Whether serious or silly, Reese’s prose reads like poetry. He says more in a paragraph than most authors achieve over several pages. The final chapters are the shortest and most personal vignettes featuring his wife, daughters and co-workers. Reese finds the profound in everyday, parochial life in Bone Chalk.
Part Marley and Me, part Bucket List, part travel memoir, Cohen’s book tells the story of Simba, a larger-than-life Labrador retriever whose physical size is matched only by his love of people. Cohen’s wife, Laureen, was technically Simba’s owner (he was bought by her first husband), but as is the case with blended families, when Cohen and Laureen married, their five children and the dog quickly became a cohesive unit.
Smith would have us believe that is a book about nothing. She opens it with a phrase from a dream that haunts her: “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” Those of us who recognise her intense grief, and the determination to capture these experiences in poetic prose, will disagree that this is a book about nothing. Perhaps it’s a book where “nothing” happens: it becomes something.
Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories that Kept Us Small is a powerful nonfiction anthology by 27 professional women who share their real stories (and use their real names) to inspire others to become unafraid of the shadows that haunt their lives, and to shed the feelings that promise them they will never be good enough for the kind of life they want or ought to have.
Most of the writers included have become, as Val Colic-Peisker puts it, reasonably domesticated. The displacement and bullying is mainly in the past, but the sense of self and how the settled adult relates to the life left behind, is something that continues to transform.
The book is entirely empirical, encouraging readers to conduct regular and direct (that is, immediately experiential) experiments in order to prove the tenets, and then to live by its dictates. Because the book is almost childlike in its optimism, inclusiveness and warmth, it functions as a kind of self-help guide to living an authentic and happy life
That so many men (and some women) live lives of servitude and never stop to think about who they are or what they might want to really achieve in the short space that we have is a modern tragedy. Marsh gently and humorously makes this obvious, and in the changes he’s created in his own life, sets a trend that others can easily follow.
Throughout Real Writing Michael Lydon creates a solid thesis for the power of realism. Though each of these writers are products of their own times, with settings and themes determined by the key concerns of the day, there is a timelessness to their themes and characters.
The Sense of an Ending is a beautifully crafted exploration of a character arc that happens too late to affect change. The motion from clever smugness to painful self-awareness is flawless. The absolute control of Barnes’ prose coupled with the philosophical power of his meditations has resulted in a book that’s as dense and powerful as it is readable.
Dale Peterson takes the unusual angle of examining how evolution has shaped animal behavior in the area of cooperation. He uses research in cell biology to talk about the limbic brain, emotional responses to things like tickling, fear, grief and love