I adore Sloane Crosley. She’s been recognized as the female David Sedaris, which is high praise for comedy writers. I read her first memoir, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, last summer and LOVED it. Ms. Crosley and I share quite a bit of humorous childhood experiences and her essays – particularly the one about the atlas moth – had me laughing out loud. You see, I do not do bugs.
Working on a humorous non-fiction book myself, I’ve been guzzling down comedy books to get a sense of voice and see what works and what doesn’t. I was ready to check out more Sloane Crosley!
For Christmas, I added her next book, How Did You Get This Number, to my wish list and my sister obliged.
In this book, Sloane shares a love story, one of New York City and her own as well. Every gory detail about her relationship with the place she lives is there – from desiring to live in a haunted apartment complex that used to be a brothel to buying high class furniture that “fell off the back of a truck” from a guy named Doug. Along the way, this new adult finds a place for herself amidst the moments that shaped her life.
Frequently writing for The New York Times and GQ magazines, Sloane Crosley has a quick wit that burns off the page. She has a style of writing like your having a conversation with your bestie over coffee, and yet the comparisons she makes about life are so biting and enjoyable.
Travel buffs will also get a kick out of this read for her descriptions of things like hailing a New York taxi cab, getting lost in the streets of Turkey, bonding with fellow bridesmaids in the wilderness of Alaska, and trying to smuggle an antique thermometer out of France.
I read this book as part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge for 2014. I am now 2 books into the challenge, with 10 more to go. You can see my full reading list here.
What books are on your must read list this year?
How’s your reading going so far?
Got any recommendations for me?
I just finished reading Haven Kimmel’s book, She Got Up Off the Couch, which was part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge list.
I was first introduced to Haven Kimmel’s books by a local librarian at a book club discussion about memoirs. I immediately read her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and it’s quite possibly one of my favorite books ever.
In one of my FAVORITE parts, Haven (Zippy) believes her family when they tell her she was born in a gypsy tribe and found abandoned in a wagon. Also, she had a tail. For weeks, she rides around town on her bike believing she is the renegade daughter of nomadic gypsies and that her adoptive family had her tail surgically removed.
This is just genius.
In She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven’s story continues, growing up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana. The person who gets up off the couch, is her mother, Delonda Jarvis. Haven is pretty open about the fact that her family was a bit broken, though she didn’t know it at the time. Her mother spent all hours on the couch reading books or talking on the phone, until one day, she decided to go to college.
The thing is, Delonda didn’t know how to drive. So she bummed rides to the neighboring town for awhile before buying a cheap, rundown Volkswagon and learned to drive it. She graduated with a degree in English and went on to become a teacher. But the story of how she got there and how this shift in the routine impacted the Jarvis family is a page turner.
Here’s a quote about her mother:
“She had done all these things and she was going to graduate summa cum laude, which meant Good But Loud, from the Honors College, and she had done it all in twenty-three months. It takes some people more time to hang a curtain.” She Got Up Off the Couch
While the title of Haven’s book refers to her mother, it is just as much Haven’s story too. She grew up in a Quaker home, and went on to attend Seminary School, where she ended up writing her first memoir, Zippy. In this second glimpse, we meet Haven when she’s entering her early teen years. Her older siblings have moved out of the house, leaving her and her estranged parents to deal with another.
Her natural curiosity makes her a loveable character. Haven is a girl who never wears shoes, or skirts, and occasionally puts rocks in her mouth – cause she likes the way they taste. Her father is a charismatic factory worker who doesn’t work in a factory, and her mother is about to turn their worlds upside down. This is a coming of age story for all three family members, and right or wrong, each is going to make drastic changes and question everything they knew to be true before.
Looking for something to read? Definitely pick up one of Haven Kimmel’s books. I’ve purchased multiple copies of A Girl Named Zippy as gifts for friends and family. It is that good.
What book(s) have you recently finished that you loved?
