Beware of Cat: And Other Encounters of a Letter Carrier


Vincent Wyckoff - 2007
    The old man is upset, and Wyckoff moves down the block slowly, looking high and low, hoping to spot the little bird. He reaches the man’s house and offers sympathy to his wife, who smiles sadly and says, “We haven’t had that bird for twenty-five years.”  Letter carriers like Wyckoff walk through the same neighborhood each day, observing the lives and routines of its residents. They learn its stories, make connections between people, and, in many ways, become the common thread that connects neighbors to one another. Along Wyckoff’s mail route, Native American children teach him about totems. He finds assistance for a reclusive chain-smoking book collector who can’t maintain his property. He delivers a much-delayed registered letter mailed from Saigon in 1976. Over the years, Wyckoff sees the neighborhood of blue-collar retirees change as a diverse group of younger people move in and raise their families.  Celebrating the triumphs in everyday life and demonstrating the danger of trusting first impressions, Beware of Cat reveals the inner workings of an ordinary place of extraordinary interest.  Vincent Wyckoff was a laborer, a construction worker, and a sheetmetal worker before he became a letter carrier in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1990. This is his first book.

Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks


Micah Toub - 2010
    Dreamwork, archetypes, conflict resolution, the mind-body connection—Toub’s childhood was a virtual laboratory of psychology. A mysterious growth on his father’s nose embodies the conflict that would lead to his parents’ divorce. Family meetings involved dream analysis and intense emotional unburdening. As a young adult, Micah chases his “anima” in the form of a fickle poetess who eventually breaks his heart, but then a series of coincidences later identified as “synchronicity” lead him to his fiancé. Enriched with excerpts from Jung’s own memoir, and informed by readings and conversations with Jungian gurus and unbelievers alike, Growing Up Jung intelligently examines the pros and cons of Jungian philosophy as we witness Toub embrace his “shadow” and meditate with his “ally” in that elusive quest for “individuation.” While tackling themes like the Anima, the Oedipus Complex, and Transference, it addresses the question: is it possible for the spawn of two shrinks to reach adulthood mentally unscathed?

My Shitty Twenties


Emily Morris - 2017
    It felt like an alien invasion but her instincts took over and, despite being totally unmaternal, she found herself going ahead with the pregnancy.My Shitty Twenties is based on an award-winning blog about being a single mum. Emily Morris started writing when her son was two and she needed to try to find something funny in a crap, banal day. Six years later, this is her story.

This Is Not My Beautiful Life: A Memoir


Victoria Fedden - 2016
    If you think it sucks to live with your parents when you're thirty-six and nine months pregnant, just wait til the DEA comes knocking (with the IRS in tow): Welcome to Victoria Fedden's life.When a squad of federal agents burst through her parents’ front door, Victoria Fedden felt ill-prepared to meet them: She was weeks away from her due date and her T-shirt wasn’t long enough to hide her maternity undies. As for the question of how to raise a child when you’ve just discovered that your mother and stepfather have allegedly masterminded a pump-and-dump scheme? She was pretty sure that wasn’t covered in What to Expect When You’re Expecting—and she really hoped that Bradford Cohen, the noted criminal defense attorney who famously waived his exemption on The Apprentice, would prove them innocent.This Is Not My Beautiful Life is the story of how Victoria lost her parents to prison and nearly lost her mind. No one ever said motherhood would be easy, but as she struggles to change diapers, install car seats, and find the right drop-off line at pre-school—no easy task, when each one is named for a stage in the lifecycle of a f*cking butterfly—she’s also forced to ask herself whether a jump-suit might actually complement her mom’s platinum-blonde extensions and fend off the cast of shady, stranger-than-fiction characters (like the recovering addict who scored a reality show when he started an escort service for women) who populated her parents’ world.A real-life Arrested Development that could only unfold in southern Florida, This Is Not My Beautiful Life is a hilariously funny and unexpectedly moving memoir of a just-functional family you’ll never forget.

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life


Nina Stibbe - 2013
    Nina Stibbe's Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life is the laugh-out-loud story of the trials and tribulations of a very particular family.

Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?


Alan Parks - 2012
    Their intention is to make a living, but first they must negotiate their way through the Spanish property market, local characters, rogue builders and the worst weather Andalucía has seen for 100 years.Alan and Lorna experience the joy, but also the heartbreak of alpaca breeding, picking up an assortment of stray animals on the way.

