Everyone seems to have an opinion about vacation rentals. But what is it actually like to live in the same house with these travelers?
I answer that question and so many others in my latest book Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico.
I will be speaking Jan. 24 at 5:30pm at the South Lake Tahoe Library (1000 Rufus Allen Blvd.) as a guest of the local chapter of Friends of the Library. The event is free.
After the reading I will be selling and signing books. Sleeping with Strangers is $20. I will also have copies of my other books Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks ($20), Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks ($10), and The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes ($15). Cash or Venmo will be accepted.
If you can’t make it to the South Lake Tahoe Friends of the Library event, the books are available at various locations throughout the greater Lake Tahoe area, can be ordered through your favorite bookstore, or purchased online.
What happens when everything you know no longer exists? What happens when you had control and now you are on the wrong side of history?
In Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (HarperCollins, 2002) author Anna Funder answers those questions to some extent. Mostly she delves into the lives of some of those who worked for the Stasi, the secret police in the former East Germany, as well as ordinary citizens.
This book was captivating. It made me think.
My friend, Penny, told me about the book after she made a trip to Germany last year. My only trip to Germany was in 1990. Part of the Berlin Wall still existed, and I was able to chisel off a few pieces.
But that doesn’t mean my understanding of the two Germanys is great. This book actually made me want to learn more. After all, East Germany was not a country for long—from 1949 to 1990.
What Stasiland reveals are the struggles of the people, the corruption of not-so-secret police agency, and the beliefs of those who lived in East Germany when the wall was built and what happened to them when it came down.
It’s not a political book. It’s a history book by way of the subject matter, but it is not a deep, theoretical boring dive into this time period.
It’s a book about people. That’s what makes it so interesting. Real life people telling their stories, their experiences. Funder weaves them all together in a manner that makes sense and certainly kept my attention.
The fact I have a new book out is not news. But what exactly is Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico all about?
To find out more details about the book listen to this interview on North State Public Radio with Nancy Wiegman, host of Nancy’s Bookshelf.
Even if you have read the book, you will likely find the interview interesting.
The book is available at your local bookstore and online.
Becoming someone else. We’ve all probably thought about it, if just fleetingly.
But what would the consequences be?
Stella and Desiree Vignes are twin sisters who grew up in a small town in Louisiana where the lighter skin you had the better. But no matter how light they were, the fact they were whatever percentage Black still made them Black in the eyes of the law and society. Well, that is until one passed.
The Vanishing Half (Penguin Random House, 2020) by Brit Bennett is the story of these sisters and the other people who are close to them. One decides to cross over—claiming to be white, while the other finds the darkest man she can to marry. The book spans the 1950s to the 1990s.
While this is a work of fiction, it’s easy to imagine people choosing the lives the sisters each picked. The other characters are also believable, which makes the story plausible. Still, something about it truly read like the fiction it is.
It took me twice to get into the audio book. Like any book, sometimes you have to be in the right mindset. So it was with this one. But once I got hooked I was glad I kept listening.
No one can avoid death. So, why then, is it so hard to talk about it?
A large part has to do with how the medical community approaches the end of a person’s life.
“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being,” writes Atul Gawande in his book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Metropolitan Books, 2014).
Too often doctors promote treatments that don’t really extend a person’s life, and certainly don’t help with the quality of it. They don’t listen to what is important to the patient.
Gawande, who is a surgeon, takes readers on the evolution of him understanding his role as a care-giver should go beyond the scalpel. The merits of palliative and hospice care come into clear focus.
What makes the book compelling are the stories about the people he interacted with, including his father. Reading about the difficult, yet, necessary conversations between patients and doctors, and patient and families made me think about the conversations I have had and the ones I haven’t had.
The book also delves into how nursing homes and assisted living places came into being.
This is a book everyone should read because we are all going to die and we all know someone who will go before us.
In some ways it is depressing. Death always seems to invoke that emotion, so how could a book all about the end of life not at least be sobering.
I thank my friend, Sally, for telling me about this book. It was hard to read at times, but I feel like I am more aware for having done so.
Life is about pairings. What could be better than books and beer?
I will be signing copies of my latest book Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico on Dec. 9 from 4-6pm at El Tecolote Bookstore in Todos Santos.
Each sells for $20 or 400 pesos.
In the courtyard where I’ll be signing there will be free Moschcat Beer tastings. Moschcat is a Baja artisanal brewery. Taste the new Ultra Lager and Vienna Lager.
Militar Galleria next door to El Tecolote will be having an artist’s reception the same day from 4-8pm for Terryl Tagg. Her work will be paired with wine.
El Tecolote is on H. Colegio Militar, very close to the corner of Alvaro Obregon. It’s next to El Refugio restaurant.
If you miss the book signing, El Tecolote will keep stocking the book, or it may be ordered at your favorite bookstore outside of Todos Santos, or online. And Moschcat, it will soon be available on shelves in local stores, restaurants and bars throughout Baja Sur. Track the venues online.
Historical fiction can fluster me because I’m often wondering what is true and what isn’t—especially when I know little or nothing about the topic. Sometimes I have to tell myself to go along for the ride, so to speak.
Such was the case with The Engineer’s Wife (Sourcebooks, 2020) by Tracey Enerson Wood. In this instance, she reveals key truths and bits of fiction at the end, so that was helpful, informative and a bit disturbing.
Two of the main characters are real—Emily, the engineer’s wife, really did finish the building of the bridge when her husband got ill. P.T. Barnum is also a real person. But what was so alarming is that the author essentially has these two become romantically involved and that never happened in real life. To me, this was too much literary license.
The book is about how the Brooklyn Bridge in New York got built, which was interesting. It’s easy to take for granted things that are already in place. It’s a marvel how so much has been created without the technology or tools of the 21st century.
But there is so much more to the book than learning some of the details of how such an iconic bridge came to be. It’s about women’s rights, it’s about relationships, it’s about war.
The book starts during the Civil War and concludes with the completion of the bridge. That really isn’t giving too much away.
In the middle of the book it seemed to drag on a bit, but I’m glad I pushed through. Most of the time I was eager for more to see how the story would develop. In the end, though, I was left with mixed feelings about the book. My mom, on the other hand, recommends it—which mostly has to do with her fondness for the Brooklyn Bridge and having been an engineer’s wife.
I was pleasantly surprised about the depth of the book Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout (HarperCollins, 2011).
And I’m thankful to whomever it was who recommended this book by Philip Connors.
I believe anyone who loves nature will enjoy this book.
Beyond learning about life as an actual lookout, what makes Fire Season such a great read is that I got to know about a forest that was new to me—the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. It reinforced the history of the U.S. Forest Service’s protocols about fighting fires.
This lonely existence was captured so well by Connors. I could feel the confines of the 7 foot by 7 foot structure as well as his living quarters. But it was the vastness of the terrain outside his windows that in some ways made things feel even smaller.
Fire lookouts are a dying breed as technology replaces humans paid to scan the horizon for smoke. This would not be the job for adrenaline junkies. This would be a job for someone who is comfortable with themselves.
This was a fast, easy, enjoyable read.
It seems appropriate that my first book signing and in person sales of Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico will occur in Lake Tahoe where the whole hosting adventure began.
I will be one of the 30 vendors at the annual Valhalla Holiday Faire on Nov. 18-20.
In addition to selling and signing my latest book, I will also have copies of my outdoor books: Lake Tahoe Trails: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks, The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, and Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks.
More information about each book is available online and then click on Books on the upper right side.
All books may also be ordered at your local bookstore or online.
- Date and time: Nov. 18 4:30-8pm; Nov. 19 10am-5pm; Nov. 20 10am-4pm
- Location: 1 Valhalla Road, off Highway 89 on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe near Camp Richardson
- Cost: Fair is free
- Book prices: Range from $10 to $20. Cash, check or Venmo accepted.
- Sale: Cosmetically challenged copies of Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons will be on sale for $15—a 25 percent discount.
Remember when paperbacks were much smaller and the type seemed microscopic?
I was given one of those books several years ago by someone in South Lake Tahoe who was sure I would love the book. He was an avid reader. Books were something we would discuss; mostly I listened because he read so much more than I.
The type was too little. I just couldn’t do it. And I tried more than once.
I finally decided to see if I could get an audio version. Success. It’s too bad Bill Crawford died a few years ago so I can’t thank him for the recommendation.
By-Line Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades (Scribner, 2003) was edited by William White.
It’s a selection of Ernest Hemingway’s writings from the 1920s to the mid-1950s. Most are his essays originally published in various newspapers and magazine in the United States. Some are about war, some about hunting and fishing, some about life abroad.
Most books that are a compilation take me some time to get through because one story does not necessarily build on the preceding one. It’s not like I’m eagerly waiting to find out what happens next, so to speak. Patience was worth it.
As White writes in the introduction, “As a reporter and foreign correspondent in Kansas City (before World War I), Chicago, Toronto, Paris, among the expatriates, the Near East, in Europe with the diplomats and statesmen, in Germany and Spain, Hemingway soaked up persons and places and life like a sponge: these were to become matter for his short stories and novels.”
Hemingway has been one of my favorite writers for years. But I can’t remember when I last read (or listened to) something he authored. This book was a wonderful history lesson of sorts, but it was also a delight to hear his words. His descriptors are off the charts colorful. I was reminded why I hold him in such high esteem as a writer.