HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

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Rice, a longtime Entertainment Weeklyreporter, assembled this “totally unauthorized” oral history from nearly 80 interviews plus archival quotes from those who refused to participate, including Shonda Rhimes. In order not to offend the famously touchy showrunner while spilling the beans, some sources chose to be identified as “Person Familiar With the Situation” or “Longtime Crew Member,” and “Former ABC Executive.” One of the most charming parts of the book for nonfanatics (though why a nonfanatic would be reading this book is hard to imagine) is a chapter in which the members of the band the Fray talk about how, when the show wanted to use their song, they were unsure whether licensing was “cool” and worried it would “kill our career.” Instead, the song went triple platinum, and they went to the Grammys. To make a book like this work for the general public, or even casual watchers of the show, would require much more storytelling, background profiles, and narrative structure than Rice provides. Instead, she organizes the information into chapters like “The Most Heartbreaking Departures and Deaths” and “How Isaiah Washington Brought Shame to Seattle Grace” and intersperses plenty of detailed comments to contextualize the quotes. This book is for superfans only—though there are no shortage of those. Actress Beanie Feldstein, who guested in a single episode in Season 16, is at the front of the pack. On set, she was taken into the room where they stored the prosthetic heads of every actor who ever played a character who had facial or brain surgery. She was able to identify every single one of them. The directors were “honestly disturbed by my knowledge,” she told Rice with pride. “Like, I cut too deep.” The book includes photos and an eight-page cast of characters.

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