For Lynne Cox, a champion long distance open water swimmer, practice and positivity go hand in hand.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lynne and her triumphs, here are just a few of her records:
- In 1972 at age 15 Lynne swam across the English Channel and shattered the men’s and women’s world records with a time of 9 hours and 57 minutes.
- In 1975 Lynne became the first woman to swim across Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Her time was 12 hour and 2 1/2 minutes.
- In 1976 Lynne became the first person to swim across the 42 degree F waters of the Strait of Magellan with a time of 1 hour 2 minutes.
- In 1985 Lynne swam “Around the World in 80 Days” by swimming 12 extremely challenging waterways some that had never been attempted.
- In 1987 Lynne became the first person to swim across the Bering Strait as a way to open the US-Soviet Border for the first time in 48 years with a time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.
- In 1994 Lynne swam through the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Israel and from Israel to Jordan tracing the progress of peace between the three countries.
- In 2002 Lynne became the first person to complete a 1.2 miles in Antarctica, from the ship the Orlova to Neko Harbor in a time of 25 minutes. (All facts from Lynne Cox’s website)
Not bad right? Would you believe me if I said Lynne was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame? She is.
Lynne’s journey in the water began at the age of 9, when she was coached by Harvard University coach, Ben Muritt. By age 12, she was working with 4 time US Olympic trainer Don Gambril.
Imagine yourself swimming laps early in the morning, back and forth between pier points. The sun is not up yet. You are alone in this day where the black sky blends into the dark waters. Suddenly, hundreds upon hundreds of anchovies are swimming past you! And behind them are grunion. Slippery, iridescent fish are moving so fast, that one grunion ends up in your mouth!
After the grunion, you become swarmed by large, 40 pound tuna, bouncing out of the water, all chomping for their next meal. That’s when you realize, you’re in a food chain cycle.
Below you, the current is weighted. You can tell something is beneath you. Something big. It’s following your path. As you continue to stroke forward, you peer behind you with each breath checking for dorsal fins. Is it a shark? Panic in every fiber of your body tells you to leave the water, but the fighter inside you says stay. Stay and finish your workout. This situation is real and you will face it again on another swim, you have to prepare yourself. Stay.
You can see a friend on shore waving their arms at you. He comes running down and he tells you, “It’s a whale!”
That is the beginning of the story of Grayson, a four month old baby gray whale and how Lynne meets him while she is practicing in the ocean. What follows is an epic journey that lasted hours where the two new friends go in search of Grayson’s mother, without whom he will not survive.
You will not believe what they go through, and yet through it all, Lynne is a consistent reminder of the power of positivity in our thoughts. There are times where her body becomes weak, where she loses Grayson, where she wonders if his mother is dead. But Lynne will defy it all and remain assertive. She will remind you that there is no task too big if you break it down and go piece by piece. She will remind you that the hardest and most difficult trials of our lives are best made with decisions of heart instead of head. And she will do all of this with such imagery as you can barely imagine.
For this midwest girl, the Mississippi River is the closest thing I have to open water. I have been to both oceans surrounding our country, but I have never had the delights and trepidations that Lynne describes while encountering dolphins and jellyfish. It has been a few months since I read this book, it was at the end of summer. I just went to my library’s book discussion on it and it reminded me that I while I was reading this book, I was sitting on a patio chair outside with my feet up on the seat because reading about the food chain cycle around her was terrifying! I also shared bits of the book aloud with my boyfriend because the descriptions are so rich and magical. Lynne Cox does something only a handful of us can do, but she invites us along in her writing with beauty and awe.
If any of you are looking for a great Christmas present idea, I highly recommend Lynne’s book. She intended it for an adult audience, but teens all over have grasped at this inspiring story and found hope in its pages. It’s a book that with a message that will make you go, “Ok Lynne, I know you’re talking to me!” and anyone can appreciate it.
Go get this book!
For more information about Lynne, her world records, her speaking engagements, her other books, and even her blog, check out her website www.lynnecox.org.
What do you think? Can you imagine swimming in the ocean with a baby whale? What experiences have you had growing up where positive thinking played a crucial role in helping you face an overwhelming situation?
