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To Be Honest: A Memoir

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A memoir about one man’s strange upbringing in a family fanatically devoted to honesty   Raised in what he affectionately calls “our little honesty cult,” Michael Leviton was ingrained with his parents’ core philosophy: You do not tell any lies; you do not withhold the truth; and you speak your mind always, regardless of how offensive or hurtful your opinions may be. For y A memoir about one man’s strange upbringing in a family fanatically devoted to honesty   Raised in what he affectionately calls “our little honesty cult,” Michael Leviton was ingrained with his parents’ core philosophy: You do not tell any lies; you do not withhold the truth; and you speak your mind always, regardless of how offensive or hurtful your opinions may be. For young Michael, this freedom to be yourself—despite being bullied and ostracized at school—felt liberating. By the time Leviton was 29 years old, he had told three (what most people would consider) lies in his entire life.   But his parents’ enthusiasm for “just being honest” bordered on extreme. After Michael graduated high school and left home, truth telling—in job interviews, on dates, in social interactions—slowly lost its luster. When the only woman who ever appreciated his honesty brought this radical approach to truth into their relationship, Michael decided it was time to embrace the power of lying. To Be Honest is a quirky, tender, and wry story of a man discovering what it means and how it feels to lie in one’s daily life.  


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A memoir about one man’s strange upbringing in a family fanatically devoted to honesty   Raised in what he affectionately calls “our little honesty cult,” Michael Leviton was ingrained with his parents’ core philosophy: You do not tell any lies; you do not withhold the truth; and you speak your mind always, regardless of how offensive or hurtful your opinions may be. For y A memoir about one man’s strange upbringing in a family fanatically devoted to honesty   Raised in what he affectionately calls “our little honesty cult,” Michael Leviton was ingrained with his parents’ core philosophy: You do not tell any lies; you do not withhold the truth; and you speak your mind always, regardless of how offensive or hurtful your opinions may be. For young Michael, this freedom to be yourself—despite being bullied and ostracized at school—felt liberating. By the time Leviton was 29 years old, he had told three (what most people would consider) lies in his entire life.   But his parents’ enthusiasm for “just being honest” bordered on extreme. After Michael graduated high school and left home, truth telling—in job interviews, on dates, in social interactions—slowly lost its luster. When the only woman who ever appreciated his honesty brought this radical approach to truth into their relationship, Michael decided it was time to embrace the power of lying. To Be Honest is a quirky, tender, and wry story of a man discovering what it means and how it feels to lie in one’s daily life.  

30 review for To Be Honest: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    To Be Honest, by Michael Leviton, is the author's own story of being raised to only tell the truth. Because of things in their own pasts, Michael's parents, who met at fourteen, believed that honesty was the only way to go through life. They felt that there was never a reason to not tell the truth, to hold back the truth, to soften the truth. "Just tell the truth" was the family way, what made their family a "little honesty cult".  By the age of four, little Michael was all in, confronting every To Be Honest, by Michael Leviton, is the author's own story of being raised to only tell the truth. Because of things in their own pasts, Michael's parents, who met at fourteen, believed that honesty was the only way to go through life. They felt that there was never a reason to not tell the truth, to hold back the truth, to soften the truth. "Just tell the truth" was the family way, what made their family a "little honesty cult".  By the age of four, little Michael was all in, confronting everyone for not telling the truth, no one escaped his blunt honesty, not teachers, parents, siblings, fellow students, no one.   Michael's family was not "normal" and they often suffered for it, but Michael's father didn't care what anyone thought and Michael followed in his footsteps. This policy leads to major roadblocks in life for Michael and his siblings, the inability to attain jobs or keep jobs, or to get first or second dates, get anywhere in life for very long. Michael eventually has to rethink his obsession with the truth, and face the damage this policy caused his family, himself, and those around him. There comes a time when he has a long list of things he won't do or discuss and that list is basically the opposite of everything he believed and did for the first twenty nine years of his life.  Young Michael, playing chess with a dad, who'd never hold back to make things easier for him, being truthful to Santa and having a good laugh with him, telling off teachers, stepping on everyone's feelings while thinking that's the only way to be. I laughed, Michael laughs, as he narrates his story, but the story is sad, too. I enjoyed Michael's journey, where everything he believed has to be turned on its head so that he can become the person he'd like to be, needs to be, ditching it all to make his way back to a better place, to be a better person. I enjoyed his story very much and I'll be thinking about his experiences and how they relate to all of us, as we navigate communication, caring (the key is caring), and the power and destruction of honesty.  