Non-Fiction

Recommended Read: The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling

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YouTube is a fantastic expressive outlet as well as a trove of humble, yet amazing, talent. I’ve enjoyed following and discovering many independent musicians through YouTube, not to mention a host of other entertaining content–from video game demos, to comedy routines, to lifehacking vlogs, to backyard chemistry experiments. It’s wonderful to find so many contributors at all levels of various expertise having a good time sharing what they love. Further, as I carry on in my own career as a writer, I find myself drawn, not only to investigating the production work that goes into creating quality audiobooks on a budget that an independent author like me can afford, but also to observing the creative ways others utilize audiovisual social media to promote themselves, share their work and passions, and connect with their fan base on a more personal level.

YouTube is also a powerful tool. The art of producing an intriguing channel with quality video content, much like producing a quality podcast series, is a media form that fascinates and inspires me. Publishing fiction independently or through a small press is another platform with its own unique challenges to quality and visibility that I’m personally more familiar with, so I can at least sympathize with the amount of work, trial, error, and growth that must go into cultivating a great YouTube channel. This is notwithstanding the incredible advances in digital technology in the past decade that have made sharing one’s work with the world wonderfully accessible.

I discovered Lindsey Stirling on YouTube when the Piano Guys gave her a shout out on their Facebook page one day. She had her own quirky style–dancing with her violin–and I fell in love with her music as well as the beautiful videos she produced. She’s an independent LDS music artist who has made quite a career for herself that, in many ways, began with, and has been perpetuated by, that meek online platform (YouTube). I downloaded the audiobook of The Only Pirate at the Party because I was intrigued to learn more about the journey of this successful and delightful personality.

Lindsey’s memoir is both candid and wholesome. It is the story of how her faith, family, and upbringing are woven into her drive to keep learning, growing, and experimenting with her talents–even in the face of setbacks–and how these aspects of her life have informed her values and carried her through poignant personal struggles, including an eating disorder. It is an insightful and entertaining read (or listen, in my case), and it’s chock full of quirky humor. The audiobook is narrated by Lindsey herself, which is an additional treat.

Check out The Only Pirate at the Party here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gdyA7w

Or find the audiobook here on Audible: http://adbl.co/2fj1owt.

Thoughts on “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger

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I really enjoyed this book and wanted to share it. Wonderful discussions about gendered adaptations and approaches to threat and conflict. Mental illness, and societal as well as evolutionary adaptations we possess for dealing with trauma. And our human need for strong social bonds and meaningful opportunities to come together as one to contribute to, protect, and heal our communities. Thought-provoking, sincere, hopeful, and deeply moving writing (or, in the case of the audiobook version I “read,” listening). Also a decent commentary on the challenges we face in America and other developed Western societies, where we have incredible blessings of health, security, technological advances, and prosperity that also tend to stratify us into social or political classes and isolate us from one another.

There are so many cool things I could talk about with this short book, but I’ll leave the discussion here. I feel greatly enriched by this book, and I’m growing rather fond of Sebastian Junger’s well-researched and thoughtful perspectives of humanity. There’s a lot more potential for good in our natures and tendencies than we often consider, and we humans need one another more than we know.

Highly recommended read!

You can find Tribe here on Audible (read by the author himself): http://www.audible.com/pd/History/Tribe-Audiobook/B01D57FN3I

Or here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tribe-Homecoming-Belonging-Sebastian-Junger/dp/1455566381.

Reading Recommendation: The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

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The movie this book is based on came out when I was twelve years old. I didn’t have a chance to see it (and still haven’t…yet), but I loved documentaries and I remember being intrigued about this dramatization of true-life events regarding fishermen caught in a 1991 Atlantic storm. That storm, which raged through Halloween into the first few calendar days of November, is often referred to as the Perfect Storm, after the title of this very book by journalist Sebastian Junger. (The storm apparently wasn’t officially named because it evolved from a northeastern storm colliding with another hurricane, Hurricane Grace, and the National Hurricane Center didn’t want to cause confusion). When I came across the title on Audible, I was eager to finally read it–or take a listen.

In an audio interview at the end of the Recorded Books edition, the journalist-author mentions that he’d been looking to write about dangerous jobs and why people do them, including logging and fighting forest fires among the topics. This book takes an exclusive look at the lives of commercial fishermen, the development of the 1991 storm, the logistics and perils of rescue missions at sea, and the individual stories of crew members aboard a specific fishing boat called the Andrea Gail.

The Andrea Gail was lost at sea during this storm. To this day, very little has been found to explain what happened, and we simply don’t have much information about the crew’s final moments. The haunting drama of this book, therefore, revolves around the big picture of commercial fishing, the toll of the fishing lifestyle on individuals and their relationships, the Perfect Storm’s devastation as it pummeled the eastern coast of the United States, and the impact of one crew’s disappearance on the family and friends–and nations–they left behind. (Canada was involved in rescue efforts as well).

I love the way this book blends technical and scientific details about how equipment and industry work with the raw humanity of real people who actually live and work at sea. It discusses everything from righting a boat out of a wave, to search-and-rescue technology and storm tracking (GPS was a new thing 20 years ago–and now virtual map apps come standard on our smartphones!), to what it feels like to drown. It talks about what it takes to be a fisherman or to become a military rescue diver. It shows how socioeconomics influenced the crew of the Andrea Gail, as well as the fishermen that decided not to embark on that fatal trip, who constantly weighed their individual financial needs with the risks of the job and gut feelings about unseen hazards. Lastly, it shares the experiences of men and women caught in the storm and how they survived.

While the true-life story of the Andrea Gail is a heart-wrenching tragedy, this book unfolds with beautiful insights into what drives us both to do what we have to do to make a living, and to do what we feel compelled to do to save the lives of people we don’t know who are in danger. For many who either couldn’t get close enough to pull people off their boats because the risk to their own safety was too great, or who could only wait on land for the storm to pass and hope for the best, they tracked the storm. They tried to maintain contact, to keep people both at sea and back home informed, to give them encouragement. And they prayed. They did everything they could to ensure and communicate to those still out in the storm struggling for their lives that they were neither alone nor forgotten in their terrifying situation.

Within the narrative’s tone, there is no underlying demonization of either the commercial fishing industry or the sometimes unpleasant socioeconomic pressures that keep fishermen fishing. It doesn’t look for things or people to blame, I suppose, for the hazards or the losses. Some people were sued, yes. But the absence of conspiratory cynicism makes for a refreshingly frank and uplifting perspective that keeps the focus on how much we depend on each other to survive and overcome obstacles. The Perfect Storm isn’t a cautionary tale, but a testament to what makes the human spirit astoundingly great.

This is a wonderful, fascinating non-fiction piece that reads almost like a novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about extreme occupations or survival and rescue on the high seas.

You can check out the Recorded Books edition on Audible here: http://www.audible.com/pd/Bios-Memoirs/The-Perfect-Storm-Audiobook/B00JZPVY8S

Or the print and digital editions on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Storm-True-Story-Against/dp/0393337014.

Recommended Read: “Rabid” by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

With the Halloween season just around the corner, I thought it would be fun in the coming weeks to highlight some of my favorite creepy books. Today’s offering is a thrilling non-fiction about rabid puppies…

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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Disease by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy is a fascinating book. It takes a look at everything from mankind’s epidemiological interactions with other animals throughout history, especially domesticated animals, and most especially dogs. To the symptoms and molecular mechanics of rabies. To the way the disease conceptually strikes at our primal fears, and its likely contribution to legends and literature since the dawn of civilization.

Are you pondering books to read and movies to watch with zombies, vampires, or werewolves during the spooky season? In large part, you can probably thank rabies for the rise of these legendary monsters by the way it turns its victims into slathering, hydrophobic, bite-happy conduits for its propagation. These and other aspects of its malignancy have contributed to shaping some of our deepest-seated cultural fears about disease and the broader unknown.

Being a horror author myself, I’m fascinated about why some things scare us, not just how. What I love about this book is that it gives serious consideration to the cultural impact of one very nasty disease. This includes everything from the ancient Greek myth of Lycaeon (where the term lycanthropic comes from), to the Bible’s generally negative symbolization of dogs, to modern day classics like I Am Legend, Night of the Living Dead, and Dracula. The disease even makes distinct appearances in modern literary works such as To Kill a Mockingbird, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

My thoughts? Humans are highly sophisticated social creatures. Our deep social connectivity allowed us to evolve bigger brains, language, and a complex moral compass. At the heart of all things rabies is the very real horror of seeing either an affectionate and trusting pet or an intelligent human being–a loved one–reduced to an utterly mechanical or animalistic state of mind that can turn violent against us. While rare on the street and easy enough to vaccinate against today, the disease’s effects can be so utterly dehumanizing that it subverts the very foundation of our relationships. How do we deal with a raging pet that wants to bite us and likewise turn us into a raging mess of an animal? How do we eradicate such a disease or keep it under control? Rabies scares us because it throws some of the core aspects of our identity as an intelligent, rational, spiritual, and socially cooperative species into chaos.

If you’re interested in learning more about the fascinating and terrifying thing that is rabies, with an in-depth look at both the science and cultural impact throughout history, I highly recommend this book. I listened to the Audible version and enjoyed the narration by Johnny Heller.

You can find this book here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rabid-Cultural-History-Worlds-Diabolical-ebook/dp/B0072NWKG0

Or here on Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/History/Rabid-Audiobook/B008K4B6JC

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and loves exploring the science of human origins.

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