Russian Literature’s Surprisingly Positive Life Lessons

Book review: The Anna Karenina Fix, by Viv Groskop Book Depository The Russian classics are, admittedly, not the most obvious place to look for tips for a happier life. Russian literature is full of gloomy people wondering how on earth they have ended up in the appalling predicament in which they find themselves, looking around desperately for someone else to blame and then realizing that, … Continue reading Russian Literature’s Surprisingly Positive Life Lessons

Worldly Writing from the Kitchen to Machu Picchu, and All the Life Lived in Between

Book review: Eat, Live, Love, Die, by Betty Fussell Before she started writing, Betty Fussell, who’s now over 90, was married to author Paul Fussell. Her marriage and family life, and the problems therein, became the subject of her memoir My Kitchen Wars, which also focused on her divorce and issues of domesticity. She’d started editing some of her husband’s work before embarking on her own writing … Continue reading Worldly Writing from the Kitchen to Machu Picchu, and All the Life Lived in Between

The Interstate and the Murderer

Book review: Killer on the Road, by Ginger Strand America became more violent and more mobile at the same time. Were they linked? Did highways lead to highway violence? Yes and no. More highways meant more travel, more movement, more anonymity—all conducive to criminality. Highway users could become easy victims: stranded motorists, hitchhikers, drifters, and truck stop prostitutes were vulnerable to roving predators. But most … Continue reading The Interstate and the Murderer

An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Book review: Adrift, by Brian Murphy with Toula Vlahou Adrift tells the story of the packet ship John Rutledge, which in 1856 crossed the North Atlantic from Liverpool to New York with a cargo consisting mostly of mail and around 100 passengers, many of them emigrating from Ireland. The ship navigated turbulent winter conditions before ultimately hitting an iceberg somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, and … Continue reading An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Culinary Visits with Literary Mentors

Book review: The Traveling Feast, by Rick Bass I decided to take a break from writing and go on an extended pilgrimage. I set out traveling the country (and in one case Europe) to visit writers who were mostly a generation older than I am, the ones who helped me become a writer trained outside a university. Sometimes they helped me by reading what I’d … Continue reading Culinary Visits with Literary Mentors

From the Did-Not-Finish Files

I’ve been abandoning books left and right this year. Maybe my patience is getting thinner or my attention span shorter. Or maybe I’m always getting better at knowing if I’ll like something and what topics or style issues will put me off a book. I hope it’s the latter. Most of the books I abandoned weren’t terrible, they just weren’t for me. I could see … Continue reading From the Did-Not-Finish Files

The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Book review: The Dragon Behind the Glass, by Emily Voigt Once upon a time I had wanted to find out why a pet fish was so irresistible that people smuggled it into the United States, risking their very liberty. Three and a half years and fifteen countries later, I was now in Brazil (possibly illegally) pursuing the fish myself. At some point, things had gotten … Continue reading The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Buttermilk Graffiti, by Edward Lee This says a lot about who we are as a culture now; we care about the person behind the recipes. For us, it is important to know as much about the cook as we do about his or her dishes. Cookbooks are living traditions. They reflect back to us who we are, as individuals, as a culture. Edward Lee is … Continue reading Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Favorites of the Year So Far

2018 has seen so much great nonfiction and we’re only halfway there. It’s been quite the year for big nonfiction news stories too, kicking off in January with Fire and Fury frenzy, then the memoir debut of a daughter of Mormon survivalists taking the literary world by storm, James Comey’s much-anticipated tell-all, and a triumphant moment for criminal justice with a serial rapist and killer apprehended more than four decades … Continue reading Favorites of the Year So Far

Then and Now, Across America’s Last Frontier

Book review: Tip of the Iceberg, by Mark Adams Travel writer Mark Adams recounts his experiences traveling in Alaska, that “last great American frontier”, following the trail of an exploratory expedition run by railroad tycoon Edward Harriman in 1899. That expedition was mapping the state’s coastline, and included famed naturalist and conservationist writer John Muir (a self-described “author and student of glaciers”). Muir certainly could … Continue reading Then and Now, Across America’s Last Frontier

David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

Book review: Calypso, by David Sedaris His most recent publications have been a bit of a diversion for David Sedaris. Last year, he published the first part of his diaries, Theft by Finding, which showed the genesis of some of his well known works, as well as being an unconventional glimpse into his early life and bizarre, often hilarious thought processes. I absolutely loved it, but I … Continue reading David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

The Subtle Joys of Traveling Alone

Book review: Alone Time, by Stephanie Rosenbloom What follows are impressions of four journeys; a love letter to loners, to witches and shamans, to those who cherish their friends, spouses, and partners yet also want alone time to think, create, have an adventure, learn a skill, or solve a problem…find your “thinking path,” to discover what you want from your own solitary moments. New York … Continue reading The Subtle Joys of Traveling Alone