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

Educated

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara never attended school before she got a scholarship at 17 to Brigham Young University. She also studied at Harvard and Cambridge, earning a Ph.D. in history. This is her remarkable story of struggle, survival, and achievement. The youngest of seven children raised in rural Idaho by a Mormon survivalist and a homeopathic midwife, Tara was taught to read and to work. I was angry at her parents for neglecting her education, endangering her life in their junkyard and on overnight car trips, but also for not protecting her from an abusive sibling. Remarkably, two of her brothers also have Ph.D.s and helped Tara escape the mountains and learn to tell her story. Compulsively readable and utterly heartwrenching, this memoir is a good readalike for Jeannette Walls’ books.
Brenda

Rediscovering Travel

Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious by Seth Kugel

I enjoyed reading stories about Seth Kugel’s travel adventures, and learned some useful advice for future travel. He wrote the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times for several years, and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and some French. His suggestions are to spend more time in fewer places, to skip top attractions if they don’t really appeal to you, get suggestions from locals and fellow travelers, save some time on your trip for spontaneity, and try to be in the moment, not staring at your phone. Be skeptical of reviews and don’t spend more money than you need to for an enjoyable vacation. Many interesting anecdotes make for a quick read; suggested for armchair travelers and global explorers.

Brenda