Tag Archives: Memoir

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


Six Degrees April 2023: From “Born to Run” to “Old Babes in the Wood”

It’s time once again for the Six Degrees challenge, hosted by Kate at “Books are my Favourite and Best”.

This month we are starting our chains with “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Although I love Springsteen’s music, I have not read his memoir.

From Goodreads:
“Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.”

“Run Towards the Danger” by Sarah Polley
Connecting with the word “Run” in a title. The title refers to Polley’s paradigm shift: when being treated for a concussion she was told to “greet and welcome the things” she had previously avoided. In the collection of essays, Polley writes about the trauma of being a child actor, Jian Ghomeshi’s assault case and why she didn’t testify, and a high risk pregnancy. It’s raw and it’s real, and I review it here.

“The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream” by Katharine Norbury
From running to walking. In this memoir/travelogue, Norbury poetically pens about her goal of following a river from the sea to its source. The author, who was abandoned as a baby, writes about rediscovering her roots, about nature and myths, and about health issues.

“A Ghost in the Throat” by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
More poetic writing. A cross genre blending of the author’s own story with the research (and reimagining) she does on an 18th century Irish poet who wrote a poem (a keen) after the death of her husband (she drinks his blood after finding his body!). Ní Ghríofa writes lyrically about her own struggles as student and mother, as well as about the poet and Gaelic poem she is researching.

“These Are Not the Words” by Amanda West Lewis.
A book centred around poems, music, and art. Twelve year old Missy’s dad speaks through his drumsticks and her mom makes sense of the world through art, but Missy’s jam is writing. Soon it becomes clear that all is not well in the household, and it is revealed that Missy’s dad is an addict. Set in the 1960s, this book is a semi-autobiographical retelling of West Lewis’ childhood. Poems are interwoven throughout the story. The author’s mother, Laurie Lewis, wrote a memoir called “Love, and All That Jazz” about her experience.

“I am Her Tribe” by Danielle Doby
A collection of poems. I found myself relating to many of Doby’s poems, such as,
“it is such a push + pull feeling
owning a heart
that wants to break open
and close off simultaneously.”

“Old Babes in the Wood” by Margaret Atwood
A scattering of poems. In this collection of short stories, there are a few poems, but only to inform the short stories. As is Atwood’s usual style, there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour in the collection, but I found myself more drawn to the stories at the end. The book begins with stories about Tig & Nell, but ends with stories about Nell & Tig after Tig’s death, and I found these to be touching, especially “Widows” when Nell writes the heartfelt letter she really wants to send about widowhood, and then writes the bland letter she actually sends. I must confess, I would rather receive the first one despite Nell’s comment: “You asked me how I was doing…No one wants an honest answer to that one.”

Did you do a chain this month? I love reading them! Everyone has such a unique take on them, and I always find many new books to put on my TBR list.

Next month the chain will start at “Hydra” by Adriane Howell.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2023: “Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands”

“I need to tell you this—There is no knowing Cape Breton without knowing how deeply ingrained two diametrically opposed experiences are: a deep love for home, and the knowledge of how frequently we have to leave it to find work somewhere else.”

Twenty-one year old Kate Beaton must leave her beloved Cape Breton in order to pay off her university student loans. It is 2005, and she decides to go to where everybody is going: the booming oil sands of Northern Alberta. Although it may be the place to make money, it comes with a load of trauma attached to it, including mental health issues, gendered violence, and environmental problems.
The graphic novel is Beaton’s memoir of her time in the “liminal space” of the work camps. The black and white drawings complement the often bleak mood of the novel. Yet, though the novel tackles some serious issues, such as Indigenous land rights, and may seem like it would be a downer, there are sparks of joy, such as the kindness of certain people, seeing the northern lights, and friendly work allies. You also know that Beaton gets out and goes on to do something that she loves, which makes reading it more bearable.
This is Beaton’s story of her time in the work camps in Alberta. There are people who would disagree with her interpretation, and in fact that is touched upon in some of the drawings.
The graphic novel is being defended by Jeopardy! champion Mattea Roach for “Canada Reads”.
You may not be a lover of graphic novels, but this layered and complex story might change your mind.

