Category Archives: Nonfiction

Big Mushy Happy Lump

Finished Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen. It’s hard to describe–it’s a collection of cartoons and sort of nonfiction? 

I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t identify with the cartoons in this book and I am equally sure that those are people I do not want to be friends with. 
If you are quiet and awkward and happier at home, you have found your patronus. 
Highly recommended. 

Hidden Figures

Read Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. 

This is the book on which the Oscar-nominated movie was based. It tells the story of the African-American women mathematicians at NASA. While the movie focuses on the space race almost exclusively, the book covers almost 30 years of their lives/careers. 

This is a really interesting story, one that is inspiring and infuriating in equal measure. (Really, you can trust them to help put astronauts in space but outside NASA, God help them if they sit in the wrong seat on a bus.) 

If you are not really, REALLY interested in this subject, watch the movie. The book is exhaustive and if you aren’t super into this story, you won’t like it. 

Who Killed Christopher Goodman?

Finished Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf. I received a copy for review. 

This is (based on) a true story. When the author was in high school, a classmate of his was murdered. This is his attempt to come to terms with it. 

I’m not sure how much of the book is true; it probably doesn’t matter. Most people probably have a similar story about high school classmates–maybe they died in a car accident instead, but most of us know at least one person who died well before they should have. And most of us probably wonder whether we could’ve done something to prevent it. 

I imagine it’s even worse in this case, where the death was so senseless and tragic, and where the reader can see so many points where the outcome would’ve been different if just one thing had been changed. 

This story will sit with me for a while, as will its characters. 

The Book That Made Me

Finished The Book That Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge. I received a copy for review. 

This is an anthology of stories from Australian authors, detailing the book (or books) most responsible for making them who they are as readers, authors and people. 

This is the kind of book that every reader will be able to identify with. We all have books that we can point to that make us US. (Matilda is one of mine, as I’m sure thousands of others will agree.)

The stories are both incredibly familiar to me and incredibly foreign. I haven’t read many of the novels mentioned, which is awesome (I plan to hit the library!) but the authors’ feelings for them? I do know all of them. 

Recommended. 

Shockaholic (mini-review)

Finished Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. 

This is the second of Carrie Fisher’s three memoirs (I read them all out of order) and it’s probably the least good. But even “least good” is still fantastic when it’s written by Carrie Fisher. 

This has some stories not mentioned in her first memoir/show. The most interesting, I think, is her take on Michael Jackson (whom she met a few times). There is also a lengthy chapter on her relationship with her dad and a little bit about her daughter. 

The fascinating thing here is how transparent Carrie Fisher is about her own life but how she really keeps her relationships secret (by which I mean she keeps things about her daughter, brother and mom quiet). We see some things but not many. She talks about her dad but not until after he died. We get broad strokes but not details. 

If you only read one of her books, pick Wishful Drinking. But this is still fun and interesting and poignant, even if it’s not mandatory. 

Wishful Drinking

Finished Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. 

This is essentially her one-woman show of the same name with some extra material added in.  

This book is super short but also absolutely perfect. I dare you not to laugh out loud multiple times. 

I have a lot of respect for the way Carrie Fisher was so willing to discuss everything in her life. The world was better when she was in it. Also funnier.

Highly recommended. (And watch the HBO special.)

The Princess Diarist (mini-review)

Finished The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. 

This is Carrie Fisher’s account of making Star Wars; it includes part of her actual diaries of that time. It includes a lengthy chapter detailing her affair with Harrison Ford but it also discusses how she became ultra-famous and how weird that was. (I’m guessing her other two memoirs discuss fame in greater depth.) Obviously everyone knew who Carrie Fisher was anyway (her parents were famous) but it’s different than being famous in your own right, and it’s hard to be more famous than “I was in Star Wars.” (Maybe Harry Potter?)

If you only know Carrie Fisher as an actress, read this. It’s really funny but also relatable. I’m excited to read her other two memoirs and I hope to reread her novels at some point. 

Hillbilly Elegy (mini-review)

Finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. 

Hillbilly Elegy is a sort of class discussion. JD Vance grew up in the Appalachians, with a large extended family of hillbillies. His family dealt with poverty, drug addiction, fractured relationships and a sense of no future. He managed to break the chain in his own life but others weren’t so lucky. 

This is a hard book for me to parse. I’m not sure how much of my reaction to some of his family is justifiable and how much may be latent snobbery. I don’t think a college degree makes someone better than anyone without it but I’m also not sure I believe that he genuinely didn’t know you should dress up for a job interview. (Also, his grandmother set his grandfather on fire after a fight. And she was one of the best people in this book.)

Also, I don’t think anyone from my high school went to Ivy League schools either and that’s not class warfare. It’s because they are really hard to get into. My hometown also suffers from the “brain drain” (people with college degrees typically leave; people without tend to stay) and a recent article estimated about a quarter of my hometown has more than a high school education. Jobs there are low-paying. And, of course, heroin has hit there like it has everywhere. Obviously people there are still not Appalachian-level poor but still. 

This is still interesting but I think I may do better with the other famous book on class in the US (White Trash). 

All the Lives I Want

Finished All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey. I received a copy for review. 

The subtitle of this essay collection implies that it is a fun, frothy set essays on celebrity. Possibly it discusses the way that we feel we know celebrities, that they are our friends (or enemies) when all we know are their carefully created personas. 

Instead, these essays are about famous women we all have opnions on, including Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith and my beloved Winona Ryder. They take a more scholarly approach (think the sociology of celebrity) as well as a very personal relaying of their relationship to the author’s life. 

This is not the journey I expected to take but one I loved anyway. 

Graphic Novel Roundup #1

For the 24 in 48 readathon, I read a bunch of graphic novels (including the Alison Bechdel ones I recently reviewed). I’m a really recent convert to this genre, and I’m glad I had help picking these. :)

I read Marbles by Ellen Forney, Stitches by David Small, Becoming Unbecoming by Una and Ghost World by David Clowes. 

The first three are all nonfiction. I think so far this aspect (nonfiction graphic novels) are working for me the best because the illustrations add a lot. (I’m not describing it well, I know, but I have read seven books in 24 hours so my brain is mush.)

Of these four, my favorite is Becoming Unbecoming, which juxtaposes a serial killer who murders prostitutes (The Yorkshire Ripper) with the author’s sexual abuse. If you’re not sure what rape culture is, that’s a great place to start. 

Marbles is about the link between artists and mental illness. Ellen Forney was diagnosed bipolar and she has an incredibly hard time initially because she’s an artist and what if medication ruins that? This graphic novel really worked because I think it’s easier to understane mania if you can see it. 

Stitches is another messed-up childhood story. That sounds dismissive but I don’t mean it to. David Small’s family seems absolutely horrible and abusive but by the end, I found some sympathy for them. (A testament to him, because I didn’t want to at all.)

Ghost World was probably my least favorite but I still enjoyed it. It’s also the most famous (maybe) especially to non-fans because of the movie. 
My next batch is the inverse: three works of fiction and one of nonfiction, in that order. I didn’t plan that.