Home Sweet Anywhere is a memoir about a couple, Lynne and Tim, who get together later in life after a brief romance years earlier. When Tim has been through a divorce and Lynne’s husband has died, they fall in love all over again — but discover that the last thing they both want is to settle down to a quiet retirement. Though they both have adult children and grandchildren they love, they’re not ready to stay close to home — they both love travel. So rather than buying a retirement home, they sell everything they can, put the rest into storage, and hit the road, spending weeks or months at a time renting apartments in whatever country takes their fancy.
Obviously Lynne and Tim’s plan only works for retirees who have two things that not all elderly people are blessed with — a healthy retirement savings fund, and good health. Assuming those two things, this is a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a lot of us would-be gypsies who look forward to travelling more in our golden years. While I wouldn’t enjoy their solution of having no permanent home to stash my stuff and come back to — I hope to always have our house in the centre of St. John’s as a home base — it’s not hard to indulge in my own fantasies while I read about Lynne and Tim’s Dublin apartment or their Portuguese beach house.
I’ve seen this book criticized because of Lynne Martin’s everyday, somewhat bloggy prose (the book deal grew out of an article which in turn grew out of the blog she kept while on the road). It is fair to point out that as travel writers go, Lynne Martin is no Bill Bryson and no Elizabeth Gilbert either — but she doesn’t have any pretentions to that kind of literary travel writing. She’s a fairly ordinary (though well-off) traveller telling a pretty straightforward story — how she and her husband made this unconventional retirement plan work for them, what they saw, what they liked and didn’t like, with a few tips on what others might want to do it they are interested in the same kind of adventure. The fact that the book has succeeded as well as it has is not a testament to any brilliant narrative skills on Martin’s part — she makes it clear she lays no claim to those — but rather to the fact that her story touches a chord with so many of us who would like to do at least some version of what she and Tim have done with their retirement years.
I may as well just stop posing the disclaimer “I don’t normally read celebrity bios, but ….” I’ve read a lot of really great ones over the past few years — all by comedians, and all really funny and insightful. From Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to David Mitchell and Rob Brydon, there are actor/writers out there who are really raising the bar for what we think of as “celebrity bios.” These people are either great writers or have the sense to hire great ghostwriters (but given that so many comedians write their own material I’d assume the former in most cases). Now we can add to that list Rainn Wilson, famous for playing Dwight Schrute in the American version of The Office.
Wilson’s engaging memoir covers his childhood in a very unconventional family, his awkward bassoon-playing teenage years, his early struggles as an actor, and his return to the Ba’hai faith of his childhood — all before we get into behind-the-scenes tales from the set of The Office. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.
This is a book my husband Jason read first, mostly because after ten years of futile resistance he finally got on to social media. That is, he joined LinkedIn — or, as you may know it, Facebook’s boring cousin who spends way too much time at work. That said, I can’t be too hard on Jason’s LinkedIn life, because it was through that site that he discovered Dan Lyons’ book Disrupted, which we both read and enjoyed.
Disrupted is a caustic and funny memoir about journalist Lyons’ experience going to work at a tech start-up company, getting immersed in the youth-focused culture of start-ups at the age of 52 (as he notes, twice as old as his average co-worker). Behind the shiny facade of the postmodern workplace with its free candy, open work areas, and exercise balls in place of chairs, Lyon finds a culture that not only openly discriminates against older workers, but treats even its bright young things with surprising contempt, seeing them as disposable cogs in the machine rather than valued members of the team.
Disrupted pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. Lyons makes no effort to disguise the identity of either the company he worked at — HubSpot — or the real names of most of his co-workers (some are given made-up names in the book, but the real identities of many of these people are revealed in the epilogue, so any disguise that is going on here is paper-thin). It’s also quite clear that this is his personal take on the experience and that other HubSpotters will tell a different story (and have done, in the media and on social media, since the book came out). But the book, which is always witty even when it’s cranky, and is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, is more than just the grumblings of a discontented ex-employee (though it’s clearly that too). Lyons sees real problems with the culture of start-ups (and with economics behind them — how is so much money being made investing in so many companies that never actually show a profit? Is this sustainable? Lyons warns it’s not), and Disrupted is his effort to call out and address those issues, against the backdrop of his own curmudgeonly tale.