Yes, I generally love nonfiction, memoirs, outdoor adventure and sports-themed books. I love these books because they are exciting, oftentimes unbelievable and leave the reader with questions to ponder after finishing the book.
The books I read in October do fall into my favorite genre but are good for anyone interested in great reads.
As always, I do not specifically mention a “worst” book, but I do have a favorite. Read on to learn more about a book that may be one of your favorites too.
The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People by Rick Bragg
What’s it about?
The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People by Rick Bragg is a five-star read for any dog lover. Bragg’s easy-flowing, humorous, poetic and touching writing style fills this book on every page.
I don’t know where to begin if you are an avid reader and don’t know who Rick Bragg is because he has won over 50 high-profile writing awards. He is a true American treasure. I love Bragg’s writing because he brings importance and meaning to simple events (most taking place in the American South).
In Speckled Beauty, Bragg introduces readers to Speck, his rescue, almost full-blooded Australian Shepherd. Speck is not a good dog. He has loads of behavioral issues Bragg humorously deals with every day.
What did I think?
Don’t worry if you are not a dog lover. Yes, there is plenty of humor that will keep you reading about Bragg’s love for Speck. Still, the book covers other issues such as family, illness, aging and even COVID-19. Bragg also covers iconic scenes of the American South. A “don’t miss” moment for me was in chapter twelve when Bragg gets lost in his recollection of going to revivals when he was younger.
I read this book straight through, and I think you will too. It will be one of my top books of 2021.
To learn more about Rick Bragg, check out his Goodreads profile here: ,https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/31122.Rick_Bragg
Brothers on Three: A True Story of Family, Resistance, and Hope on a Reservation in Montana by Abe Streep
What’s it about?
I spotted this new, nonfiction book by Abe Streep highlighted as an editor’s pick in the New York Times. Since I love nonfiction and sports-themed books, especially basketball, I thought I would give it a go.
In Brothers on Three, Streep tells the story of the Arlee Warriors basketball team’s pursuit of a championship, straight off a loss in the championship game the year before. The story takes place on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. Although the story focuses on the lives of two leading players during and after high school, Streep includes several other characters at the school, in the players’ family and in the community.
Adolescent challenges and basketball glory are not the only events readers get exposed to in Streep’s book. The story takes place with a backdrop of a community struggling with the high suicide rate in their community. “In 2016, Montana had the highest suicide rate. Native youth was by far the most vulnerable demographic. ‘It’s a lot to place on the shoulders of a bunch of adolescent boys,’ David Whitesell, the superintendent said.
What did I think?
For me, the book left me with a lot to consider, including:
- Are Native Americans regularly overlooked by Division I schools?
- How do young men handle the shift from the commercialization of themselves during the highpoint of their high school basketball to real life after high school?
- Does acting on social issues have room in sports, which many consider should only be entertainment?
- How can you prevent suicide and what factors promote suicide in this community and in Montana?
It’s hard not to love a good championship-pursuit basketball story set in a small town. However, Streep is a journalist, so most of the book is told in a fact-forward fashion. I would have loved for Streep to make this book more narrative and dive into the issues regarding suicide more deeply.
You can tell how much time and detail Streep spent immersing himself respectively in the lives of the two main characters, the team and community. But, as detailed as the book is, I’m sure there is a treasure of notes and interviews that he had to leave out.
A massive shout out to the editor Ryan Doherty who was trusted in keeping the story on track and flowing well. This book covers so many characters, events and issues, any reader will find something intriguing in this book.
For more information about the author, you can visit his website here: ,https://www.abestreep.com/
To learn more about the Warriors’ suicide awareness video that is a big part of the story, you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFxF2dWH-N4
What’s it about?
When I was younger, every charity seemed to pull my heartstrings. I had no fear of bounding off to sell things door-to-door in my neighborhood for charity. I would hawk anything from Golden C coupon books for my school, or push the small milk carton in doorways collecting change for the Children’s Miracle Network. I had no fear of asking people for money. But now, I avoid fundraising. I despise bothering people for their hard-earned cash. This is my failure of losing my pure heart to adulthood and not stepping up only to save my own reputation instead of helping others.
