With November nearly at its end and Black Friday, American Thanksgiving, and Christimas coming up it’s a busy time for many. Of course, with the weather (perhaps finally) turning colder it’s a great time to curl up with a good book. As always, the folks at WPL have been busy reading some excellent works. Here’s just some of what we enjoyed best this month.
Rob: Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins by Dan Austin (Photography by Sean Doerr.)
If ever you’ve looked across the river to the Detroit Skyline, or perused the city and wondered “What was that?” This is the book for you. Filled with beautiful photos, excellent research, and interesting stories, Lost Detroit is an enthralling piece. At once a history of Detroit told through its architecture, and a chronicle of what has been lost, I was personally struck by how these grand buildings remained beautiful through the decay. It’s just a fascinating look at the one time “Paris of the Midwest.” It’s an excellent accompaniment to Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy. The city of Detroit itself provides many fascinating tales, and this is another great look at the interesting tales of our neighbours to the north.
I’ve been a fan of Lori Lansens — my favourite is still The Girls — for some time and I was very excited to hear that she’d published a new book. She’s an interesting author because I find that she explores so many topics and styles that it would be easy to think her books (including Rush Home Road and The Wife’s Tale) were all by different authors. In this way she reminds me a bit of Jeffrey Eugenides because I consistently enjoy their books but almost wish there were more similarities to my favourites. Both authors also have a strong local connection since Windsor is between Lansens’ hometown of Chatham, Ontario and Euginides’ Detroit, Michigan.
But I digress…I could not put this book down. I read it nearly in one sitting while in bed with a cold and it was the perfect book for a cold night at home. The book employs some foreshadowing that I occasionally found heavy-handed but, even still, it added to the suspense. I also found the twist ending a bit of a stretch as I have sometimes felt with Lansens’ previous works; Rush Home Road in particular which I enjoyed but felt relied a bit too heavily on coincidence. Still this is a great read and it would be an excellent choice for book clubs as well as individuals.
New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan pays homage to his life on the waves in his memoir about surfing. Despite not knowing a thing or really having any interest in the subject of surfing, I quite enjoyed this book. From his early childhood years in Oahu, to his globe-trotting adventures across the globe, in places like Thailand, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia, Finnegan tells the tales about a life built around the pursuit of finding great waves. As he and his friends journey to these remote villages and shores to find waves yet to be discovered, you see the pure passion and fortitude it takes to keep up with this sport. Especially in Finnegan’s later years when he struggles with his addiction to surfing yet having to cope with the limitations put on him by his aging body. This book is very well written, both fascinating in its scope and thoughtful in its narrative…definitely one of the better non-fiction books I read this year.
I want to recommend this book to anyone who’s ever suffered from depression, anxiety, both, or known someone who has. In my mind that’s everyone; I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at least been touched by these mental illnesses second hand. The book is empathetic and beautiful and funny. It’s a call to action for those struggling with mental illness and a call to empathy for those who aren’t. It’s so important for everyone to understand the struggle people face. I know I’m guilty of trying to push friends and relatives to get help when, really, even making a phone call might have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.
This book, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, uses humour to help the medicine go down not unlike Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and A Half (also available as an ebook). And this book really can be a medicine, a balm for those struggling with mental illness and a beautiful way to de-stigmatize an illness that impacts people’s lives in ways that those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy can never fully understand.