Publication date: January 5th 2021 Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    4.5 stars. Every so often I start a review by saying that it's incredibly subjective and personal and probably useless to everyone who reads it and then all y'all like it more than all my other reviews and I never really understand except to know that there is something intriguing about when you just throw all your honest vulnerability about something down on paper, you get a response. And that feels like a fitting way to start my review of this memoir. This book is, and I really cannot emphasize 4.5 stars. Every so often I start a review by saying that it's incredibly subjective and personal and probably useless to everyone who reads it and then all y'all like it more than all my other reviews and I never really understand except to know that there is something intriguing about when you just throw all your honest vulnerability about something down on paper, you get a response. And that feels like a fitting way to start my review of this memoir. This book is, and I really cannot emphasize this enough, wild. You may think you know what you're getting into in a memoir about someone who was raised to be honest above all else, but you do not. Leviton will continue to surprise you through the whole story with the things he thinks and says. This is not just two parents who say, "Always tell the truth." Leviton emulates his father, one of those men who uses truthtelling as a weapon and a shield, always directing negative barbs at everyone else, never accepting anything negative about himself, always turning the conversation around on you when it gets difficult or uncomfortable for him. You know versions of That Guy, but believe me, you have never seen one who goes quite to the level of Leviton's father, who deserves to be in the pantheon of Bad Memoir Dads. (I cannot take the ones who are too bad, this is a comfortable level of bad for me, no physical abuse.) No one taught Leviton social norms when he was growing up, and adults cannot figure out how to explain them to a child this literal. Everyone tells him he's doing it wrong but they can never give him a good reason. So he continues into adulthood, someone who says everything he thinks, and who sees the world through a critical eye, where everyone else is "most people" who are willing to believe anything. This works because the Leviton who writes this book clearly doesn't see the world that way anymore. This is its own reassurance. Knowing he becomes an adult who can explain this situation to you and understand what his young self was doing wrong, why he frustrated and annoyed people, is a sneak peek at the resolution and means you never have to worry too much about him. Which is good, because otherwise I would have worried a lot. You may recall my two most important requirements in a memoir. 1) That the author has an actual story to tell, and 2) that they have enough distance and self-awareness to understand and present that story. There was certainly a time in Leviton's life where he would have written an absolutely terrible memoir, but lucky for us he is writing it now, when there's a whole bunch of interesting arcs and sufficient distance to be able to know just what a unique character he is. He understands how he felt when he lived it, but he also has the perspective to understand how the rest of the world saw it, and that's what's so critical to make this book work. Personally, I consider myself very honest. And weirdly, I see myself as even more honest now that I've read this book. For me, what was so hard was knowing how to explain things when no one did, seeing clearly the pieces Leviton was missing. I am also someone who does not like social graces much, but because my upbringing was basically the polar opposite of Leviton's, I can navigate them very well. I have the ability to pick them up and put them down as I need to, and I am frustrated when other people refuse to put down their evasions and niceties to be straight with me. It is probably why I do not have many close friends! I am pretty ruthless with myself and I wish everyone else was, too. With so many of Leviton's stories I understood exactly how he felt, had the same frustrations with other people. In fact, by the end, he has an even keener eye for behavior than I do! (When I encounter something that makes no sense, I just throw my hands up instead of analyzing that pattern of behavior the way he does. He has a real knack for it.) I related so deeply to Leviton, it was overwhelming. I wanted to read this book all the time because I felt like I was gaining a lot of insight into myself. (I have also alienated people who do not see conversation as exchanges of information but will take me replying to their story with a similar story of my own as oneupmanship rather than empathy.) I love books about growth, discovery, self-awareness, and therapy, and this book has all of those things! (Family Therapy Camp. Oh my god. Please everyone read this so we can just say to each other, "Family Therapy Camp!" and die.) If you are a normal person, this book might be very uncomfortable, because it basically accuses you of lying constantly. And, well, it is not entirely wrong. If you actually pay attention to all the ways we evade and avoid, we do an awful lot of lying. It is much more socially acceptable to lie than to be truthful. So perhaps it is grating to read something that calls you out, even if you think you're doing it the better way. I honestly could not tell you. All I can say is that if you are an oversharing honest weirdo who cries whenever you feel strong emotion, then you will like this book. I listened to the audiobook, as I'm particularly fond of authors who read their own work. Leviton is a competent narrator, I never wished he'd passed it along to someone else. But what I loved the most about the audio is that Leviton is unable to hide his pleasure when he runs across a funny story or a good line he's written, you can hear him chuckle as he reads and I found this incredibly endearing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sheena

