times as most people go to the grocery store) and joined, with his team, the U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. Getting to Portugal, it would seem, would be a piece of cake.

              But then Pelley may be too busy. He’s won 37 Emmys—of course, he says it’s due to the many wonderful and capable people who back him up and make him look good—and despite his passion for action, likes to ponder as well.

              “I called my first chapter ‘Gallantry,’” he says about his book. “I was in Paris several years ago shortly after  ISIS’s terrorist attack and I watched people holding a memorial on the cobblestone streets with candles in their hands and it struck me that I had seen that same look before, at the World Trade Center and in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. It’s a look I’d seen it again and again throughout my entire career, people wondering what the meaning of life is. I got to thinking, don’t ask the meaning of life. Life is asking: ‘What’s the meaning of you?’ And that’s what I went looking for in my book, people who have discovered how to get meaning, people who are heroes.”

              Maybe, in a way, Pelley is a hero as well. He reveals in his book how he lost his long time job as CBS Evening News anchor after complaining too vociferously about the way men and, especially women were treated at the network. He took his complaints all the way up to CBS Corporate Chairman Les Moonves, who spent over an hour listening to Pelley’s concerns. Obviously, hoping to forestall any more action on Pelley’s part, his contract wasn’t renewed despite his show’s high ratings. Ironically, Moonves would be fired in turn, because of sexual harassment allegations.

              Losing his job is okay now, says Pelley because he’s grateful for the direction CBS is taking, how they cleaned house and are acting with integrity.

              Yes, definitely half-full.

              “I think a sense of optimism is important for a reporter,” he says. “That and empathy. If you have that empathy for that person you have emotional stake in their lives.”


What: Join in a conversation, Q&A, and book signing with Scott Pelley

When: Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m.

Where: Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Lane, Naperville, IL

Cost:  Ticket for one person costs $37.74 w/service fee and includes one copy of the Pelley’s new book; the ticket package admits two and costs $42.99 w/service fee and includes on copy of the book. Tickets can be purchased online at and entitles the holder to

meet and get a photograph with the author and a personalized signature.

FYI: The event is hosted by Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, 630-355-2665;

Save Me the Plums: Ruth Reichl’s Memoir

            A decade ago, out of all the food magazines published, the most famous was Gourmet, which offered a sophisticated look at culinary trends and cookery. And Ruth Reichl, who formerly had been the food critic for the New York Times, a job that entailed wearing disguises because her photo was plastered on a large number of kitchen walls in the city’s restaurants, was the editor-in-chief of the magazine. It’s a story she recounts in her latest book, Save Me the Plumst (Random House; 2019 $27). You don’t need to be a serious foodie to enjoy her take on what she calls “the golden age of magazines.”

            Reichl didn’t want the job and though she had collected Gourmet magazines starting when she was eight, she saw it as old fashioned and stuffy and at first said no. But the publisher wanted to take the magazine in a different direction and saw Reichl as the person to be able to make that happened. So, she signed on to a job that included a limousine service, first class airfare and a lavish expense account. The selling point after turning it down the first time was that she would be home in the evenings with her son, not critiquing restaurants.

            “I never wanted to become that person,” says Reichl about the luxuries and perks. She recalls flying coach and seeing two of her colleagues boarding the same flight as they were going to the same place and they looked at her in wonderment as they headed to the first class section. She took the bus until a limo driver shamed her into using his service on a regular basis.

             Despite being the food editor and restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times, the experience of being Gourmet’s editor-in-chief made Reichl quickly learned how much she didn’t know. She recalls freaking her first day when the staff started talking about TOCs and she had to desperately call a friend and ask what that meant as she didn’t want to look ignorant in front of her employees.

            “Table of Contents,” she was told. How simple but it shows the type of learning curve Reichl was encountering in her new career.

            Being Reichl, multiple James Beard-winning and bestselling author, she also includes a few recipes in her book.

            “All of my books have recipes, so I had to have some,” she says. That includes the turkey chili she and her staff used when the gathered in the Gourmet test kitchen on 9/11 and cooked for the first responders.

 “I still love cooking and get an enormous amount of pleasure from it,” she says. “And I like to cook for other people. Every morning I ask my husband what he would like to eat.”

Indeed, for Reichl, food is such a sensory experience that she often likes to eat alone so she can savor every mouthful, letting it take her back to the source of what she’s consuming.

            From the magazine folded and everyone went home, Reichl knew she’d write a book about her time at Gourmet and kept copious notes and saved emails. “But then my editor had to torture me into actually writing it.”

            She wants readers to come along for the ride when reading her book.

            “I want them to get the sense of what it was like,” says Reichl. “I want them to enjoy themselves as much as I did.”


