Book Review: Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines

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This is one of those books where you could read it multiple times and glean new insights each time. The content is dense, and I mean that in a mostly-positive way. Haines has a way of packing a lot of layers into just a few sentences. Sometimes she meanders a little bit, and I found myself thinking, wait, what was she talking about? But overall, her writing is picturesque (but not melodramatic), beautiful (but gritty), and elegant (yet contemporary).

It’s hard to write a summary of this book, because it’s kind of unique, and, perhaps, genre-hopping. It’s a memoir, but it’s more than that. I don’t exactly know how to describe or categorize it, other than to say that it’s about identity, brokenness, community, searching, and healing.

The genre on the back of the book is listed as “CLGB Memoir.” Can anyone explain to me what that is? My first guess was “Christian Lesbian Gay Bi Memoir,” but Haines is straight, and this book has nothing to do with non-heterosexuality.

I am marking this book off as “A book written by an author with initials in their name” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: Something Other Than God, by Jennifer Fulwiler

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To Jennifer Fulwiler, the concept of God was ridiculous…until it wasn’t. In this memoir of her conversion from atheism to Catholicism, Jennifer details how discovering the inaccuracies and inadequacies of her assumptions about the meaning of life nudged her into openness to belief in God. She also shares how God drew her, personally, to himself, by making his loving influence in her life so obvious that she could no longer resist or deny it.

I found this book to be very thoughtful and encouraging, and I recommend it. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it needed better copy editing; there were a lot of distracting punctuation errors.

I am marking this off as “A book about joy or happiness” for the #VTReadingChallenge. (After all, the subtitle is “How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.”)

Book Review: Coming Clean, by Seth Haines

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Coming Clean is based on Haines’ journal entries during his first 90 days of sobriety after realizing that he had become dependent on alcohol. Haines’ vulnerability and humility make this book powerful and inspiring. I think that most people, myself included, can identify with Haines’ struggle with unhealthy dependencies–things we turn to (instead of God) in an attempt to cope with stress or pain.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from this book was that breaking free from addictions, even though the daily struggle will be intense and sometimes excruciating, will ultimately lead to more peace, joy, and intimacy with God.

I am marking this book off as “A book written by a first-time author” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

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For the most part, I enjoyed and appreciated this book (although I didn’t agree 100% with Melton’s perspective or her theology). Melton is honest and funny, and her writing is relatable and thought-provoking.

I am marking this book off as “A book by a woman conference speaker” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Note: I checked this book out from the library, and the cover looked just like the picture at the top of this post. But apparently there is a new version with a different subtitle. (The new subtitle, “The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life,” really is more appropriate and appealing, so I understand why it was changed. I don’t know whether or not there is additional content in the new version.)

Book Review: The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect

The Rosie Effect, sequel to The Rosie Project, continues the story of goodhearted-but-socially-inept college professor, Don Tillman. I don’t want to say more about the plot for fear of spoiling it for those who have not yet read it, but I will say that this book is both touching and hilarious. You can’t help but sympathize with blunt, loyal, naïve Don, who works so hard to master the social conventions and behaviors that come naturally to most people, but not to him. I would recommend this book as a light, fun read, but you should definitely read The Rosie Project first.

I am marking this book off as “A humorous book” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr

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The memoir genre is intriguing to me, in spite of the fact that I am, and because I am, a highly sensitive person. I say, “in spite of,” because memoir is descriptive and evocative and intense, and I am easily emotionally swayed when reading about others’ (often traumatic) experiences. Reading memoir can be painful for me, but in the end, it’s usually worth it, because it allows me to grow in compassion and understanding and perspective. And as a highly sensitive person, I am drawn to memoir because of its introspective, navel-gazing nature—its focus on internal and external detail. Memoir is about analyzing and reflecting on emotions, conversations, and experiences. I do this constantly, so memoir is, for me, comfortable territory (while often being uncomfortable).

I’ve never read any of Karr’s memoirs, although I may do so now that I’ve had the privilege of glimpsing her behind-the-scenes creative process and philosophy of memoir writing. Karr answers some questions I’ve always had about memoir (What are the standards of accuracy and honesty in memoir writing? What are the legal and ethical considerations when writing about real, still-living people?), and she also presents a lot of information that I “didn’t know I didn’t know” about reading and writing memoir. She praises and critiques short memoir selections, using them as examples of what to do and what not to do, from a variety of writers. At the end of the book, Karr includes an extensive list of recommended memoirs.

Book Review: Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior

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In each chapter of Booked, Karen Swallow Prior analyzes a literary work and relates it to her own life, explaining how each piece has instructed and shaped her. Even though I have only read some of the works Prior discusses, she presents them all in a very appealing and approachable way that makes me want to read the ones I haven’t gotten to yet. I was fascinated by the unique hybrid essay/memoir/literary analysis approach of this book. My only criticism of Booked is that I wish it were longer. I hope that Prior will write another book in the same manner as this one.