    Happy publication day! Wow I read this back in June. This was an entertaining read and definitely different from any kind other kind of memoir I have ever read. Leviton's parents were brutally honest to the point where they came off as rude and kind of odd. In turn, this made Leviton come off the same way. This is a thought provoking read even though I did struggle in staying interested with it. I just found it hard to empathize with Michael. It's interesting to see how it shaped him as he grew u Happy publication day! Wow I read this back in June. This was an entertaining read and definitely different from any kind other kind of memoir I have ever read. Leviton's parents were brutally honest to the point where they came off as rude and kind of odd. In turn, this made Leviton come off the same way. This is a thought provoking read even though I did struggle in staying interested with it. I just found it hard to empathize with Michael. It's interesting to see how it shaped him as he grew up and his experiences along the way. This really makes you think about the fine lines between lying and telling the truth - when it is or isn't okay to lie. Thank you to Netgalley and to the publisher for the advanced copy!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roma

    To be honest, I think Michael Leviton is an insufferable snob. I want to be as truthful as possible in this review, which I think Michael would appreciate. Some of my formative years were spent in The Netherlands where the people are stereotyped as being brutally honest - to the point of rudeness. I definitely picked up on some of that when I was living there so in some ways I can relate to Michael a lot. People often call me blunt or get offended by comments that I perceive to be innocent and my To be honest, I think Michael Leviton is an insufferable snob. I want to be as truthful as possible in this review, which I think Michael would appreciate. Some of my formative years were spent in The Netherlands where the people are stereotyped as being brutally honest - to the point of rudeness. I definitely picked up on some of that when I was living there so in some ways I can relate to Michael a lot. People often call me blunt or get offended by comments that I perceive to be innocent and my boyfriend is constantly reminding me that I don't always have to speak my mind about everything. However, I am capable of picking up on other people's emotions and understanding things from other points of view. There is one thing that I think Michael is severely lacking in, and it was not mentioned in the memoir: empathy. For me the main problem lay not in Michael's excessive honesty, but in the way he seemed unable to empathise with other people. At times I actually wondered if Michael might be on the spectrum. The thing that shocked me the most about his upbringing was that his parents, especially his dad, were constantly looking down on what they called "other people". From a very early age they cemented in his mind that they were different, they created a barrier between 'us' and 'them'. This leads to Michael not being able to relate to pretty much anyone during his early years. It wasn't the honesty that was the main problem, it was the superiority complex of his family. Michael is told to respect the fact that people have different opinions but that the only opinion that should matter to him is his own. As a child he falls asleep listening to his own voice played over a tape recorder. His father insists that critiquing people is the highest form of respect. But he seems to only see the negative and not the positive in people. Michael is extremely self-absorbed. He never considers how his actions or words might affect others. He never puts himself in their shoes. He's convinced that he is right because he is truthful but doesn't reflect that everyone has their own versions of the truth. Even when he starts experimenting with 'lying' he does it only to make his own life more comfortable, and his friends mention that sometimes he acts manipulatively. Michael has come a long way from his early days, but he still has a lot of self-reflecting to do (as do most of us in any case!) Life is also about striving for self-improvement and we are never done with it. My personal opinion about Michael doesn't much affect my opinion about the book. I thought it was an interesting and entertaining memoir, however I was expecting it to be a bit more humorous than it actually was. The writing was solid and technically good but it comes across as dry and sterile at times. Not what I would expect from a memoir. I wanted to feel more of his personality through the writing, not just the anecdotes. To end, I wish Michael luck on his journey to finding the balance between lying and truth-telling! I'm still struggling with it too.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I wasn't familiar with the author when I came across this title but it sounded interesting. I'm so happy I listened to this one! Beyond the fact that the author had a very unique childhood, he proves to be a great storyteller. Leviton was raised to always tell the truth. Wasn't everyone? Nope, not like this! All truth, all the time. No white lies to spare feelings. No sugarcoating. This certainly makes Leviton a unique kind of adult. People say they want the truth, but when they get it, it's oft I wasn't familiar with the author when I came across this title but it sounded interesting. I'm so happy I listened to this one! Beyond the fact that the author had a very unique childhood, he proves to be a great storyteller. Leviton was raised to always tell the truth. Wasn't everyone? Nope, not like this! All truth, all the time. No white lies to spare feelings. No sugarcoating. This certainly makes Leviton a unique kind of adult. People say they want the truth, but when they get it, it's often too hard to swallow. His complete honesty causes problems in job interviews and in personal relationships. In addition to very funny stories, the reader also gets to come along as Leviton grows and changes and we get to see some change in his family as well. This one had me laughing out loud and is well worth a read or listen! Thank you Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for the audio ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook... 7 hours and 10 minutes.... ....read by the Michael Leviton, (author/musician,photographer), based in New York City. The peak and valleys of Michael’s total honesty can be felt on our skin, and in our gut..... It’s: 25% annoying, and grating 25% fascinating, interesting, thought-provoking, audacious, and a little nutty. 25% heartwarming, charming, and endearing. 25% hopeful, complicated, heartbreaking, haunting, sad, forgiving, quietly wise, and ultimately overall deeply real. I ‘honestly Audiobook... 7 hours and 10 minutes.... ....read by the Michael Leviton, (author/musician,photographer), based in New York City. The peak and valleys of Michael’s total honesty can be felt on our skin, and in our gut..... It’s: 25% annoying, and grating 25% fascinating, interesting, thought-provoking, audacious, and a little nutty. 25% heartwarming, charming, and endearing. 25% hopeful, complicated, heartbreaking, haunting, sad, forgiving, quietly wise, and ultimately overall deeply real. I ‘honestly’ couldn’t pull away - once I got past the first few chapters. I stopped rolling my eyes, stopped judging Michael as a precocious self-centered, irritating child, and soon, I was deep into the reveals of the young adult Michael was becoming. As a child, Michael was taught the value of extreme honesty. His family had no limits to truth telling. In his family, he grew up believing “silence was suffering, confession was connection, and criticism was love”. Outside of Michael’s immediate family, the type of honesty that Michael had learned were having consequences. Teachers and students found his honest-bluntness unpleasant. As a reader I did too. (until I later fell in love with the guy). The stories about Family Summer Therapy Camp cracked me up— really? They had such a place here in Northern California. Why am I surprised. I live in the land of ‘alternative’. ( especially back in the 70’s during the ‘me’ generation). As a young adult, Michael’s honestly was detrimental during job interviews. Some funny scenes, in New York City. Michael’s friends, many whom were musicians, didn’t exactly experience his criticism as love. Perplexing, a little rude and deviant, were more like it. This memoir really took off and became addicting-engrossing when Michael meets Eve (her real name was changed to protect her privacy). Rather than even try to explain their relationship, I’ll just say this: Falling in love- meeting each other’s families- learning each others history was much easier than learning each other’s subtle beliefs, values, boundaries, expressive styles, religious differences, and emotional needs. LOVE RELATIONSHIP - including extended families - are COMPLICATED! It’s amazing anyone ever stays together! Lots to think about from this unusual memoir..... which soon left me desiring more... I found myself looking up images of Michael Leviton, on google.. (pretty cute guy). I read more him, enjoyed his music, and enjoyed his photography. I wasted much of my lazy Sunday afternoon watching Michael Leviton YouTube’s. His music videos are very cool. “Summer’s the Worst” is a touching song! His singing at a Bar Mitzvah ( when he was younger), was hysterical. NONE OF THOSE 13 year old boys were listening to Michael sing his love song. Sooo funny! I spent a couple of hours enjoying Michael’s music videos. Plus I downloaded his songs onto my playlist. NICE DAY! By the end of this book .....I became an all-around Michael Leviton fan: this book, his music, and his photography! Twitter follower, now too!

