The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

HNA6929r+YarnWhisperer_int_correx6_3.inddThe Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes

I’m not a knitter, so a knitting memoir seems like an unlikely choice for me. However, I stumbled across Parkes’ later book, Knitlandia, that sounded really intriguing, and I thought perhaps I should read her earlier book first. So I ended up reading a knitting memoir. And while I would undoubtably have gotten more out of the book if I’d been able to fully appreciate her metaphors, I still enjoyed her stories.

As a memoir, it’s skimpy: my understanding of who she is and her story is patchy, but what was there was quite enjoyable. She’s got a smooth writing style and I liked seeing how she connected various life lessons to knitting .

If you’re a knitter and you like memoirs, I’d really recommend this. If you’re not both, it’s not that I don’t think you should read it, it’s that I think there are lots of other books I’d prioritize higher. Unless I end up really loving Knitlandia and think you need to read this one first, in which case I’ll revise this review to mention that. Someday, when I finally get to Knitlandia. 🙂

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections on a Life in Knitting, renowned knitter and author Clara Parkes ponders the roles knitting plays in her life via 22 captivating, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny essays. Recounting tales of childhood and adulthood, family, friends, adventure, privacy, disappointment, love, and celebration, she hits upon the universal truths that drive knitters to create and explores the ways in which knitting can be looked at as a metaphor for so many other things. Put simply, “No matter how perfect any one sweater may be, it’s only human to crave another. And another, and another.”

Book Details

Title: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting
Author: Clara Parkes
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Man Enough by Nate Pyle

Man EnoughMan Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood by Nate Pyle

If it seems strange that I read this book, well, I had a couple of reasons for wanting to. Thanks to Twitter I discovered the author, Nate Pyle, who is a pastor at a church in the Indianapolis area – since that’s where I live I began following him and wanted to read what he had to say. And as my son grows up, I find myself thinking about how he is maturing; what kind of man am I raising?

I appreciated with his premise (that manhood shouldn’t be defined by cultural ideals and expectations) and enjoyed parts of the book quite a bit. One of the strongest sections is when he writes that as Christians (whether male or female) our focus should be on becoming more Christ-like. He notes that “when characteristics are godly, they transcend masculinity and femininity and become traits that all people should seek to embody.” The final chapter was also excellent as it talked about risk aversion and vulnerability.

It’s very personal, with much of Pyle’s story informing the structure and examples given throughout the text. Unfortunately, it ends up being fairly repetitive, and feels like he’s continually circling around the same concept, without ever developing it further.

There was a small section that talked about parenting boys, and I would have loved to see more there – how do we as parents avoid raising our sons into aiming for the cultural male-ideal.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Man Enough challenges the idea that there is one way to be a man. The masculinity that pervades our church and culture often demands that men conform to a macho ideal, leaving many men feeling ashamed that they’re not living up to God’s plan for them. Nate uses his own story of not feeling “man enough” as well as sociological and historical reflections to help men see that manhood isn’t about what you do but who you are. It’s not about the size of your paycheck, your athletic ability, or your competitive spirit. You don’t have to fit any masculine stereotype to be a real man.

In our culture and churches more thoughtful, quieter, or compassionate personalities, as well as stay-at-home dads, are often looked down upon; and sermons, conferences, and publications center on helping men become “real men”. This pressure to have one’s manhood validated is antithetical to Gospel living and negatively affects how men relate to each other, to women and children, and to God.

Man Enough roots men in the Gospel, examines biblical examples of masculinity that challenge the idea of a singular type of man, and ultimately encourages men to conform to the image of Jesus – freeing men up to be who they were created to be: sons of God who uniquely bear his image.

Book Details

Title: Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood
Author: Nate Pyle
Category: Nonfiction / Christian
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received this book for free from NetGalley for review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: New on My Bookcase (vol. 6), the nonfiction

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

32 Yolks32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers

My general dislike of celebrity memoirs runs into my love for food memoirs: which wins?

In the case of Eric Ripert’s new book, the food memoir trumps the celebrity angle: I enjoyed this quite a bit. It probably helps that he had a solid coauthor, Veronica Chambers, crafting the account.

I’m really only familiar with Ripert from his appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef, and the book stops long before his first TV appearance, so virtually everything in it was new information to me. (And by virtually everything I mean I knew that he was French.)

