Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

27th January
2014
written by Steph
End Of Your Life Book Club

The End Of Your Life Book Club

I never expected that traveling would change my reading tastes. All my life I’ve been a devoted reader of fiction and not really much else, and that’s honestly suited me fine. Don’t believe me? Of the 300+ posts that I’ve written about books on this site, less than 10 of them feature non-fiction titles. I’m all for reading broadly and diversifying one’s tastes, but I clearly also know what works for me and don’t stray too far from my literary predilections very frequently. And yet, ever since we’ve been traveling, I’ve found I have the attention span of a gnat, which not only makes it difficult to coherently synthesize and discuss the books that I do read after the fact, but it’s made focusing on my reading material a lot more challenging too. Part of why I failed to read very much last year is because I frequently found my attention waning and shifting whenever I picked up a book, except in the rarest of occasions, and I found that most novels simply did not capture or engage me in any real way. I’d put down books for days at a time without picking them up again, only to find that when I did, the story had pretty much fallen completely out of my brain. I couldn’t just peck at books sporadically, and my memory didn’t seem to have the capacity to retain enough plot to allow me to follow any novel in a lucid manner, and so I’d abandon one book after the next as I hunted (mostly futiley) for things that I could focus on. During this time, I discovered that I often had an easier time with memoirs, as they tended to pull me into their stories quickly and I could dip in and out of them over the course of several weeks and their coherency never suffered despite my haphazard reading schedule. I’d hate to cast aspersions on the memoir genre as a whole having, admittedly, not read much from it, but I think in part, the writing in the average memoir tends to have a lower difficulty threshold, so the cognitive demands placed upon the reader are perhaps less and the barrier to reader engagement is reduced. Or maybe there’s something about the conversational approach that memoirs tend to take, so that you actually feel like the author is speaking directly to you, like a friend would, and you’re just sitting down to a (somewhat) one-sided conversation and can enjoy the ride. (more…)
1st May
2012
written by Steph

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

[Note: this review is also posted at travel blog, Twenty Years Hence. Sorry for the cross-post for those of you who are subscribed to both (but thanks for supporting all our endeavors!).]
For me, the very best books, regardless of genre, are the ones that whisk me away from my own life and allow me to see and understand the world in a way I hadn’t before. If there’s one type of book with an innate affinity to do this very thing, surely it is the travel memoir! The very best of their kind aren’t just about traveling around in strange lands, encountering odd social customs and nibbling on questionable foods—though those anecdotes are fascinating in their own ways)—but are about the personal transformation that occurs when we venture out of our homes and leave the safety and security of the familiar behind.
As my own big trip looms larger with each passing day, it’s no surprise that I’ve been increasingly drawn to travel writing these past few months. Maybe I’m hoping to pick up tips and tricks along the way to ensure my trip is more successful, or maybe I’m hoping for inspiration… deep down, I think I just want reassurance that Tony and I aren’t alone in this dream and that leaving our current life to travel will turn out ok. I know that even in the pages of books, happy endings aren’t guaranteed, but I still can’t help but search for them nevertheless. To this end, I’ve been really gratified to find that the Nashville Public Library system has an awesome digitial travel collection, the irony being that now I can travel the world without even leaving the comfort of my home, not even to get a book! If that’s not the best of both worlds, then I don’t know what is. Anyway, NPL has a pretty bitchin’ selection of titles, ranging from actual travel guides to help you plan your stay, to memoirs and pieces of writing to inspire you to get off your lazy butt and actually go somewhere. This is how I stumbled across The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost (known as TGGG henceforth). (more…)
1st March
2012
written by Steph
By now apologies about sporadic postings here seem to be rule rather than the exception, which I truly am sorry about. It was really exciting to hear from so many of you regarding my last post where I outlined our plans for our RTW trip (and I promise I will respond to all of your comments and will certainly be emailing some of you too!), so even though reading has been somewhat sketchy around these parts of late, I am definitely hoping to cobble together some more pre-trip posts where I go into more detail about the various countries we plan hope to visit, as well as keep you all abreast of the less theoretical/research-based elements of trip planning as well. But of course, I know all of your are book-lovers at heart, so when I do have bookish content to post, I certainly will do that too! Now, is one such instance, because even though I have hardly read anything in the past three months, my gig reviewing things over at BookPage has made it so that I still read at least one book a month. In the case of March's issue, two books were simply irresistible to me, so I pulled double duty and covered something for both the fiction and the non-fiction section (a first for me!).

Look! A book! And I read it!

On the fiction front, I read and wrote about Heidi Julavits' trippy new novel called The Vanishers, which you can read here. This was my first Julavits novel, and boy was it weird! Given that I knew it revolved around psychics and astral adventures, I don't know why I ever would have thought otherwise, but this book really did surprise me at every turn. I think I really hit the proverbial nail on its head when I compared this book to the films of David Lynch, so if unusual, mindbending stories that question the limits of reality are your thing, this is the book for you.

I read this one too!