  7. 4 out of 5

    trishla ⚡ | YourLocalBookReader

    1 star. I listed to the audiobook version of this and without that I would not have believed this was a real story. Michael grows up in a "honest cult" (very apt nickname) completely devoid of any social niceties. He "tells it like it is" without any regard to other people's feelings. Those he believed - are their responsibility not his. Reading this was like watching a train wreck happen, I simply could not look away. I think one of the worst examples was his relationship with Eve. She has a ve 1 star. I listed to the audiobook version of this and without that I would not have believed this was a real story. Michael grows up in a "honest cult" (very apt nickname) completely devoid of any social niceties. He "tells it like it is" without any regard to other people's feelings. Those he believed - are their responsibility not his. Reading this was like watching a train wreck happen, I simply could not look away. I think one of the worst examples was his relationship with Eve. She has a very different communication style - albeit a pretty normal one for women where we are conditioned to suggest what we want rather than outright saying it. By this, Michael (unknowingly or not) takes advantage of her social niceties over and over. From sitting in the AC because he couldn't figure out to ask her what she wanted because "Well if she wanted the heat on, she should have SAID something". I see this issue in relationships a lot where men constantly want women to "just TELL me" as if the social cues and clues aren't already out there. As if women are to manage and take on the entire mental load and break it down into bite sized pieces for men. To be so blissfully unaware of social cues is male privilege in it's finest. Multiple times Michael goes on first dates that are going poorly (obviously) and he then acosts the women by asking them "what did I do wrong? Why aren't you enjoying it". That sentence alone would set off warning bells in any women that's been socialized to know how dangerous men can be when angry. So when the women lie and say they're having a good time (to avoid the risk of being murdered) Michael calls them all liars. As if he is entitled to this. Then he starts learning to lie, not to understand the world better but as a "social experiment". The entire time he laughs condescendingly about it, as if he's proud to be pulling on over people who are just trying to get by in the world. Alas the train wreck is over. instagram thank you to netgalley and dreamscape media for an audio-arc in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    I grew up around so much dishonesty that it physically pains me to be dishonest. So much so that I've built a reputation for myself as being the person to go to when you want the truth. So when I read the summary of this book, about a man who grew up in an "honesty cult" and how he learned that sometimes, being dishonest is a good thing, this memoir became required reading for me, someone who doesn't usually read memoirs. This story is fascinating and psychologically layered, leaving you feeling I grew up around so much dishonesty that it physically pains me to be dishonest. So much so that I've built a reputation for myself as being the person to go to when you want the truth. So when I read the summary of this book, about a man who grew up in an "honesty cult" and how he learned that sometimes, being dishonest is a good thing, this memoir became required reading for me, someone who doesn't usually read memoirs. This story is fascinating and psychologically layered, leaving you feeling Leviton's experiences as a child border on cruel and twisted. As I read, I contemplated whether I am too honest and when, if ever, is it appropriate to be dishonest? How we all have different ways of thinking, different values, social norms that dictate what people really want to hear, even if it isn't entirely true. I found myself relating to Leviton's thought process a lot, which he seems to learn throughout the memoir is problematic in some ways. But as someone who values honesty so much - with the caveat that it is based in kindness - I worried that the moral of Leviton's story was that he was a completely changed man and would live more dishonestly than honestly. That isn't entirely the case, and I won't spoil what his approach became, but I think it strikes a healthy balance. This memoir is certainly of value to anyone interested in family dynamics and ways of living that aren't too common (how many of us attend a family camp where we role play our personal grievances with other attendees or have a parent teach us, as a child, all the ways advertisements try to trick us?), but if you've grown up on either extreme end of the honesty/dishonesty spectrum, Leviton's story will keep you thinking about our interactions with others long after his story ends.

  9. 4 out of 5

    sameera

    these white kids really be wildin out here back in the day. like i thought "the perks of being a wallflower" by stephen chbosky was hella dramatized, but like no. this bitch was suggesting a fucking orgy to his friends as something fun. and guess what? they actually listen to this nerdy high school sophomore. his life felt like a fever dream. like he was freelance his entire life and one of the jobs he worked was as a piano player for cafes. i cannot believe this shit. i thought people like this these white kids really be wildin out here back in the day. like i thought "the perks of being a wallflower" by stephen chbosky was hella dramatized, but like no. this bitch was suggesting a fucking orgy to his friends as something fun. and guess what? they actually listen to this nerdy high school sophomore. his life felt like a fever dream. like he was freelance his entire life and one of the jobs he worked was as a piano player for cafes. i cannot believe this shit. i thought people like this only existed on television. i mean he was on "this american life"... wtf it was interesting to see someone more socially dysfunctional than me tho ヽ(>∀<☆)ノ

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    Most importantly, a big thank you to NetGalley, Michael Leviton, and Dreamscape Media for providing me with a copy of this publication in exchange for an unbiased review. Ever since he could remember ("since he was born" is how he'd put it) Michael Leviton has always given and expected complete and utter honesty. Not just in instances that demand it but in every little thing. His parents were mostly to thank for instilling this integral trait in him from the very beginning along with the problems Most importantly, a big thank you to NetGalley, Michael Leviton, and Dreamscape Media for providing me with a copy of this publication in exchange for an unbiased review. Ever since he could remember ("since he was born" is how he'd put it) Michael Leviton has always given and expected complete and utter honesty. Not just in instances that demand it but in every little thing. His parents were mostly to thank for instilling this integral trait in him from the very beginning along with the problems it seemed to have caused during every stage of life thus far. Questioning his school teachers' directives, making his peers uncomfortable and becoming a fixture to endless torment from girls was all in a day's work for Michael from kindergarten all the way into his thirties. Told in an impressively lighthearted but eloquent manner, the author places honesty under the microscope and dissects and scrutinizes it by asking essential questions. Are white lies really necessary? Would it be best to be blunt? What happens when we sugar coat things? What happens when we don't? All these curiosities are answered in as Leviton describes in great detail his unorthodox relationship with his parents and how what they've ingrained in him his whole life seems to be at the root of his shortcomings. A very well-written, thought provoking memoir to laugh the whole way through, 3.5 stars is what I award 'To Be Honest'. And you'll just have to trust me when I say, I'm just being honest.

