goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World
Author: Clara Parkes
Genre: Essays, Crafts
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 160
Date read: March, 2016

Awesome book to live vicariously through! Clara Parkes takes the reader to Rhinebeck, Knitting Vogue, the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Maryland Sheep and Wool and a number of other places where there's yarn and knitting to be found.

The most common criticism of this book is that there's a lot of name-dropping going on, and that is very true. But as I was interested in reading about most of the people whose names Clara dropped, that didn't bother me at all.

"Knitlandia" is a nice combination of essays about going to festivals (both as a participant and a teacher), and behind-the-scenes insight into websites like Ravelry and Craftsy.

I wouldn't expect a non-knitter to like the book much (and possibly not even a knitter who wasn't part of the online knitting community), but for somebody like me, who's a member of Ravelry and Craftsy, and who loves knitting podcasts with all the background given there, it's a trip through my knitty bucket list.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You
Author: Kunal Nayyar
Genre: Essays, memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 256
Date read: January, 2016

Of all the charming misfits on television, there's no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory - the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist - ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV's most-watched sitcom since Friends.

I really enjoyed getting to know the man behind the character of Raj. My favourite essays were absolutely the ones that related to TBBT in some way, but I appreciated the others as well, and found many of them heartwarming, amusing or both. Kunal Nayyar has a great way with words, and I left the book thinking I would really like him as a person and would have a great time spending time with him.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?
Author: Jenny Bond
Genre: Essay, non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 336
Date read: June, 2015

A work sure to captivate all lovers of language and literature, it reveals in short, pithy chapters, the lives, loves, motivations, and quirky, fascinating details involving fifty of the best-loved books of the Western world.
-- When stacked up, the original manuscript of Gone With the Wind stood taller than Margaret Mitchell, its 4' 9 1/2" author
-- Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was part of the Allied team that cracked the Nazi's Enigma code
-- Leo Tolstoy's wife copied War and Peace by hand... seven times

From The Great Gatsby to Harper Lee, from Jaws to J.K. Rowling, "Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?" offers an entertaining and informative journey through the minds of writers and the life experiences that took these amazing works from notion to novel.

50 short essays about the life of the authors up to and including the time where they wrote either their first book or their most popular book. I skipped the chapters about books and authors I knew and/or cared nothing about, but had fun reading the others. Probably not a book I'll reread, but it gave me a lot of interesting information.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes
Author: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Essays
Rating: 2/5
# pages: 224
Date read: December, 2014

The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes takes on the amazing in the ordinary in this side-splitting series of short commentaries. Pearl-McPhee turns her trademark wit and perspective to everything from creative discipline to a way you would never think about fixing your email situation. This book looks at everyday problems, and honestly, it won't do much to solve them, but at least you'll be laughing.

I love Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's essays about knitting. The rest of them? Unfortunately not so much. And as there wasn't a single knitting essay in this collection (which I knew ahead of time, so it wasn't a case of being disappointed by that - I'd just expected to enjoy the rest more), it could only just make it to two stars... it was okay, but no more than that.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Dear John, I Love Jane
Author: Candace Walsh
Genre: Essay
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 272
Date read: September, 2014

The new buzzword in female sexuality is "sexual fluidity" - the idea that for many women, sexual identity can shift over time, often in the direction of same-sex relationships. Examples abound in popular culture, from actress Cynthia Nixon, who left her male partner of 15 years to be with a woman, to writer and comedienne Carol Leifer, who divorced her husband for the same reason.

In a culture increasingly open to accepting this fluidity, Dear John, I Love Jane is a timely, fiercely candid exploration of female sexuality and personal choice. The book is comprised of essays written by a broad spectrum of women, including a number of well-known writers and personalities. Their stories are sometimes funny, sometimes painful - but always achingly honest - accounts of leaving a man for a woman, and the consequences of making such a choice.

I picked this book up, not really knowing what to expect, and put it down again, not really knowing what I thought. I'm obviously not the target audience, and as such I thought it fell a little flat... or rather, it was a tad one-dimensional. I would have appreciated essays from the ex-husbands and children as well in order to tell the full story.

The essays were all well-written though, so all in all it made for a solid average read.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Sleeping Solo: One Woman's Journey Into Life After Marriage
Author: Audrey Faye
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 51
Date read: September 2014

I don't really feel right rating this book. How can you "grade" somebody's personal experience? Fortunately the goodreads rating system (which I've adopted here too) is based on how much you like a book, and not how good you think it is from a literary standpoint. That helps.

"Sleeping Solo" is Debora Geary's first book under her new pen-name, and does a lot to explain why she had to change pen-names, and why she could no longer remain Debora Geary.