The writing is smooth and his story compelling – I finished the book in two days because I kept wanting to know just a little bit more. It feels like you’re listening in as he’s telling stories from his childhood, and even when they’re difficult stories, you can’t help but want more.

His love of food shines through the pages. This book isn’t a food memoir as that term is so often used (as in, a memoir interspersed with recipes; there are no recipes in this book), but it’s a food memoir in that it traces the impact food has had on his life. It made me wish I could try some of the things he described, and it made me so grateful that I’ve never experienced anything of the sort of on-the-job training that elite chefs go through.

My only complaints with the book are that it still felt a little distant – maybe it was because of the coauthor writing his story, but it didn’t feel as personal as a truly great memoir does. In addition, it was very disappointing that the book ended just as he came to America – I am so curious what happened after that! Hopefully that’s just because it’s the setup for a second memoir to come in the future.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In an industry where celebrity chefs are known as much for their salty talk and quick tempers as their food, Eric Ripert stands out. The winner of four James Beard Awards, co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant, and recipient of countless Michelin stars, Ripert embodies elegance and culinary perfection. But before the accolades, before he even knew how to make a proper hollandaise sauce, Eric Ripert was a lonely young boy in the south of France whose life was falling apart.

Ripert’s parents divorced when he was six, separating him from the father he idolized and replacing him with a cold, bullying stepfather who insisted that Ripert be sent away to boarding school. A few years later, Ripert’s father died on a hiking trip. Through these tough times, the one thing that gave Ripert comfort was food. Told that boys had no place in the kitchen, Ripert would instead watch from the doorway as his mother rolled couscous by hand or his grandmother pressed out the buttery dough for the treat he loved above all others, tarte aux pommes. When an eccentric local chef took him under his wing, an eleven-year-old Ripert realized that food was more than just an escape: It was his calling. That passion would carry him through the drudgery of culinary school and into the high-pressure world of Paris’s most elite restaurants, where Ripert discovered that learning to cook was the easy part—surviving the line was the battle.

Taking us from Eric Ripert’s childhood in the south of France and the mountains of Andorra into the demanding kitchens of such legendary Parisian chefs as Joël Robuchon and Dominique Bouchet, until, at the age of twenty-four, Ripert made his way to the United States, 32 Yolks is the tender and richly told story of how one of our greatest living chefs found himself—and his home—in the kitchen.

Book Details

Title: 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
Author: Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Read This, Not That: Under a Flaming Sky instead of Circus Fire

Read this not that Historical FiresCompelling history books are some of my favorites to read, and I’m especially partial to ones that tackle lesser-known events. I’m also not afraid of some gruesome details in my reads, so I didn’t hesitate to try Stewart O’Nan’s nonfiction title Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy.

Unfortunately, it ended up being a bit of a slow and ultimately I don’t think it was worth the reading time, unless you have some connection to that event which makes it more interesting for you in particular.

Instead, I’ll suggest Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894 by Daniel James Brown. It’s much more engaging and readable. It is one I often pause before recommending because it isn’t appropriate for all readers (beware if you’re squeamish) but if that’s not an issue for you, it was excellent (as all of his books have been).

I’ve written about Under a Flaming Sky before, so if you’re thinking you remember me mentioning it you’re correct – I did, and then I also included it in my 31 Days of Great Nonfiction series in 2013. It’s an amazing book.

By contrast, Circus Fire is fine. It’s serviceable and you’ll learn about the fire in Hartford in 1944. There are heart-breaking details, but it’s never as compelling a read as Brown’s, and I constantly had to force myself to pick it up again and read more of it. I probably should have bailed on it before finishing, but I was interested in learning some of the outcomes and what eventually ended up happening to people in the years after the fire.

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Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

Teaching from RestTeaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

I wasn’t sure how I’d like this book – I kept hearing good things about it, but I’ve read Mackenzie’s blog before and have never cared for it that much (it’s beautiful, but I always end up wanting more from her posts). However, I am so glad that I gave the book a chance anyway – it was *so* encouraging and inspiring.

I don’t actually buy that many books for myself, instead relying on the library for the majority of my reading. This is a book that I borrowed but now want to own my own copy, so I can reread it regularly. It’s that encouraging.

