My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir

( 47 )

Overview

After losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she'd spent her career writing about celebrities' lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of...

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Overview

After losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she'd spent her career writing about celebrities' lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of a quote on a chalkboard in a coffee shop:

"Do one thing every day that scares you." —Eleanor Roosevelt

Painfully timid as a child, Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to facing her fears, a commitment that shaped the rest of her life. With Eleanor as her guide, Noelle spends the months leading up to her thirtieth birthday pursuing a "Year of Fear." From shark diving to fighter pilot lessons, from tap dancing and stand-up comedy to confronting old boyfriends, her hilarious and harrowing adventures teach her about who she is and what she can become—lessons she makes vital for all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Forbes.com
“Poignant...hysterical...While there are plenty of books with women ‘taking a year,’ don’t dismiss this one.”
Booklist
“Whether she is confronting terrifying sharks in a diving cage or her tangled feelings about her boyfriend Matt, she demonstrates how thrilling it can be to face your fears. I double-dare you to read this book!”
Publishers Weekly
In this lighthearted and often funny memoir, Hancock, who was an entertainment writer at high-profile publications and Web sites like the New York Observer, US Weekly, and PageSix.com, tells of getting laid off shortly before her 29th birthday, suddenly finding herself anxious and aimless: "For the first time in my life, I had no idea what to do." Inspiration came in the form of a framed Eleanor Roosevelt quote hanging on the wall of a cafe: "Do one thing every day that scares you." Hancock makes that her mantra: she debuts at Trapeze School New York and follows up with tap-dancing, shark diving, and flying a plane at civilian mock air-combat school, and, perhaps most terrifying, performing standup comedy. In between adventures, Hancock visits with her funny, savvy therapist, Dr. Bob, and gets closer to her spiritual mentor via extensive reading about and by Eleanor. She brings her experiences to vivid life and, through her interest in and compassion for Eleanor, is kinder to herself; there is plenty to entertain and inspire. (July)
Kathie Lee Gifford
“It’s a terrific book!”
Julie Powell
“Eleanor taught Noelle that, first and foremost, Courage Takes Practice. Her yearlong quest to face her terrors, great and small, is moving, enriching, and hilarious—we readers are lucky to be along for the ride.”
Andy Borowitz
“Noelle Hancock makes an eloquent case for spending a year with Eleanor Roosevelt, but an even more persuasive one for spending 300 pages with Noelle Hancock. Her book is a fresh and funny delight.”
A.J. Jacobs
“Noelle Hancock joyfully shows us the exhilaration of confronting fear, whether that fear is jumping out of airplanes or having a committed relationship with another adult—or reading something longer than a tweet.”
Jill A. Davis
“Beneath the hilarious and heart-racing adventures of Noelle Hancock’s year of fear is a wise and heartfelt book about becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.”
Jim Norton
“I honestly loved this book. It had all the qualities of great sex; intense, funny, and parts of it were so uncomfortable my palms were sweating.”
Booklist
“Whether she is confronting terrifying sharks in a diving cage or her tangled feelings about her boyfriend Matt, she demonstrates how thrilling it can be to face your fears. I double-dare you to read this book!”
Forbes.com
“Poignant...hysterical...While there are plenty of books with women ‘taking a year,’ don’t dismiss this one.”
Kirkus Reviews

A charmingly candid memoir of the year a young journalist spent conquering her deepest fears.

In 2008, Hancock was on a beach in Aruba when she learned that her nearly six-figure blogging job had become a victim of the Great Recession. Shocked and confused, the newly unemployed pop-culture journalist promptly downed two shots of Jack Daniels and "adopted a large family of piña coladas." Unable to find a job upon her return to New York, she had to face the unpleasant fact that "to tell people that you do nothing is like saying 'I am nothing.' " She attempted to devise a "one-year plan," only to find herself paralyzed into inaction by increasing anxiety and self-doubt. Then one day, and quite by chance, she came across a quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt scrawled across a café menu board: "Do one thing every day that scares you." These simple words changed Hancock's life. Not only did she decide to take the advice literally and apply it to each of the 365 days that followed her upcoming 29th birthday; she also set herself the task of reading all of the former first lady's major writings. If Roosevelt, who began life as a painfully shy child, could grow into a self-confident woman remembered for her extraordinary courage, then Hancock could easily move beyond her own fears, no matter how primal or idiosyncratic. During the next 12 months, the author swam with sharks, jumped out of airplanes, embalmed dead bodies, confronted ex-boyfriends, kicked a 10-year sleeping-pill habit and climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Pushing her limits, Hancock reconnected with the ballsy, irreverent person she had once been. More importantly, her exercise in overcoming fear allowed her to return to living her life with a renewed sense of purpose and proportion.

