Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

Nonfiction Reader’s Challenge 2023: “Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age”

“Our sense of enchantment is not triggered only by grand things; the sublime is not hiding in distant landscapes. The awe-inspiring, the numinous, is all around us, all the time. It is transformed by our deliberate attention. It becomes valuable when we value it. It becomes meaningful when we invest it with meaning.”

“Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age” by Katharine May came into my life at the right time for me. I have been feeling scattered, distracted, and overwhelmed, and I needed a reset. Although I know about the healing benefits of wonder and awe, I often have to remind myself to engage in them, because it’s so easy to go off course in today’s world.
The book is structured around the elements of earth, water, fire, and air.
In the section of stories called “Earth”, May begins her journey and states “I want to be enchanted again”. Then she explores different earth environments and how she can do that. For example, about the forest she writes “Bring questions into this space and you will receive a reply, though not an answer. Deep terrain offers up multiplicity, forked paths, symbolic meaning.” In “Water”, she continues her exploration: “Stream water is delicate. It tastes of clarity. When I drink it, I feel like I’m imbibing the deep layers of rock beneath my feet and the clouds above.” May goes through all the elements, including the epilogue of “Aether” where you can find the beginning quote of this post.
I learned a lot in this book that made me want to explore further. In “Fire” I learned about “The Night the Stars Fell” (actually the Leonid meteor showers). In “Air” I discovered “Brocken Spectres”.
“Enchantment” left me feeling refreshed and starting to integrate wonder and awe again in my life. I highly recommend it for those needing a reset.
I am placing this book in the 2023 reads category.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler


2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: “Agatha Christie”

“Agatha’s legacy is clearly her work, but I think there’s another legacy too that’s hiding in plain sight. Not only was Agatha Christie the most successful novelist of the twentieth century. She was also someone who redefined the rules for her social class and gender.”

I am used to reading memoirs, so I was a bit apprehensive in reading a biography again, especially because I have read some pretty dry ones over the years. But Lucy Worsley’s book about the bestselling writer is an intimate, satisfying read, with Worsley delving into the mysteries of Christie from childhood to after death, often tucking in her own well researched opinions.
“It’s been rightly said the greatest character Agatha Christie ever invented…was ‘Agatha Christie’.” Worsley unpacks the complex Christie throughout her many manifestations, whether it’s during her first marriage or her second marriage (which included stints at archaeological digs), as loving daughter or distant mother, or as collector of houses. Worsley’s treatment of Christie’s disappearance in 1926 is compassionate, suggesting that the writer may have been suffering from a condition called “dissociative fugue”.
Interwoven throughout the whole book is Christie’s journey as novelist. Whatever you may think about her books, she certainly left behind a legacy, including capturing the history of her current times in the pages of her mysteries and thrillers. Most of the murders penned in her pages were done by poison, informed by Christie’s time working at a hospital pharmacy during WWI.
True Confession: I have never read an Agatha Christie book. I decided to read this biography only because the blurb sounded so appealing. I definitely wasn’t disappointed to read about this complex writer, and I have been convinced to read a book or two of hers. First up, one of Christie’s most famous, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”.
Recommended to those who are fans, to writers curious about reading about other writers’ lives, and to those who want to read about a complex woman who flouted the social conventions of her day.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2023: Book Review of “The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream”

“I had once again walked off the edge of a map, to a place that was completely unknown. I couldn’t articulate my feelings.”

“The Fish Ladder” by Katharine Norbury is a memoir/travelogue in which Norbury, trying to heal from a miscarriage, decides that she wants to follow a river from the sea to its source. At the same time, Norbury, who was adopted as a child, is trying to find her birth mother.
The book feels like Norbury is constantly walking off the edge of a map, exploring uncharted terrain in both her life and in nature, which makes for very interesting reading. She intersperses her journey and personal history with smatterings of poems and Celtic mythology.
I am not familiar with the setting, the British countryside, so I found myself looking up such sites as the Angel of the North by Antony Gormley, one of a series of metal men made by the artist. Stories such as Norbury’s attempt to find “The Well at the World’s End”, from the book of the same name written by Neil Gunn, also caught my attention.
The ending is bittersweet with mixed results of goal achievement, but overall left me with a feeling of hopefulness.
What nonfiction are you reading these days?

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2023: “Run Towards the Danger”

‘When I first met concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins, after three and a half years of suffering from post-concussive syndrome, he said, “If you remember only one thing from this meeting, remember this: run towards the danger.” In order for my brain to recover from traumatic injury, I had to retrain it to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered my symptoms. This was a paradigm shift for me…’ Sarah Polley

I have been a fan of Sarah Polley ever since she starred in “Road to Avonlea”. Although I knew that being a child actor has its challenges, I was saddened to read about the trauma that Polley experienced being a child actor in “Road to Avonlea”, as well as “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen”, and a theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland”.

