Thumbs up for Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin. Sociology/Memoir.

A mishmash that works surprisingly well together: the history of women who walk in cities (flaneuses, to match the male term flaneurs); biography of some female writers like Jean Rhys, George Sand, and Martha Gellhorn; academic discussions on the social meaning of the suburb; the history of Paris; the plot of an art film; fragments of memoir from the author, which serve to keep it from being too academic.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard. Nonfiction/Memoir.

Obviously, you shouldn’t read this if you are easily grossed out, or are offended by the mundanity of death. Before you think my reading tastes are horrifying, let me tell you: you have no idea. I know people whose reading tastes make even me—a novelist—want to back away slowly.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman. Travel.

I picked this up as research for a story and within a few pages realized it was not what I needed. But by that time, I’d been hooked by Erdman’s writing. There are so many ways that a white woman’s memoir of her Peace Corps work in an African village could have been irritating or obnoxious.… >> Read more


Thumbs up for Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Memoir, biography, graphic novel.

Any memoir that can keep me obsessively turning pages has got to be pretty amazing. The rumors are true: Alison Bechdel’s half-memoir, half-biography about how her father’s repressed homosexuality and her own more open lesbianism inform each other over the course of a lifetime is beautifully structured, wonderfully illustrated, and pleasingly literary.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Down the Kitchen Sink by Beverly Nichols. Cooking/memoir.

Beverly Nichols wrote many very witty things, more than a half-century ago, on just about every topic, but most famously on matters of gardening and cats. I have never once been disappointed by him.

What do [cocktail parties] do to the mind? If one is a good guest, trying to perform one’s duties, they subject the mind to a series of violent pressures of which the most exhausting, in my own case, is a congenital incapacity for remembering people’s names.

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Thumbs up for Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs. Memoir.

Every time A. J. Jacobs comes out with a new book I am filled with dread, because how many books about I-tried-this-weird-thing-and-this-is-what-happened can one man write? But I have not yet been disappointed. He is genuine, and genuinely funny. He embraces his projects as wholeheartedly as only someone with OCD can.… >> Read more