My dad gets along with everyone. He’s a gabby, gracious, and attentive hugger of a guy. However, my dad has one known mortal enemy. Squirrels.
Growing up, the household would move about peacefully to a soundtrack of 50’s and 60’s music. Mom was singing in the kitchen, my siblings were riding bikes around the neighborhood. I was playing orphan or typing adventure stories on my mom’s old typewriter when suddenly – BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! My father would be pounding on the dining room window to scare away whatever squirrel had scurried its way up to our birdfeeder. Sometimes he would camp out on a chair crouched behind a potted fig tree and some African violets and wait for the squirrels to skip across the tree branches. He’d wait until they were on the tip of the branches closest to the feeder, biting his nails in anticipation, and as soon as they’d leap for the feeder – BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! The squirrel would go somersaulting in the air, and scamper away frightened out of its wits.
Much to my mother’s dismay, my dad started setting live traps in the yard luring the pesky squirrels in with promises of walnuts and peanut butter bread he himself had taken bites out of. The problem with the live traps was that squirrels weren’t the only ones who liked walnuts and half eaten peanut butter bread. Birds and rabbits did too. My mother, haunted by a mean rooster on her family’s childhood farm, refused to deal with the live traps when one of the less fortunate animals was inside. That job was left for me. I’d get home from school and mom would plead with me to please go outside and free the starling stuck in dad’s trap. As I walked around the house toward the cage, the bird would start panicking. Now, I wanted to free the animal, but it involved moving a latch that was right next to the cage portion, and for those of you familiar with starlings, they’re rather predatory and aggressive birds. The bird’s wings would start flapping uncontrollably and its beak would come jutting out at my hand. Eventually, I’d get the metal flap of the opening to slide up and the bird would come shooting out like a rocket.
On days when the trap served its purpose and Dad caught an actual squirrel, he’d pick up the cage and load it into the back of the station wagon. He’d drive out to the woods in the farmland area known as Hebron, occasionally starting wars with my grandfather and uncle, releasing the squirrels on their property to spite them and go after their feeders.
Convinced the squirrels were finding their way back to our house somehow, Dad took the squirrel wars to a new level. He and my brother took to staking out in our shed with BB guns and firing at any squirrel who dared steal birdseed from his feeder. My brother would come in the house and regale the family with the impressive tale of how he shot a squirrel in the butt! For those of you picturing a backwoods house in the country, let me set the scene straight for you. Our house was on the corner of the busiest street in town, and generally we were a respected family with a large garden who kept the grass mowed.
I’m afraid my father’s influence took a heightened level in my brother’s actions when we discovered one day that a muskrat was burrowing under the family pool. My dad was worried the varmint would chew through the lining of the pool, and Lake Witkins, as grand as it sounded, didn’t belong in our backyard. Convinced he would save the day, my brother and a friend staked out from the deck one afternoon and completed the mission: the muskrat was killed. But this was in late fall, and neither boy had sharp, gnarly muskrat teeth to burrow with, and the ground was too frozen to bury the animal, so he put the ugly creature in a big white bucket, pooling blood and all, set it in the garage and left.
My mother was informed the muskrat was now resting in peace, and had told my dad to get rid of the thing and thought he had. She then entered the garage and noticed a big white bucket. The next thing my mother will tell you about is that she sprained her ankle and tore a few ligaments after twisting to get away in a horrified moment of panic. My poor mother crawled her way up the steps to our house and through the kitchen to get to a phone where she could finally call for help. I don’t believe my brother was allowed to help dad with the animal wars ever again.
Recently, on a trip home to see my family, my sister brought over a book from the library she was reading to her two year old daughter. The book was titled, Those Darn Squirrels and I was tickled to present a dramatic reading of the tale to my father. Then, we went page by page and counted the similarities between Old Man Fookwire and my father. We also taught my niece to shake her fist at grandpa and say “Those Darn Squirrels!” Dad may not have bought lasers and trapeze equipment like Old Man Fookwire, but spring is coming, and if you give a squirrel a walnut, he’ll probably invite his friends.