It's a fascinating book about the first 8 months of her life post-divorce, and invites you a look into her journey from a married woman to a single mother.

Personally I am amazed at how quickly she was able to regroup - had I not known the timeline I would have assumed these events took place over a couple of years rather than 8 months - but each person regroups in their own fashion, and while I do believe some ways are healthier than others, it does seem as if Audrey Faye chose the way that was best and healthiest for her.

It's a deeply personal account, that doesn't claim to offer any advice or "truth" for other people in a similar situation, but is simply a writer's way of reacting to a deeply personal and transitional set of circumstances.

I appreciated reading it, and getting to know a bit more about the person behind some of my favourite books.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting
Author: Various
Genre: Essays
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~6hrs
Date read: April 2014

Why does knitting occupy a place in the hearts of so many writers? What’s so magical and transformative about yarn and needles? How does knitting help us get through life-changing events and inspire joy? In Knitting Yarns, twenty-seven writers tell stories about how knitting healed, challenged, or helped them to grow. Barbara Kingsolver describes sheering a sheep for yarn. Elizabeth Berg writes about her frustration at failing to knit. Ann Patchett traces her life through her knitting, writing about the scarf that knits together the women she’s loved and lost. Knitting a Christmas gift for his blind aunt helped Andre Dubus III knit an understanding with his girlfriend. Kaylie Jones finds the woman who used knitting to help raise her in France and heals old wounds. Sue Grafton writes about her passion for knitting. Also included are five original knitting patterns created by Helen Bingham.

Various authors write about their experiences with knitting. I didn't know many of the others, but it turned out not really to matter. Some of the essays were sweet and endearing, others left me totally cold... so pretty much like any other essay collection I guess ;) I wasn't quite as enamoured with the collection as I had hoped to be - my expectations had been set too high by the Yarn Harlot's essays - but there were enough good ones included that I wasn't left disappointed by the collection as a whole.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Sh*it My Dad Says
Author: Justin Halpern
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 176
Date read: March, 2014

After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, twenty-eight-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his seventy-three-year-old dad. Sam Halpern, who is "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair," has never minced words, and when Justin moved back home, he began to record all the ridiculous things his dad said to him:
"That woman was sexy.... Out of your league? Son, let women figure out why they won't screw you. Don't do it for them."

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."

Justin weaves a brilliantly funny, touching coming-of-age memoir around the best of his quotes. An all-American story that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and, most frequently, in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts.

Very different from what I had expected, but I absolutely loved it. "Dad"'s no-nonsense attitude to things really appealed to me, even though I'm not sure what he would have been like to live with.

But his love and affection for his family shone out from every essay, making it a much more heart-warming essay collection than I had ever anticipated.

Loved it :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: All Wound Up
Author: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Essays, Non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 240
Date read: December 2013

...a sort of David Sedaris-like take on knitting - laugh-out-loud funny most of the time and poignantly reflective when it's not cracking you up.

In her trademark style, McPhee talks about knitting, parenting, friendship, and--gasp!--even crocheting in essays that are at times touching, often hilarious, and always entertaining.

Unfortunately by far the weakest of her essay collections. She might have discovered herself 'written out' when it came to craft essays, because there were a number that had othing at all to do with crafting, and two that I skipped entirely.

But when she's good, she's still good, so there were enough essays in this collection that I wouldn't consider it a disappointment.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Hyperbole and a Half
Author: Allie Brosh
Genre: Essays
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 288 pages
Date read: November, 2013

Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh's book showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

This full-color, illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, "The God of Cake" "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving" and her astonishing "Adventures in Depression" and "Depression Part Two" which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.

I'd better start out with a confession -- I've never read the Hyperbole and a Half blog. I've tried a couple of times, but just never really got it.

Despite that, somehow this book found its way into my claws, and when I saw that it was making the finals of the Goodread's Choice Awards I figured "Why not?" ... and that was all it took.

Just two pages in I was completely sold. I devoured the book in two quick sittings (would have been one, but I had to go to work), and am now slowly working my way through the blog - trying not to gorge on it all at once. Now I can honestly say I understand all the hype - Allie Brosh is brilliant, and the mix between text and cartoons in her essays makes for a very different reading experience that - IMHO - works perfectly.

Her letters to previous selves was probably my favourite essay, but the two essays on depression were heartwrenchingly relateable.