Inspired, white-knuckled fun from start to finish.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061875014
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 151,109
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Noelle Hancock

NOELLE HANCOCK is a former staff writer for the New York Observer. Her work has appeared in GQ, Gawker, Us Weekly, and elsewhere. She was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Yale University. She lives in Manhattan with her parakeets, Jesus and Stuart. Her parents are still holding out for law school.

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Read an Excerpt

My Year with Eleanor

A Memoir
By Noelle Hancock

Ecco

Copyright © 2011 Noelle Hancock
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061875038


Chapter One

Your life is your own. You mold it. You make it.
All anyone can do is to point out ways and means
which have been helpful to others. Perhaps they
will serve as suggestions to stimulate your own
thinking until you know what it is that will fulfill
you, will help you to find out what you want to do
with your life.
—ELEANOR ROOSEVELT
I was lying on a beach in Aruba, mulling a third piña colada, when
I received a phone call announcing I'd been laid off from my job.
The call came, ironically, on my company cell phone. I'd brought it
with me to the beach in case something came up at work.
Something came up.
"They're shutting us down!" squeaked my coworker Lorena.
"W-what?"
"The whole website has been closed down." She sounded like she'd
been crying. "We're all out of a job."
I sprang forward on my lounge chair and struggled to free my
butt, which had sunk between the vinyl straps. "What are you talking
about?" I shook my head in disbelief.
"They called us into a meeting and announced it this afternoon. It
took everyone by surprise."
"Why didn't anyone call me?"
"They've been trying, but the office has some kind of block on
international calls. I'm calling you from my cell," she said, dropping into
a low, conspiratorial whisper. "I thought you'd rather hear it from a
friend first."
"But this doesn't make any sense. We're doing so well!" Our online
readership had been steadily climbing. Just last week, our website had
drawn a million page views in one day.
"Something about cutting costs." Her voice was a little loose. I
listened closely and heard loud conversations and Bon Jovi in the background.
"Are you at a bar?" I asked, confused.
"Yeah, the whole staff is at that Irish pub across the street from the
office. Listen, I have to get back. I'll call you later, okay?"
When I hung up the phone, I saw my freshly tanned fingers
tremble slightly. I stared straight ahead without really seeing anything.
"Who was that?" Matt asked from the lounge chair next to me.
"That was the office," I said dully. "I've been laid off."
"Wait—what?" Matt threw down his newspaper. He swung his legs
around so he was facing me.
"They've shut down the entire company," I continued in that odd
emotionless voice. "Announced in a meeting this afternoon."
"Oh, baby, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
He grabbed my hand and I felt the faint squish of sunscreen. Still,
I couldn't bring myself to meet his gaze. I was stuck in one of those
trances where it appears some invisible hand has smeared itself over
your world. And, in a way, it had. It could've been an impressionist
painting: Girl Without a Job Sitting by the Sea, oil on canvas, 2008.
A ringing sound jerked me out of my daze. I turned and watched
Matt grope inside our beach tote for his cell phone. As a political re-
reporter for the most highly regarded newspaper in the country, Matt
was also accustomed to answering work calls while on vacation. Just
as he found it, the ringing stopped and a chime sounded signaling he
had a voice mail.
He peered at the caller ID screen under the glare of sunlight. "Crap,
it's work. My editor probably wants me to make some calls for that
story that's running tomorrow." He ran an anxious hand through his
thick brown hair.
"I'll be fine. Go call him back. I need a moment alone to process
this anyway."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not leaving you like this."
"Like what?" I said, forcing what I hoped was a convincing smile.
"Sitting in a tropical paradise? Seriously, go make your call."
Matt scurried off toward our hotel room, casting a few worried
glances over his shoulder. When he disappeared around the corner, I
let my smile fade. I felt as though I'd been riding in a car and the driver
had unexpectedly slammed on the brakes. Everything had stopped. I
was shocked and confused, but also embarrassed for the person I was
a few minutes ago who didn't see this coming.
My eyes drifted to the stack of celebrity magazines next to my
chair. The one on top was splayed open, Aruba's aggressive trade
winds flipping its pages, creating a mini moving picture, the famous
Jessicas, Jennifers, and Kates of the world morphing into one other,
much the way they do in real life. I'd been reading the magazines for
work. For the last several years, I'd worked as a pop culture blogger,
churning out stories on a half-hourly basis. In turn, celebrities provided
me with constant material by getting married, getting divorced,
getting arrested, getting too fat, getting too thin or just leaving the
house for coffee. Yes, the job was fairly absurd, but at nearly six
figures, so was the salary.
Twenty feet away, palm trees waved fiercely. We'd been told not
to put our chairs under them because coconuts can drop and bonk
people on the head, knocking them unconscious. I had a sudden urge
