Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category


Creative types are always looking for some sort of inspiration, something that will help them get the juices flowing. Having been an aspiring writer for some time (I mean fiction-wise, not blogging – I seem able to that pretty easily!), I can totally understand, and often take a look at books that offer to help me create. This was my motivation for buying The Moment on my last trip to Portland’s amazing Powell’s City of Books, probably my favorite bookstore. What with teaching, being a dad, and trying to keep up on all my hobbies, I often don’t have enough time to write for myself, let alone read motivational works – so I figured that the bite-sized approach of Larry Smith’s collected wisdom gathered from writers and artists would fit the bill very nicely.



Note to Canadian readers: the subtitle “What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything” is not included in domestic versions of the book.

It’s only appropriate that my year of memoirs will end with this excellent volume from arguably the most famous astronaut in years, Canada’s Colonel Chris Hadfield. His series of videos shot while Commander of the Expedition 35 mission on the International Space Station (ISS), culminating in his release of a modified version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity filmed throughout the station, made him something of a celebrity and gave him international fame. While his resume is impressive (test pilot, Top Gun winner, astronaut, ISS Commander), he never comes across as cocky; self-assured, yes, but that’s really a necessary component for the sorts of jobs he’s had. Being the last book I’ll likely finish in 2013, it was nice that it was also one of the best books I’ve read this year.


I’ve been noticing two trends in my reading habits this year: a lot of memoirs, and a lot of books on climate change. In Mark Hertsgaard’s 2012 book, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, I find myself reading both non-fiction genres united within one cover. Hertsgaard is, like me, a relatively new father, and he finds himself wondering at what life for his daughter Chiara will be like in the 21st Century. As this is something near and dear to my own heart, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I sat down to read his book.

I Am Malala

Malala Yousafzai, known to most of the world simply as Malala, made headlines first for her brave stand against those who would take away her right to an education, and then for her miraculous survival of – and recovery from – being shot in the head. In her new book, Malala tells her story from her early childhood through to her recovery in a Birmingham hospital. It is a fascinating story, and all the more so as she has lived so much in her sixteen years.


When I was about eight-years old, I was on a trip to Honolulu with my family. My dad and I were lucky, getting bumped up to first class on a Wardair flight, while my mom and sister came over the next day. Now, I could go into detail about my extreme disappointment at my father’s unwise choice to eat half of my sub sandwich that first night in Hawaii (now that I’m a dad, I’ve been guilty of similar indiscretions); I could regale you with our late night conversation about UFOs with two of my dad’s fellow airline workers, and how they told me all about the two primary kinds of aliens visiting Earth (the grays, who were extraterrestrial in origin, and the Hollow Earth aliens about whom I’d never heard before – and obviously it made an impression, as I remember it these 36 years later); but today, I’d rather make the point that this trip was the first time I ever heard about the Church of Scientology. It was part of the conversation, and the reference was Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. To be honest, I don’t entirely remember the context; I imagine it may very well have had something to do with my dad’s colleague connecting Hollow Earth aliens with Thetans or some such, but the details are unimportant. I suppose that if I really want to find out what they are, I could always go for an audit at my local Scientology Center – although I might not want to, after reading Jenna Miscavige Hill’s interesting and revealing memoir.


Memoirs aren’t my usual cup of tea, but Jenny Lawson just may have convinced me to give them a bit more of my time. Memoirs have always seemed too self-indulgent to me, but then again, what form of writing doesn’t ask for a focus on the ego that is behind the pen/keyboard/pencil crayon? Blogging (or writing reviews of things in a blog – mea culpa) is not far removed from memoir, is often in fact memoir, and is where this book originates. As one of the growing list of blog to book crossovers, Lawson and her publishers are banking on a list of already dedicated readers, and on catching the attention of new readers such as myself. The cover of the book, featuring a taxidermied (not a word, but hey, it should be) mouse dressed as Hamlet, grabbed my attention each time I walked into my local bookstore, but it wasn’t until a recent trip that I decided to pick up the book and read the back copy. Which led to me purchasing the book shortly thereafter.