So it turns out the history of the home is mostly of folks who patented things, but then made no money from the items they patented, folks dying from...moreSo it turns out the history of the home is mostly of folks who patented things, but then made no money from the items they patented, folks dying from disease and varmints, and folks destroying historic artifacts. I had hoped to be entertained, but was mostly depressed. On the up side, this is a thoroughly researched book with tons of history and myth debunking. Still, it's been a long time since I was so happy to hear "this concludes this production of . . . ."(less)
Bill Rodgers spoke to my running group (Marathoner in Training in Columbus, Ohio) last season and I must admit I was underwhelmed. He seemed disorgani...moreBill Rodgers spoke to my running group (Marathoner in Training in Columbus, Ohio) last season and I must admit I was underwhelmed. He seemed disorganized and flaky. He attempted to inspire, but came off as spacy. Now that I've read his memoir, I can see that he may just be all those things. He admits as much. He is, however, also an amazing champion as well as someone who has worked his buns off to make running get the credit it deserves.
I stayed interested throughout the book. I liked the author (Matthew Shepatin)'s method of weaving the backstory into an account of Billy's first Boston win. I enjoyed the firsthand portraits of great such as Amby Burfoot, Frank Shorter, and Steve Prefontaine. It really took me back to the days when running really turned a corner and took hold of the American public. It was a great read.(less)
A beautifully written memoir by the daughter of famous writer William Styron. She did a great job of investigating her own feelings as she explained h...moreA beautifully written memoir by the daughter of famous writer William Styron. She did a great job of investigating her own feelings as she explained her understanding of this complicated and difficult man. Never once did I feel as if she were whining or complaining. Her final portrait of him made me weep.(less)
"Just exactly what is a wolf doing in my parlor?" Science journalist Jon Franklin spends nine interesting CDs (I listened to the audiobook) answering...more
"Just exactly what is a wolf doing in my parlor?" Science journalist Jon Franklin spends nine interesting CDs (I listened to the audiobook) answering this question in the frame of evolution.
I would have given The Wolf in the Parlor five stars, but IMHO, the book didn't get personal soon enough. Instead of chronicling the history of his employment and laying out his credentials as a science journalist, he would have captivated the reader and hooked us for the ride much earlier if he had begun the story with the scene in which he proposed to his girlfriend and she responded, "Does this mean we can get a puppy?" As the book stands, I listened to an entire CD asking all the while, "What does this have to do with dogs?" and "Where are the dogs?" The photo of the old man and the puppy, a snapshot of an archeological dig, is an interesting hook, but I wanted something more personal.
I'm glad I stuck it out. The book delivers both scientific information and memoir in a sweet balance. For the the evolutionarily-minded dog-lover, it's a good story.
[Note: The subtitle of the most recent edition of this book has been changed. The book I listened to was subtitled, "The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs." The newer subtitle is, "How the Dog Came to Share Your Brain."](less)
Between Panic and Desire, Dinty W. (an initial he explains in this book) Moore's cultural memoir of linked essays in experimental form complete with q...moreBetween Panic and Desire, Dinty W. (an initial he explains in this book) Moore's cultural memoir of linked essays in experimental form complete with quizzes and his own autopsy report demanded that I read it in one sitting. The book weaves John F. Kennedy, Nixon, the cold war,the Cuban missile crisis, 9/11, both Bush presidents, the Beatles, Charles Manson, Squeaky Fromme, missing fathers, father figures, drug addiction, Irish heritage, automobiles, and Leonard Cohen into a witty and inventive narrative about life in the television-watching U.S.A. of the 1960s and the journey of a young man wandering through it. I really enjoyed the ride.(less)
Quick witted and charming, Tina had me laughing out loud through most of this audiobook. It almost made me wish I watched television. Almost. She's go...moreQuick witted and charming, Tina had me laughing out loud through most of this audiobook. It almost made me wish I watched television. Almost. She's got the comedic timing down.(less)
Fluff. Funny fluff, but fluff just the same. I had hoped for a glimpse into her life, but alas, no such thing in this book. Just surface stuff and jok...moreFluff. Funny fluff, but fluff just the same. I had hoped for a glimpse into her life, but alas, no such thing in this book. Just surface stuff and jokes. It was like watching her monologues, but without the best parts.(less)
You either love him or you hate him. I loved this audiobook and especially loved hearing him read this "memoir in stories" as he called it since he ch...moreYou either love him or you hate him. I loved this audiobook and especially loved hearing him read this "memoir in stories" as he called it since he changed some of the names. I was also sickened in all the right places. He is a natural storyteller and, as the title promises, a true troublemaker in the best sense of the word.(less)
I adore Dame Judi and Samantha Bond, the reader, did a great job of bringing her to life. It wasn't as deep and revealing as I had hoped, but that did...moreI adore Dame Judi and Samantha Bond, the reader, did a great job of bringing her to life. It wasn't as deep and revealing as I had hoped, but that didn't really surprise me. Instead it was funny and poignant and a good time. (less)
As a writer, when I read and listen to books on CD, I do so from a different vantage point than someon...more "Life is one big transition." - Willie Stargell
As a writer, when I read and listen to books on CD, I do so from a different vantage point than someone who does not write. Part of me reads for the story, but another part, the writer part, searches for technique. "How did the author do that?" I ask as the narrative moves forward.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the book I'm currently listening to on CD, tells of author Cheryl Strayed's adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to get over her mother's death and her recent divorce. As the story unfolds, I'm struck by the ease with which she weaves different time periods together. Transitions always interest me. They are not easy even though authors like Strayed make them look deceptively so. "How does Strayed do this?" I ask as I listen. I've observed her success at using the following two methods.