  11. 4 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    Leviton was raised not to lie, but that’s oversimplifying. It’s his family’s unnecessary, unyielding honesty that reeks of arrogance and elitism. If always brutally honest, you bypass many acceptable social norms (i.e. it’s important not to be a dick 24/7). He says, “In my family, silence was suffering, confession was connection, and criticism was love.” Such a cold way for a child to thrive. It’s amazing he can now maintain relationships.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    An interesting book about honesty, written by someone who grew up in a family that valued honesty to an extreme. To this family, honesty not only meant not telling lies, but also not withholding any thoughts that crossed their minds. As you can imagine, this upbringing stuck with the author, who describes scene after scene of socially awkward moments. One of my favorite stories starts, “It didn’t occur to me that bringing my girlfriend to family therapy camp might be a bad idea.” The book made me An interesting book about honesty, written by someone who grew up in a family that valued honesty to an extreme. To this family, honesty not only meant not telling lies, but also not withholding any thoughts that crossed their minds. As you can imagine, this upbringing stuck with the author, who describes scene after scene of socially awkward moments. One of my favorite stories starts, “It didn’t occur to me that bringing my girlfriend to family therapy camp might be a bad idea.” The book made me reflect on social norms around honesty, and the different ways “most people” use dishonesty to make others comfortable and avoid conflict. It was also interesting to read how this family seemed to accept that being honest all the time means that you should/cannot care what others think of you, yet there are multiple examples in the book of the author and his family seeming to care what other people think of them. The author begins to be purposefully dishonest, in what seems to be a social experiment to determine if this will make more people like him. I expected there to be a little more self-reflection by the end of the book, but the conclusion seems to be that his over-honest approach is superior, and just not appreciated enough by ‘most people’: “Eventually I stopped discussing my adventures in deception. Others would appreciate my lies only if I never revealed them. This is the main reason I suspect writing this book is a bad idea.” I also wished this book had examined other reasons that people may lie. The assumption was that it is always to make other people like us or to avoid conflict. There are also situations where people might lie to protect themselves (for example, financially or physically), and I wish this was acknowledged/explored. Overall, this book was enjoyable to listen to (the author narrates the audiobook himself), and it made me think and want to discuss this book with others.

  13. 4 out of 5

    sarah bybee

    so engaging i didnt even need caffeine driving from houston to austin

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    ***Goodreads Giveaway Win Offered by https://abramsbooks.com/imprints/abra... *** I went into this book thinking I was in for a fun, lighthearted story about a quirky family. Although it was those things, there was something deeper. This may be me reading too much into it because I THINK the author had different intentions, but I took away something philosophical, Talmudic actually about what humans really need in the realm of honesty. I enjoyed this thought experiment. Of course I don't know but ***Goodreads Giveaway Win Offered by https://abramsbooks.com/imprints/abra... *** I went into this book thinking I was in for a fun, lighthearted story about a quirky family. Although it was those things, there was something deeper. This may be me reading too much into it because I THINK the author had different intentions, but I took away something philosophical, Talmudic actually about what humans really need in the realm of honesty. I enjoyed this thought experiment. Of course I don't know but I think the author may have been intending to simply tell the truth about his slightly fucked-up family. He even stated a couple of times that he was trying to tell the truth about how awful they really were, especially his dad. However, I just didn't see that. I saw a, yes, brutally, slightly clueless boy raised to be too honest but ultimately self-aware and kind of a nice, caring person. At least that's how it came through on the page. Regarding his dad, yes he may have treated his son in an odd way, I never got that he was a bad man, which I think the author might have been trying to say. This was never addressed but what I saw was a dad who was on the neuro-atypical spectrum. Did anyone else see that? All of this left me with lots to ponder which makes for a wonderful book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    booking our new escape ♡ [on hiatus]

    I appreciate what this book tried to do in about three-hundred pages. Michael's relationship with telling lies was well-portrayed. This book essentially allows its readers to ask themselves what being truthful really means. It brings to light many questions, that's probably one of its most solid points. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. The pleasant listening experience made the book funnier than the topics it decided to tackle. It even felt lighthearted at times, all thanks to I appreciate what this book tried to do in about three-hundred pages. Michael's relationship with telling lies was well-portrayed. This book essentially allows its readers to ask themselves what being truthful really means. It brings to light many questions, that's probably one of its most solid points. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. The pleasant listening experience made the book funnier than the topics it decided to tackle. It even felt lighthearted at times, all thanks to Michael's wonderful narration. Still, I kept spacing out from the story and feeling like I didn't want to keep going. After reaching the halfway mark, I just felt dissatisfied with the direction the book had taken. I expected a more engaging story than the one I had gotten. I wanted to connect on a deeper level with Michael's character and the countless struggles he encountered, but it just didn't happen for me, no matter how many more chapters I read. To me, this was just another story that had a lot of potentials but sadly decided to settle on a more stale approach. While the first half of the book was captivating and kept me hooked, the latter half was too slow-paced for my liking, and I felt myself growing tired with the whole story. I wish I could have loved this more. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it, for the most part. Therefore, I would recommend reading this if you feel intrigued after reading the premise, and if you enjoy memoirs in general, even when they do not reach their full potential. Arc kindly provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Content warnings can be found here.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Federica

    Wow, this book was really interesting! Michael is brought up in a family that believe you should only say the truth and never lie. This has obviously repercussions on Michael's characters and how he is perceived (usually like rude and a bit odd). The best thing about this audiobook is Michael himself reading it. The smile in his voice when he tells about the tragicomic experiences in his life is a super plus! Not my usually kind of read, but really recommended! Thank you to NetGalley and the publis Wow, this book was really interesting! Michael is brought up in a family that believe you should only say the truth and never lie. This has obviously repercussions on Michael's characters and how he is perceived (usually like rude and a bit odd). The best thing about this audiobook is Michael himself reading it. The smile in his voice when he tells about the tragicomic experiences in his life is a super plus! Not my usually kind of read, but really recommended! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Martínez

    I loved this book so much, made me confront my own rationale when I decide to be an (honest) dick.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nima Morgan

    Michael Leviton's memoir is very fascinating, he takes us through the journey of growing up and being raised by parents who only see "blunt honesty" as the way to be in life, and as an adult, he learns later in life that there is room to be like the rest of us. It seems that blunt honesty tends to leave out empathy, compassion, and the ability to have much softer relationships with people. I believe that Michael was able to find that eventually in his life. Certainly an interesting read. Thank y Michael Leviton's memoir is very fascinating, he takes us through the journey of growing up and being raised by parents who only see "blunt honesty" as the way to be in life, and as an adult, he learns later in life that there is room to be like the rest of us. It seems that blunt honesty tends to leave out empathy, compassion, and the ability to have much softer relationships with people. I believe that Michael was able to find that eventually in his life. Certainly an interesting read. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book in exchange for a copy of the book. #DreamscapeMedia #NetGalley

