The Sun is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert

Real life adventure memoirs can make for wonderful reading, especially during a time when we’re staying close to home. Wildlife biologist Caroline, 33, makes an epic trek with husband Patrick, a home builder, to the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. Traveling by homemade rowboats, skiing, hiking, on inflatable rafts, and in a borrowed canoe, the pair make an incredible six-month journey. Along the way they meet with unexpected kindness from strangers and Caroline regains her love of science after completing her Ph.D. mostly in a lab. Their backstory and motivation for the journey are shared, along with glimpses of happy childhoods and their loving, supportive families. Caroline’s sister has a baby as they consider parenthood. Patrick is the optimistic adventurer and builder, while Caroline is the detailed list maker, organizing most of their food drops. Part of their journey is through areas so remote that available maps show little detail and the weather forecasts are unhelpful. The pair are often awed by the magnificent landscape and the wildlife, learning to trust the trails of migrating caribou, and encountering moose, bear, and many of the birds Caroline has studied. A compelling read, and a good readalike for Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Sarah Marquis’ Wild by Nature, along with other adventure memoirs that can be found here. I read the print book, but listened to a sample of the downloadable audiobook I’ve just added to our Media on Demand collection.

Coming soon: a list of family friendly reads that can be enjoyed by older kids, teens, and adults, including titles suggested by staff in our Children’s Department.

Enjoy!
Brenda

 

Haben

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

This is a compelling memoir of a young black woman learning to advocate for her needs as she grows up. Haben is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants, where her grandmother still lives. She was born deafblind, with some vision and hearing, but both are getting worse. She frequently felt left out in group settings, and learning to connect well with others is a challenge she took on. With occasional humor, Haben’s triumphs and setbacks include sliding down an Alaskan glacier, struggling to train with seeing-eye dog Maxine, learning to dance, and finding out what food was being served in her college cafeteria. Her parents’ protectiveness, while understandable, occasionally felt stifling, especially when she wanted to travel with a student group. At Harvard Haben uses a text-to-braille system and becomes an accomplished public speaker and advocate for disability rights. Clearly and elegantly written, this refreshing and uplifting memoir is highly recommended.

Brenda

Into the Planet

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

If you’re looking for the ultimate real-life adventure memoir, look no further. A pioneer in the field of cave diving, Heinerth has helped explore the longest underwater cave system in the Yucatan, and dived all over Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and most notably, inside an Antarctic iceberg. Her passion and joy in the challenge and discovery of cave diving is clear, but also the discomfort, the arduous preparation with bulky, heavy diving gear, and the loneliness of being a woman in the early days of cave diving. In this deeply personal account, Heinerth shares how the stresses led to the failure of her first marriage to a fellow cave diver. While some of her dives are apparently stunningly gorgeous (my digital review copy had only two of the photos that will appear in the finished book), other dives are arduous with tight spaces, low visibility, and moments of sheer terror. Heinerth also struggles with ever present grief over the friends she has lost to the perils of cave diving, and now focuses on diving for environmental and other scientific goals. The chapters on traveling to and diving in the Antarctic are thrilling and inspiring.

Brenda

Maid

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

This is an excellent debut memoir about a single mother struggling to provide for her young daughter, while dreaming of college in Missoula, Montana, and of becoming a writer. I think Stephanie is an amazing writer with a story that needed to be told. Readers will root for Stephanie and her young daughter Mia and cheer when they find a better apartment and finally visit Montana. Stephanie shares the insights gained by cleaning a variety of houses; a loving home in a studio apartment trumps a gorgeous house with a view. There is suspense when a car accident comes close to disaster for Mia and Stephanie, even without an injury. Deservedly popular, this is a candid look at a mother’s love for her daughter and how hard she works for their future, especially when the possibility of a grant or a tax refund helps her look beyond the end of a month. Readalikes include A Broom of One’s Own by Nancy Peacock and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. For more of Stephanie’s writings and story, visit her website.
Brenda

Nanaville

Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen

An engaging memoir about becoming a grandmother by the bestselling columnist and novelist. Quindlen, the mother of three, is delighted to welcome her Chinese-American daughter-in-law and then charmed by a grandson. Joyful anecdotes and reflections on her new role and how it differs from parenting make this a perfect gift for new grandparents. This is a charming, heartwarming read.
Brenda

Greek to Me

Greek to Me by Mary Norris

The author of Between You & Me has another fascinating memoir in which she reveals her love of Greek language, classical Greek literature, and describes her travels in Greece and Cyprus. Mary, a copy editor at The New Yorker, is excellent company, and while I’m not interested in learning to read Greek, her travels in Greece make a trip there sound very appealing. A very good choice for armchair travelers, history buffs, and anyone interested in reading about Greek mythology or drama.

Brenda

Whiskey in a Teacup

Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon

Actor and film producer Reese Witherspoon has written a love letter to life in the south. Reese grew up in Nashville, where she learned to enjoy music, food, and holidays, and learned the importance of manners and community. I listened to the audiobook, cozily narrated by the author, and glanced at the photos and recipes included as a document on one of the discs. Many of the recipes are from her grandmother Dorothea who was an inspiration to Reese on how southern women can be strong and beautiful. Menu suggestions for all kinds of celebrations and events are included, from a Kentucky Derby party to a book club gathering, along with music playlists and gift suggestions (especially monogrammed items or cake plates). Reese talks about her happy childhood, how she learned that you don’t have to be good at everything or bake from scratch, but be sure to be hospitable, respectful, and have some fun, maybe even catch some frogs. This is a charming, family-friendly look at southern life.

Brenda