to move my chair over there. Instead, I stood up and crunched through
the sand toward the hotel. I marched down the steps of the hotel pool
and plowed through the shallow end, bouncing from leg to leg, like a
moon man on a spacewalk, until I reached the swim-up bar.
This vacation had been a reward to myself—for those days I
arrived at the office at 6:00 A.M. and didn't leave until 9:00 P.M., for
working on Christmas Day, for making myself care who won The
Bachelor. For the first time in months, I'd started to relax. That was
obviously shot to hell now. I needed to get out of my head for a while,
and I needed reinforcements. Settling in on one of the submerged
stools, I waved over the bartender who'd been taking care of us for
the last few days.
"Okay, Hector, we have a situation," I said. "Bring the bottle of Jack
Daniel's and a shot glass." I briefly relayed what had happened. He
nodded understandingly and poured a shot for me and one for himself.
We held our tiny glasses in the air.
Clink! The liquor burned a fiery trail down my throat. He immediately
poured a second shot. Next I adopted a large family of piña coladas,
forcing Hector to add rum until they turned brown. Forty minutes
later Matt found me passed out on a lounge chair wearing Hector's
baseball cap that said, "Aruba: The bar is open!"
Three weeks later, I'd traded swim-up bars for coffee shops. Every
day I went to some local café and trolled the classifieds for job openings.
The economy had imploded seemingly overnight. Economists
predicted the country was on the brink of a long recession—the Great
Recession, they were calling it. No one was hiring. Not even the coffee
shops. I'd already asked.
This morning I'd chosen a coffee shop where all of the baristas had
facial piercings and tattoos. I got the impression they were judging me
for ordering a latte. I placed my aging laptop on a table near the window
and it groaned to life as though annoyed at being woken up at this
hour. While the computer booted up, I snapped open the newspaper. A
headline on the front page blared "80,000 Jobs Lost in March." I had
been laid off in March.
It felt weird, doing nothing. I once spent fourteen hours a day
cranking out blog posts and hysterically checking about thirty celebrity
websites to stay abreast of breaking news. My BlackBerry had vibrated
endlessly with gossip tidbits from fellow reporters. One time I
took a ninety-minute flight and by the time we landed I'd received one
hundred nineteen e-mails. When I wasn't at work, I was recovering
from work. I felt so available most of the time that in my downtime I
wanted to make myself as unavailable as possible. This meant going
straight home after work every night, flopping onto my IKEA sofa, and
watching people on television do the things that I was too tired to do
myself. Within months, I was closely following the lives of about fifty
fictional people, yet I had no idea what was going on with my friends.
Even the thought of socializing had become exhausting. I'd started
rejecting most of the invitations that came my way: brunches, birthdays,
dinner parties, even a morning hike. Although I stand by that decision:
friends don't make friends walk uphill before 11:00 A.M. I'd begun
communicating primarily via e-mail, text messages, and Facebook
status updates. I'd stopped wanting to meet new people at all. It was
Matt who gently pointed out one night that I hadn't made a new friend
in the three years we'd been dating.
"But I barely see the friends I already have," I'd sputtered. "I can't
just go adding new ones to the mix or then I won't see any of them and
I'll end up with fewer friends than I had in the first place!"
"Are you hearing yourself?" he'd asked.
"No," I'd replied, turning up the volume on the television.
For the last year and a half, Matt had been living in Albany, reporting
on state government, so it had taken him a while to catch on to how
much of a shut-in I'd become. I hadn't wanted him to worry about me,
so sometimes when he called I'd turn up the TV about fifty decibels
and shout into the phone, "Hey, babe! I'm out to dinner with friends!
I'll call you when I get home!" I made up stories about what I was
doing at night, and eventually I had trouble keeping my fake social life
straight. What movie did I tell him I saw with my friend Jessica the
other night? Whose birthday party had I supposedly gone to? I'd had
to come clean after he caught me in a few lies and began to suspect I
was seeing someone else. I'd told him I could never do something like
that—it would require getting off the couch.
Matt thought that after losing my job, I'd use some of my endless
free time to start socializing again. But your job is your currency in
New York. "What do you do?" is often the first thing people ask upon
meeting you. To tell people that you do nothing is like saying "I am
nothing." It can actually stop conversations at parties. I'd rather skip
those awkward exchanges altogether. Matt had been understanding,
but I could tell he was weary of trying to haul me out of my apartment.
He was tired of making excuses to his friends as to why I'd bailed out
on yet another social occasion. I sensed he was waiting for me to
return to the fun-loving, social person I was when we started dating.
And that part of him worried this was simply who I was now.
These were the thoughts that occupied me as I stared at my computer.
My screen, once so frenetic it could've induced epileptic
seizures, had gone still. But that stillness was somehow more
overwhelming. For the first time in my life, I had no idea what to do.