What: Ruth Reichl in-conversation with Louisa Chu, a Chicago based food writer.

When: Wednesday, April 24 at 6 pm

Where: 210 Design House, 210 West Illinois, Chicago, IL

Cost: The cost of on ticket is $56 ($58.95 w/service fee) and includes a copy of the book, wine, and tastes made from Ruth’s book My Kitchen Year. 2 tickets include one book, wine and tastes for $80 ($83.79 w/service fee). To purchase, visit

FYI: The event is sponsored by the Book Cellar. For more information, (773) 293-2665.

Bitten by the Blues: The Alligator Records Story

              Bruce Iglauer, president and founder of Alligator Records, describes himself as an actively bad musician who can’t read music, and can only sometimes sing on pitch. Yet he was able to turn a $2500 inheritance into the largest independent record label in the world. Bitten by the Blues: The Alligator Records Story (University of Chicago Press 2018; $30), co-authored with Patrick Roberts, an associate professor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University, is Iglauer’s memoir encompassing more than a half century of the blues, not only in Chicago but throughout the globe.

              Iglauer and Roberts chatted with Shelf Life blogger Jane Simon Ammeson about their book as well as their working relationship.

Jane: Bruce, you started off in the mailroom and worked your way up to owning your own independent blues record label. Give us a little background on how that happened and how you took some of your inheritance to start Alligator Records. Would it be possible to do something like this today?

Bruce: My inheritance was a ridiculously small amount of money to start a record label. I spent every penny recording that first Hound Dog Taylor album and pressing a thousand copies. With the help of a well-established distributors, I was able to get my record into a lot of stores, and with the help of a format of radio called “progressive rock”, I was able to score a lot of radio play. Now almost all those distributors are gone, along with all but a handful of record stores. “Progressive rock” radio disappeared decades ago. So, the path I took is no longer viable. But at the same time, these days, with digital recording, it’s possible to record an album for a few thousand dollars or maybe even less. And using services like CD Baby or The Orchard, it’s possible for that album to be available online without ever being in the form of a CD or an LP. However, without the know-how and connections that an established label has, it’s almost impossible for self-produced artist or a startup label to get the media attention that his or her music may deserve. So—can you make a record on a tiny budget like I did with Hound Dog Taylor? Yes. Can you make the world know that your music exists? These days, that’s very, very difficult. And the streaming services that are taking over as the way people listen to music pay so little that making enough money to continue to make commercial recordings is almost impossible.

Jane: Did you have an abundance of confidence or was that a scary time for you?

Bruce: I was scared, and I only had enough money to make one record. I knew that if I ever wanted to make a second one, I’d have to sell enough of the first. So, I knew that any mistake could be the end of my brand new label. But I was determined and believed in the music I was recording. I figured if I loved the blues so much, other people would too—if they only heard it.

Jane: Do you find it amazing that you’re not a musician but have been so successful in the music world?

Bruce: I’ve learned a lot about the blues from spending hundreds of hours with blues musicians, and I can speak their language. I’ve produced or co-produced over 130 albums, and my combination of some musical knowledge and unlimited enthusiasm seems to inspire blues musicians to great performances. I often tell musicians—If you record for Alligator, your goal should be to make records where you can say “this is my best music, the music I want my children and grandchildren to listen to.” If musicians don’t want to make their career best records, we don’t want them on Alligator.

Jane: Patrick, what was it like working with Bruce on the book? Did you have a background in the music industry at all? Or did you learn as you went along?

Patrick:  I joke that when I initially sat down with Bruce to begin the project, I worried he wouldn’t have much to say. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We recorded over 100 hours of audio—Bruce talking while I occasionally prompted him with questions or requests for clarification. I don’t have a background in the music industry, and I think this fact helped us write for readers like me who may not have extensive knowledge of blues music or the record business. It’s a very accessible book, and even readers without much blues history under their belts will enjoy learning about some truly remarkable personalities, the great Hound Dog Taylor being one notable example.

Jane: What was the inspiration for writing Bitten by the Blues? Are there take-aways you’d like people to get besides just a good read?

Bruce: The book is not intended to be about me. I see myself as a camera and hope that the readers will be able to see the wonderful, exciting world of the Chicago blues clubs in the 1970s and 80s, when most of the music was in the black community and shared by people who had a vibrant culture and heritage. I also want to give the readers an idea of how blues recordings are created, and to tell them something about the musical giants I’ve been able to work with, tour with, and who became my friends. And I want to give them a look at what it means to be a specialized independent record label, and how the recording business used to work, and how it works now. Mostly, I hope that this memoir will inspire people to listen to some of the charismatic blues artists who have created this timeless, exhilarating music.


