Friday, September 21, 2007

Wrap-ups of Non-Fiction Five and Armchair Traveler Challenges

I've decided to wrap up both the Non-Fiction Five and Armchair Traveler Challenges because I'm now focusing on the Cozy Mystery and RIP II.

Non-Fiction Five Wrap-up

The Non-Fiction Five Challenge involved reading 5 non-fiction books in five months. I read quite a bit of non-fiction anyway, so my goal was to try to read specific books that have been lingering on my shelves. The results were average. I read some from my list, but I still didn't manage to finish the ones I considered most important. It was a nice try, though! Here's what I read from May onward:

1. A Spoonful of Humor - Henry L. Lefevre - anecdotes written by an octogenarian
2. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo - Capt. Ted N. Lawson - WWII memoir
3. Prescription for Adventure: Bush Pilot Doctor - Naomi Gaede-Penner - memoir of a doctor who lived in Alaska
4. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion - a memoir of loss
5. Held at a Distance - Rebecca Haile - memoir of a woman who returned to her birth country to visit
6. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name - Heather Lende - stories from a small town in Alaska
7. Blowing My Cover - Lindsay Moran - CIA Agent's memoir
8. Angels of a Lower Flight - *author's name removed, due to bad hits* - memoir of a former Pl*yb*y model who formed an organization to help children in Haiti
9. God is My Co-Pilot - Col. Robt. L. Scott - WWII memoir
10. Raising Ourselves - Velma Wallis - memoir of an Alaskan childhood

There seem to be some strong patterns in my non-fiction reading. Last year, we traveled to Alaska and I don't think anyone can leave Alaska without wanting to return, even if only by way of armchair traveling. It's a spectacular place with incredibly friendly residents. My son's swim club coach is from Juneau and he tells wonderful stories. While Bush Pilot Doctor was a bit disappointing because I wasn't expecting so many hunting stories (the medical stories are more interesting to me; hunting stories tend to turn my stomach a bit), I really enjoyed reading all three of the books set in Alaska. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name was my personal favorite. Heather Lende writes in a way that makes you wish she lived next door.

Memoirs are a biggie, as you can see. I've sat in on discussions in which readers bemoan the fact that memoirs are often "self-indulgent". I found that was true in at least two cases: Held at a Distance and Blowing My Cover were both whiny and self-indulgent, although they were both interesting. I enjoyed the history in Held at a Distance and the inside look at CIA training in Blowing My Cover. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was one of the most negative WWII memoirs I've read, but still fascinating. Joan Didion's surprise at her husband's sudden death from a cardiac problem known as the "widow maker" brought home the fact that even if your loved one lives with a dangerous heart condition for years, you can never really be prepared for someone to drop dead. And, Angels of a Lower Flight is an amazing tale of redemption that also serves as a lesson in how a person who has been through horrific experiences can turn her negatives into positives via the fearlessness her own suffering has created.

God is My Co-Pilot and A Spoonful of Humor were both written by men I would say probably were known as rascals, at some point in time. Both authors made me count my blessings that my boys were tame, by comparison, and both made me laugh a time or two. God is My Co-Pilot made my eyes glaze over, at times, but only because I didn't know the area he was describing and couldn't find a decent map, so the details of the geography he described went over my head. Since I finished the book, I've managed to locate a book of WWII that contains the maps I needed and describes the battles and region that Col. Scott described, so I'm definitely hanging onto it for a reread. The second half of the book was gripping.

Many thanks to Joy for hosting the Non-Fiction Five!

The Armchair Traveler Challenge goes on through December, but, as I've probably mentioned before (when I attempted to "un-challenge" myself), I'm really only able to balance about two challenges at a time. As I began reading with this challenge in mind, I realized that almost every book fits the description. Whether one goes armchair traveling to St. Louis (not too far) or Australia (the other side of the world, from our perspective), every book is an imaginative escape to somewhere. I read six before I ceased to link up to my reviews and mention location:

1. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name - Heather Lende (Alaska)
2. Susannah Morrow - Megan Chase (Salem, Massachusetts)
3. While I Live - John Marsden (Australia)
4. Angels of a Lower Flight - *author's name removed* (Haiti)
5. The Ocean in the Closet - Yuko Taniguchi (San Francisco/Japan)
6. Consider This, Senora - Harriet Doerr (Mexico)

I also traveled to China when I read February Flowers, but it was a trudge to read and I disliked it so much that I didn't even bother to review it. Ticket to Tomorrow by Carol Cox took me to the Chicago World's Fair in the late 19th century - travel to both a unique time and place.

Some other titles, along with the places I armchair-traveled by reading them:

1. The Case of the Missing Books - Ian Samson (Northern Ireland)
2. Voyage - Adele Geras (inside a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean)
3. Fever 1793 - Laurie Halse Anderson (Philadelphia, 1793, during a yellow fever epidemic)
4. Monkey Love - Brenda Scott Royce (New York City)
5. God is My Co-Pilot - Col. Robt. L. Scott (United States, Burma and the region around the Himalayas, where he flew transports and later fought as a fighter pilot)
6. Lottery - Patricia Wood (the state of Washington)

Only one book really didn't qualify: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. It was set in the "afterlife", not really a definable time or place. Even Alas, Babylon was a great traveling experience - to small-town Florida in the 1950's.