The first technique involves the way she moves into flashback. When Strayed wants to move the reader back in time, she uses, from the past she is about to reveal, something that resonates with the present time of the book. For example, early in the book Strayed checked into a hotel near the Mohave desert to spend the night before setting out on her hike. She unpacked some of her newly purchased backpacking equipment:
I reached into one of the plastic bags and pulled out an orange whistle, whose packaging proclaimed it to be "the world's loudest." I ripped it open and held the whistle up by its yellow lanyard, then put it around my neck, as if I were a coach. . . .
Would I need it? I wondered meekly, bleakly, flopping down on the bed. It was well past dinnertime, but I was too anxious to feel hungry, my aloneness an uncomfortable thunk that filled my gut.
"You finally got what you wanted," Paul (her now ex-husband) had said when we bade each other goodbye in Minneapolis ten days before.
"What's that?" I'd asked.
"To be alone," he replied, and smiled, though I could only nod uncertainly.
It had been what I wanted, but alone wasn't quite it.
With this transition, Strayed begins to detail the unraveling of her marriage. Her feeling of aloneness in the motel and her ex-husband's use of the word "alone" make the connection between the two periods of time.
Strayed uses a second technique to bring the reader out of a flashback and onto the trail with her again. She does this by grounding the transition in detail in order to bring her readers back into the story. Strayed handles this beautifully in the prologue. There she explains how she accidentally knocked one of her heavy, expensive hiking boots over a cliff while standing on a crest on the trail. Then, in a sort of summary, she turns back in time to explain how she came to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the first place, taking the reader to events that happened years before. When she's done with this summary and ready to bring her reader back to her lost boot on the trail, she uses sensory detail to plant the reader back in the present moment:
I looked down at the trees below me, the tall tops of them waving gently in the hot breeze. They could keep my boots, I thought, gazing across the great green expanse. I'd chosen to rest in this place because of the view.
In that instant the reader is back behind Strayed's eyes seeing the Pacific Crest Trail as she does in the moments after she lost her boot. She has moved eloquently through time.
These are only two of the many techniques available to move through time. Strayed uses these and others well. I hope to emulate them in my work.
How have you learned to read like a writer? I'd love to hear about it on my blog, BumGlue.(less)
Considering how well Mr. Block spins a story, I was a little disappointed in the lack of throughline in his memoir. I can't say it lacked insight, but...moreConsidering how well Mr. Block spins a story, I was a little disappointed in the lack of throughline in his memoir. I can't say it lacked insight, but I'm used to reading memoirs in which the author mines their emotions and I didn't feel that in this book. Racewalking was the central theme, but that alone didn't seem enough. The ending also left me wanting. It was if he tired of writing the book and so he simply ended it. While I can relate to that feeling, abandoning your reader is never a good idea. Still, there was much pleasantness in this book which is part travelogue, part sports diary, part memoir. I related to much of his racing and training experiences and envied his ability to travel anywhere he wanted to run a marathon or an all-day race. I also envied his writing productivity and general ability to simply sit down and finish a book! Then again, he was under contract for most of the books he mentioned and a deadline does wonders for productivity. All in all, I'm glad I read about the many adventures racewalking has brought to his life and I hope he has many more.(less)