Nonfiction November: Books about airplanes

Nonfiction November is my new favorite holiday.
This week, we’re hosted by Julie of JulzReads, who gives us this
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more
books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert),
you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have
been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books
on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I seriously love this “Be the Expert” assignment, because it lets
us fly our freak flags. And heaven knows we’ve got ’em. 
I had to decide among my obsessions: Presidents? Space? True
tragedy? The modern West?
It was a dilemma, guys.
But in the end, I went with: Aviation.  [happy sigh]
I’ve been reading about airplanes for years, and I love
airplane books
Here are two of my shelves.

And here’s me flying one of those puppies. 

Today we’re gonna look at the aviation books I’ve read in the past
several years and blogged about. 
We’ll start with…
The memoirs
I love a good aviation memoir, especially when the pilot/author
keeps it real. Here we’ve got two fine examples, one from a fighter pilot and
one from an airline pilot.

And here are two bonus memoirs, because I can’t resist. These
books don’t have blog posts about them, but they’re a couple of my favorites
from years past.
The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh
(3 words: lyrical, modest, triumphant)
The Fun of It by Amelia Earhart
(3 words: sprightly, forthright, conversational)
Next up: a wonderful book by a great nonfiction author, about one
of those days when things went wrong… 

Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson by William Langewiesche

If you’re more into history, check out these books about two guys with the Wright Stuff.
My favorite Wright brothers biography is this one:
For a different approach (ha! pilot pun!) give this one a whirl…

All of these books just make me happy. 
topic do you keep reading about, over and over again?

Fixer Upper


(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines

3 words: warm, revealing, personal

I’ve never met them, but man, I love hanging out with Joanna and Chip Gaines.

Yes, this is an HGTV thing.

And it’s probably psychologically unhealthy to say, “Hey, I think I’ll go hang out with the Fixer Upper people!” and then get all excited cuz I just made my Pilates session more palatable.

Or maybe it’s brilliant.

I’m really too close to it to say.

(Gretchen Rubin Better Than Before readers: I’m using the strategy of pairing!)

One of the things I love about hanging out with those two is that they’re such a great team.

This book describes how the team came into existence. There’s a whole backstory there that I had no idea about… Joanna meeting Chip while working at her dad’s Firestone, her early efforts at design, the financial struggles as they were getting their real estate business going… it’s all the real life stuff.

And the way they were really awkward when filming a demo, until they got into a huge fight because Chip had bought a horrible houseboat.

And then the TV people saw some potential.

It’s pretty good stuff.

Reading this book was a bit of a risk, because when you like somebody the way they appear on TV, sometimes learning more about their true story can be a real disappointment.

This book made me like them more.

And I’m totally serious, Joanna and Chip, about that invitation to stop by and re-make my house.


Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

Nonfiction November rages on! 
This week, we’re hosted by Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, who gives us this assignment: 
Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
And today, we’re going with cop books. Man, I love cop books. Give me a good police procedural, and I’m one happy reader. 
Today the theme is not only cop books, but NYPD. 
These are books written by New York police officers who tell the true tale, even if one of the books is fiction.

The she’s cheating and giving a bonus nonfiction title: Blue Blood by Edward Conlon

Anyone else love pairing fiction with nonfiction?

Nonfiction November: Choosing the books

It’s Week 2 of Nonfiction November, and Rachel poses these questions about choosing nonfiction.
What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best? When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.
In my reading life, nonfiction is first about the voice, then about the topic. I’m looking for a narrative voice that I like, and usually it’s conversational and casual. Overly fussy, complicated sentences leave me cold. I think this is why I full-on love books by journalists — they know how to keep it punchy.
I’m wide open to nonfiction books on nearly any topic, as long as the book is written in this style. (This is why you’ll find me reading books about sports and science.)
But these are the topics that get me every time:
(Those last two pair interestingly, huh?)
While I don’t avoid a book with a crummy cover, man do I ever get pulled in by a great cover. The one that immediately grabbed my attention this year was this one:
… a book I apparently can’t stop talking about. Given the topic of the book (an Olympic swimmer who practices Buddhism), the book cover is perfectly perfect.
What are the nonfiction topics you can’t resist?