This is one of the premises of Richard Powers’ book, Bewilderment. The book takes place in one year. It’s the story of a close-knit relationship between a father, Theo who is an astrobiologist professor and researcher, and his son, Robin. Robin is caught struggling with some level of social disorder and his fear of our planet’s demise and animal extinction. Robin’s mother and Theo’s wife, an animal-rights activist died in a car wreck, leaving Robin searching for stability in school and life and Theo trying to balance work and parenthood without a wife and mother.
In his day job, Theo researches the possibility of life on other planets. However, his career suffers while he tries to guide his son Theo through a troubled school life and behavioral issues. Finally, after several bad reports at school, Theo rejects medicating Robin. Instead, he opts for an experimental neurofeedback therapy conducted by a scientist colleague of Theo’s wife. During the therapy sessions, we find out some strange and interesting facts.
Along the way, Robin forces his desire to tell the world about endangered species to the forefront in very public ways.
What did I think?
This book teeters on the possibilities of the not-too-distant future. You get glimpses of the possible, so the not possible seems tangible. For example, Powers uses current issues to make the story relatable (i.e. a fiery US president who makes several social media comments), yet discusses the possible planet that has already housed living beings in the past.
This balance of science fiction and reality, plus ethical questions ordinary people face, makes the book an interesting read. The actual story is not filled with anything remarkable, but it is filled with mystery and strange events. I tried to reconcile why I stayed with the story several times, only to find myself not putting the book down until the end.
One of the most important legacies this book leaves behind are the ethical questions people need to ask themselves about their public behavior and climate change. How do you make change happen when you are an adult? Throughout the book, Robin makes headway in getting his community to recognize endangered species. Still, life gets in the way for adults to speak up.
This is also a good book for readers like me who don’t generally like science fiction. The story is close enough to reality that the fiction seems plausible.
Richard Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. According to his website’s bio, “Powers’ characters themselves shift between the impulse to connect and its inevitable crash and burn.”
There is a growing market for the climate-change book genre. For more books on climate-change fiction, please read Outside magazine’s book list here: ,https://www.outsideonline.com/culture/books-media/climate-fiction-recommended-reading-list/?ue=c2dyaWdnc2hqQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ==&utm_source=outside&utm_campaign=nl-DSP&utm_content=061021
To learn more about Richard Powers, please view his website here: http://www.richardpowers.net/
Denali: A Man, a Dog, and the Friendship of a Lifetime by Ben Moon
What’s it about?
Denali: A Man, a Dog, and the Friendship of a Lifetime by Ben Moon is a memoir of Moon’s battle with colorectal cancer while in his 20s and his faithful companion, Denali, his adopted dog, and faithful companion. Moon was an actual “dirtbag” living in a van, for possibly longer than most. Some may even consider him an extreme athlete. But, as Moon lives an adventurous life in his young years, he ignores the signs something is wrong with his body. But Denali knows.
Though most of the story focuses on Moon’s relationship with Denali and his experience with colorectal cancer, the reader also sees Moon come into a new life after cancer. Moon, on his own, learns photography and figures out how to build his career as a photographer. It paid off as his career skyrocketed with truly spectacular outdoor photography that you may have seen in the catalogs of Patagonia or Climbing magazine.
What did I think?
Denali is a very personal and intimate story. Moon is not afraid to share his experiences and personal details. However, because he is a gifted photographer, skilled in presenting vivid and colorful images through eyesight, his writing lacks the wonder of stunning images. For example, I was close to bawling my eyes out after watching the five-minute video the book was based on but struggled reading the actual book in its entirety (you can access the video here: ,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86BVlcH1hAQ). However, Moon shines when he speaks of his connection with Denali. The book could have used more of these moments. Otherwise, the story seems like a simple retelling of events.
To view Ben’s photos, check out his website: https://www.benmoon.com/
If you are a first-time or self-published author and would like me to review your book, please reach out to me.