Book Review: Find your Artistic Voice by Lisa Congdon

Find Your Artistic Voice by Lisa Congdon

Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic by Lisa Congdon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A solid read with great advice for any creative who is trying to establish their own style and way of bringing their work to the world. Nothing earth-changing here, just a beautiful little book with lots of sense-making guidance to return you to the basics of finding yourself while/despite/in the midst of consistent creative practice.



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Book Review: Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Incredibly meticulous, Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is almost intimidating in its level of detail at first. But the deeper I sank into this story, the more appreciative I became of that detail. The way that Lansing painstakingly analyzed every crew member’s diary, interviewed surviving members, and researched everything he could possibly get his hands on regarding Shackleton’s voyage makes this book the immersive masterpiece that it is. You feel every moment. Reading it left me in awe at the capacity of human beings. It moved me to tears. What a book. What a story. What an absolute miracle.



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Book Review: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’ve been a huge admirer of the late Ursula K. Le Guin ever since I read The Left Hand of Darkness and my mind was never the same. How lucky we are that some of her best writing advice is preserved in this volume! It’s a largely no-nonsense guide that distills writing into its most basic elements–she presents a deep dive on things like description, verb tenses, and point of view with plenty of examples and exercises to go with each section. But my favorite part was where she waxed a bit philosophical about how and why these nuts and bolts fit into the larger magic of story. There’s also a heaping helping of patented Le Guin sassiness and I loved that.



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Book Review: Seek You by Kristen Radtke

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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.



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Book Review: Fathoms – The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is so beautifully written, researched, and organized. Like the whale, it is heavy. Like the whale, it has many different functions and territories within a single body. Part memoir, part natural history, part catalog, part philosophy, Rebecca Giggs takes on the massive task of exploring how whales and human beings will never be free of each other’s influence. She presents a connection between humans and whales across species that has enlightened, destroyed, moved, fed, thrilled, and poisoned bodies, cultures, and our own vision of ourselves. An urgent and unflinching piece of environmental writing, and a true, poetic love at its core.



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Book Review: The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms

The Riot Grrrl Collection by Lisa Darms

The Riot Grrrl Collection by Lisa Darms

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is as close as having an appointment to view a library’s special collections wing as one can have in book form, specifically with archived DIY flyers, zines, and other materials created during the Riot Grrrl punk movement in the 1990s on the west coast. While the introduction gives great orienting comments, I was hoping for more of a guided tour throughout the text to help me better understand the background of each piece. That being said, the collection fittingly invites readers to take each artifact as they will, or don’t, who cares, be the revolution and make it whatever it means for you–and that’s how they were originally intended. A great immersive look into a unique moment of creative and political energy.



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Book Review: On Monsters by Stephen T. Asma

On Monsters by Stephen T. Asma

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This volume is erudite in every sense of the word, and to be perfectly honest, it’s just not very readable. However, I did learn some new and fascinating things and enjoyed the teleological arguments posed by the author against the backdrop of, well, all of recorded history. The biggest thing that made this read a slow one for me was the focus on “monstrous” humanity for the majority of the book. I tend to think of monsters more along the creature or supernatural lines, which are certainly mentioned, but I would say the majority of the book focuses on an academic analysis of history’s response to human deformities, differences, monstrous desires, and antisocial impulses rather than the godzillas and ghosts I was hoping to find.



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Book Review: Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy

Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy

Teeny Tiny Gardening: 35 Step-by-Step Projects and Inspirational Ideas for Gardening in Tiny Spaces by Emma Hardy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is filled with sumptuous images and easy to follow instructions for your next container garden or terrarium. It is filled with ideas that anyone can do, no matter how small their garden space or budget may be. Lovely little book!



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Book Review: Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Courtney Maum’s guide is information-packed and delightfully balanced, with heaping helpings of snark and empathy both. What outsiders imagine about the life of a published author is completely different from the insider’s reality, and this book helps translate expectations for the well-meaning and wide-eyed debut novelist.



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Book Review: What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen

What's a Hostess to Do?

What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Does your inner 1950’s housewife really miss your grandma (an actual 1950’s housewife) telling you what to do in terms of the proper way to create, display, and serve a proper meal on a gorgeous table? This book will fill that void. Susan Spungen makes it her job to be flawless and to help the flawed among us be that way, too. At once a deeply practical and ludicrously formal guide, this is a resource to help us make new magic in our entertaining life and push beyond lazy parties grounded by pizzas and potato chips. Spungen will inspire you to get the good dishware out of the back of the cabinet and actually plan a menu. I’ve always been a big believer in showing a deep respect for guests through artistry and small comforts, and this book was a fascinating look into the many, many ways one can accomplish that. The dinner party is becoming a lost art and I salute Spungen’s old school commitment to resurrecting it. I know I’ll treasure–and use–this handbook for many, many years to come.



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