Book club update: autumn

Happy fall reading, everyone! 
Here’s what our book club read as we moved into the fall season…
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Discussability Score: 4
Because: Everyone’s seen the movie, now read the book. It’s one of those. And there’s a whole conversation about the symbolism in the book, and the strong central female character who leads a band of misfits who come together to create a powerful team. 
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Discussability Score: 4
Because: This book is a delightful blend of sociology and humor. It actually offered more of a compelling look at modern dating and romance than some of us had expected. The thing we kept coming back to was the statistic about the size of the dating pool. Back only 50 years or so, people tended to marry people who lived within a very small radius (as in: on the same block). These days, the world’s our oyster. 
Plus: Aziz Ansari narrates the audiobook. If you like the guy on Parks & Rec, you’re gonna like this book.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Discussability Score: 5
Because: This book prompted so much discussion, we started talking about it literally the moment the final person arrived at my door. She still had her coat on, and we were off to the races.
The first thing we marveled out was the high level of discomfort the book gave us. The way evil invades the home… Dang, people. That’s some serious menace. Each of us had to stop our reading for a while, to recover from the initial horror of it. So: great book to read in the Halloween season. 
And we discussed Gaiman’s lyrical style, his narrative abilities (for us audiobook listeners), his nuanced writing of women characters, and his remarkable way he clearly evokes childhood.
So… I converted my entire book club into Gaiman fanatics with the reading of this book. If that alone had been the result of my selecting this book for our discussion, that would be enough.
As always here’s the obligatory link to our full list of books
Anybody read anything wildly discussable lately?

Nonfiction November: It’s ON!

It’s Nonfiction November, my friends! 
And that thought is happy enough, I almost don’t mind the looming November chill as we begin our descent into winter. 
First, thanks to Julie of JulzReads, who brought this lovely event to my attention. She’s one of our co-hosts this month, along with Katie at Doing Dewey Decimal, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, and Rachel at Hibernator’s Library. 
If you’re a nonfiction reader, please come along for the fun!
goes like this…
Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
Nonfiction is my natural happy place. I love narrative nonfiction so much it almost loves me back.
Here’s a list of the nonfiction books I’ve finished so far this year:
  1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  2. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
  3. Getting Things Done by David Allen (read twice)
  4. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
  5. My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach
  6. Being Nixon by Evan Thomas
  7. It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson
  8. Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
  9. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  10. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
  11. Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
  12. Frost on My Moustache: The Arctic Exploits of a Lord and a Loafer by Tim Moore
  13. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  14. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  15. Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull
  16. Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer
  17. Dream Home: The Property Brothers’ Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House by Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott
  18. Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
  19. Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides
  20. First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower
  21. Work Simply by Carson Tate
  22. The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
  23. Mess: One Man’s Struggle to Clean up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau
  24. Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration: Lessons from the Second City by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton
  25. Black Hawk: An Autobiography by Black Hawk
  26. This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick
  27. The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson
  28. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  29. My Life in France by Julia Child
  30. Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, An Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work by Jeanne Marie Laskas
  31. Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
  32. The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy
  33. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
  34. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
  35. Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins
  36. Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders by Brady Carlson
  37. The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees
  38. Getting Things Done by David Allen (re-read)
  39. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  40. The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines
  41. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
And which one is my favorite? (such a difficult question!)
I almost cheated and gave answers to subsets of that question (most life-changing, most enjoyable, most unputdownable), but I’m going to do the right thing and pick just one. 
My favorite: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. In my review, I explain all the reasons why. 
The book I’ve recommended most… that’s a tie. I rave incessantly about Getting Things Done by David Allen, which is so life-changing (there! I sneaked it in!) that I read it twice this year.
But for sheer reading enjoyment, the book I rave about to people is Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. It knocked my socks off when I read it, and it’s one of the finest examples of “nonfiction that reads like fiction” that I’ve encountered.
As far as “What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?” … the first thing that comes to mind is: biography. I feel like I’m reawakening to the joys of reading biographies.
And… what do I hope to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? I’m looking forward to reveling in the joys of nonfiction with my fellow readers. And I can’t wait to find out what others list as their favorite nonfiction books of the year. 
So… what’s your favorite nonfiction book of the year?

Hamilton: the read-along

(photo credit: Steve Jurvetson,
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
3 words: lush, insider information, exuberant
Oh my land, guys. This book did nothing but bliss me out.
So, like half of America, I’m all hooked on Hamilton. The lyrics run through my head most of my waking hours. And I like it. 
This gorgeous book puts the lyrics on the page,and then accompanies them with gorgeous full-color, full-page photographs of the musical — of the actors on stage, and the actors offstage.
And there are notes along the sides of the pages by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who reveals some of his creative choices and inspirations. 
And even better, the pages of lyrics are interspersed with short essays about various aspects of the musical and its creation. This might’ve been my favorite part of all, because it was all about the collaboration and teamwork that went into creating this wonderful thing.
And I love me some serious teamwork.
There are few things that fill me with greater delight.
So…. this book is all kinds of things in one.
It looks like a coffee table book, but also like a serious tome.
And it’s lyrics, but also a paean to the creative process.
And it’s picture-packed, and the pages are nice and thick, so the experience of reading it… it’s luxurious.
I’m just sorry I finished reading it, ’cause I wish it’d gone on forever. 