Digging Up Mother: A Love Story


Doug Stanhope - 2016
    Following a very singular career arc, Stanhope turned his back on Hollywood and toured relentlessly for years, performing up to 200 shows a year. He's a giant cult comedian with a fiercely loyal audience. His material is abrasive and often offensive, but it also relies on a bullshit-free, hardcore, outraged, truth-telling perspective in the tradition of the late Bill Hicks. Stanhope's memoir is sure to rub many the wrong way, but not without causing fits of uncontrollable laughter in the process.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life


Amy Krouse Rosenthal - 2005
    Using mostly short entries organized from A to Z, many of which are cross-referenced, Rosenthal captures in wonderful and episodic detail the moments, observations, and emotions that comprise a contemporary life. Start anywhere—preferably at the beginning—and see how one young woman’s alphabetized existence can open up and define the world in new and unexpected ways.An ordinary life, perhaps, but an extraordinary book.Cross-section of ordinary life at this exact momentA security guard is loosening his belt.A couple is at a sushi restaurant with some old friends. They are reminiscing. In the back of their minds, they are thinking of being home.A woman is trying to suck on a cherry Lifesaver but will end up biting it in six seconds.A little boy is riding the train home with his dad after spending the day together at his office.A man is running back into a grocery store to look for a scarf he dropped. He will leave with the phone number of a woman who will become his wife.Words the author meant to useFlair, Luxurious, Panoply, Churlish, Dainty, FollyWines that go nicely with this bookreds: Marcel Lapierre Morgon (France), Alario Dolcetto d’Alba Costa Fiore (Italy) whites: King Estate Pinot Gris (Oregon), Landmark Chardonnay Overlook (CaliforniaBook, standing in the bookstore holding aIf I am standing there with the book in my hand, one of three things has already happened: Friend recommended it. Read a good review. Cover caught my eye. I can appreciate a cool cover. But it’s like the extra credit part of a test—it only enhances an already solid grade. Getting it right won’t help if most everything else is wrong. And getting it wrong won’t hurt if most everything else is right. (There are countless books I cherish whose covers I don’t like too much, or cannot even now recall.) The interior of the book—the terrain of its pages, where all those words took me, the tiny but very real spot it ultimately occupies in my mind—that becomes the book. Next I go to the flaps. The front flap needs to intrigue/not bore me, and the bio needs to tell me just enough about the author. I’ll do my best to extract the author’s entire existence from their 2-X-2 inch photo.Off to the back cover. I’ll be momentarily impressed when I see a blurb by a hot writer like ____, but I know that it is just as likely that I’ll like the book as hate it regardless of these quotes. I look at them in a more voyeuristic way, like a literary gaper’s delay: Wow, the author knows So and So. Bet they send each other clever text messages. Really the only thing I can gauge from the blurbs is my own pathetic jealousy level.To get a true sense of the book, I have to spend a minute inside. I’ll glance at the first couple pages, then flip to the middle, see if the language matches me somehow. It’s like dating, only with sentences. Some sentences, no matter how well-dressed or nice, just don’t do it for me. Others I click with instantly. It could be something as simple yet weirdly potent as a single word choice (tangerine). We’re meant to be, that sentence and me. And when it happens, you just know.

One Bird's Choice


Iain Reid - 2010
    When Iain lands a job at a radio station near his childhood home, he decides to take it. But the work is only part time, so he is forced to move back in with his lovable but eccentric parents on their hobby farm. What starts out as a temporary arrangement turns into a year-long extended stay, in which Iain finds himself fighting with the farm fowl, taking fashion advice from the elderly, fattening up on a gluttonous fare of home-cooked food, and ultimately easing (perhaps a little too comfortably) into the semi-retired, rural lifestyle.Capturing the angst and humour of his quasi adulthood, One Bird's Choice announces the funny, original, and fresh new voice of Iain Reid.

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids


Jen Kirkman - 2013
    But you know what? It's hard enough to be an adult. You have to dress yourself and pay bills and remember to buy birthday gifts. You have to drive and get annual physicals and tip for good service. Some adults take on the added burden of caring for a tiny human being with no language skills or bladder control. Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let's face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool. Jen's stand-up routine includes lots of jokes about not having kids (and some about masturbation and Johnny Depp), after which complete strangers constantly approach her and ask, "But who will take care of you when you're old?" (Servants!) Some insist, "You'd be such a great mom!" (Really? You know me so well!) Whether living rent-free in her childhood bedroom while trying to break into comedy (the best free birth control around, she says), or taking the stage at major clubs and joining a hit TV show—and along the way getting married, divorced, and attending excruciating afternoon birthday parties for her parent friends—Jen is completely happy and fulfilled by her decision not to procreate. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself is a beacon of hilarious hope for anyone whose major life decisions have been questioned by friends, family, and strangers in a comedy club bathroom. And it should satisfy everyone who wonders if Jen will ever know true love without looking into the eyes of her child.

Oh the Glory of it All


Sean Wilsey - 2005
    It's no surprise that as a kid in the '80s, Wilsey found similarities between his own life and his beloved Lord of the Rings and Star Wars--his journey was fraught with unnerving characters too. Wilsey's father was a distant, wealthy man who used a helicopter when a moped would do and whose mandates included squeegeeing the stall after every shower. Much of Wilsey's youth was spent as subservient to, or rebelling against this imposing man. But the maternal figures in Wilsey's childhood were no less affecting. His mother, a San Francisco society butterfly turned globe-trotting peace promoter, seemed to behave only in extremes--either trying to convince young Sean to commit suicide with her, or arranging impromptu meetings with the Pope and Mikhail Gorbachev. And Dede, his demon of a stepmother, would have made the Brothers Grimm shiver. As always with memoirs one must take expansive sections of recalled dialogue with a grain of salt, but Wilsey's short, unflinching sentences keep his outlandish story moving too quickly for much quibbling. In the end, Wilsey says, "It took the unlikely combination of the three of them--mother, father, stepmother--to make me who I am." It's a fairly basic conclusion after 479 pages of turning every stone, but it's also one that renders his story--more than shocking or glorious--human. --Brangien Davis

Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life


Teri Hatcher - 2006
    That moment showcased her down-to-earth, self-deprecating style -- and her frank openness about the ups and downs she's experienced in life and work.But what the world might not have seen that night is that Teri's self-acceptance is the hard-won effort of a single mother with all the same struggles most women have to juggle -- life, love, bake sale cookies, and dying cats. Now, in the hope that her foibles and insights might inspire and motivate other women, Teri opens up about the little moments that have sustained her through good times and bad.From the everyday (like the importance of letting your daughter spill her macaroni so she knows it's okay to make mistakes) to the rare (a rendezvous with a humpback whale -- and no, he was not a suitor), the message at the heart of Burnt Toast -- that happiness and success are choices that we owe it to ourselves to make -- is sure to resonate with women everywhere.

The Diary of an Honest Mum


Jools Oliver - 2005
    Having longed for children as far back as she can remember, she was suddenly faced with an array of unfamiliar, unexpected, and sometimes downright embarrassing emotional and physical reactions. So when Poppy (and a year later, Daisy) was born, she had to learn a whole new set of skills.From "minus nine" (her first positive pregnancy test) to "one" (Poppy's first birthday), Jools takes you through the worries, surprises, excitement, miracles, and very hard work that she -- and all new moms in their own different ways -- had to face along the way.Down to earth, personal, and very very funny, this is the book no aspiring mother will want to be without.

I Don't Have a Happy Place: Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom


Kim Korson - 2015
    Because really, does everyone have to be happy?Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And when life moves along pretty decently--she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont—the real despondency sets in. It’s a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.In I Don’t Have a Happy Place, Kim Korson untangles what it means to be a true malcontent. Rife with evocative and nostalgic observations, unapologetic realism, and razor-sharp wit, I Don’t Have a Happy Place is told in humorous, autobiographical stories. This fresh-yet-dark voice is sure to make you laugh, nod your head in recognition, and ultimately understand what it truly means to be unhappy. Always.

The Lunch-Box Chronicles: Notes from the Parenting Underground


Marion Winik - 1998
    . . ."   With the candor and often hilarious outlook that have made her a beloved commentator on NPR, Marion Winik takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through modern parenthood, with all of its attendant anxieties and joys.        A single mother with two small boys, Winik knows exactly what she's talking about, from battles over breakfast and bedtime to the virtues of pre-packaged food and weightier issues like sex education and sibling rivalry. Part memoir and part survival guide, The Lunch-Box Chronicles is an engaging philosophy of parenting from a staunch realist, who knows that kids and their parents both will inevitably fall far short of perfection, and that a "good enough mom" really is, in fact, good enough.