Polley’s writing is raw and real as she writes a series of essays not only about her time as a child actor, but also about a high risk pregnancy, why she didn’t testify at Jian Ghomeshi’s trial—“Most of the lawyers I have spoken with insist that nothing should change in the way that sexual assault cases are tried…but that they would…never advise a woman they loved to come forward in a sexual assault case”—and her recovery from a concussion, which inspired the title.

Each essay is powerful on its own. Taken as a whole the collection, though dealing with some very difficult topics, is rewarding to read.

Sometimes I felt Polley was writing my own story, as someone who lost her mother young to cancer, or as someone who suffers from anxiety. For example, Polley writes, “I cannot, sitting here, in my forty-one-year-old body and brain, remember what it felt like to be certain that expressing a fear would make it worse, that the humiliation of people knowing that I had a fear could be worse than the agony of living with it alone and unexpressed.” (Although, I sometimes still have trouble with that today.)

Other times my own paradigm was shifted. Polley writes about her concussion treatment, “We are questioning some of the basic tenets of ‘wellness’ wisdom we have previously taken to heart, which implores us to take it easy and be gentle and accept our limits without specifying what limits are acceptable.” Hmmm…Acceptable limits?

I continue to follow Polley’s career and am glad that she keeps breaking ground. Most recently Polley won an Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for “Women Talking”. Admittedly I could not finish reading the book, written by Miriam Toews, but I hope to catch the movie despite its heart wrenching subject matter.

“Run Towards the Danger”—my sixth book for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge— is hard to categorize. It was published in 2022, so it doesn’t quite make the 2023 list, and is not meant to be a memoir. The book touches on the subjects of the arts, relationships, and health.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2023: Book Review of “Keep Moving”

The second book I am reviewing for the Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2023 is “Keep Moving”, which is a book of quotes and essays written by Maggie Smith, an award winning poet who has written poems such as “Good Bones”. The book was written after her divorce and deals with her grief and beginnings in her new life. Smith also writes about her children, two surviving and two not.
The book is divided into three parts: Revision, Resilience, and Transformation. Every quote ends with the phrase “Keep Moving”. A lot of quotes resonated with me, but I will leave you with two:

“Ask yourself what part of you is holding on to pain because it is familiar, because letting go would require you to do something different, to fill that space…”

I’m trying to shift out of the same pain stories that I keep telling myself.


“Revise the story you tell yourself about failure. Consider yourself an apprentice in the world. Learn all you can. Gain experience. KEEP MOVING.”

I like the thought of being an apprentice in this world.

This is a book you can pick up again and again for some inspiration.

The book is part memoir, part poetry (the arts).

What’s moving you these days?

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November 2022, Week 5

This week we are concentrating on the books that are new to our TBR list. I have really enjoyed the posts of the other bloggers that are participating in this challenge, and there are many books that I have put on my TBR list. Thanks everybody for sharing!

But before I share all my new books, I wanted to tell you abut a fantastic book that I just started to read. “Mushrooming: The joy of the quiet hunt” written by Diane Borsato and illustrated by Kelsey Oseid is not a traditional mushroom guide. Borsato encourages you to hunt mushrooms not to eat but for pleasure. Each entry includes not only identification features but also cultural notes. For example, did you know that Paul Stamets wears a mushroom hat made of hoof fungus? Yes, you can buy hats made out of mushrooms. I was into mushroom hunting last year, and I think I am going to pick it up again.

Now onward to this week’s prompt.

I have really enjoyed theocbookgirl’s IG feed (@theocbookgirl). I put several books on my TBR list including:

“Easy Crafts for the Insane” by Kelly Williams Brown
“These Precious Days” by Ann Patchett
“Novelist as Vocation” by Haruki Murakami
“The Hiking Book from Hell” by Are Kalvø
“Sacred Nature” by Karen Armstrong

Also from theocbookgirl’s blog, I really want to read:

“Fastest Thing on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood” by Terry Masear

From Pillow Fort:

“Affluence without Abundance” by James Suzman

From She Seeks Nonfiction:

“For Small Creatures Such as We” by Sasha Sagan

I’ve actually already started reading this book.

From Beverley A Baird:

“I’ve Been Thinking” by Maria Shriver

I love how Christopher from Plucked from the Stacks included children’s books on one of his lists. This are the ones I put on my TBR list:

“The Curious Story of Edward Gorey Nonsense! by Lori Mortensen; illustrated by Chloe Bristol

“Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks” by Suzanne Spade; illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

I’ve already read this book, and I highly recommend it.

