There is a town in Wales called Hay-on-Wye that has forty bookstores. Paul Collins and his family visited it and decided to move there from San Francisco. Paul is an author and is writing a book called Banvard’s Folly. This book, however, is about their experiences at the “Town of Books”. He and his wife think it’s the perfect place to raise their son and search for a house to buy. Sixpence House was a pub at one time but is now for sale and falling apart. Anyone who loves books would want to live in Hay-on-Wye. Right? Is too much of a good thing bad? Maybe so.
A moving story about one family’s struggle to “stay the course” and follow God’s will for their lives and ministry despite dangerous opposition from one wealthy member of the community who is also their neighbor. Shootings, bombings, threatening mesages… none of this made the pastor and his family leave the church and community that begged them to stay until one fateful night when the author was 7 years old. The daughter of the pastor Rebecca tells us her story and fills in and verified her memory using court documents, interviews with adults who were also there, newspaper accounts etc. Despite the anger directed at them the parents continued to forgive their neighbor and young Rebecca learned that forgiveness is truly the only way to move on and heal. Honest but uplifting.
Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.
As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.
Best known to people of my generation as Jim Rockford a detective with a big heart and a since of humor, here’s his life story from Garner himself. He left home at the age of 14 after suffering physical abuse at the hands of his stepmother and tried a lot of jobs and served in the Korean War before trying acting. He was part of the end of the studio system where actors “belonged” to a studio and were paid a weekly rate no matter how many movies, tv shows, appearances etc., you were doing that week or how much the studio made from your work. He worked alongside Julie Andrews, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen. Garner became a star in his own right, despite struggles with stage fright and depression. He relates his acting career, family life and shares his personal beliefs including that he’s “a card-carrying liberal—and proud of it,” and much more. Interesting stories from a man who overcame a poor homelife as a child … because what’s the alternative … and became a well-known movie and TV star.
Ayun Halliday shares her adventures and misadventures around the globe as a backpacking low-budget traveler. Besides humorous stories you can also can some insight into some things NOT to do when traveling overseas. I’ve learned I am definitely NOT a backpacking traveler. I value indoor plumbing, clean sheets and mosquito repellant. Yes, if the monkey steals your shoes it really is better to just let him have them than risk injury AND have to replace them anyway, though you may amuse your fellow travelers and your hosts while you and the monkey chase each other through the rooms and stairways both running and screeching at each other.
The memoir of a young British girl as she enters the world of work as a kitchen maid and works her way up to a cook serving in a variety of homes in England. Each house and the family “upstairs” is each different and unique. Kindness and generosity depending much more upon the individuals than on their economic means. An interesting look back at the day to day life of a household servant in very class conscious England.
When Edward Ugel’s wife plays a recording of his nightly snoring he decides to go to a doctor. He realizes what he’s known all along that he is overweight and has sleep apnea. This book is about his decision to lose 50 pounds in a year. Edward has a happy family, a nice house and a sense of humor. But his food addiction is ruining his health. Finally after going through denial he hires a personal trainer, a nutritionist and goes for a cleansing and a colonic irrigation. Things go pretty good for a while until his wife and kids go on a trip and leave him alone. He can’t control himself and has a food bender. It’s an honest and amusing journey which eventually leads to a Weight Watchers meeting where he feels like he’s suppose to be there.
A delightful book about an avowed city girl with closet dreams of owning a farm. When the farm of her dreams comes up for sale, complete with an Amish barn and beautiful vistas, she and her boyfriend buy it and trade a life of walking down the street for a paper and a bagel for bulldozing multiflora roses and pond mucking. Wonderful memoir about how when your dreams come true, then the real work begins. Thanks Tammy for the recommendation.
In this heartfelt memoir, Buddy from the popular TV show, Cake Boss shares his family’s history and the history of Carlo’s Bakery from the time his dad started working there until today where the bakery, his family and crew are featured on TLC. Buddy shares his journey and transformation from the youngest child in a big Italian family who loses his father as a young man and becomes a person who can run a busy, successful bakery. He also shares some of the recipes made famous by the show sized down for personal baking.
Delightful memoir by Rhoda Janzen, touching and wry. After the week from hell; her husband leaves her for Bob who he met on Gay.com and she is in a serious car wreck, Janzen returns to her Mennonite family to heal and pick up the pieces of her life. Full of great advice (her mother suggests she date her first cousin because he has a tractor), an amazing array of cabbage dishes, and lots of love, she shows how funny going home can be. Very funny and intelligent, a must read. And I now know what Mennonites ladies wear under all those layers and how to make borscht.