So, my fellow Hamiltonheads, what lyrics are running through your head today?

True Grit: The Re-Read

True Grit by Charles Portis 
3 words: plain-spoken, dramatic, unsentimental
The month of re-reading continues…
It’s rare that I allow myself the luxury of re-reading a book, but sometimes I’m fortunate and my assigned reading causes me to re-read something I loved.
Enter: True Grit.
And, as always, the second reading was a different, more complex experience than the first.
(I love how this happens.)
The first time I read this book, I marveled at Mattie’s clear, strong narrative voice and her toughness.
The second time, I knew to expect those things, so instead, I really felt the feels.
And man, this book is filled with them. 
It was only on the second time through, that this book made me get teary-eyed.
(Did not expect that)
It reminded me of that time I re-read The Sisters Brothers and felt it the second time. 
This re-reading can be hard on a person. 

So guys… Ever been surprised by a book you re-read?

Getting Things Done: The Re-Read Edition

Getting Things Done by David Allen


This October, I’ve been in re-read mode.

It’s actually pretty darn fun, to feel the freedom to re-read– so often, I feel pressured to read something new.

So today, we’re looking at my first re-read of the fall season.


Earlier this year, when I finished reading Getting Things Done, I put a reminder in my calendar (Google Calender is one of my key GTD tools) to revisit the book in the fall.


This time, I decided to listen to it. And that was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. David Allen, the author, narrates the book, and it’s one of those delightful instances where the author reads the book better than anyone else could. Dude has a soothing voice, and he speaks with quiet confidence. It was like a private coaching session.


And, just like he says in the book, the next time I read it, I gained new insights. And I was inspired to fine-tune my system. These changes sound small, but They Are Not.


Here’s what I did:

First, I improved my Capture systems.
In GTD lingo, “capture” refers to catching ideas when they arise, and saving them in a system you trust.

I did this:

  • Placed small notebooks in 2 additional places where I often have ideas, so I can capture them
  • Bought bathtub crayons so I can write my shower thoughts (anyone else do their best thinking in the shower?) right there on the wall


Next, I hacked my system to make myself more accountable to myself.

I did this:

  • Created hyperlinks to connect related Word documents. This one works especially well in the Projects List doc, where I’ve added links to my various project pages. When I do my weekly review, I now actually look at each project page, because I’ve made it easy. And it’s paying off — I’ve already thought of some new ways to approach some of my projects. [small squeal of delight as I realize he ain’t kidding about the subtitle to the book: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity]


And finally, I kept myself honest.
Here’s where I was goofing up: Instead of making sure my Next Actions List contained only actual “next actions,” I allowed some of the items to be projects that needed to have “next actions” defined for them. So…
I did this:
  • Reviewed my Next Actions list with a discerning eye, then turned vague
    statements into concrete Next Actions. Again: immediate results. It was a
    sudden kick-start to some projects that I’d allowed myself to glide
    past, because they required thinking. Once the actual thinking is done and I decided what to actually do: super easy.



Anyone else completely infatuated with a self-improvement book? If so, which one?  



Currently… reading the current

The beautiful and busy fall season continues, with these wonders:
Reading | Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. This is gonna take a while.

I’ve also been reading the river, though I gotta say: the Dear Man is a way better river reader than I am (though he’s kind enough not to display this skill unless I ask his advice on choosing our line; then he diplomatically gives his informed opinion, which invariably is the best course; then he gives me credit). Canoeing with this man is one of my favorite things in the world.
Listening | Lin-Manuel Miranda, you’ve infiltrated my poor brain with so many earworms, I hardly know what to do with myself. The Hamilton quoting may become a problem. (It’s become a problem.)
Learning | I’m listening to Getting Things Done by David Allen as a 6-month refresher and I keep hearing things I missed the first time through. And oh my goodness, people. The refining of the processes — it’s seriously happy-making.

Loving | These photos…

Anticipating | This month’s book club pick is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The thing is ominous and full of menace, and it’s perfect for October. And I can’t wait to discuss it with the ladies.

Celebrating | How ’bout them Cubs?!