It’s not a homeschooling treatise, or guide to curriculum. I actually disagree with her educational philosophy in some ways (I am not a Charlotte Mason devotee, and am nowhere near as laid-back about things as Mackenzie seems to be), but her focus on rest was very helpful.

The book is heavily faith-based, and includes numerous quotes from Catholic saints. If that’s an issue for you you likely would not appreciate the book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Those who have made the decision to homeschool their children have done so out of great love for their children and a desire to provide them an excellent education in the context of a warm, enriching home. Yet so many parents (mainly mothers) who have taken up this challenge find the enterprise often full of stress, worry, and anxiety. In this practical, faith-based, and inspirational book, Sarah Mackenzie addresses these questions directly, appealing to her own study of restful learning (scholé) and her struggle to bring restful learning to her children.

Book Details

Title: Teaching from Rest
Author: Sarah Mackenzie
Category: Nonfiction / Education
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Out of Darkness

Out of DarknessOut of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation by Stormie Omartian

Hard to read at times, because the subject matter is so heart-rending. Omartian had a horrific childhood and it’s amazing to read her story and realize what she overcame.

The writing is fine, but more serviceable than spellbinding. If you’re familiar with her books such as The Power of a Praying Wife (and all the other related titles) it’s inspiring to learn how she developed into the woman of prayer she became.

If you’re not a believer, I don’t think the book would be as interesting to you. It also helps if you’re familiar with her writing or musical career. I had no idea of her musical abilities and hadn’t heard of her husband Michael Omartian (that probably says more about my obliviousness than anything else).

She’s got a previous memoir, Stormie, but I never read that and can’t say how this one differs from it.

Recommended for those who have liked her other books, or those who looking for a story of transformation and redemption.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Stormie Omartian tells her compelling story of a childhood marred by physical and emotional abuse that eventually led her into the occult, drugs, and tragic relationships.

Finding herself overwhelmed by fear and on the verge of suicide, she shares the turning point that changed her life and reveals the healing process that brought freedom and wholeness beyond what she ever imagined.

In this poignant drama, there is help and hope for anyone who has been scarred by the past or feels imprisoned by deep emotional needs. It is a glorious story of how God can bring life out of death, life out of darkness.

Book Details

Title: Out of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation
Author: Stormie Omartian
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Find the Good by Heather Lende

Find the GoodFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary WriterFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende by Heather Lende

I really liked the focus in Lende’s latest book – it could so easily have been a depressing read (and some of the stories did bring tears to my eyes), but it’s not. It’s touching and heart-warming, and encouraging. It’s also really easy to read in small snippets of time so if you’re in a stage of life where you don’t have much time to devote to concentrated reading this may help you satisfy your bookish needs.

Part memoir, part essay collection, it’s not exactly either. But it’s an enjoyable and easy read, and perfectly fit my reading mood one afternoon.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
As the obituary writer in a spectacularly beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now she’s distilled what she’s learned about how to live a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple–and that hard.

Quirky and profound, individual and universal, Find the Good offers up short chapters that help us unlearn the habit–and it is a habit–of seeing only the negatives. Lende reminds us that we can choose to see any event–starting a new job or being laid off from an old one, getting married or getting divorced–as an opportunity to find the good. As she says, “We are all writing our own obituary every day by how we live. The best news is that there’s still time for additions and revisions before it goes to press.”

Ever since Algonquin published her first book, the New York Times bestseller If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name, Heather Lende has been praised for her storytelling talent and her plainspoken wisdom. The Los Angeles Times called her “part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott,” and that comparison has never been more apt as she gives us a fresh, positive perspective from which to view our relationships, our obligations, our priorities, our community, and our world.

An antidote to the cynicism and self-centeredness that we are bombarded with every day in the news, in our politics, and even at times in ourselves, Find the Good helps us rediscover what’s right with the world.

Book Details

Title: Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary WriterFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende
Author: Heather Lende
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Essays
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Introducing May’s Book Club Selection: Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer MoonMay’s book for the Facebook book club is Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne by S. C. Gwynne

What It’s About

Excerpt from Goodreads:

[A] vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a history book for the year, and liked how this focused on a less-familiar time period and subject. Reviews led me to believe it would be fairly readable (not too academic or dry, even if the topic may be challenging), and I’ve found that most of the time books written by journalists tend to be engaging. So, despite no experience with Gwynne’s work, I was hoping that would hold true for him as well.