Fun memoir of the author’s journey from a city dwelling, cat loving, mutt loving person who just casually dated to the owner of a fifty acre farm with multiple animals including a pure blood poodle with papers and a committed meaningful relationship. I will have to admit as someone who grew up in the country it was amusing at times to realize how unprepared the author and her boyfriend were for living in the country, and not just the farm, but the whole community. I’ve had the opposite kind of culture shock at different times in my life moving into a small town then into a city. So for me part of what made the story enjoyable was that she admitted they didn’t know something and she clearly expressed that these different lifestyles are both fine. You just have to find the one that’s right for you.
The author also shared her hopes and dreams, reaction to reality, then the realization that sometimes what you have, though nothing like you dreamed it would be, is better than you could have imagined.
Ken Jennings is a 2.5 million dollar Jeopardy winner. He was lucky enough to get on the show after they changed the five day winning rule. This book is about his amazing winning streak on Jeopardy and a look at why trivia is so popular. I watch Jeopardy every night but would never consider auditioning. You have to be competitive and have a good memory. Game shows and trivia competitions are popular all over the world. It’s not just about winning money.
Rick Bass describes himself as a poet, oil man, novelist, logger, elk hunter and an environmentalist. When he and his wife moved to Montana and found the Yaak Valley they knew it was going to be there home. Unfortunately he found out the wilderness he loved was not protected. His story is full of frustration and hard work trying to save the land and also help out the local loggers keep their jobs.
Kabul Beauty School is at turns funny and heartbreaking, tragic and telling. Deborah Rodriguez is a hairdresser who joins a humanitarian aid group in Afghanistan to try to make a difference. Despairing of having no practical use, she finds that her talents as a hairdresser are needed both both Westerners and Afghan women. With help from international organizations and corporations, Rodriguez opens a beauty school in Kabul to teach Afghan women the skills to open their own salons and to be self-sufficient. Rodriguez tell the heartbreaking stories of the women she meets, women raped, sold into marriage, or left widowed by war or the Taliban. Her women are beset by hard choices and a culture who devalues them and yet they retain their dignity and strength. Rodriguez love for Afghanistan and it’s women is obvious but she doesn’t shrink from the messiness of international situations or the everpresent dangers. Great book.
Story of life at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas made famous by the History Channel show Pawn Stars. Rick gives you info on the pawn shop business and some of his personal and family history. He also shares some of the more interesting items that have come in to the shop, items that aren’t for sale and stories about some of their more colorful regular customers (with names changed of course). His Dad, Corey and Chumlee each get their own chapter to tell the story from their viewpoint as well. Chumlee does come across smarter in the book than he does in the show, but he also comments that he doesn’t mind that he still sells more fan t-shirts, bobble heads etc., so he’s happy with how he is portrayed on TV. If you’re a fan of the show because of the unique items that come in and the relationships between the family members you will enjoy this book.
True story written by a woman who grew up in a small town in Mississippi but ended up traveling the world then decided to try her hand at being a private investigator in New York City. Cici loves creating characters on the spur of the moment and for her the stage is wherever her assignment takes her. She ends up working with law enforcement, going undercover, dealing with the ruthless Born to Kill gang in Chinatown and the Middle Eastern counterfeiters west of Broadway. The book starts out slow but quickly builds as her cases and experiences grow. A detailed account of the hidden world and real-life cases of a P.I.
Country living isn’t for everyone. Sue Hubbell made it work for her with a successful bee keeping business on a small farm in the Ozarks. With no television or furnace in her cabin she cuts her own wood and never gets bored with the wildlife and vegetation. She also has a deep respect for her surroundings. Instead of avoiding the critters and bugs she tries to understand their lives and is curious about everything. I enjoyed reading about her year full of hard work processing and selling honey. I learned a lot about bee keeping and the native plants and animals in Missouri.
I had a good feeling about this one. You see, I loved Lynda Barry’s earlier work, “What It Is”, the ground-breaking, mold-shattering, genre-defying and above all, inspiring, book about creative writing. I had a sneaking suspicion that she might have adapted the same format with visual art in mind. And I was right. “Picture This” does for art what “What It Is” did for creative writing. They encourage letting go of preconceived notions of “good” and “bad” and promote experimentation. The format is highly unusual, combining full page works of art, comics and activities to get the mind operating in new and different ways. Barry never makes the reader feel as though they can’t do something; in fact, that is one of the best elements of her work. Her exercises do not intimidate. They are not pretentious. They make you realize you had the artistic streak in you all along; you just thought you were somehow doing it wrong and therefore had no talent. Barry wants you to know that you’ve had it in you all along. If readers of this book don’t feel like grabbing a paintbrush (or their art-related weapon of choice)upon finishing this book, said readers may not be human.
Betty White shares her thoughts and opinions on topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, fans, love for animals, and celebrity. Betty is candid on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times previously.
A fun, fast read.