Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Favorite Book
Title, Part 20

This time, we liked a couple of titles about equally: Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back and Ignore Everybody--And 39 Other Keys to Creativity. They both do a marvelous job of distilling their subject matter into a few words, and those words happen to be quite memorable--to me, at least. Each would make me stop what I was doing to flip through the book. Runner up? The nod goes to An Irreverant Curiosity--In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic In Italy's Oddest Town. If the book delivers even half of what that alluring title seems to promise, it would be eminently worth reading (you can read an interview with the author here). Perhaps you have some thoughts about these, or may have even read one. If so, we'd love to hear about it, and welcome hearing about other great book titles. Meanwhile, you can review earlier favorite book titles here.


At 7:51 AM, Blogger Kass said...

"The Earth Hums in B Flat" by Mari Strachan - This book jumped right off the shelf because I have heard the earth hum for years and finally sang the hum all the way home to my piano. Sure enough. B Flat. This is a debut novel for Mari, who portays an imaginative twelve-year-old girl who has a fantasy life at night when she flies above her small Welsh village and "becomes tuned into the earth's softest subtleties and hidden mysteries."

At 7:55 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Ah, lovely. Right up my alley, Kass, notwithstanding my lack of musical abilities. Thanks for that one.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Britta said...

Speaking of books, anyone have recommendations for a little writerly inspiration for my new padawan, er, assistant editor? She's 18 months out of journalism school, adept at many things but I want to mentor her in beginning to get her legs under her as a professional with writing and editing. I know this group will rise to the challenge!

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Followed the links, went over and read through gapigvoid.com. Utterly brilliant stuff. Personally very useful to me. May have to go buy that book.

Meanwhile, a quote from Walt Whitman:

"When you write do you take anybody's advice about writing? Don't do it: nothing will so mix you up as advice. If a fellow wants to keep clear about himself he must first of all swear a big oath that he'll never take any advice."
—Walt Whitman, 19 April 1888; from Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden

At 10:58 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, I'm glad you liked that. I found the gapingvoid stuff equally compelling, and given how good it is, I'm surprised it's received so little attention thus far. So we tried to do our small part about that. And please note that one-quarter of the book is available for a free download. If you like it, do consider paying for the whole thing to support that good cause. The Whitman quote works for those who are self-actualized and who have managed to grow up without too much baggage that prevents them from tuning out much of the world. The reality is that's not everyone's situation (though it sure helps you create in any field). So even though Whitman's reality is mine and yours, it's certainly not everyone's (though it's something to strive for as an ideal, while also recognizing there are often grave personal consequences to living life that way, which not everyone cares to pay).

Britta, you ask such an important question that I think it deserves a separate answer, which I'll post shortly. I hope others will sound off on this as well.

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...


Some titles, in no order whatsoever. Most of these are not "manuals," although all of them have something to say on your topic.

Natalie Goldberg, "Writing Down the Bones"

Kathleen Norris, "The Virgin of Bennington"

Studs Terkel, everything he ever published, especially "Working"

David Bayles and Ted Orland, "Art and Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking"

Robert Burdette Sweet: "Writings Towards Wisdom"

Norman O. Brown, "Love's Body"

Jim Harrison: "Off to the Side" (a writer's memoir(

Lewis Hyde: "The Gift"

Rainer Maria Rilke: "Letters to a Young Poet" (trans. by Stephen Mitchell)

Alastair Cooke: "Six Men"

Hayden Carruth: "Selected Essays and Reviews"

Stephen Nachmanovitch: "Free Play: Improvisation in art and life"

Jonathon Williams: "The Magpie's Bagpipe"

Deena Metzger: "Writing for Your Life"

John McPhee: "Encounters with the Archdruid"

Loren Eiseley: "All the Strange Hours"

Carolyn Kizer: "Mermaids in the Basement"

Jane Hirshfield: "Nine Gates: Entering the mind of poetry"

Frederick Franck: "Art As A Way"

Peter Mathiessen: "The Snow Leopard"

Conrad Aiken: "Collected Criticism"

William Least Heat Moon: "Blue Highways"

Bruce Chatwin: "The Songlines"

Ursula K. LeGuin: "Dancing at the Edge of the World"

Susan Goldsmith Woolridge: "Poemcrazy: Freeing your life with words"

Janey and Isaac Asimov: "How to Enjoy Writing"

I've biased this list in three directions, from literally a hundred other possible choices. I've presented here a list of books that highlights three things:

1. the more journalistic end of creative nonfiction; reporting as literature; Cooke, McPhee, Matthiessen, etc.

2. writers and artists talking about their process, their history, what they've learned along the way; I've also included here some great reviewing and lit crit writing by poets and writers; Harrison, Carruth, Aiken, etc.

3. works about writing by women writers; perhaps it's presumptuous of me, and I thought some of these great women writers might serve as role models for any young woman writer, or for any writer at all for that matter; LeGuin, Hirshfield, Kizer, etc.

I also hope that your padawan has discovered how rich and strange Emily Dickinson truly is, past all the stereotypes about her. There is so much in Emily that is yet weird and wild and strange, and I'm still shocked by how many writers don't seem to know that as yet.

Best wishes to you both.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Britta, here's my writerly canon, which I'd define as books that any writer of any genre and any stage of development would learn & greatly profit from reading. You soak in so much from all of these not just because they're stuffed with insight and illumination and even some actionable tips, but even more so because you trust and like the voice of the writerly guide (or at least I do):

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

A couple of newer entrants:

Letters to a Young Journalist, by Samuel Freedman
On Writing--A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

And finally, two resonant but oddball favorites, one a novel and the other a memoir, both about writerly awakenings by incredible writers:

My Secret History, by Paul Theroux (the novel)
North Toward Home, by Willie Morris
(the memoir written in his youth, something of a companion to his later memoir, New York Days)

Hope that helps.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Britta said...

Gentlemen: Thank you for your great suggestions ... a few I knew about and a few I didn't. Off to AbeBooks for shopping!
And I might even get a tome or two for her! ; )

At 8:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Glad to be of service, Britta.


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