Bookseller at Ravenna
Dana is new to the Third Place Books Ravenna store, but it already feels like home. She reads mostly memoir and nonfiction, but she’s looking for the right place to jump back into the fiction stream. You will find her smiling away at the front desk or shelving in Religion, Philosophy, Mythology, New Age, Self Help, Psychology, etc. When she’s not at the bookstore, she’s writing, editing, making art, walking the dogs, and spending time with her family.
I started listening to Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell (on Libro.fm) as an aspiring writer. I'm sure my father made sure I read some Vonnegut, but I can't remember which titles. Then I remembered that my mom's friends rehearsed Vonnegut's play Happy Birthday, Wanda June for months when I was a kid, and I got to sit in. I still have lines etched in my brain. The beauty of Pity the Reader is that you don't have to be an aspiring writer to find Kurt's advice helpful. You don't have to love Vonnegut's writing to appreciate learning more about his life (although that is likely a plus, and the book is 60% Vonnegut). You just have to be curious about how another human works his whole life to create smart, funny, deep art in the face of trauma. You just have to "be kind."
Dr. Greta Helsing specializes in caring for the undead, and she does it with kindness, respect and good humor. That earns my respect. This is the first in a trilogy about a fantastical world in which the undead live next door, mummies require osteopathic fixes (old bones turn to dust, you know?), and love flourishes willy nilly. Vivian Shaw sprinkles allusions and homages to vampiric and horror canons of old throughout the series, but you don't have to get all the references to enjoy the story, and when you're done with this one, there are two more.
Christmas was not a big deal when I was growing up. I was raised by hippies and back-to-the-land folk who either ignored Christmas entirely or honored the Winter Solstice with a bonfire in the snow. But this book holds a special place in my heart. Living off the grid in the British Columbia wilderness in an A-frame my mom and her friends built, somehow we had a battery-operated cassette player, and somehow we had a cassette tape of Dylan Thomas reading this tale. I continue to be enchanted by the details of Thomas’s childhood in Wales, his keen observations of the adults around him, and the delightful humor and tenderness with which he holds those times. For me Christmas is not complete without a reading of this book, either by the author himself, or just me and my mom alternating lines. Give it a try.
Finally, a book about menopause that doesn't fill me with rage. Instead I am soothed by Darcey Steinke's focus on naming the visceral reality of menopause minus the pathological viewpoint. I'm inspired by her dedication to researching what she finds herself curious about, by how she follows her whims. Menopause has been denigrated as a "deficiency disease," by (primarily) male doctors who have pressed hormone pills into our sweaty palms, promising they're the ticket to youth, good health (damn the statistics on increased breast cancer, etc.), and being loved. This book offers a vision of traversing "the change" unmedicated: as an adventure, a leap of faith, a transformation to explore.
In this memoir, the one and only Patti Smith invites us on a road trip. She weaves us into her dreams over coffee, shares intimate moments, and howls about the world as it is. This slim volume is a balm, a hand to hold, a wild, sweet song.
This is not your great aunt’s romance novel; this is as if Queer Eye did a makeover on the 2016 Presidential Election and the result is tender, funny, suspenseful, political, and super hot. I haven't read a romance in decades, so I wasn't sure I'd finish this book, much less stay up until 1 am to do it. I expected to blush, but I didn't expect that I’d also laugh out loud, cry, and at the end, feel more hopeful than I have in months. Give it a try. This is the light summer read you’ve been looking for.
I appreciate books that entertain me and require me to think hard about the world we live in. This book did both. Billie James has inherited a small cabin in the Mississippi Delta and a little money along with the mystery of how her famous poet/civil rights activist father died thirty years before. Soon after she and her dog arrive at the cabin, she becomes entangled in her own (lost) memories and begins asking questions that uncover dangerous small town secrets about race, family, and justice. Chanelle Benz writes the Mississippi Delta as a character to be reckoned with in the way Walter Mosley writes about Los Angeles and Attica Locke writes about Texas. If you like mysteries, books set in the south with a Southern Gothic feel, and great writing, this will satisfy your need for a great summer read.
Sara Collins has a gorgeous reading voice on the audio version of this book on www.libro.fm. Honestly, I would listen to her read anything, but Frannie Langton, on trial for murder in 1826 London, stole my heart. She can't remember what happened on the night in question, so she tells the whole story: her life as a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica, how the plantation master brought her to London and gave her away to a colleague, her romantic relationship with her mistress, and more. Her confessions begin, "My trial starts the way my life did: a squall of elbows and shoving and spit." By the time she's finished, Langton has detailed the brutally twisted wrongs of a world built to keep her down, and we bear witness.
