Book Review: Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell

Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What I love most about Matt Bell’s REFUSE TO BE DONE is its uncommon trust in the novel writer it is speaking to. I’ve never read a craft or process guide that so clearly believes in the capability of the storyteller, or so practically hands over immediately useful things. It is challenging but affirming, and synthesizes sound bytes of stellar writing advice from across the literary world with Bell’s own lived-in, battle-tested, demanding-yet-achievable process and workflow fundamentals. This book will remain a key item in my adventure pack while I journey through the first draft of my second book, and likely many more drafts to come.



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Book Review: Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto

Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What a treasure of a book by Kathryn Aalto, profiling the greatest female nature writers most of us have never heard of. Immensely enjoyed the academic exploration of these important legacies, how they changed through time, and how they set work in motion that is still in progress today. I felt like I was walking with them thanks to Aalto’s companionable, evocative prose. Rigorous in its exhaustive collection of related works as well–a great reference for future reading.



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Book Review: Deep by James Nestor

Deep by James Nestor

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves by James Nestor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Beyond fascinating–part memoir, part pop science thematic compilation, James Nestor’s Deep makes you feel suspended in the dark pressure of the sea. Even as an ocean science nerd, I learned so much. Spoiler: the ocean and the human body are both even more insane than you thought. I hope this book continues to inspire conservation efforts and a gentler relationship between humans and the sea.

One correction I have to mention because I can’t stop myself: in the photo inset, it says “Whale sharks are neither whales nor sharks, but the world’s largest fish.” Actually, whale sharks are definitely sharks. All sharks are also fish. So yes, they are the world’s largest fish and also shark. Thank you for listening.



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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: 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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