Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EW’s list of books where people spend a year doing something crazy

In their book section last week (I am a little behind), Entertainment Weekly had an amusing page where they showed 20 jackets of this new-ish trend in memoirs where someone does something kind of nutty for a year. This is one of my favorite kind of book! I was familiar with all but a couple that they had listed, but it made me think that I could do a similar post with completely different titles. I’ve got thumbnail synopses here, and all of these are strongly recommended. Some of these go back 10 years or so, as contrary to popular opinion, this trend didn’t start with Julie & Julia.

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik
A year spent trying to amass the largest number of birds spotted. The author follows 3 men on their quest to break the record.

See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America by Logan Ward
A year spent living as though it were the year 1900 on a farm, no electricity, no TV, no car, a lot of simplicity.

Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Twelve Self-Help Programs, One Whirlwind Year of Improvement by Beth Lisick
A year spent following 12 experts’ advice to clean up her house, lose weight, become more organized, raise better kids, and just basically figure out if these experts are worth their $14.95 or if they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan
Well this subtitle really says it all. A sociology professor who, in order to better understand issues she’s having with her students and how the collegiate experience has changed over the years, enrolls as a freshman.

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John
A hilarious season spent with the obsessive football fans who drive their RVs to every single Alabama game throughout the Southeast.

School of Dreams: Making the Grade at a Top American High School by Edward Humes
A year at a top-notch public high school following overachieving kids overcoming difficulties to excel and go to the college of their (parents’) dreams.

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover
This journalist tried to interview a “newjack” (first year corrections officer) and was turned down by every one he contacted. So he applied for the job himself and did it for a year. This powerful experience changed his political views.

Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esmé Raji Codell
Esmé is a very idealistic, iconoclastic, well-intentioned but bristly first-year teacher who documents her trial-by-fire initiation into teaching.


Eva said...

These all sound like fun! Thanks for listing them all; I'll definitely be referring to this when I'm in a memoir mood. :)

Kristen said...

I think the label hung on these is generally stunt memoirs. And I totally and completely love them. A.J. Jacobs has several as well. Of course, nerd that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed The Know-It-All where he tried to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica over a year. That's my idea of a great research job. ;-)

Carin Siegfried said...

Kristen, I loved all his books, but they were mentioned in the EW article, plus I wanted to mention some lesser-known ones. In my opinion Mr. Jacobs doesn't write quickly enough, although for these types of memoirs, it's understandable.

Amy said...

Another is The Know it All by A.J. Jacobs, he reads the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in a year or so! Very funny, much funnier than his Bible based read.