Where did I go from here?
When I'd returned from Aruba a few weeks ago, I'd been ready to
make a new life plan. I didn't want to blog about celebrities anymore.
I'd enjoyed writing about A-list stars, but the celebrity landscape
had changed in the last few years. More and more I'd found myself
writing about reality stars, teenagers, and celebrities' babies. I was
reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago. I'd been interviewing
Joaquin Phoenix for a freelance article when he'd stopped me
and asked, "Is this really what you want to be doing with your life?
Writing about people who do interesting things instead of doing
interesting things yourself?" Now, Joaquin went on to have something
of a nervous breakdown. He grew a long beard, began wearing sun-
glasses indoors, changed his name to J.P., and quit acting for three
years to pursue a career in hip-hop. Then he claimed the entire thing
had been a "hoax." So he doesn't have a lot of room to criticize my life
choices. Yet his question stuck with me. The truth was, I didn't mind
writing about people who do interesting things. What I couldn't abide
was spending my life writing about people who don't do interesting
things.
So when I got back to New York, I'd created a Microsoft Word
document titled "My One-Year Plan," where I could list my goals for the
next year. No job meant my future was wide open. Too wide open, as
it turned out. Weeks later, the document was still empty. Looking at
the white screen now, I felt I was looking at my future. Blank. The
cursor blinked impatiently, like someone tapping a foot. I glanced
again at that headline in the newspaper. I knew I was one of the lucky
ones. No family to support. A degree from Yale. I'd gotten a pretty
decent severance package and had some money in the bank to keep
me going for a while. I had a wonderful boyfriend in possession of all
his hair. I should have been rejoicing in the endless possibilities of
my future. Instead I felt paralyzed, lost.
As soon as I logged on, an instant message popped up on my
computer screen, breaking me out of my reverie. The merry IM tone
echoed through the café, and I scrambled for the mute key. The
message was from my friend Chris (a.k.a. GayzOfOurLives). As a blogger
for New York magazine he was always online, so it had become a ritual
for us to check in with each other every morning.
GAYZOFOURLIVES: Whatcha doing?
NOELLENOELLE: Besides wondering who in my general vicinity
has a WiFi network called "penisface"? Nothing.
GAYZOFOURLIVES: Listen, I've been thinking about your state
of affairs.
NOELLENOELLE: And?
GAYZOFOURLIVES: I believe you're having a third-life crisis.
NOELLENOELLE: A what?
GAYZOFOURLIVES: Well, you're too young to have a midlife
crisis and you're too old to be having a quarter life crisis.
You're turning 29 soon. So, assuming you'll live into your
late eighties, that would make this a one-third-life crisis.
And there was that.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock Copyright © 2011 by Noelle Hancock. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 28, 2011

    Wise and Inspirational

    I absolutely loved this book! I found myself highlighting passages as I was reading. Noelle's characterizations and dialogue paint a vivid picture of her Year With Eleanor. There were so many layers to discover while reading each chapter. The book was certainly witty; but I found it smart and insightful throughout. Talking to the young boy on the subway or debating whether to speak to the relative of a cancer patient. This book delves into what everyone is often thinking and feeling, but Noelle Hancock was able to put these feelings into words. Readers will be able to identify with Noelle's descriptions of her relationships with close friends and people she meets along her journey.

    Each chapter weaves seamlessly between Noelle's journey and Eleanor Roosevelt's rich life and inspirational quotes. Throughout the book there are anecdotes and insights for everyone to enjoy.

    This is a MUST READ!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    Loved it!