  19. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle

    To Be Honest // by Michael Leviton "Little Honesty Cult." Michael Leviton was raised by parents that valued honesty more than anything else. While that sounds rather normal, the way this manifested itself in his daily life and how people reacted to it quickly showed that it was anything but normal after all. Their honesty was accompanied with the assumption that they were not at all responsible with the consequences of their words because each person is only responsible for their own feelings, not To Be Honest // by Michael Leviton "Little Honesty Cult." Michael Leviton was raised by parents that valued honesty more than anything else. While that sounds rather normal, the way this manifested itself in his daily life and how people reacted to it quickly showed that it was anything but normal after all. Their honesty was accompanied with the assumption that they were not at all responsible with the consequences of their words because each person is only responsible for their own feelings, not others', and that this honesty was more important than anything else in their lives, even if it meant living with no friends and being unable to find a stable job. In this memoir, Leviton writes about how he grew up, lessons he learned while in school and beyond, and what effect it had in his life when he started to lie on purpose. To Be Honest by Michael Leviton was such an interesting read! It did take me a little while to become invested in this memoir (though I do think my reading device had something to do with that), but once I really sat down and focused on it, I was hooked! I am a big fan of memoirs and I can honestly say that this one is unlike many others I have read. It is so candid and... well... honest. It was mind blowing to read about the things he experienced and it was also very educational for me to see his thought processes behind the things he did. Often times, it was hard to disagree with him even though I can see why other people were uncomfortable in those situations. Many times you can see how this honesty hurt him or squelched the feelings needed in healthy relationships (such as with his father) but it was also difficult to argue with his logic. While I can't say that my honesty or life in general is anything like his, this book did help me realize why I struggle so often in social situations myself - the big difference is probably that I don't have the confidence to be as honest as he is in those situations because I do worry about what others think and feel. But it is oddly satisfying and validating to read this memoir and be able to put more thoughts and feelings to my own experiences. I definitely recommend this read for any fan of memoirs! Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linh

    IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK! I decided to pick up this book because the author, Micheal and I both have a thing for honesty. (Yes, that is actually my answer to the question about my biggest flaw in any job interview, Michael). Just a few chapters in and I just adored him and thought to myself "Hey, we can be friends!". Like Michael, I was raised to live by honesty and trust, though I haven't applied them so strictly because the people who raised me, my parents, haven't lived by their teachings like h IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK! I decided to pick up this book because the author, Micheal and I both have a thing for honesty. (Yes, that is actually my answer to the question about my biggest flaw in any job interview, Michael). Just a few chapters in and I just adored him and thought to myself "Hey, we can be friends!". Like Michael, I was raised to live by honesty and trust, though I haven't applied them so strictly because the people who raised me, my parents, haven't lived by their teachings like his did. I found his dad's parenting extremely amusing and actually agreed with most of what Michael had said and done as I would have done the same if in those circumstances. Most of the time, people who seem to fight for justice are actually just fighting for the truth. For more than 20 years of my life, my motto had been "It'd better be true than be nice". That was a tough way to live. People perceived me as mean when I was simply being honest and I was puzzled as to why people had to hide or even fake their feelings. I don't know Michael personally but from the book, he wasn't weird or obnoxious to me. Instead, he was strong. Only strong people can be vulnerable to share that he was a crybaby as a boy, to genuinely admire people who are better than him, be so comfortable with himself, and hardly flinch when faced with criticisms. I'm glad that eventually, Michael could find a way to balance his honest nature to have a happier life. The book actually encouraged me to be honest, to stay true to myself but at the same time, we have to be aware of the cost of telling the truth, which not everyone wants or needs to hear. We, human beings, crave social connections. You don't have to shoo people away from being yourself. I still believe in living an honest life because trust matters. We just have to communicate honestly more effectively.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I couldn't put this book down and finished it in just a few days - both because the book is entertaining - it's full of economically told, funny and weird anecdotes, and because my East Coast Jewish family is definitely on the Leviton family spectrum and I hoped I could learn about myself from reading it - I did. Leviton grew up in a family that prioritized honesty over politeness. His dad would point out to Michael when people were phony, how easily they were sold on trends, and gave brutally ho I couldn't put this book down and finished it in just a few days - both because the book is entertaining - it's full of economically told, funny and weird anecdotes, and because my East Coast Jewish family is definitely on the Leviton family spectrum and I hoped I could learn about myself from reading it - I did. Leviton grew up in a family that prioritized honesty over politeness. His dad would point out to Michael when people were phony, how easily they were sold on trends, and gave brutally honest feedback about anything Michael did, all with the notion that he respected Michael too much to ever lie to him - and this is from the time Michael was a baby. Michael fully internalized his family's philosophy and the book traces the funny and uncomfortable fallout from this. Some of the scenes are so satisfying, like things I'd fantasize about - a nerdy kid impervious to bullies because he starts psychoanalyzing them or finding flaws in their arguments as they're trying to bully him, or who calls out hypocritical teachers in front of the class. In adulthood, it leads to some really cringeworthy scenes: torpedoed job interviews and asking dates for feedback on what he did wrong. The story mostly takes place in New York City and a family camp in California, and Leviton sets the scene well when it serves the story, but the dialog and action do all the work. This memoir is so well-focused on exactly what it's about, the results of this specific aspect of his upbringing. There is no time spent name-checking any specific businesses or people the reader might recognize. Though my Levitonitus is nowhere near as extreme, the issues between him and his major love interest in the book, Eve, clarified some sticking points that often come up in arguments between my very polite Southern/Midwestern husband and me. I suspect many readers will find themselves squarely in one camp or the other as far as communication style. I often sided with Michael and found Eve's method of communicating excruciating, but Michael does a good job eventually distilling value from Eve's point of view, and there is much self-reflection throughout. I read the Kindle edition which was great, no typos. My only trouble was with the symbols used for the end of chapter notes. I didn't understand the logic of some of them and often wasn't sure if I was reading the right note.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angelina