I heard Luis Alberto Urrea talk on the radio about the seeds of this book. He spoke about recent losses with humor, affection, and sincere appreciation for the messiness of life. This new novel centers around a final birthday party for Miguel Angel de La Cruz, a character loosely based on Urrea's big brother, complicated by their mother's death two weeks before. This is a perfect setting for flashbacks that fill in the story, and an unexpected writer adds depth to the tale. Give it a try.
This post-apocalyptic tale is set in a small, Anishinaabe town in winter. Without warning the phones stop working, then the TV. Fuel for the generator is limited. Food becomes a problem. Into this struggling community, an "unexpected visitor" arrives and things get complicated in historically familiar and harrowing ways. It's too late for you to read this while snowed in like I did, but if you like mysteries and you appreciate layers of meaning, this allegorical winter's tale is an excellent read. Waubgeshig Rice is originally from Wasauksing First Nation and this is his second novel.
In the fall of 2017 I scanned social media obsessively as The Wine Country Fires spread. Family and friends posted updates, rescued animals, and abandoned their homes. Meanwhile sunsets in Seattle were stunning. Brian Fies and his wife lost their home in Santa Rosa, California - the next day he started drawing this story. He includes lists (things they grabbed as they ran, things they would miss), and maps (of his neighborhood). He is blunt about pain of his family's losses, but he sets them within his community's losses and the larger reality of environmental change. The book you hold in your hands is a refinement and expansion of his original drawings; he's been kind enough to include the original drawings at the back of the book. In case you're worried this book will make you sad, it will, but it will also make you laugh and feel warm inside and, oddly enough, feel hopeful. Give it a read.
It's a genderfluid take on the Oedipus tale, so you know it's going to be dark and twisted. I was hooked from page one by the gorgeous language and deft layering of metaphor and time Johnson uses to modernize and deepen this ancient tale. Past and present flow side by side, people are not who they seem, and every sentence gleams with an iridescent sheen. This book is well worth your time.
What is empathy, exactly? Is it the cure for all our social ills? Is it a skill to be acquired or something inherent in us all? Cris Beam addresses all this and more in her brilliant investigation into, and interrogation of, empathy. She approaches the topic with skepticism and curiosity, beginning with the more cynical use of empathy to describe how data mining allows companies to make us feel they empathize with us as they offer us things they think we want. She goes on to visit a courthouse experimenting with justice based on restitution vs. retribution here in the U.S., looks closely at the scientific research on mirror neurons, and interviews students in South Africa about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And she shares stories from her personal life that relate beautifully to the material. I learned a lot from this book, but it also touched me deeply. Take a chance.
I picked this memoir up because I like the title. It's smart, and having sipped my share of Southern Comfort as a teenager in Tennessee, I decided to give it a try. Tena Clark's voice is sure, she tells it straight, and her writing is gutsy, funny, and self aware. She grew up in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Era, and writes about her broken family, about her nanny Virgie (the most caring adult in her life) and about coming out during those tumultuous times. If you like reading memoirs about difficult childhoods, this one's for you.
Homophobia is an ugly place to live; some people grow up there and never leave. Asher Sharpe, an evangelical preacher in small-town Tennessee, is moved to shelter two gay men during a terrible flood, but his wife refuses out of fear for their son. Meanwhile Sharpe can't stop thinking about his estranged gay brother. His conflict with his wife, and eventually with his work and community, leads to desperate actions, making this book as suspenseful as it is tender. Take this book home with you, you won't regret it.
This book is a meditation, a philosophical treatise, an interrogation of the way humans experience time. And let me tell you, we've got it all wrong. With carefully balanced blocks of reasoning and scientific theories, Rovelli builds a new understanding of the way we hold memory, history, each moment. You don't have to be a scientist or a philosopher to embrace this book, you only have to be human.
Imagine a country after the gaslighting tyrant has been removed. Are citizens healed overnight? How does the new head of state work toward building a healthy country? How does a young girl find her balance when her father was the tyrant, and killed her mother. These are the questions Lady Queen Bitterblue must face as the new Queen of Monsea, with help from her extraordinary group of friends. (And here I was thinking I was taking a break from serious content by picking up a young adult novel...) Enjoy!
This is simply one of the best books of fiction I've read. The writing is lyrical, and the book has elements of mystery and what reads like memoir. The story is told by a core of characters giving the reader an enviable vantage point from which to put the big story in perspective. Trust me, you'll be glad you gave this author and her first novel a try.
Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies off-the-grid, I learned to milk a cow, bake bread, fill and clean kerosene lamps, sew and mend clothes, and knit. I worked painting houses, doing construction, and gardening. In place of pay, I experienced a deep sense of satisfaction in doing a good job just for the love of it. In Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford explains why this kind of doing and making brings such satisfaction, how our inherent need for meaningful work has been manufactured out of (most of) our daily lives, and what we can do about it. Sure, the book came out almost 10 years ago, but the concepts are timeless. Give it a read!
One of my favorite mystery writers,Walter Mosley, says this "Small-town murder investigation reveals what lies at the heart of America's confusion over race." So if you like mysteries, and you're ready for one with a large side of social justice and race issues (and if East Texas has any place in your heart), this is the book for you. I loved black Texas Ranger Darren Matthews. He conflicted, he's tough, and he's got a heart the size of Texas. The issues he's dealing with are real and pressing, and it's a privilege to be entertained and to learn at the same time.
Jeannie Vanasco has deconstructed the concept of memoir and offers us not just her memories, but her evolving "guiding intelligence" which is, she suggests, "the real plot of memoir." Vanasco's story centers on her father's death, a half-sister who died before she was born, and her spin into madness as she struggles to tell the story she promised her father she would write in his honor. What shines throughout this book is her stunning generosity of spirit. Enjoy.
First published in 1908, Wind in the Willows has appeared in more than 15 different editions and there are sequels by five authors. Lucky for us, Kij Johnson decided to add another. Reading The River Bank is like listening to a familiar tune with an added layer of complexity; she introduces women to the confirmed-bachelor lives of Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger. Her writing is lyrical where it should be, the story is engaging, and the illustrations by Kathleen Jennings offer a slightly updated style with just the right nod to the E. H. Shepard drawings I grew up with. Enjoy!
You don't have to be a compulsive to-do-list maker, frustrated diarist, sometime doodler, and planner/scheduler to find joy in using a dot journal (also knows as a bullet journal). The system Rachel Wilkerson Miller lays out in her book is as simple or as complex as you need it to be, and it's endlessly adjustable. The first step is choosing a journal. Then you create pages to keep track of your time in whatever manner serves you best, your handy how-to book by your side with stylish layouts you can add to your journal as you go. The brilliant detail that holds it all hang together is the index in the back; no more flipping through pages for that phone number you wrote down last week. If you want to keep your serial to-do lists in chronological order, list the books you read this year, and keep track of how many times you've been to the gym this week/had a massage/gone to the movies, this is the system for you. You can draw flowers on good days and shade a whole day gray when ashes fall from the sky. This system is versatile, generous, and powerful. I wish I'd found it years ago.
I'm sure I wasn't ten yet when my hippie father handed me his dog-eared copy of Siddhartha; I've lost track of how many times I've read it since. Images remain with me: a child losing their innocence in the face of the world's pain and suffering, a youth flirting first with self denial, then reaching for success in business and love, then an older Siddhartha who finds meaning in service and reading the river. These images remain part of my inner landscape; invite them into yours.
I picked this book up because I love thrift shops, estate sales, garage sales, and antique stores; I kept going back to it because I came to love the characters, the deep dive into moments, and the whimsical world Kawakami has created. Deceptively mundane, this book is a perfect companion to your summer vacation.
Reading a memoir is like looking through a window into someone's life. If you're lucky the window is clean, the curtains pulled back just enough, and the life inside revealed in such a way that the reader learns something important and moving about that life. Good memoirs go a step beyond and reveal truths and realities about entire realms, and those truths and realities change forever how the reader views the world. This is one of those good memoirs.
The Book of Joan is a savage love letter to the human race. In this seemingly prescient, post-apocalyptic tale, a cruel ex-talk show host controls the (upper) world world while a Kali-esque Joan (of Arc) lives beneath scorched earth. Christine, who lives in the upper world, inscribes Joan story on her pale body, and when the two women meet, change happens. Give this gorgeously-written speculative novel a read. You'll be transported.
The Just So Stories are integral to the inner landscape of my childhood; I am always surprised to hear that a new friend has never read them. Forever I have understood "The Cat That Walked by Himself," in my own cats, and, when life events get the best of me, I have held my nose and said, "This is too much for me," so I sound like the Elephant's Child with his (then short) nose in the mouth of the Crocodile. My Uncle Harold read these stories of transformation to my mother when she was small, my mother read them to me, and my mother and I read them to my daughter, now 22. There is a silly logic to them, an appeal to the imagination, and a true seeing into the fact of existential alchemy. Enjoy!
I'll admit I'm a longtime fan of Natalie Goldberg's work. Writing Down the Bones has informed my work as a writer for decades, and her book The Great Failure is a model of how to tell a difficult truth about a respected figure with grace and honesty. But I feel secure saying that if you've never read her before, you will find The Great Spring a generous invitation into Goldberg's creative life, her spiritual path, and her take on life. Rather than recommending a book, I feel like I'm introducing you to a dear friend. Enjoy.
