4 out of 4 stars
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As someone who does not normally gravitate towards the nonfiction genre, I am pleasantly surprised by Jorge P. Newbery’s autobiographical book entitled Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands. Newbery draws readers in from the very beginning with his explanation of a burn zone. In his own words, burn zones are “short periods of extraordinary effort that separated the winners and losers.”
As his narrative unfolds, readers are introduced to his early entrepreneurial spirit. Seven-year-old Jorge throwing newspapers grows into teenage Jorge interviewing punk bands who matures into adult Jorge building a business from scratch and then watching it crumble. Throughout the story of Newbery’s life, he consistently exemplifies six business principles: act confident, ask, take control, help people, build relationships, and be liked. These principles guide his decision-making through the burn zones in his life.
What I find most interesting about Newbery’s writing is the way he interweaves the lyrics from punk bands into his storytelling. Instead of just telling the readers what happened in his life, he ties his early life experiences in the punk rock music scene to every lesson throughout his adult life. As he describes the biases faced by young African American men, he simultaneously quotes lyrics by The Clash. This interweaving of seemingly opposite cultures illustrates the similar struggles faced by groups of oppressed minorities. In fact, it is difficult for me to find any flaw with the book. I find the book both relatable on a personal level and inspirational on a general level. When Newbery recounts his experiences as a Hispanic who looks white and, therefore, is exempt from a lot of the struggles of groups of people who are mistreated based on superficial stereotypes, I find myself analyzing my own heritage and lack of physical markers.
Because Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is exceptionally well-written, well-edited, well-organized, and interesting, I rated the book a four out of four. The story flows easily from phase to phase. It is easy to read, but never boring. Newbery is brutally honest and thoughtful. He does not hold back any punches as he critiques his mistakes. He also never stops trying to find positive lessons in his mistakes.
Audiences of all ages and all walks of life would benefit from reading Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands. Newbery’s wisdom and life experiences add a personal touch to what is already an interesting page-turner. The book also transcends genres. It is an autobiography as well as a guide for self-inspiration. Thought-provoking and easy to read, Newbery’s book is perfect for anyone looking for something a little bit deeper than the normal feel-good read.
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