    Worth it, to be honest! Thanks NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for providing this ALC! I love audiobooks narrated by the author. This memoir is witty and charming. Raised in a "little honesty cult" Leviton's parents taught him to be honest all the time. His parents come off as nice but very odd. His dad wouldn't "go easy" when he taught 5 year old Michael chess. Thankfully, his mom told him not to spill the beans about Santa to the other kids in his kindergarten class. My oldest son made that mist Worth it, to be honest! Thanks NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for providing this ALC! I love audiobooks narrated by the author. This memoir is witty and charming. Raised in a "little honesty cult" Leviton's parents taught him to be honest all the time. His parents come off as nice but very odd. His dad wouldn't "go easy" when he taught 5 year old Michael chess. Thankfully, his mom told him not to spill the beans about Santa to the other kids in his kindergarten class. My oldest son made that mistake with some friends from next door. (Oops!) His experiences were so similar to my own I was left wondering if he was on the spectrum. I'm glad he figured out diplomacy and empathy makes life a lot smoother. This one had me laughing out loud. I could hear the author grinning as he told some of these hilarious misadventures.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I listened to the audiobook which was read by the author himself. Even so I found it kind of weird that the author laughed about himself and his jokes while recording this book (and that these part stayed in the actual recording!), I really enjoyed the book. It is a good start to discuss how much honesty we mean when we say "we should always be honest". For example, as a German I always have to laugh in American TV shows or movies when a German is portrayed as too direct or too rude when in fact I listened to the audiobook which was read by the author himself. Even so I found it kind of weird that the author laughed about himself and his jokes while recording this book (and that these part stayed in the actual recording!), I really enjoyed the book. It is a good start to discuss how much honesty we mean when we say "we should always be honest". For example, as a German I always have to laugh in American TV shows or movies when a German is portrayed as too direct or too rude when in fact the character is only honest. I think Americans have a very different understanding of honesty than Germans do. When Americans are supposedly polite we perceive them often as fake. Personally, I think we have to find a good balance. We should aim to be as honest as possible but at the same time we should try not to hurt the feelings of others.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Coretta Loughmiller

    Really interesting take on unconventional honesty as well as observations on “etiquette” and social expectations. I’ve known people a little like Michael, however they would normally be described as tactless, not honest. His version of honesty only acknowledged his perception, which is why it was offensive to others. You kinda hate him and feel sorry for him. That empathy is what he seemed to learn in the experience, that honesty can be used, but acknowledging the feelings and needs of others is Really interesting take on unconventional honesty as well as observations on “etiquette” and social expectations. I’ve known people a little like Michael, however they would normally be described as tactless, not honest. His version of honesty only acknowledged his perception, which is why it was offensive to others. You kinda hate him and feel sorry for him. That empathy is what he seemed to learn in the experience, that honesty can be used, but acknowledging the feelings and needs of others is valuable in the expression of “honesty.” Or omitting the uncomfortable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carlton Phelps

    At first as I read Mr Leviton's memoir, I felt sadness for him. His father was a person who questioned everything and forced Michael to explain every thought he had. And drilled into him that there was no path in life but to be honest always. I'm talking about being honest even if everyone you met, would, at some point ,hate your honesty and you. There was no room for white lies to someone even if seemed helpful. You know that white lie, " do these pants make my butt look big?". He would say yes At first as I read Mr Leviton's memoir, I felt sadness for him. His father was a person who questioned everything and forced Michael to explain every thought he had. And drilled into him that there was no path in life but to be honest always. I'm talking about being honest even if everyone you met, would, at some point ,hate your honesty and you. There was no room for white lies to someone even if seemed helpful. You know that white lie, " do these pants make my butt look big?". He would say yes if the pants did in fact make your butt look bigger. So you can feel the struggle Michael has faced all of his life. Jobs he wouldn't get, dates that would stand him and always the thought it was it was because he was honest, too much so. As I continued through the story I begin to feel a bit pissed about how Michael felt he was better than the rest of humanity because he was always telling the truth and the rest of us didn't. By the end of the story I again felt sorry for Michael and then happy for his strengths and convictions to fit in society. It is a hard read in some ways because of the feelings I found myself going through. Feeling he was emotionally abused by his father, watching as his childhood go from one trauma to another and how hard he had to force himself to fit in with the rest of us. Mr Leviton is a complex person who has laid open his life for the rest of us to judge, so to me, that also make him a very strong person.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Channa

    Very enjoyable read with some nice insights. Review to come!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shay

    Every now and then I stumble across a hidden, shining gem. A quirky, strange and offbeat memoir about a life that is completely remarkable in every way. Usually these books have an avid fan base but they rarely achieve commercial success and are typically not well known in bookish circles. To Be Honest by Michael Leviton is one of those gems, and I am making it my mission to bring everyone's attention to this amazing, and highly entertaining real-life story. Readers of any of Augusten Burroughs wo Every now and then I stumble across a hidden, shining gem. A quirky, strange and offbeat memoir about a life that is completely remarkable in every way. Usually these books have an avid fan base but they rarely achieve commercial success and are typically not well known in bookish circles. To Be Honest by Michael Leviton is one of those gems, and I am making it my mission to bring everyone's attention to this amazing, and highly entertaining real-life story. Readers of any of Augusten Burroughs work, but especially Running with Scissors, will be familiar with this style of book. I like to call them dysfunctional memoirs". They tackle life stories filled with human and family dysfunction, often sprinkled liberally with mental health issues and psychological challenges. In this case, Michael Leviton recounts his life from his earliest memories through to more recent times through the lens of his family's obsession with being truthful. It is unapologetic in its bluntness and Leviton presents the most strange occurences with a straight-forward delivery. I listened to the audiobook kindly provided by @netgalley and narrated by the author. Honestly, I've never come across an author narrated audiobook that worked.. voice actors spend so much time and effort honing their craft, and they have so much more command of their voices. Apologies to the author, but the narration really didn't work for me. The random inflections of laughter left me confused - was he laughing at himself based on what he had learnt, or was he uncomfortable? His voice was also very monotone throughout, and I sped it up to x2 speed because the pacing felt off to me. Once I got past the narration, the story was wonderful in a familiar car-crash kind of way. I couldn't look away. I found myself stealing time to listen, eager to hear what bizarre decisions were about to be made. I always appreciate a flawed protagonist, and this book delivered that in droves. I think I most connected with the author as someone who has grown and learned from their experiences. Having been presented with a very extreme upbringing he was able to temper that later in life through his own hard work and drive to better understand the world and our alien cultural norms. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone who appreciates sharp, witty and ironic stories that are more than a little wild.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Camilla Perotti