Terrific read.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Naked
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: Essays
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~4hrs
Date read: November, 2013

Abridged version, containing the essays "A Plague of Tics", "Get Your Ya-Ya's Out", "Next of Kin", "Cyclops", "True Detective", "The Drama Bug", "I Like Guys", "Ashes" and "Naked"

A lot better than "Holidays on Ice" and more like what I'd expected from David Sedaris after reading "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Possibly because these were all non-fiction essays rather than short stories made to sound like essays. I enjoyed it. David Sedaris will probably never by my favourite essary-writer, but I like him well enough that I'm very likely to pick up more of his work :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Holidays on Ice
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: Essays, Short-stories
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Audiobook ~4hrs
Date read: October, 2013

David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection containing six pieces, including such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families.

Loved "Santaland Diaries" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore", but can't quite decide what I thought of the rest. Very, very dark and very, very disturbing. Also, I couldn't figure out which were fact and which were fiction. Some were obvious, but not all of them.

But definitely not a book to read to get into "the holiday spirit"! ;)
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Don't Try This at Home
Author: Kimberly Witherspoon
Genre: Essays, non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 278
Date read: October, 2012

From Gabrielle Hamilton on hiring a blind line cook to Michel Richard on rescuing a wrecked cake to Eric Ripert on being the clumsiest waiter in the room, these behind-the-scenes accounts are as wildly entertaining as they are revealing. A delicious reminder that even the chefs we most admire aren't always perfect.

Not as good as I had expected, unfortunately. It's a collection of essays written by several different chefs, making it very clear that while some chefs can write as well as they cook... others definitely can't.

Which is fine - I don't expect them to - but it does seem off in a book like this.

Some of the chapters were fun and interesting, but as a whole, it unfortunately fell somewhat flat.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Yarn Harlot
Author: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 219
Date read: October 2012, October 2013

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's deepest wish is that everyone understand that knitting is at least as fun as baseball and way cooler than the evil looped path of crochet. Every project, from a misshapen hat to the most magnificent sweater, holds a story. "Yarn Harlot" moves beyond instructions and patterns into the purest elements of knitting: obsession, frustration, reflection, and fun. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's humorous and poignant essays find humor in knitting an enormous afghan that requires a whopping 30 balls of wool, having a husband with size 13 feet who loves to wear hand-knit socks, and earns her "yarn harlot" title with her love of any new yarn--she'll quickly drop an old project for the fresh saucy look of a new interesting yarn.

After reading Free-Range Knitter I wanted to read more of the Yarn Harlot's essays. Thankfully she didn't disappoint, and the only problem was that I could only read one or two essays at a time - then I had to go pick up my own knitting for a spell! Good thing they were short! ;)

Most of the essays were funny, charming and/or uplifting. However, there were two very sad ones, and one especially that left me sobbing :(

Reread for the October 2013 Read-a-Thon: PERFECT Read-a-Thon reading - especially for the late night / early morning hours.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Free-Range Knitter
Author: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Genre: Essay
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 228
Date read: July 2012, July 2013

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee returns to pen another hilarious and poignant collection of essays surrounding her favorite topics: knitting, knitters, and what happens when you get those two things anywhere near ordinary people.

For the 60 million knitters in America, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot) shares stories of knitting horrors and triumphs, knitting successes and defeats, but, mostly, stories about the human condition that ring true for everyone--especially if you happen to have a rather large amount of yarn in your house.

I loved this essay collection :) It's the first book I've read by the Yarn Harlot (although I've read some of her blog), but it definitely won't be the last. I've only knitted "for real" for two years, but already I could see far too much of myself in it, and she gave me a lot of new ideas for how to 'knit on the go'.

It's a cozy read whose only fault was that it kept making me want to put down my Kindle and pick up my knitting instead.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Under the Duvet
Author: Marian Keyes
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 315
Date read: March, 2012

Her novels are read and adored by millions around the world, and with "Under the Duvet," Marian Keyes tackles the world of nonfiction. These are her collected pieces: regular bulletins from the woman writing under the covers.

Marian loves shoes and her LTFs (Long-Term Friends), hates realtors and lost luggage, and she once had a Christmas office party that involved roasting two sheep on a spit, Moroccan-style. She's just like you and me ...

I've long read and enjoyed Marian Keyes' novels, so I figured it was about time to read her essay collection. I tried it once before many years ago, but at the time hadn't realized that it wasn't yet another novel, so pretty quickly gave up on it as it wasn't what I was expecting. This time I knew what to expect, and greatly enjoyed it. It's always interesting to learn more about the person behind the books.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Author: David Foster Wallace
Genre: Essays
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Read about 118 out of 355
Date read: March, 2012

In this exuberantly praised book - a collection of seven pieces on subjects ranging from television to tennis, from the Illinois State Fair to the films of David Lynch, from postmodern literary theory to the supposed fun of traveling aboard a Caribbean luxury cruiseliner - David Foster Wallace brings to nonfiction the same curiosity, hilarity, and exhilarating verbal facility that has delighted readers of his fiction.

