When Inkberry Books gave me a copy of Carrie Jane Knowles’ new book, I knew I was in for a treat; but I didn’t know that I was also in for a surprise. Her upcoming book Shifting Forward, which will be released May 2022, is a nonfiction collection of essays from her Psychology Today column of the same name.
(By the way, here’s a link to the vlog review too!)
A short read at just over 100 pages, Knowles reflects on life—life after 70, life during COVID—and while none of her insights are “revolutionary,” the way she writes them is fresh and fun. Take, for example, her essay about living in the moment. There are numerous essays, books and workshops with tips about this concept; but rather than giving readers a how-to guide, Knowles tells us about her water aerobics class.
There in the pool, surrounded by her peers, Knowles was treading water when she looked up and saw the life guard. But she saw more than someone simply sitting there: he was present in the moment, totally focused on his task, guarding life. Knowles posits that I’m that moment, he was truly “guarding life” in the sense that he was fully engaged, and I think that’s a really beautiful way to reframe “living in the moment.”
That is what I enjoyed most about this collection: the writing style. Knowles is warm, relatable and engaging. When she shares an anecdote, it’s ripe with detail, and when she shares a life hack, it feels like you’re learning from a favorite aunt or grandparent. It’s so obvious that Knowles put a lot of thought into each of these essays, which is refreshing. Too many times, “life lesson” articles have a somewhat preachy tone to them. Instead, Knowles writes about life using her own as a lens through which to discuss the idea and then almost invites the reader to reflect in turn.
That’s not to say that all of the reflections are “life lessons.” As the subtitle of the original blog says, these are “a wanderer’s musings.” As such, each essay has a similar tone but they are all unique. Take, for example, her essay about losing one’s last nerve. In it, she describes a customer service call to AT&T; not only does she give us an abridged play by play, but she also gives us a peek into her writing process. Turns out, she started drafting that very article during the call—it’s funny where we find inspiration. Or there’s a piece in which she discusses her first in-person author event since the vaccine roll outs. On one hand, it’s a straightforward observation of COVID life. But on the other hand, it’s a vulnerable and caring piece that voices the concerns many people have about the so-called “new normal.” All of these observations, reflections, essays are so honest that it bolsters Knowles’ credibility as a writer while making the material extremely enjoyable to read.
On a logistical note, I also really liked that the collection was broken up into sections like “Part One: It’s All About Living With Purpose,” and “Part Two: First Love Yourself.” Doing so gave the book a really nice sense of organization. The other advantage to this is that if you’re looking for a certain type of reflection, you don’t have to flip through the entire book. Likewise if you don’t feel like re-reading thoughts on a topic (I’m sure we’re all tired of COVID articles), it’s easy to focus on something else. So, top things I liked—the writing style, the organization and the mix of anecdotes and personal perspectives.
If you’re in Niwot mid-May this year, definitely stop by Inkberry to pick up a copy. It’s a quick read that’s so real and engaging, you’re sure to enjoy it. Or, check it out online via the Owl Canyon Press site.
That’s all I’ve got for now! Be sure to look out for next week’s posts on June Wentland‘s Foolish Heroines blog tour hosted by Valley Press.
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