Upstream by Mary Oliver
Jan25

Upstream by Mary Oliver

Upstream by Mary Oliver As I read Mary Oliver’s latest essay collection, Upstream, I wondered what this brilliant poet thinks of the latest election, inauguration, and state of the world. Is she staying deep in her beloved woods, ignoring it all, or would she like to be marching with us (and what on earth would her sign say)? After finishing the last essay, I decided that if Mary Oliver had to spend a few days in DC, it wouldn’t be...

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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Nov02

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.” This is one of many wonderful lines from Hope Jahren’s memoir, Lab Girl, which I read this spring. As I walked under budding trees and past flowering bushes in the Boston area, where I live, Jahren’s memoir of becoming a botanist, building three successful...

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Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Sep28

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Love Warrior I had two distinct thoughts when I finished Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior. The first was, I don’t think it’s possible to live like this. The second thought was, What if I did live like this? Love Warrior is a memoir, but more specifically, it’s a through-the-bedroom-window view into Doyle Melton’s marriage. And she doesn’t close a single curtain. From her stay in a psychiatric ward when she was 17 to her husband’s...

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Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett
Sep07

Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Becoming Wise “I’m a person who listens for a living. I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard.” These are the opening sentences of Krista Tippett’s luminous memoir, Becoming Wise, which distills the best of what she has heard, and learned, in nearly 15 years of hosting the radio show On Being. Each week, Tippett interviews a guest about his or her work in a stunning range of fields: from poetry to...

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It’s Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort
Aug31

It’s Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort

In her memoir It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too), Nora McInerny Purmort tells the story of meeting Aaron, the love of her life, and how they planned their life together, parenthood included, in the face of his brain cancer diagnosis. The first sentence provides the context for everything that follows in the book: “You are holding a book by another youngish white woman who had a pretty charmed life until her father and husband...

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It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario
Jun29

It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario

It’s What I Do Sometimes, in all the fiction reading, I need to seek out something real–a true-to-life story, one that inspires me, gives fresh perspective, and reminds me of the wider world beyond my current Ohio town. Though it fixed itself upon my reading radar many months ago, I finally picked up a copy of Lynsey Addario’s new photographic memoir, It’s What I Do. It’s a book I now count as one of my...

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In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jun22

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Other Words  As a long-time fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction, I suspected I’d enjoy her first memoir, In Other Words. Although the description of the book as Lahiri’s experience moving to Italy so she could learn how to speak and write in Italian (her third language after Bengali and English) may not sound thrilling at the outset, I savored the sentences on each page. Lahiri herself describes the book as “a sort of linguistic...

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Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment
Jun15

Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

Grace Without God Katherine Ozment’s GRACE WITHOUT GOD is a beautifully-written exploration of an increasingly-central American question: what is the meaning of life without the organizing principle of religion?  Ozment begins her book standing by the window with her eight year old son, watching a procession of Greek Orthodox worshippers in the street.  “What are we?” he asks, and Ozment finds herself at a loss for words.  “We’re...

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Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy
Jun08

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

What does it mean to come home? How does a person, or a family, decide to build a home in our frantic, increasingly mobile society? Is it possible to set down genuine roots in a place far from where you grew up? And how is the concept of “home” intertwined with making, and living, a meaningful life? Christie Purifoy doesn’t answer all these questions in her memoir, Roots and Sky. But she wrestles with them, in honest, lyrical prose....

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The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
May18

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss My most favorite thing about this book is that it doesn’t read like a “tell-all” or even a memoir—I guess that’s because it’s not. It’s a conversation between a son and his mother. And what a conversation! I have to confess, I had no idea that the Vanderbilt’s were, for all intents and purposes, American royalty. I had only ever heard of Gloria Vanderbilt, and that...

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Stir by Jessica Fechtor
May04

Stir by Jessica Fechtor

After suffering a brain aneurysm at age 28, Jessica Fechtor found herself mostly physically healed, yet utterly disoriented. Multiple surgeries had left her brain clear of “problem areas,” but also caused the loss of her sense of smell and the sight in her left eye. And while she was “aggressively grateful” to have survived the medical ordeal, Fechtor still yearned to resume the life she loved: her graduate studies at Harvard, her...

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The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky
Apr13

The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky

Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door,  which is subtitled “A memoir of friendship,” is, initially, an intimate, lovely memory of Denise Gess, who was his closest friend for more than 25 years.  The Narrow Door is about more than that, though: in its beautiful pages, filled with a poet’s lambent prose, Lisicky spelunks into the depths of the human heart, exploring the fundamental isolation and loneliness that exists at the heart of even our...

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Mar16

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

First, let me say that this book, a letter from father to son about growing up black in America, warrants a second reading, and I have only partly re-read it. I have more questions about Between the World and Me than answers. Let me also say that this is probably the best book club book I have ever read. Obviously, that’s subjective. But I challenge you to find another 152 pages so filled with interesting, provocative, relevant ideas....

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Feb24

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I had a feeling that Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, would be a powerful read.  In fact I called it a “once in a decade” book, before I even read it.  I wasn’t wrong. I don’t think there’s a lot I can say to augment the rhapsodic reviews this book has rightly received, but I still wanted to add my voice to the loud chorus of people celebrating Kalanithi’s courage, his...

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Feb10

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you were to ask me what my favorite thing to do in life is, I would say it is to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s the blank canvas I set up on my easel last night waiting for daubs of oil paint or the novel I’ve been working on for what seems like forever, it is the act of creating that I love the most. I enjoy reading about creativity, but when I read Nina’s recommendation of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for her GNB...

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