Anything Else to Know About It?

It was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for History and Biography in 2010.

It’s available in print, for Kindle, and on Audible. Heads-up! If you purchase the Kindle version, you can add the Audible version for $3.95.

Discussion about the book is starting next week, so if you’re a fast reader you may still have time to grab the book and join us, but it’s not the quickest read so instead you may want to bow out of this month’s discussion and instead join us next month.

However, don’t delay joining the Facebook group entirely – request to join this week, as I’m delaying starting the book discussion to give us all more time to finish Empire of the Summer Moon and instead will be posting more general bookish questions.

What’s Coming Up in June?

Big Little LiesBig Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty by Liane Moriarty.

Don’t be put off from reading June’s novel because of its length: it is a long one, but Moriarty is easy to read and her books read much quicker than you’d expect based on their size. This should be an easy read after the challenging book for May. Find out more about it at Goodreads.

It’s available in print, for Kindle, or on Audible. .

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Born Round by Frank Bruni

Born RoundBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni by Frank Bruni

An inconsistent read – while the writing is always fine, the story itself sags in places. I enjoyed the traditional memoir aspects – the family stories, his time as a journalist on the Presidential campaign trail, working in Rome, and of course as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Unfortunately, one of the key themes of the book is tracing his food issues, and while those may be important to him, they end up being less interesting to me as a reader and contributes to an overall feeling of lifelessness. He’s had some amazing experiences – where are the amazing stories about them?

In many ways though, Bruni’s book mostly suffers by comparisons – there are so many fantastic food memoirs out there, and his, while ok, isn’t as great as other possibilities. While it’s not that *his* story itself has been told before, the themes he addresses at his best have been, and in books that are stronger and more enjoyable to read.

If you’re particularly interested in his story, or in aspects of it, this isn’t meant to dissuade you from reading it, more of a caution that as you prioritize your reading time, I’d probably put other ones as higher options unless you have compelling reasons for boosting Bruni’s book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The New York Times restaurant critic’s heartbreaking and hilarious account of how he learned to love food just enough

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and always hungry. His relationship with eating was difficult and his struggle with it began early. When named the restaurant critic for The New York Times in 2004, he knew he would be performing one of the most watched tasks in the epicurean universe. And with food his friend and enemy both, his jitters focused primarily on whether he’d finally made some sense of that relationship. A captivating story of his unpredictable journalistic odyssey as well as his lifelong love-hate affair with food, Born Round will speak to everyone who’s ever had to rein in an appetite to avoid letting out a waistband.

Book Details

Title: Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni
Author: Frank Bruni
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (with linkup)

The Black Count The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss by Tom Reiss

This month’s book club pick, and I’m really happy that I selected it – it coordinated so well with The Count of Monte Cristo, and added a lot to my appreciation of Dumas’ classic novel.

While I really enjoyed Reiss’ book, it’s not one that I’d recommend to just anyone. Despite being promoted that way, it’s not a true biography, as the available source material for Dumas’ live simply wasn’t there to support that. Instead Reiss has written a history, focusing on one individual and how his experiences were impacted by the world around him.

Dumas lived in a time and place where there were a *lot* of significant historical events to impact his life, so there is a *lot* of history in the book – looking at slavery in what is now Haiti and other French possessions as well as America and the British Empire, the sugar industry, the French Revolution and Republic, Napoleon, his ill-fated Egyptian excursion…

I’m a huge history fan, so I loved (almost) all of it. I got slightly bogged down in some of the military details, such as Dumas’ victory in the Alps and a significant battle in northern Italy. It made such an impression on me I can’t even remember the city, but those issues say more about my lack of interest in military history than Reiss’ writing skill.

If you’re a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I think you’ll enjoy this book, for the details about what aspects of those novels were inspired by the general’s life. If you’re not generally a fan of nonfiction, or of history or biography (or biographical history), I don’t think this is the book that will persuade you otherwise, and I’d recommend you skip it.


If you’ve written a post about The Black Count, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion on The Chosen March 1st. There will be a linkup for posts relating to that book on March 30th.


Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to The Deliberate Reader – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New On Your Stack (vol. 1)