I was happy to be gifted a copy of Happy-Go-Lucky, the newest by David Sedaris. I never fail to find something to impress me in David’s writing. His way of saying the world is so good at putting words to seeing the world in a particular way, during imperfect, improbable moments both banal and monumental. I feel very at home whenever I read his work. This one is no exception. Snort-laughing leading right into tears. He isn’t for everyone, but he is for me. This book is just another piece of proof that David’s a damn fine writer.
This book is phenomenally drawn, researched and told. Reading Seek You is a deeply personal act. As Kristen Radtke explores what it means to feel alone, her pages hold a mirror up to our own secret longings and darkest hours. The book asks important questions. It gives intensely challenging reasons to rethink and reimagine the ways we choose to carry our own cycles of loneliness. Radtke delivers a fascinating look at American culture and the human heart.
This book is a fascinating, deeply disturbing study on how childhood trauma impacted two lives: one who went on to commit horrific violence, and another who went on to become a loving parent with a happy life. The latter of these is Liza Rodman, who recounts her childhood in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the heart of the 1960’s. The former was her sometime babysitter, Tony Costa-a man who became nothing less than a demon, plagued by violent impulses and devoid of remorse. The way these two real-life narratives intertwine (Rodman’s in first person, Tony’s in a meticulously researched third person from journalist Jennifer Jordan) is engrossing and horrifying. It reminds us that evil sits side by side with the benign, and that we should always trust our instincts when we feel that something… or someone… is off.
This book is everything I hoped it might be and more. Jeremy Wade’s voice, experience, and specialty are each one of the most unique you’re liable to find. In this superbly fishy little volume, Wade plumbs the depths (forgive me) of the peculiar obsession involved in perfecting one’s craft. There are spectacular fish stories and practical tips, but what’s best is the philosophical underpinning and gentle humor that make this book far more beautiful than a simple angler’s guide.
Liana Finck’s distinctive style of drawing makes her graphic memoir feel as if it’s being told to you from the other end of the couch, while sharing a kettle of tea. The story is gently carried on the back of metaphors that allow her images to range free. It’s a beautiful memoir. Reading it feels like meeting someone for the first time, and knowing that they’re going to become important to you. Hard to describe. But you’ll know it when you see it.
Brian Sonia-Wallace’s meandering memoir stops off at unexpected destinations as he explores what it means to make a living as a busking poet in today’s America. Through the lens of his spontaneous poetry that is born of conversations with whomever approaches his typewriter and table, he contemplates all different kinds of desires, legacies, and wishes for the future that define the lives of the strangers that he begins to know. From the shiny temple to commercialism that is the Mall of America to a van that fortune tellers call home in the middle of the desert, these stories show a portrait of a nation and offer poetry as a possible prescription to mend the divisions of its people.
Good Talk is a graphic memoir that delivers in new ways, centering around hard and crucial conversations about race and identity. The intimacy of the book makes the national (and even international) topics of discussion very immediate and alive–Mira Jacob has given us the gift of her own experience through remembered conversations that span generations of hurt and hope. An essential read for the current cultural moment and far beyond.
Leslie Marmon Silko is one of my literary heroes–her searing, gorgeous novel Ceremony is one of my favorite books of all time. So, I deeply enjoyed this chance to hang out with her in her desert memoir The Turquoise Ledge. The book itself can be repetitive and unremarkable, but it’s less of a book and more of a long sit-down at the kitchen table with your grandmother, as she tells you about the special rocks she saw on her walks and the animals she saw in her garden and what’s been going on with her dogs and parrots and the weather and a little bit of religion and mysticism rolled in because that’s important, you know! I don’t think Silko would mind me saying that I liked this book not because of the book itself, but because of her. (Also, her supernaturally aided feud with her neighbor, because don’t all grandmothers have one of those, too?)
Patti Smith’s M Train inhabits a space so intimate that it’s typically found only inside our own minds–a swirl of dreams, longing, pithy observances, profound confrontations, mad wishes, spontaneous convictions, and ruminations on the tasks and artifacts of life. A place where we make sense of a life’s worth of words consumed. A place where we imagine what we might make and in that imagining make something else. This book is a love story, a catalogue of art, an ode to lost objects, a process journal, a coffee-drinking manifesto, and yet also none of these things. Smith’s voice is that of a woman who transcends definition and is so sure of her own course that she fairly manifests it out of thin air. She comprehends her own power in a way that is staggering. This book is the same: it is impossible to describe, but it makes meaning in its own way, on its own time.
This absorbing oddity of nonfiction starts out as an inquiry into the absurd and even dangerous obsession with a single species and ends up broadening into an exploration of the human view toward categorizing and assigning value to all kinds of species. It is an odd and thrilling amalgam of real-life adventure with an eccentric cast of modern explorers and the retraced steps of some of biology’s defining pioneers of taxonomy. The lengths that Voight undertook to get her story are a testament to the dark power of the quest for near-unobtainable rarity. It is a strange, colorful, and oftentimes quietly sad portrait of the human need to “own” the world around us.
The truth is, the pleasure of finding new species is too great; it is morally dangerous; for it brings with it the temptation to look on the thing found as your own possession all but your own creation… as if all the angels in heaven had not been admiring it, long before you were born or thought of.