    Having Noelle's journey intermingle with Eleanor's backstory made it like 2 books in one. I enjoyed learning about Eleanor & braving Noelle's fears great & small. Her writing is funny & honest. Definitely a recommended read!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2011

    Truly entertaining

    Light and enjoyable. Written well and leaves you silently laughing as you turn each page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2011

    Wonderful!

    I love this book...i am going to buy the hard copy so i can keep referring to the parts which mean the most to me. I am going to face a fear each day, until i am like Eleanor and noelle.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    Great writer!

    I have tons of quotes from this book! It was a topic of conversation at my house. We had laughs and revalatioms with this book. I love this book, it was an experiance reading it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Inspiring!

    I've never felt more aware of my constant state of fear and worry til I read this book. It kept me on my toes and helped me realize the world outside my worry. People should read this at any age because the story takes a hold of yoy and doesnt let you go.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    Funny and Wonderful Book!!

    I could not put this book down! It was funny, endearing, and motivating. I am ready to face all my fears!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2013

    A great, fun read

    I was worried that this would be too chick-lit-ish. I feel that I'm past enjoying that genre. But it really wasn't. It was well-written and full of self-discovery, but also funny enough to keep you smiling if not laughing. I enjoyed her honesty about her experiences, and while it didn't change my entire life, it did remind me not to be so timid and afraid of things. I wouldn't classify this as historical fiction, but I did really enjoy that there were interesting bits about Eleanor Roosevelt's life in every chapter. I knew little about her, and I'm glad for what I learned.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    great

    very interesting read, must check it out!

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  • Posted February 7, 2013

    A delightful read!

    I really enjoyed this book! The author is quite funny, and using the intro to her chapters to quote Eleanor Roosevelt was wonderful. It is an easy read about how the author used Roosevelt's quotes and life experiences to change her life.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book

    The author loses her job on the cusp of her 29th birthday. As she goes from coffee house to coffee house using their free WiFi and seaking inspiration, she sees a quote that stops her. “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt. This strikes a chord with her that no one, not even her shrink understands. She decides to follow Eleanor’s advice and for the year between 29 and 30, she will do something that scares her every day. The trapeze school was not as bad as she’d expected, swimming with sharks was. Her year builds to an amazing finale and she discovers what she always was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    READ THIS BOOK

    How can anyone not Love this book? It give food for your mind. Nothing is as bad as we can make it out to be in own minds. Please read this is not BORING!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    Can't put it down!

    Inspired by the Eleanor Roosevelt quote "Do something everyday that scares you," Noelle embarks on My Year of Fear, challenging herself to do some outrageous things!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    Motivating, good read

    Enjoyed the authors story as well as Eleanor Roosevelt info.

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The books started out pretty well, but she lost me completely wh

    The books started out pretty well, but she lost me completely when she did a vulgar stand-up comedy routine. While I enjoyed  the premise of the book, "My Year With Eleanor," I just really, really did not enjoy the language, so I cannot agree with others that it was "light and enjoyable" or "wise and inspirational."

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  • Posted January 6, 2013

    I truly enjoyed reading about Ms. Hancock's adventure of self-di

    I truly enjoyed reading about Ms. Hancock's adventure of self-discovery, which she accomplished by conquering her fears everyday.  Perhaps the most interesting sections of the books were Hancock's perspectives of Eleanor Roosevelt's accomplishments and quotable moments.  However,  I feel that the Year of Fear project took Roosevelt's quote too far.  I don't think that one has to literally climb mountains and skydive, depleting one's bank account, is necessary in order to conquer fears.  Overall, this book was absolutely worth reading and Hancock inspired me to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt (and maybe even teach lessons about Roosevelt to my students).

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  • Posted January 1, 2013

    It was a little slow to start but ended up being a great book wi

    It was a little slow to start but ended up being a great book with many words of encouragement.
    Great read.

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  • Posted December 30, 2012

    I was so surprised by this book!  This book is about Noelle, who

    I was so surprised by this book!  This book is about Noelle, who decides to take on the concept of doing one thing everyday for a year that scares her.  
    I loved the tasks that Noelle chose to take on and overcome-and loved the quotes throughout the book even more! 
    This book has inspired me-maybe not to jump out of an airplane, but to try to get myself out of my "shell" some more, be less worried about what others may think and simply DO.  
    DO what makes me happy regardless of whether I look like a fool when doing it or not!  This book is the type that makes you want to live life.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Thought the book was great. Enjoyed the concept and especially t

    Thought the book was great. Enjoyed the concept and especially the humor ! I laughed out loud at some parts. Loved the quotes and the learning experience from it all - A thumbs up

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    I love thus

    Why





    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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