“16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’” by Lisa Rogers and Chuck Groenink

From Falling Letters:

“The Great Northern Canada Bucket List” by Robin Esrock

From What’s Nonfiction:

“Tunnel 29” by Helena Merriman

There are also a new to me category called “foodoirs” on another of What’s Nonfiction’s posts.

From Words and Peace:

“Revenge of the Librarians” by Tom Gauld

I’ve already read this book, which is in cartoon form, and I highly recommend it.

There’s a couple of books that I cannot remember, so I know that next year I need to do my information gathering weekly during the challenge.

I’m planning on participating in the 2023 Nonfiction Reading Challenge that Book’d Out is hosting. So maybe I’ll see you there too!

Happy reading!

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

WOW Blog Tour Stop: Review of “Rebirth”

Book Summary

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.


I chose to review this book for this WOW blog tour, because I am currently in limbo—again—so I wanted to read something inspirational. Already the introduction this “mosaiced memoir” of Benton’s own rebirth caught my attention with the line “I have lived through the time of transition from ‘what is no longer’ to ‘what is becoming’ several times over.’ Oh, so I am not the only one who finds herself repeatedly in limbo.
Although Benton also writes in the introduction that not every chapter—which has a “guest star” as an example—will appeal to everyone, I found that there was wisdom in all chapters. However, I will focus on a couple of my favourites:
“Continuous Becoming”
Kim Murriera, a “Midwife of the Creative” says in this chapter, “When you hear that someone’s overarching theme matches your own, it helps you to realize life is not all about me and my traumas…Life is cyclic, and that is what I like to illuminate. There is a breathing in and a breathing out. There is a waxing and waning. There is happiness and there is sadness.” As well, Murreira notes, “We may realize, It’s not just me and my life; it’s how life is. We can settle into breathing into it with more calm and vitality and acceptance.”
Wisdom such as this underscored that I am just going through a temporary period of my life, and that “This too shall pass”, and I found this comforting.
“Trust Your Place”
In this chapter, David Newman, sacred mantra artist, singer-songwriter, and teacher says, “Consider how much noise is out there in the world on so many levels…Whatever aspect of mind that has been drilling or driving at a person, when that’s released…an opening takes place where healing happens. Now there are many ways that can happen, but mantra is a very powerful and ancient one.” Later Newman continues, “For me, mantra is the closest sound to silence.”
This chapter reminded me of the importance of taking breaks, and of silence, and it also made me more interested in learning more about Sanskrit and mantras.
You can listen to Newman’s mantras on Youtube.
My third favourite chapter (“Doubt and Grace”) I mentioned in my previous post for Nonfiction November, and if you want to read it, I direct you to that post.
That’s just a small taste of what’s available to you in the book. I hope that you take the time to slowly savour this book. I am sure that you will find something of comfort in “Rebirth”, and I am betting that it will be more than one thing.
You can stop by WOW’s blog to read an interview with Brenton and also to enter to win a copy of the book (enter by December 4).
Be sure that you stop by the other blogs to read what others have to say about “Rebirth”.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November, Week 4

This week in Nonfiction November, we are looking at “worldview changers”. I’m going to suggest three books that I have read or been reading this year, but certainly my mindset has been changed by a vast plethora of books over the years.

“How to Make a Plant Love You” by Summer Rayne Oakes
This book is the latest in the books I have been reading over the past few years, which have given me a different view of the plant world. Focussed on the plants that we take into our homes, there is a practical exercise at the end of each chapter to help you understand your plants and plants in general more deeply. The book is scattered throughout with ideas that made me pause, such as ‘…one of the more common inquiries from aspirant urban plant owners is, “What plant is hard to kill?” I want to get there by positing a different question…Next time you go to a plant shop, or purchase a plant online, don’t just ask what plant you’d like to live with, but ask what plant would like to live with you.’

“Rebirth” by Kate Brenton
This is a book that I am going to be reviewing this weekend for a WOW blog tour, so be sure to stop by again, if my description piques your interest. Rebirth is Brenton’s “mosaiced memoir” of her own rebirth. Every chapter has a theme with an example of someone’s life journey. I was struck many times by key points in the book, such as “…the more we consume, the more bloated and extended away from ourselves we are. The modern pace leaves little time for digestion.” This to me was an appropriate metaphor of what is happening in our society. You wouldn’t eat food all day long and never allow it to digest, but many of us are doing that with information, including me. It’s a good reminder to sit with whatever you have recently read or seen or listened to, and allow yourself time to process it, instead of moving immediately onto the next thing.

