English with Style and Humor: Random House’s Chief Copy Editor on Lessons Learned

Book review: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (Amazon / Book Depository) Never thought you were the type to stay up late reading a grammar and style guide, dissolving in laughter every few pages? I thought I wasn’t either. Allow this book to prove you wrong like it did me. Random House chief copy editor Benjamin Dreyer is … Continue reading English with Style and Humor: Random House’s Chief Copy Editor on Lessons Learned

Warm, Funny Kitchen Stories from the Heart

Book review: More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin (Amazon / Book Depository) Despite falling in love with Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen last year, I forced myself to wait before reading its followup volume, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. I wanted to save the joy for a time when I knew I’d need it. The dark, gloomy days of January were not only … Continue reading Warm, Funny Kitchen Stories from the Heart

Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

Book review: Shrill, by Lindy West That period—when I was wholly myself, effortlessly certain, my identity still undistorted by the magnetic fields of culture—was so long ago that it’s beyond readily accessible memory. I do not recall being that person. Lindy West has written boldly and bluntly – but not actually shrilly – on all manner of cultural, artistic, and feminist topics for newspapers like … Continue reading Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

Observational Essays on Neighbors, Health, Gossip Girl Gossips, and Sometimes the Mundane

Book review: Look Alive Out There, by Sloane Crosley (Amazon / Book Depository) Sloane Crosley’s new essay collection is the first of her work I’ve read, despite her popularity, particularly for her personal essays, and having recognized her name when she made a cameo on Gossip Girl (I’ve recently admitted my shame over this, let’s not dwell on it.) I definitely needed a lighthearted essay … Continue reading Observational Essays on Neighbors, Health, Gossip Girl Gossips, and Sometimes the Mundane

A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Book review: Miss Ex-Yugoslavia, by Sofija Stefanovic Amazon My mother said, “just imagine this situation we’re in is a massive black cloud falling from the sky, and be like a net. Allow it to pass through you.” I pictured a net through which a black cloud is squeezed, dispersing into many pieces; I imagined holding my breath as it passed, careful not to catch the … Continue reading A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Heartening Anecdotes of Cooking and Life, Disastrous and Otherwise

Book review: Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin Amazon Originally published 1988, this collection of memoir-centric essays on cooking and life is insightful, funny, surprisingly practical and helpful, and still fresh and relevant thirty years later. Beloved novelist Laurie Colwin loved being in the kitchen, especially cooking for other people. She has an upbeat, happy sense of humor that infuses her stories, often making jokes at … Continue reading Heartening Anecdotes of Cooking and Life, Disastrous and Otherwise

Taming Agoraphobia, and One’s Twenties

Book review: Agorafabulous! by Sara Benincasa (Amazon / Book Depository) This day was different. This day I woke up, stared at the ceiling, and was gripped by the certain knowledge that, if I left the apartment, something terrible would happen. I did not know what the terrible event was, only that it would occur, and with a fury. One might reasonably ask how I could have “known” such … Continue reading Taming Agoraphobia, and One’s Twenties

Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

Book review: Everything is Normal, by Sergey Grechishkin Book Depository Railways and trains in Russia have always been much more than just pragmatic modes of getting from point A to point B. For a Russian soul, a never-ending train journey across the empty vastness of its land is a state of mind, a meditation, an existential reflection on life itself. One might also argue that … Continue reading Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

An Obama Speechwriter On Work, Country, and Getting Things Done in the White House

Book review: Thanks, Obama by David Litt (Amazon / Book Depository) Few activities offer less upside than a staring contest with the president. But now, having started one, I didn’t know how to stop. I considered averting my gaze, like a shy maiden in a Jane Austen novel, but that would only make things more awkward. I kept looking at President Obama. President Obama kept looking … Continue reading An Obama Speechwriter On Work, Country, and Getting Things Done in the White House

Sweet, Funny, Smart Takes On Life’s Wilderness

Book review: Vacationland, by John Hodgman (Amazon / Book Depository) “Nobody knows,” I said, meaning at least one person does not know, and that person is me. I didn’t know anything about John Hodgman (comedian, author, Daily Show and This American Life contributor, podcaster) at all before I picked up his most recent book, a collection of essayish memoirs, Vacationland. I came to it without any preconceptions about him or … Continue reading Sweet, Funny, Smart Takes On Life’s Wilderness

Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Book review: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer I like Amy Schumer’s comedy, but I’m not enough in love with it that her book was a priority when it came out nearly a year ago. Until I happened upon a review praising it as something much more meaningful than a reiteration of Schumer’s jokes or skits from her show. The review stressed that … Continue reading Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy

Book review: American English, Italian Chocolate, by Rick Bailey English professor Rick Bailey writes a sweet, soft memoir in vignette-style essays stretching from the American Midwest to northern Italy. Musings include high school dramas and levitation parties, medical issues humorous and otherwise, death, home insect infestations, historical perceptions of beans, how Nutella might taste better in Italy than in America, and, a favorite: observations on espresso making in … Continue reading Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy