Category
  • This Book Will Change Your Life - And These Are The Good Times by the Patricia Ann McNair.

    Maybe to truly write about And These Are The Good Times by the Patricia Ann McNair we need to share the title in its entirety, which is "And These Are The Good Times - A Chicago gal riffs on sex, life, dancing, writing, wonder, loneliness, place, family, faith, coffee, and the FBI (among other things)." We say that, because the good times in McNair's world are many, because it is a life well-lived. But her life, like all lives are also complex and hard. People and pets die. Divorces happen. Words are written, and not. Significant others live too far away when we least want them to. It is the stuff of life, in the same way sex, dancing, and coffee are, and there is so much potential joy and wonder in all of it. It's just that sometimes, many times, the good times, are merely the best moments among those moments that aren't otherwise so great. Writers have the gift of capturing what the room, and the car, and the bars, and our brains feels like and taste like as life constantly crashes into itself, but what makes McNair so unique is that all of it, the good times, the bad times, the good in the bad, is shared not only with both grace and grit, but positivity. Life is life is life and we must allow its waves to wash over us as we keep dancing, and smoking cigarettes, and buying skirts, and working in gas stations, and finding love. Because And These Are The Good Times is that too, a love story. It's about entering relationships that transform us, and making sense throughout our lives of the love we we were born into. We recogize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have either, much less both, but McNair is, and she appreciates it, and she writes about it, and she lives hard, and in awe of it, and her willingness to do so means our lives as readers are the better for it.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - What We Build Upon the Ruins by the Giano Cromley.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at What We Build Upon the Ruins by the Giano Cromley which is out so soon. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "Life isn't fair. This thought kept occurring to me with every story I consumed in Giano Cromley's lively new collection What We Build Upon the Ruins. In these stories, nothing is fair, not life, not death, not family, not nothing. All these characters can do is try to be okay, and what Cromley illustrates for us with his dexterous prose, is that if they keep fighting, and keep bleeding, and keep trying to feel something, anything, maybe they can be."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Gay Zoo Day by the Mike McClelland.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Gay Zoo Day by the Mike McClelland which is out so soon. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    “Mike McClelland’s writing is like the love affairs he writes so lovingly about: urgent, intimate, and sometimes sordid, yet always attuned to the smaller gestures and details.”

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker by the Lori Jakiela.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker by the Lori Jakiela which is out so soon. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "I could throw a rock in just about any direction and hit a good writer. The hard part is finding the special ones, the writers who make us laugh, then cry and who make us feel like they're in our heads. Lori Jakiela is one of the special ones, and with Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker, she reminds us why, essay by essay, sentence by sentence. She writes from the heart, she's fearless and funny, and her love for her family and her craft leap off the page."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - The Expanse Between by the Lee L. Krecklow.

    The Expanse Between by the Lee L. Krecklow got us thinking about mood. There is the mood of the books we read, in this case, dread, and fear, and a lingering sense of disappointment and defeat that washes across the pages. But The Expanse Between is surprisingly thrilling as well, which is not to say we are surprised that we are thrilled to have read it, but that it is a thriller at all. We didn't know that was coming. Or that we would find ourselves so caught up in the trap that was being set for us all along. We were caught up, however, and there is a real thrill in that too. That we also found ourselves full of sadness as we plowed through the last third of the book though is something else. Because that is about mood as well. Now whether we projected some kind of sadness onto the characters in the book or absorbed their suffering and confusion is hard to parse. We assume there is always some kind of push-pull between the reader and those we are reading about, and that a story such as this, which is comprised of damaged parents, violence, the frustration of work that doesn't work, and desperate artists yearning for inspiration can't help but pull us in. It may be that there is a feeling of disappointment and defeat washing over us as well in recent months, okay, let's be clear, there has been, and that the book tapped into it. There is something else though, any of this, all of it, speaks to make what books good, even great. They pull us in, we feel things, the characters hurt, and we hurt, but we can't look away, we need to know what happens next, and then after that. The Expanse Between is such a book, and it is sure to change your life.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Whup Jamboree by the Garret Schuelke.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Whup Jamboree by the Garret Schuelke which is just out now. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "Garret Schuelke knows the dispossessed. The uncared for. Those who go without. But Schuelke also knows violence and with Whup Jamboree he brings a true lyricism to violence as communication, or more accurately, how we use violence in lieu of our ability to express both our sense of confusion, and our anger, at being left behind."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - eNJoy: Stories by the Sea by the Glen Binger.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at eNJoy: Stories by the Sea by the Glen Binger which is just out now. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "Having read Glen Binger's new collection eNJoy I now believe that we can only achieve true happiness when our feet are dangling in the ocean and we have an ice coffee in hand. I also believe that everything one needs to know about girls, pork rolls and the meaning of life can be found on the beaches of the Jersey shore."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - The Miles Between Me by the Toni Nealie.

    To continue a recent theme of sorts, objectivity has never played much of a role in the expansion of the This Blog Will Change Your Life empire. We serve at the great pleasure of ourselves, what we love, what we want to consume, what we choose to hype, and to use the vernacular, what we think calls for curation. It is also true that despite this practically complete lack of pretense on this matter, we always felt that our long running relationship with Curbside Splendor ought to preclude us from spending much space here commenting on their books. We have enjoyed most all those we read, we were honored to support their releases in any fashion we could and we were always proud of the quality and diversity of those releases. All of which brings us somewhere, though at a minimum, where it brings us is The Miles Between Me by the Toni Nealie. It is an essay collection in the great tradition of Curbside essay collections such as Meaty or Once I Was Cool. It is heavy in theme - family, loss, isolation - because Curbside collections always are - but written with the same passion and intensity as those previous collections, and so much love of word, and world, that their words, and worlds, sing. We want to go a step further though with The Miles Between Me. The book's themes around immigration, displacement, and color and how these themes become intertwined with not only family, loss and isolation, but policy and travel, would have resonated at any time in this country of immigrants, as well as at a time when the world grows only smaller. But this isn't any time, nor for the time being, even the same country. We are something else right now, something that feels so sudden and inexplicable, but isn't, not really, not when we look to history and the swings of the policy pendulum that have accompanied the nation's progress, and endless regressions. And in this way, The Miles Between Me couldn't be more timely, or more saliently bring the language of displacement and distance to the page, and into the ether. Our only hope, is that it will also have an impact on the dialogue surrounding immigration, because it is needed, and writing that doesn't feel subjective at all, just necessary, and right.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - We Could've Been Happy Here by the Keith Lesmeister.

    We are thinking about objectivity. Not that we pretend to practice that here. No obligation, no need. We read what we want. We try to support the small press community. If we don't like something, or it doesn't require our assistance, we might not consume it at all. Which brings us to We Could've Been Happy Here by the Keith Lesmeister. Or at least Keith Lesmeister himself. To start. We had the great pleasure of meeting Lesmeister the other night. Listening to him read. Meeting his friends. Having some drinks. He's an incredibly decent guy, interesting, a parent, professor and a now the author of a truly splendid debut collection of stories from our friends at Midwestern Gothic. Which to extend the point, objectivity and all, or lack thereof, we do love the Midwestern Gothic. Great books. Great team. Great supporters of writers. And we know we're going to love what they do. But there is still a book to read. A book wrapped in a lot of endlessly positive energy going-in. Can we be objective? Does it matter? Maybe it's a Both... And. It matters, because everything matters, and doesn't at all, because when a book is filled with as much ache as We Could've Been Happy Here, it doesn't matter who wrote it, or published it. There's a current of separation in We Could've Been Happy Here, from family, from society, from self, which oozes across the pages and stories, that is so knowing and real, it feels like truth. And whose to say it isn't a truth? Or something just like it anyway. What we can say, is that We Could've Been Happy Here will change your life, as we suspect Lesmeister's next book will, and the one after that. Again, maybe we're not being objective, but again, we don't have to pretend we have to be. We like what we like and that we believe is its own kind of truth as well.  

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Searching for John Hughes by the Jason Diamond.

    We could tell you how much we once loved John Hughes in the same way we loved Jim Carroll. That we watched The Breakfast Club in much the same way we read The Basketball Diaries. That it felt alive, electric, funny and sad. That it unpacked some kind of truth for us. That it was knowing and had its own distinct voice. But even then, unlike The Basketball Diaries, which was a singular blow to the heart and head, John Hughes also brought us Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone, movies we went on dates to and watched in basements, and illustrated a time in our life that somehow John Hughes recognized, understood and captured on screen. So we could do all that. Or, we could tell you how Jason Diamond has created a story that is heartbreaking and charming and full of longing - for place, family, direction, happiness, stability, love and so much more - with his memoir Searching for John Hughes. That even when it travels into territory so far removed from our own, both the abuse and rootlesness he has fought against, and moved past, as well as his dogged efforts to become a journalist and make a living as a writer, the book spoke to us. Because any writer who is Jewish and knows New York and Chicago and John Hughes and drinks and loses people, however they may become lost, is telling stories we know too, and apparently just cannot get enough of. Somehow though, even that's not exactly what we want to say. What we want to say, is something more ineffable, something about life, and the writer's desire to transcribe that, as well as aging, and loss. We are also thinking about Old Records Never Die by the Eric Spitznagel, a book we consumed just a year ago this time. It is also a book about searching, about going on a journey, and trying to understand our youth so we can not only make make sense of our present, but create it whole. We can choose to be on a journey or not. We can choose to try to make sense of who we are and how we've gotten here or ignore it. We can try to become our best selves professionally and personally or we can coast. As soon as we decide we are on a path, however, that we want to understand it, and intend to move forward, than we have no choice, but to be in it, breathing it and living it. And when we are writers we have to write about it. Like Spitznagel, Diamond has decided to write about his journey and invite you into it, and in doing so he just might change your life. If not, he will certainly cause you to pause and to ask yourself, is this my best life, and if the answer is no, am I least trying to make it so, something we believe John Hughes would appreciate, and Jim Carroll as well, storytellers both, who pushed and pushed, until they could do so no more.