Myles Horton, cofounder of the Highlander Folk School, was in it for the long haul. He knew social change was a project he couldn't finish in his lifetime, and that was okay with him. He understood anger as a flame that can, if banked and used wisely, be a powerful fuel for social change. In this book Mr. Horton tells the story of how he cofounded Highlander and of the people who helped shape the school: Martin Luther King, Jr., Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Saul Alinsky, and Ralph Abernathy, to name a few. These people helped change our world for the better; Highlander still exists and continues to work for "justice, equality and sustainability."
Like many women of a certain age I read Women Who Run With the Wolves when it came out, before I was a mother. While I can't say I cracked it open as I struggled to balance caring for myself with caring for an infant, I know what I absorbed from this book helped me listen to my wild nature, helped me survive the inundation of motherhood. Now my daughter is 22 and reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés book herself, and reading parts aloud to me. If ever there was a time to remind ourselves to listen to our intuition, to stay free, to honor the wild in us, it is now.
A half a million glass photographic plates hold the only visual record of the night sky between 1885 and 1992. This dazzles me and I'm not an astronomer. It dazzles me even more to learn that a group of dedicated women (mostly unpaid) spent decades attending to these glass slides with utmost dedication well before women were allowed to attend Harvard. These women helped count the stars, helped astronomers learn what the stars are made of, created the classification system astronomers still use, and inadvertently helped measure our Universe. I didn't have to be an astronomer to love this book, and neither do you.
This story is woven out of the twin threads of love and loss. Alternating chapters offer up an exquisite emotional balance between the story of Sonya's husband losing the memory of their life together, and the story of how the couple met, fell in love, and built a life together. Sonya writes with brute honesty, inviting the reader to stand witness at a profound level. This story is set primarily in the Puget Sound where Sonya teaches writing at Hugo House and with the Red Badge Project. Treat yourself.
"He knew when the geese flew south and the leaves fell from the trees, that winter would soon be here and snow would cover the forest. It was time to go into a cave and hibernate." Beautifully illustrated by the author, this is a children's book adults will love too about a bear who knew his place in the world. But when he wakes up, his world has changed. A factory is operating right on top of him! He wanders into the factory and the foreman yells "Hey you, get back to work!" The sleepy bear replies, "But I'm a bear!" Thus begins this bear's ongoing struggle to maintain his identity in the face of pressure to conform to what is expected of him, both by humans and other bears. My mom read this book to me, I read it to my daughter, and I would be happy to read it to you.
When my family flew to Greece to visit cousins I had never met, my mother brought a small pocketbook edition of Durrell's classic My Family and Other Animals and read it aloud to my then 5-year-old daughter. On a small sailboat winging across the Mediterranean we learned about 10-year-old Gerald, a budding naturalist, his brother Lawrence, and the rest of their quirky family during the years they lived on the Greek island of Corfu. This book is a love letter to the natural world, laugh-out-loud funny, touching, and replete with characters that are at once familiar and bizarre. It was my daughter's favorite bedtime story until she fired me from reading to her before bed, and seventeen years later this is still our favorite read aloud.
I read The Phantom Tollbooth as a kid, in fact it was released within months of my own arrival in the world. I loved it then for the witty wordplay and lovable characters. As an adult, I have come to appreciate the philosophy of Norton Juster's classic. "The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between," seems a fine motto for living. The story follows a bored boy who accepts an invitation to a world of adventure filled with quirky friends. Participation in this journey requires him to be curious, to pay attention, and to care, excellent skills for humans of every age. It's a fun read and Jules Feiffer's illustrations are a perfect accompaniment. Enjoy.
Tribe is not just a book about PTSD, it is a serious reflection on the dominant culture in American society. Sebastian Junger lays out, in detail, an argument that American culture has wandered so far from our tribal roots that we can’t offer a meaningful experience of connection and community to returning veterans that rivals what they experience in war. We can’t offer it because we’re not living it. If you love someone who went to war and came home, this will likely speak to you (reading Tribe helped me come to a deeper understanding of my ex-Marine father). If you don’t have any veterans in your circle, even more reason to educate yourself.
The latest in a wave of long overdue child-of-the-counterculture memoirs, Juan F. Thompson's Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson does not disappoint. Whether you're a Gonzo Journalism fan or new to the party, each chapter head includes a list of important events in Hunter's life giving the reader historical signposts, and Juan's introspective and scrupulously honest and forgiving account of his relationship with his father is fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately heartening.