The Vanishers was a very good book, but my other read, I absolutely loved. I absolutely use nepotism to my advantage and put in a personal plea to the non-fiction editor to let me cover Jeanette Winterson's memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and I have absolutely no regrets on that front. At a time where reading has often felt like a chore, this is a book I could not stop reading. Even though I was reading a completely unfancy galley copy of this book, I would cradle it like it was the most precious thing whenever I picked it up because there were times when I felt like I was staring into the very contents of someone's soul (perhaps my own?) as I read it. I seriously cannot say enough positive things about this book (if I could have its babies, I would!), but if you want to read some of my adulatory thoughts on it, you can check those out here. Ultimately, I may not read very many books this year, but I kind of think 2012 will be known as the year I read this book no matter how many other books I wind up finishing, so there is that. Hurrah for books! I'm desperately trying out many different books on a daily basis hoping to find one that sticks, so fingers crossed that one of these days you see me posting about something that I read for personal, not professional, reasons!
18th May
2011
written by Steph

Get lost and stay lost!

Like many people out there, Tony and I love to travel. I am always a little bit suspicious of people who claim to have no interest in visiting or seeing new places or ever leaving the country. I truly believe that travel expands the mind and provides a perspective that books and other media simply cannot offer. For my money, there are few things I can imagine that are a better investment than travel. In fact, for the past few years Tony and I have been saving up our pennies to take the ultimate adventure once I finish graduate school: a round-the-world trip that will last somewhere from 12 – 18 months. Of course, because I'm a planner, I’ve spent tons of time researching countries and coming up with a rough travel plan. We’ve spent countless hours watching shows like Departures and No Reservations, trying to decide which parts of the globe we need to see firsthand. It’s nice to see the vitality captured through film and television, but of course I’ve spent a lot of time reading travel books and have been really interested in bulking up on my travel memoir reading as well. So when I saw that The Lost Girls was being offered on TLC Tours, I asked Trish if I could get my hands on the copy since it sounded like a book that would be great inspiration for my own. (more…)
20th January
2011
written by Steph

I recently interviewed Ron Reagan, son of America's 40th president, Ronald Reagan, about his recently released memoir, My Father at 100 over at BookPage. Anyone who knows me knows that politics aren't really my shtick, and certainly not American politics, so I was super nervous going into this interview. I am happy to report that it went swimmingly and that Ron Reagan is a wonderfully nice guy with a great sense of humor and the entire thing wound up being a complete blast! For those of you interested in reading a no-holds bar conversation on Reagan's thoughts on the current state of the nation and what his father was really like, you can read my interview here. It's chock full of lots of juicy tidbits and Reagan doesn't pussyfoot around controversial issues, so it's a pretty fun read if I do say so myself!
9th June
2010
written by Steph

Lately Tony and I have been bitten by the travel bug, and been bitten hard. It’s probably for the best that our Puerto Rican vacation is under a month away (!!!), because these days my productivity has been shot as I spend most of my time daydreaming about hitting the road (or the skies, as the case may be) for far off foreign lands. However, since I still have this thing called grad school to finish up before I can conquer the world, for now travel books and memoirs will have to slake my thirst. One book I’ve been really excited to read for months now has been Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, which has garnered rave reviews all across the book blogging world. Pretty much everything I’d read about this book suggested it was “unputdownable” not to mention shocking and thrilling. (more…)
26th August
2009
written by Steph
Portrait of the Chef as a Young Jackhole

Portrait of the Chef as a Young Jackhole

As self-professed foodies, one of the shows Tony & I enjoyed most this summer was Top Chef Masters.  We were truly sad to see it come to an end, as each week we were dazzled and excited by all these top-of-their-game chefs concocting mouth-watering creations each week.  Sure the new season of Top Chef has started up, but it’s already clear the cooking won’t be nearly up to the same standards we’ve now come to expect, and unfortunately the show will feel the need to add in interpersonal dramas, as if the cooking itself weren’t exciting enough.  With a TCM-sized hole in my life, I found my appetite was whet for a deeper look into all things food.  Thus, I sought out Anthony Bourdain’s memoir of sorts, Kitchen Confidential. Now, Tony and I have tried to watch No Reservations, Bourdain’s tv show.  After all, on paper it combines two of our passions: travel & food.  But unfortunately, we just couldn’t get into it, and this was largely due, I must confess, to Bourdain himself.  I find him really unpalatable, so brash and arrogant… a guy who’s trying way to hard to show how bad-ass he is, that he doesn’t give an eff, who thinks he’s God’s gift and oh so funny and snarky.  I’m sorry, but no.  I don’t need his snipey commentary!  The places he’s visiting and the food he’s eating are interesting enough without all his asides.  But maybe if he were just less of an asshole I wouldn’t mind – after all, we’re fine with Alton Brown’s travel food shows, and we’ve become mildly obsessed with Man v. Food (another Travel Channel show).  So really, the blame lies squarely with Bourdain, I’m afraid.  Still, I figured that maybe if I didn’t have to HEAR him, perhaps I could stomach him on paper. (more…)