Thanks to Lesley for hosting this challenge, which helped encourage me to pay attention to where I'm traveling, whenever I crack open a new book.

I just finished Lottery by Patricia Wood, late last night and am currently reading She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel.

If I have time, I'll tell you my freaky news, later on - maybe a Freaky Friday post - but I make no guarantees. I'm currently playing phone tag and on the verge of screaming, so I'll shut up. Hope everyone has a delightful weekend.

Bookfool, who prefers Mondays


  1. Freaky Friday news?? Sounds interesting...

    I've been wanting to read Angels of a Lower Flight ever since your review. It sounds like such a raw and honest book and your review really captivated me.

    Congrats on finishing these two! I have so many damn challenges going on right now! I really need to start finishing some up because I'm having an organization overload keeping track of all of them!

  2. Good job on finishing two challenges. :)
    I bought the Case of the Missing Books after reading your review, and I really want to read She Got Up Off the Couch as I loved the first book.
    I hope your screaming is good news and that you have a good, cool, weekend.

  3. Chris,

    I probably shouldn't have mentioned it; there are two things I was thinking of posting about - one is kind of funny and the other is so annoying I'm ready to climb a clock tower with an Uzi. Or, whatever. Maybe a big bag of rocks.

    Oh, shucks. I already passed Angels of a Lower Flight on or I'd have sent you my copy; I think you'd like it. The author was abused and naive, so it's pretty amazing what she's accomplished merely because she wanted to find a way to help children who were also neglected, impoverished and/or abused. I was really awestruck.

    I think that when I get above two challenges, I end up focusing on the two that are freshest in my mind. So, it makes sense to close up a couple and move on. Yeah, organization overload can be a problem!

  4. Raidergirl,

    Thank you. :)

    Oh, cool, I hope you like The Case of the Missing Books. I always worry that people will read my reviews, bounce up and down and then buy a book they end up hating. LOL I'm enjoying She Got Up Off the Couch, but I think I might go back and start A Girl Named Zippy, tonight. I checked out both from the library, mostly because I wanted to read about someone who went back to school and succeeded. I'm about ready to quit chauffeuring and start living, if you know what I mean. I've wanted to go get a masters degree for 20 years.

    Nope, screaming bad news. I got an animal bite and there doesn't seem to be any responsible entity in existence for tracking down biting animals. In fact, I got chewed out by a nurse at the state health department when I told her that I just cleaned the wound and put antibiotic ointment on it instead of rushing off to the ER. Like I want to spend $300 for someone else to give me a band-aid. I'll bet they don't even have Sponge Bobs. :)

  5. Ooh, Haven Kimmel! I'm planning to go to a reading with a new book friend in Wilmington to see Kimmel read. I have A Girl Named Zippy on order from Bookmooch, and The Solace of Leaving Early has been calling to me.

    Great job on the challenges!

    Oh, and I got an interview with Audrey Niffenegger for Estella! So excited. :D

  6. Congrats on finishing both of these challenges!

  7. Andi,

    I've seen the cover of A Girl Named Zippy a million times and never thought twice about stopping to pick it up. But, I went looking for She Got Up Off the Couch, at the library (and found it - weird) and there was Zippy. So, I grabbed both. She Got Up was too "continuation" oriented - I didn't know the people - so I backed up to read Zippy. I've been on the futon all night, darn it. Some writers just won't let you go. I'll bet she'll be a great speaker!

    Thank you - not sure I succeeded at those challenges, entirely, but I'm satisfied.

    Cool about Niffenegger!!! I can't wait to see that interview!


    Thank you!

  8. Reading your list of stuff read made me realize I need to read a LOT more. Either that or I need to be better about posting reviews. I'm pretty sure it's the first one though.

    Congratulations on finishing the challenges!

  9. Congratulations on finishing the two challenges, Nancy. I need to finish up my Nonfiction wrap up some time soon. I like how you formatted your challenge wrap-ups.

  10. Congratulations! You did well with both of these challenges. I can relate to what you said about focusing mainly on a couple challenges at a time. I'm going to change things a bit for challenges I do next year- less long-term ones for a start.

  11. Hooray for you!!! I'm glad that you joined us for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge and that you were able to read at least some off your shelves. :)

  12. Nikki,

    I think you keep yourself occupied better than I do - probably one reason I'm doing a little better at reading more, the past few years. That's good, though, don't you think? There are times I think I'd better watch it or I'll become a permanent fixture on the futon. :)

    Thank you for the congrats!!


    Thank you! I'm glad you like the way I wrote my wrap-up. I considered going back to look up the questions Katrina asked for her Spring Thing challenge and then decided to just wing it and write what jumped out at me about those particular books. It feels good to say, "Okay, those two are wrapped up"!

  13. Nat,

    Thank you. I think that's an excellent idea. I'm slowly realizing that I lose my focus if a challenge drags on for too long. 2-3 months seems to be best for motivational purposes (at least for me).


    Thank you - and thanks for hosting the NFF! :)

  14. Two challenges finished!!! Way to go. I'm still working on the Armchair Traveler Challenge and enjoying it immensely. Just wish I could visit some of these place physically.

  15. Framed,

    Thank you. And, I agree completely. There are so many places I've armchair-traveled that I'd really like to see in real life!


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