“Native Wisdom for White Minds” by Anne Wilson Schaef
Written in 1996, this is a book that I picked up at a little library, which has a daily reading related to indigenous wisdom. I am mainly exposed to North American indigenous teachings, so it’s interesting to read perspectives from other indigenous cultures, such as Maori or Aborigine, and, interestingly, they tend to be similar. Some of the language is outdated in this book, but the concepts are not.

So another three books like my post from last week. I hope you’ll leave a comment about which of them you have read or which books that you would recommend to me.

See you next week for a wrap-up.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November 2022, Week 3

This week in Nonfiction November it’s “Stranger Than Fiction”. This week’s host is “Plucked from the Stacks”.

I’m starting with a recent book that my book club partner Bev and I just finished reading, and that’s “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. A.J. Jacobs is a master of doing personal quests and then writing about them. Jacobs’ books all seem to be in the line of “stranger than fiction”, and you might have read “Know-it-all” about Jacobs’ quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, but I have not. However, I cannot wait to read Jacobs’ latest book, “The Puzzler”.

In the “Year of Living Biblically”, Jacobs decides to follow the bible as literally as possible—so long as it’s not dangerous—which includes following some of the most perplexing rules, such as not wearing mixed fibres. His journey takes him on some truly jaw dropping adventures, including wearing a white robe in public, which Jacobs discovers is a “polarizing garment”. I highly recommend this book, as it discusses biblical history and different takes on the bible from a wide range of Jewish and Christian faiths.

Our current book club read also has some jaw dropping moments, and I am sure many of you have already read “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. Barely into this memoir, I am already shocked by the contents. Chapter 1 gives us a glimpse of Walls as an adult, as she avoids her mom who is rooting through a dumpster. In subsequent chapters, she sets herself on fire while cooking hot dogs at age 3 and learns how to handle her father’s gun at age 4. Truly a life I cannot imagine!

A book I am reading on my own is Emily Urquhart’s latest, “Ordinary Wonder Tales”. Urquhart had me hooked with the first line: “The year that I turned three I slept in a bedroom that was known to be haunted.” Urquhart is a folklorist, so she weaves folklore throughout her own stories, and the result is a beautiful patchwork of personal stories, folk stories, and history. Jaw dropping moments come in not only in the stories themselves, but also when we see how Urquhart is treated whether it is being shamed after relating her haunted story or during some perplexing medical encounters.

I leave you with three books, and hey! Three is supposed to be a satisfying number in literature.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What nonfiction have you read this year that is stranger than fiction?

See you next week!

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November, Week 2

It’s time for week 2 of Nonfiction November, which is hosted this week by “What’s Nonfiction?”

This week we are concentrating on book pairings. I find pairing books to be a very challenging exercise, so it took me a while to come up with one. Next year I will be sure to think ahead and make pairings throughout the year.

If you loved “To Speak for the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger…

From Goodreads:

“When Diana Beresford-Kroeger–whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O’Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions–was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O’Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality.”

…then read “Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure” by Anne Innis Dagg

From Goodreads:

“In the 1950s, Anne Innis Dagg was a young zoologist with a lifelong love of giraffes and a dream to study them in Africa. Based on her extensive journals and letters home, Pursuing Giraffe vividly chronicles Dagg’s realization of that dream and the year she spent studying and documenting giraffe behaviour. Her memoir captures her youthful enthusiasm for her journeys–from Zanzibar to Victoria Falls to Mount Kilimanjaro–as well as her naïveté about the complex social and political issues in Africa.”

I have connected these books in several different ways. Both women are pioneering scientists, both reside in Canada, and both have a lot to say about sexism in the field of science.

I had the pleasure of interviewing zoologist Anne Innis Dagg, who lives fairly close to me. That interview led to a picture book manuscript that made it all the way to acquisitions but ultimately was rejected. I was disappointed for myself but also for Innis Dagg, whose story had been long ignored.

So I was thrilled when years later a movie called “The Woman who Loves Giraffes” debuted, finally giving Innis Dagg the recognition that she deserves. More recently a picture book about Innis Dagg written by a more famous Canadian writer has been released, which I greeted with mixed feelings (and a few tears).

Innis Dagg also has a more recent memoir called “Smitten by Giraffe”, which is on my TBR list.

I admire both Beresford-Kroeger and Innis Dagg for their groundbreaking studies and feminist activism, and I recommend that you read about both.

Have you read either book? Do you have a related book you’d like to share? I love to read your comments.

See you next week.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler