Title: The Husbands and Wives Club
Author: Laurie Abraham
This is the story of five couples doing group marriage counseling and of one author who sat in on the sessions. I liked that it became a story that was a little bit about the author too. This could easily have turned into a detached third-person narrative. Instead, it’s clear that the author connected with the couples, so it’s easy for the reader to connect too. That does make this some very unobjective non-fiction though. The author isn’t shy about inserting her own speculations about the couples’ feelings. However, she generally makes it clear when she’s speculating, so I didn’t mind too much. I think a similar fictional story could be a great character driven narrative, but I liked that this was non-fiction. It made the story more interesting that it was true. It made it easy for the author to hold information back without being manipulative because she shared information in the order she found it out. And of course, it made for a very believable story. This is in part due to the author’s ability to convey the personalities of the people involved, but I’m sure the fact that they were real people didn’t hurt either!
Title: The Neighborhood Project
Author: David Sloan Wilson
This book describes some incredible examples of applied science. The author had studied a lot of questions relating to evolution before he decided that if an evolutionary approach is truly valuable, it should be possible to use that theory to improve our quality of life. He selected his hometown of Binghamton, NY as a testing ground. In the data collection phase, he discovered enough fun facts for any trivia lover to enjoy. The coolest parts though were those where he actually works to improve his city. This was a very inspiring story and the author does a great job giving people some idea of what being a scientist is like (although in my experience it’s more work and less cycling around the countryside than in his description). You get to see the vast knowledge at our fingertips, learn about great experiments, and hear stories of how many different people were attracted to working in science. I’d love to see this book read in high school or early undergrad science classes.
Title: Tiny Beautiful Things
Author: Cheryl Strayed
When I just read a few of these essays in isolation, I thought they were a little strange and over-shared more of the author’s personal life than I ever wanted to know. But from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness‘s review it sounded really good and so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did! Something about the introduction putting context around the author’s writing and then reading it all together made me appreciate it in a new and different way. I actually loved that the author shared so much of her personal life. It was a very different approach to giving advice from the typical disintant columnist and, I think, far better. As the author writes more, you get to know her and you have to know someone before you can trust their advice. Occasionally, I was bothered by her advice, such as the essay where she unequivocally suggests that two women get divorced just because they’re not feeling it any more. Most of the time though, I found her encouraging, straight-forward, and insightful. Even when I disagreed with her, I was awed by her way with words and by her ability to speak so personally in a public forum. These short essays really pack an emotional punch. Highly recommended.