Friday, July 31, 2015

True blue

(photo credit: see below*)

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne

3 words: entertaining, storytelling, honest

Ever love a book so much you keep talking about it until you become a total bore to those around you?

Yeah, me too.

This summer, The Job was one of Those Books.

Why the introvert kept talking about it:

First, cops have the best stories.

Second, this guy’s a master storyteller.

Third, this guy’s one heck of a great writer. He does that thing I love, where a person writes exactly the way he talks. So you can hear his voice.

(Before writing this book, he told his stories on stage for The Moth, and happily for us, he kept that same voice in his writing.)

His stories are an ideal mix of funny, heartfelt, sad, and unbelievable. 

And some of the moments he describes are so weird they’re perfect. 

His first day on a new assignment, he saw a guy march into the station house playing the bagpipes. “I glanced over to the cop on the switchboard, and he was still doing his crossword puzzle.” (p. 106)

Bagpipe dude was one of their regulars. 

So there’s zaniness, and there’s adrenaline, and then there’s one chapter called “Cops Don’t Cry” that I can’t stop thinking about. 

If you’re somewhere that people won’t see you cry, listen to it on The Moth.

*photo credit: Police Car @ Times Square via photopin (license)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Read like a pirate

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

So, remember how I was raving about this book? That was when I’d read only 24 pages

Then it got better.

And it continued on that track, carrying me along in blissful rapture all the way to the end.

This book’s got it goin’ on.

First, we’ve got a rip-roaring adventure story that just won’t stop.

The pirates-with-parrots thing? For real.
Chatterton and Mattera are two divers searching for a pirate ship, which it turns out is one of the toughest things to find. So there’s a serious quest thing going on here.

Second, those guys are ridiculously interesting characters all on their own. Earlier in life, Mattera nearly joined the mob, but became a cop instead. Which is basically the opposite journey taken by our pirate…

…Bannister—a respected British sea captain who turned pirate back in the 1680s, during the Golden Age of Piracy. 

(Seriously, if you’re gonna turn pirate, you might as well do it during the Golden Age. Otherwise, really, why bother?)

Now if we’re talking interesting characters, Bannister takes the cake. Dude had a decent, respectable life, and he threw it all away for a life of crime that he knew probably would be a short one.

And then he took on the British Navy in battle.

So… by the time you reach this part of the story, you just really want those divers to find this guy’s ship. And that’s when the going gets tough. 

And, to top it all off, Kurson’s writing style makes this whole stranger-than-fiction tale a joy to read. He writes exuberantly, and man, it’s fun to read. 

Narrative nonfiction perfection. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mennonite memoir

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
3 words: funny, frank, cheerful

When life hits you with a one-two punch (try: her husband of 15 years left her for a man he met online, then she was severely injured in a car accident), it’s not the worst plan to head home to Mom and Dad. 

And if you have Rhoda Janzen’s parents… even better.
This memoir is laugh-out-loud funny throughout, and occasionally somberly self-reflective. (Why did she spend all those years with that less-than-wonderful husband, anyway?)
Life-changing molasses cookies at 2:00

But mostly it’s a hilarious, warm-hearted account of life with her Mennonite family—a lifestyle she had fled.

But returning to a world in which the ladies whip up large batches of food at the drop of a hat (hot fruit soup—a specialty) proves comforting, and it’s easy to see why.

(An aside about Mennonite food: Last fall we bought the world’s most amazing molasses cookies at a Mennonite bakery. Dang, people! Literally the best molasses cookies on Earth. [I don’t even usually like molasses cookies!] I should’ve taken a photo, but I was too busy devouring the things. We’re making do here with a stunt photo I found on the Interwebs. 
OK. Back to the book...)

Janzen's account of her family’s foibles is downright funny and wonderfully realistic and still kind-spirited. 

And some of her sentences made me laugh out loud. For example, this one, which appeared toward the end of a chapter in which she outlined a variety of Mennonite customs... 
“Perhaps you have been wondering, How can I join this attractive religious group? (p. 239)

This book is pure delight.