What: Bruce Iglauer and Patrick Roberts share stories, answer questions and sign copies of their books

When: Friday, February 22; 7 to 8 p.m.

Where: Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: Contact City Lit Books at 773-235-2523;

Cecile Richards: “Make Trouble”

“How much time do you have?” Cecile Richards laughs when I ask how her mother, the late Ann Richards and the first woman governor of Texas, influenced her.

“She taught me so much,” continues Richards, the outgoing president of Planned Parenthood who will be in Chicago next week to talk about her new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story (Touchstone, 2018; $27). “There were the practical lessons, like never wear patterns on TV, or before you name your child, think about how it will look on a bumper sticker. And then there were the life lessons I think about constantly: People don’t do things for your reasons, they do things for their reasons. You only get one life, and this is it – there are no second chances, and no do-overs. And most of all, that there is no higher calling or better way to spend your time than public service and making people’s lives better.”Cecile Richards portrait

Richards recalls how, when eight months pregnant with twins and campaigning for her mother, she had to figure out what to wear to such events as the Luling Watermelon Thump parade and how  despite all polls to contrary, Ann Richards won the governor’s race. All of these experiences developed in Richards a resiliency and an ability to persevere no matter what.

“To me, that’s one of the ultimate lessons for activists today: Never let practicality stand in the way of doing the impossible,” says Richards. “Whenever you’re working for social change, there are going to be people who disagree with what you’re doing. If there aren’t, you probably need to set your sights higher. Anything worth doing has its challenges, and I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to choose to do the work I do.”

Calling herself a troublemaker, she encourages others to take that role as well.

“Activism and working for social justice are not a chore – they’re fun, inspiring, powerful, and introduce you to people who will change your life and change the world,” says Richards.

She’s also excited that there are currently 35,000 women in America running for office.

“They’re not waiting for permission or an invitation,” she says. “They’re looking around at the people – especially the men – who are supposed to represent them and thinking, ‘I could do better than that.’ Women are leading the resistance, and that is one of the most hopeful, encouraging signs I’ve seen in my life. The number of people in this country who believe politicians should be able to interfere in women’s personal health decisions, who want to go back to the days when women didn’t have the opportunities they do today – that’s a small iceberg, and it’s floating out to sea.”


What: David Axelrod, Chief Strategist for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and current Director of University of Chicago Institute of Politics and a Senior Political Commentator @CNN, will be in conversation with Cecile Richards:

When: Saturday, April 14 at 4pm

Where: Nicholas Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL

FYI: Tickets are for sale by Women & Children’s First and can be ordered at The price includes a pre-signed copy of the book.

Leslie Odom Jr.’s Inspiring New Book: Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning

Leslie Odom, Jr. originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton. Since then, he has performed for sold-out audiences, sung for the Obamas at the White House, and won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. But before he landed the role of a lifetime in one of the biggest musicals of all time, Odom put in years of hard work as a singer and an actor.

With personal stories from his life, Odom asks the questions that will help you unlock your true potential and achieve your goals even when they seem impossible. What work did you put in today that will help you improve tomorrow? How do you surround yourself with people who will care about your dreams as much as you do? How do you know when to play it safe and when to risk it all for something bigger and better?

These stories will inspire you, motivate you, and empower you for the greatness that lies ahead, whether you’re graduating from college, starting a new job, or just looking to live each day to the fullest.

Odom was most recently seen in the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for the role of “Aaron Burr.” He is a Grammy Award winner as a principal soloist on Hamilton’s Original Broadway Cast Recording, which won the 2015 award for Best Musical Theater Album. Odom, Jr. originated the role of “Burr” in a sold-out run at The Public Theater in 2015, earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical.

As a recording artist, his self-titled debut album was part-funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised $40,971. The album was released in 2014 by Borderlight Entertainment, Inc. Odom has appeared on “Smash,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Gotham,” “Person of Interest,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House of Lies,” “Vanished” and “CSI: Miami.” He also starred in the feature film Murder on the Orient Express.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s upcoming visit is part of Anderson’s Bookshops’ calendar of special author events. Anderson’s Bookshops specialize in book sales, author events, book signings, and building a sense of community, learning and fun. The store has been helping Naperville readers for six generations. Additional locations include Downers Grove, at 5112 Main Street (630)-963-2665 and La Grange, at 26 S. La Grange Rd. (708) 582-6353. A toy shop, Anderson’s Toyshop, at 111 W. Jefferson Ave., in Naperville, opened in 2016. Key to Anderson’s success has been special author events, like the March 31 program with Leslie Odom, Jr.

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