    I loved the concept behind this book from the very beginning. The idea that someone was brought up to only use total honesty was extremely intriguing. But what I really loved was also how the same character at some point understands that that’s not what other people do. I had a very conflictual relationship with the main character, Michael. While at the beginning you can’t blame him for his behaviour because he’s just a child and you even find his honesty cute, growing up you just can’t understa I loved the concept behind this book from the very beginning. The idea that someone was brought up to only use total honesty was extremely intriguing. But what I really loved was also how the same character at some point understands that that’s not what other people do. I had a very conflictual relationship with the main character, Michael. While at the beginning you can’t blame him for his behaviour because he’s just a child and you even find his honesty cute, growing up you just can’t understand how he is not able to comprehend that he is the only one living by those rules and, unless he changes behaviour, he would be destined to live alone. When he finally understands that maybe something was wrong with his upbringing and the way he was taught to behave, he still feels like an imposter in every connection he creates with other individuals. At the end, you still don’t really know whether he has made peace with him behaving like everyone else or if for the rest of his life he would feel like a 100% honest person trapped in the body of an imposter. Anyway, I can’t really be mad at the main character, given that he is the author and this is a memoir, and I actually truly applaude his honesty in describing so honestly his life path as a completely honest person. As he also explores in the book, he could have told a different story, turning his father into a more likable person, for example. Instead, the story we read is as raw as he lived it and I loved that. I want to thank Abrams Press and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Beth

    I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this memoir in a Goodreads Giveaway. The author was raised in a family that believed in brutal honesty, always. The product of less than honest moments in early childhood had made both of his parents believe this was always the best policy, but struggled with job interviews, social interaction and norms, and being liked because of that policy, and Michael grew up with the same issues. His honesty was often believed offensive and rude, and we was weird and unlikea I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this memoir in a Goodreads Giveaway. The author was raised in a family that believed in brutal honesty, always. The product of less than honest moments in early childhood had made both of his parents believe this was always the best policy, but struggled with job interviews, social interaction and norms, and being liked because of that policy, and Michael grew up with the same issues. His honesty was often believed offensive and rude, and we was weird and unlikeable. Following a breakup with a woman he loved deeply, he decides to teach himself to lie to make those around him more comfortable, but goes too far in the other direction, becoming manipulative. The academic way he approaches this, influenced by his family’s abject public honesty, his own ingrained viewpoints, and years spending time every summer at family therapy camps, comes across as almost sociopathic. It really makes you think about the things he considers lies that most of us take for granted every day, and our own definition of honesty. Given his struggle on how honest to be in writing this memoir, I also question how much he pulled his punches in the writing and manipulated the story. But, overall, it was an interesting read that made me think about the use of honesty and its place with regards to empathy, compassion, and humanity.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jill Reads

    “To Be Honest: A Memoir” is what Michael Leviton calls his “tragic love affair with honesty.” It’s hilarious, creative, inspiring and kind of genius. “TBH” is a truly entertaining read because Michael is a unicorn person—unlike any other author I’ve read. “My parents taught us to be honest,” Michael explains. This all seems good and fine and normal until he peels back what he really means. “Most parents teach their kids to be polite, to hide their thoughts and feelings. Barely anyone really want “To Be Honest: A Memoir” is what Michael Leviton calls his “tragic love affair with honesty.” It’s hilarious, creative, inspiring and kind of genius. “TBH” is a truly entertaining read because Michael is a unicorn person—unlike any other author I’ve read. “My parents taught us to be honest,” Michael explains. This all seems good and fine and normal until he peels back what he really means. “Most parents teach their kids to be polite, to hide their thoughts and feelings. Barely anyone really wants their kids to be honest. As soon as their kids are honest for a moment, they freak out and punish them.” That said, Michael—and especially his father—are brutally honest. Therefore, they come across as rude, too opinionated, outspoken, condescending, negative, critical and obnoxious. Being overly candid and direct also means they’re often inappropriate because they hurt others feelings. Their straight talking also means they’re creepy and awkward. After all, do we really want to know what someone is really thinking and what’s going on in their life? Michael admits to having no shame because—what’s the big deal?—he doesn’t care if people don’t like him. What makes this book special is that it’s so uncommon to see men being vulnerable and sharing their innermost feelings. Michael shares examples of his issues with dating, being in a long-term relationship, interviewing for jobs and interacting with strangers. He leaves it all on the table. Michael writes about his experience because he wants there to be more truth in the world. But, damn. It’s so hard to be authentic. No one wants to really know us, our true thoughts, our insecurities. They’d prefer to only know what’s on the surface. They want niceties and polite, politically correct etiquette. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to express ourselves in an honest way. We just want to fit in. But doing so involves the telling of “white” lies, overt lies. And it involves becoming someone else—someone others want us to be. Another thing I love about this book is the writing. Michael’s beautiful descriptions and bits of wisdom and humor sprinkled in make me envision this as a movie. I can see him exactly in my mind’s eye. And the story is fast-paced and funny. I’m along for the ride. Also, his narration totally makes the audiobook a blast. He knows he’s funny so I can tell he’s grinning while reading. I’m sure he was cracking himself up during sections and had to redo it a few times. Special thanks to Dreamscape Media for providing me with a copy of the audiobook, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

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