4 out of 4 stars
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Jorge P. Newbery offers up his unvarnished life in his book Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands. His honesty and raw emotion come alive as he recounts and reflects on his life taking the reader along through his journey.
Newbery begins his tale in childhood where, as a half-white, half-Hispanic boy he has trouble fitting in and decides from an early age to forge his own path in life. He chronicles his first job as a 7 year old delivering papers up until his present day position as a successful CEO of a hedge fund. He imparts all the lessons he has learned throughout a life that has swung wildly along a spectrum of extreme success to plummeting failure. Newbery takes the reader with him for the emotional exploration of each life changing episode, describing the apex of each situation, whether it may be an emotional, physical, intellectual, or psychological challenge, as the 'burn zone'- the place where one is subject to the most extreme stress in any given situation.
Newbery does a fantastic job of utilizing his experiences through each of his life's 'burn zones' to apply to the next one. He speaks to a universal truth that many people tend to overlook in life; that personal struggles are meant to help us grow and ultimately, guide and inform the future struggles that all are bound to face. Newbery manages to bring this truth to the forefront of his story which seems to serve both as a personal reminder to himself as well as his reader. He artfully conveys this by inviting the reader through a mental montage of each previous challenge that has brought him to a new one while using the wisdom he has gained to inform his next step forward. The way he brings the reader along for these short vignettes is quite charming and lend intimacy to a stranger that one may not have anything in common with otherwise.
I really enjoyed reading this book and being invited on the roller coaster of Newbery's emotions with him. He paints a vivid picture of his life in such a way that I can empathize with him through both his successes and failures. I feel that any reader can take important lessons away from his story; ownership of one's life, personal responsibility, getting out of ones comfort zone, and treating others with respect and dignity are among the few that arise from between the lines.
My only real critique of the book is to the cover art. While cycling is in fact part of the story, and serves as an analogy for the rest of Newbery's life, and, yes, that analogy is in fact the point of the title, the cover to me looks like it is targeting the cycling community and not a broader public. Despite this minor blip, I rate this book a 4 out of 4 for being a well-told and well-structured story from which a wide audience can gain much wisdom.
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