Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If At Birth You Don't Succeed by Zach Anner

Look, everyone, it's time for another rarity!  A blog post from me?  Yes!  But no, actually, a blog post from me where I review a non-fiction book.  I'm terrible about reading non-fiction.  I have great intentions.  I'm terribly interested in so many topics covered in non-fiction books.  I even acquire a decent amount of them.  When it comes to reading them, though, I tend to fall a little (er, a lot) short.  And when I do read them, they're usually memoirs or, at least, memoir-esque.

If At Birth You Don't Succeed by Zach Anner is a charming amalgamation of memoir, humor, and (dare I say it?) self-help.  When a pitch for the book landed in my inbox, I was unfamiliar with Zach Anner, who got his start on a short-lived travel show on the OWN network and now has a significant internet following on YouTube.  Anner was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy - the "sexiest of the palsies."  Instead of letting his disability keep him down, Anner decided not to take life quite so seriously.  For him, being handicapped is no excuse for not getting out there, traveling the world, and living life with abandon.  Life might be full of disasters waiting to happen, but for this guy, that just makes more opportunities for a good laugh.

Anner's book is refreshingly open, honest, and vulnerable.  He doesn't gloss over the struggles of his disability to paint a "flowers and rainbows" pictures of his life.  Instead, in a book rich with gratitude for all the opportunities the technology age has provided for him, Anner shows readers that it's when things don't go quite to plan on his life's journey that he has had occasion to roll with the punches, find the humor in life, and show what he's really made of.

The chronology of If At Birth You Don't Succeed is a little wonky.  Instead of opting for the linear, Anner dips in and out of his memories, usually drawing a lesson out of them by the end of each chapter that can be the slightest bit preachy.  The chronology is a little hard to get used to, but in the end I was totally won over by this guy who was irrepressibly optimistic even at his lowest point and who is using the achievement of his life goals to make the world a little funnier and a little better place.  If At Birth You Don't Succeed is a book that will make you smile.  It's funny, uplifting, and also a sweet tribute to all the people whose love and care helped propel Zach on the path to his success.

(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration)


  1. Memoirs are my nonfiction of choice too. This sounds good to me.

  2. I can't decide if his optimism would make me smile and admire him or just roll my eyes as a natural pessimist.

  3. I love memoirs, too, although I don't actually read them very often. Why is that?? This one sounds interesting. I love preemies (both of my boys were born at 29 weeks) -- I'll have to check this one out.

  4. I love non-fiction, but it tends to take me so much longer to read, which sucks when you're already ranked among the top ten slowest readers in the world and also sucks when there are approximately 7.8 million books left that you want to read in the remaining years of your life.