A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS

ON MUSHROOMS AND MOURNING

In this debut memoir, an anthropologist recounts how mycology eased her out of mourning.

Long’s husband, Eiolf, collapsed suddenly at his office and died at age 54. A “paler, stupider, ashen” version of herself, the Norway-based author took a beginner’s course on mushrooms at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo. Finding voluptuous, golden chanterelles and flavor-bomb morels gave her a sense of joy—“for me there is no doubt that my discovery of the realm of fungi steadily nudged me out of the tunnel of grief”—and she trained to become a “mushroom inspector.” In Norway, certified mushroom inspectors, who must learn 150 species, review foragers’ hauls (for free!) to ensure no one inadvertently makes a deadly error, like mistaking a destroying angel for a tasty meadow mushroom. Long focuses on many aspects of various fungi—beauty, oddity, edibility, toxicity, hallucinogenic properties, potential as antidepressants—and less on mourning. The two subjects don’t always mesh well, though the author makes interesting observations about loss—e.g., “the map of my friends and acquaintances was redrawn after Eiolf’s death.” She brings an anthropologist’s perspective to the book, considering various cultures’ differing views—the clouded agaric smells “perfumed” to Norwegians and skunky to Americans, for example, and Norwegian mycologists really don’t like talking about magic mushrooms, which isn’t the case in the States—and she unearths endless fodder to liven up cocktail conversation: “Members of the fungi kingdom are more closely akin to those of the animal kingdom and, consequently, to Homo sapiens, than to the plant kingdom!” The book is more a collection of edifying tales and facts than smooth narrative, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Learning about glow-in-the-dark jack-o’-lanterns, puffballs that “smoke” when you smash them, or toothy hedgehog mushrooms never gets old. Anyone with an interest in the natural world will delight in Long’s sharp-eyed descriptions (and Viskari's line drawings) of fungi and her therapeutic rambles through Norwegian woods.

A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984801-03-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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