4 out of 4 stars
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“Never ever look back, as this is a sign of weakness.”
Having followed the advice of never looking back throughout most of his life, Jorge P. Newbery was able to successfully overcome many daunting obstacles. In his book, Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands, Mr. Newbery's inspiring journey begins with his first job delivering newspapers and continues through his various careers, describing the challenges he faced along the way. Despite his mantra of never looking back, Mr. Newbery does a fantastic job reflecting on his past to write an eloquent and inspiring story.
Mr. Newbery tells readers about the career milestones in his life, illustrating his ambition and willingness to take risks. Whether it was delivering newspapers, selling ice cream, renting out his own stage for punk rock concerts, running a record company, or competing as a professional cyclist, Mr. Newbery describes how each endeavor had its own “burn zones”, which are periods of great difficulty that must be pushed through without looking back. After his cycling career, Mr. Newbery entered the unforgiving world of real estate and with it the worst "burn zones" of his life. Previous experiences taught him how to push through tough times, but real estate taught him how to accept defeat. Failure and financial ruin brought with it an entirely different kind of "burn zone" - how to rebuild.
In addition to the inspiring content, one of my favorite things about Mr. Newbery's work is the overall organization of the book. The simplistic writing style allows it to be read in a single weekend, while the concise chapters permit consuming the book in short bursts if desired. It is professionally edited with only a few minor errors that can be easily corrected. All in all, Burn Zones tells an interesting, easy-to-read life story without burdening the reader with too many details.
Despite the skilled writing, I was slightly disappointed with the clumsy attempts at foreshadowing. Several times I wondered why a strange detail was added, only for it to become vaguely relevant later on. I think the foreshadowing may have been an attempt at introducing additional humor into the narrative, but I found it distracting instead of amusing. I also think the many instances of racism in the story could have been addressed more fully to provide important contextual information. I feel that the over-simplification of such an important topic didn't clearly illustrate the impact it had on the author and other characters.
Despite my minor grievances, I am happy to rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is beautifully written, professionally edited, and organized well. It also has a fast pace with the right amount of detail. I enjoyed the story so much that I found it hard to put the book down until I had finished it. Although I would not describe it as a self-help book, it does have good advice that readers may be able to apply while in their own "burn zones". People who like reading inspirational non-fiction stories will enjoy this book, but younger readers may not be mature enough to understand some of the content. Bravo to Mr. Newbery for a beautifully written story!
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