An almost impossible book to rate and review, because I only read about a third of it, but what I read, I loved.

The title essay is an incredibly amusing essay on David Foster Wallace's experiences on a week long cruise in the Caribbean... only, the cruise could really be anywhere, because as far as I can make out, he never leaves the ship! Like the title reveals, he really doesn't think too highly of being on a cruise, yet he still manages to make me long to go on one! Probably basically because the things that drive him crazy, I'd love ;-)

So 5 stars for that essay alone, but unfortunately it was one of the very few that I managed to get through, as most of the others I couldn't get past the first few pages, so with about half of the book being a solid 1-star (my standard rating for abandoned books), it all averages out to this 3 star rating.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: A Homemade Life
Author: Molly Wizenberg
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 336
Date read: October, 2011

When Molly Wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new pâtisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.

Part essay-collection, part cookbook, I was greatly charmed by this book by Molly Wizenberg. Her essays were short and sweet, and fully explained to the reader, Molly's love of cooking and anything cooking-related. The recipes were unusual, and most of them sounded absolutely delicious. I've bookmarked pretty much half of them, to try out myself sometime.

Molly Wizenberg comes across as a charming and sociable person. I think I would like her :-)
goodreads: (Default)
Title: The Man Who Ate Everything
Author: Jeffrey Steingarten
Genre: Non-fiction, essays
Rating: 1.5/5
# pages: 384
Date read: June, 2011

When Jeffrey Steingarten was made food critic of Vogue in 1989, he began by systematically learning to like all the food he had previously avoided. From clams to Greek food to Indian desserts with the consistency of face cream, Steingarten undertook an extraordinary program of self-inflicted behavior modification to prepare himself for his new career. He describes the experience in this collection's first piece, before setting out on a series of culinary adventures that take him around the world.

It's clear that Vogue gave Steingarten carte blanche to write on whatever subjects tickled his taste buds, and the result is a frequently hilarious collection of essays that emphasize good eating over an obsession with health. "Salad, the Silent Killer" is a catalog of the toxins lurking in every bowl of raw vegetables, while "Fries" follows a heroic attempt to create the perfect French fry--cooked in horse fat.

As the rating indicates, this is definitely a book to miss... the mere fact that I've been reading it for more than 6 months should be proof of that!

The book blurb - as well as the title itself - led me to believe that it would be a collection of essays about Jeffrey Steingarten eating weird things. I thought that sounded interesting, so when the library didn't have the book, I went out and bought it, even though I'd thought his other essay collection only so-so. And it did start out exploring just that, and was really interesting! Mostly to see which of Jeffrey's "will never eat!" I agreed with, and which I loved.

Unfortunately this part of the book was over much too quickly - in fact, it was only the preface to the book. The rest was much the same as "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" - essays about assorted odds and ends about cooking and culinary oddities - but unfortunately not nearly as interesting.

So give this one a miss, and pick up "IMHBSIA" instead if you really want to read Jeffrey Steingarten.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Through the Wardrobe
Author: Herbie Brennan
Genre: Non-fiction, Essays
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 215
Date read: March, 2011

Through the Wardrobe is a collection of always thoughtful, frequently clever explorations of the series by sixteen popular YA authors. Find out:
* Why Edmund Pevensie is totally crush-worthy
* What tea and Turkish Delight have to do with World War II
* Why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be the best movie of the series
* What Susan really did to get herself booted out of Narnia (hint: it wasn't the pantyhose or the lipstick)

I was hooked the very first time I read about this book, and even though I have now forgotten where that was, I didn't forget about the book, and was thrilled to finally get my hands on it. 16 essays about the Chronicles of Narnia - obviously a must for any Narniophile like myself.

Thankfully it was worth the wait. Most of the essays were charming and interesting, and if there was a slight unbalance with more essays being about Prince Caspian than any other book in the series, then that can be explained by the essay collection being compiled shortly after the release of the Prince Caspian movie.

Unfortunately there was one essay that ruined it for me and which I couldn't even stomach reading through the first time. Comparing C.S. Lewis to Al Gore and making Prince Caspian all about preserving nature? Really? Seemed like just a bit more than a stretch to me.

So skip over "Waking the Trees" and enjoy how the remaining 15 essays faithfully explore the magic that is Narnia :)


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