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

2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Book Review of “The Puzzler”

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the first month of 2023!
I am posting my first book review for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge—hosted by Book’d Out—called “The Puzzler” by A.J. Jacobs. Last year I read “The Year of Living Biblically” by the same author.

It’s hard to figure out how to categorize “The Puzzler”, which is a book not only about puzzles but also of puzzles. The book crosses genres with elements of memoir, history, and the arts in it.
Jacobs sets out to convince the reader that puzzles can help save the world. “If we see the world as a series of puzzles instead of a series of battles, we will come up with more and better solutions, and we need solutions more than ever,” the author notes in the introduction.
Even if you aren’t a puzzle fanatic, you will find plenty of interest in this book whether it’s learning about Kryptos at the CIA headquarters, Lewis Carroll’s obsession with the number 42, or the naughty riddles of the Exeter Book, which were composed by monks. Travel along with Jacobs as he represents Team USA at the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, tackles the hardest corn maze in America, and participates in the MIT Mystery Hunt. Jacobs even tries his own hand at puzzle making but discovers that he is not cut out to be a puzzle maker.
If you do love puzzles, the book is chock full of puzzles including an original puzzle hunt at the back of the book designed by Greg Pliska. Or, if you are able to find the passcode in the introduction, you can go to The Puzzler website to solve 27 mind bending but fun puzzles.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and, best of all, I’ll be able to go back and try to solve all the puzzles throughout the book.
What new to you nonfiction are you reading?

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 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

Six Degrees: From “No One Is Talking About This” to “tiny beautiful things”

It’s been quite a few months since I last participated in the Six Degrees challenge. Although I love making the connections, some life obstacles got in the way of my participation. I’m glad to be back.

This month we start with a book I have not read called “No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood.
From Goodreads:
“As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts.
Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.”

“How to Break Up with your Phone” by Catherine Price
I thought of this nonfiction book—and its focus on the “endless scroll”—after I read the synopsis of Lockwood’s book. I am not sure I am so addicted to my phone that I need to read it.

“The Power of Fun” by Catherine Price
Written by the same author as the previous book, I wanted to read this nonfiction book, because I am enjoying reading the next book on this list so much.
From Goodreads:
“In this follow-up to her hit book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, Price makes the case that True Fun–which she defines as the magical confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow–will give us the fulfillment we so desperately seek.”

“Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” by Ingrid Fetell Lee
I am right in the middle of the chapter on play in this book. From the get go, the nonfiction book grabbed me with a story about how simply putting a layer of vibrant orange paint on a historic old building in Tirana, Albania, started the journey to completely revitalizing a city! Several times I have paused in the book to do some further research on people like landscape designer Piet Oudolf, or places like the Integratron in California and the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Tokyo.

“Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes
A memoir in which Rhimes decides to say yes to a whole bunch of things that she said no to in the past, transforming and revitalizing her life. My favourite chapters are the one on motherhood and the one on marriage. Consider this quote: “You know what’s a bigger taboo than being fat? Not wanting to get married.” Agree, disagree?

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
In this memoir, Obama writes about her time from childhood to after her husband’s presidency. I found Obama to be totally relatable. She grew up with lots of doubts and challenges, yet she continually questioned her assumptions and improved her approach to tackling life obstacles.

“tiny beautiful things” by Cheryl Strayed
Not memoir, but Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed uses a lot of her own personal stories (a bundle on a friend’s head, kittens trapped in a wall) to answer questions in this collection of letters addressed to “Dear Sugar” of the Rumpus. Sugar never sugarcoats her answers, but if she is criticizing in one sentence, she is encouraging in the next. I found myself learning a lot about how other people live, but I also found myself not feeling so alone when my own life was reflected in other letters.

All the books on this list except the first one are nonfiction, perhaps reflecting my reading style more than anything. But do the first and last books connect? It’s hard to compare, because I haven’t read the first book, but I can tell you that Strayed often writes about things that no one is talking about.

So those who participated this month: where did your journey take you? And those who didn’t participate, where would your journey take you? It’s so much fun to contemplate!

Next month we’ll start with “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene. I hope to see you again.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler